Friday, June 13, 2014

All For Naught

  I was reminded this morning of my days on the freshman football team at Elmont Memorial High School way back in the fall of 1965.
  We were an interesting bunch.
  We did not win any games, but we are probably not the only team in the school's history to boast that "accomplishment."
  We also did not score a single point all season and that probably is a school record.
  However, despite never recording a touchdown, a field goal or a safety, our record was 0-5-1.
  Indeed, our most noteworthy achievement was holding New Hyde Park just as scoreless as we were and ending in a 0-0 tie. We were so excited to have not lost that we celebrated in the locker room afterwards and pushed the coach in the showers. (We had no Gatorade to pour on his head.)

  We lost our starting quarterback to a broken collarbone very early in the season.
  We lost our backup quarterback to a broken collarbone a week later.
   I believe that the mother of our third-string quarterback made him quit the team before he had the chance to play in a game.

  We did actually score a touchdown in one of the games. It was nullified by a penalty for having an ineligible receiver because our center had somehow managed to charge down field well ahead of the player who caught what would have been the scoring pass.

  One of our fullbacks tripped over the white line during a running play that would have resulted in a substantial gain. There was no one near him -- from our team or our opponent --and he just fell over.

  I played right tackle. The coach had wanted to put me in the backfield, but I was playing without my glasses; if I was down field, it was unlikely I would be able to see the ball being passed.
  It was just as well. I was one of the few on the team who could remember the plays. We would line up and I would often have to tell the right guard and the center who they were supposed to block.
  More than once, I had to tell the right end what pattern he was going to run. One time, I actually drew the pattern in the dirt. The opposing player watching this must have figured we were trying to decoy him because our guy ran the pattern and caught the pass with no one around him.

  The coach erroneously believed that we would get better with more practice and so we were often out on the field well after dark. Such was the case on November 9th.
  He was running a drill where he would yell "Drop" and we would have to drop on our stomachs, then "Up" and we'd have to jump back to our feet.
  Well, he yelled "Drop," we did, and then we looked up to see that all the lights had gone out! On the field. In the school. All around us, for as far as we could see. And they didn't come back on.
  It was the Northeast Blackout of 1965.
  So here we are, in our sweaty. dirty uniforms and pads. The locker room was pitch dark.
  The coach drove his car as close to the building as he could get, turned the headlights on, and was able to get a bit of reflected light through the windows.  Those of us with lockers facing the window were able to see enough to dial the combinations on our lockers and get them open. Those with lockers facing the other way -- not so lucky.
  About a third of the team walked home in full uniform and cleats.

  If this was a movie, the members of the Winless Wonders would go on to have a perfect season when they reached the varsity team in 1968. Not quite... but our senior year record was 6-2, good enough for a tie for first place in the division.

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