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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where there's smoke ...there is football practice

We smoked some cigars.
Nothing Cuban, mind you. That would have been way too expensive. Probably R.G. Duns or Tiparillos. Anything that fit into a budget that also included Turkish Taffy, Atomic Fireballs and Hostess Snowballs.
Who cares if the cigars tasted like road kill wrapped in pita bread?
We had a lunch break between our two-a-day high school football practices in the summer. The theory was that everybody would eat a healthy lunch and relax for a couple of hours before the afternoon practice got underway.
The reality was a little different, at least on one particular day in mid-August. Jack the quarterback and I opted for cigars while listening to Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge on the eight-track player in his car. I think we might have also devoured some beef jerky and swigged some Faygo pop for lunch.
About midway through the second practice session that day, Jack vomited. I think I made it a sprint or two longer, and I followed suit.
We still laugh about it today. Playing football is definitely a bonding experience.

There is certainly the shared misery aspect of the sport. According to the MHSAA, the first official day of practice this year is Monday, August 12.
Sprinting up and down a sunbaked practice field during the dog days of August is nobody’s idea of enjoyment. Doing calisthenics when it’s 95 degrees while all of your non-football-playing buddies are at the beach gives a sane person reason for pause. Bumps and bruises and much, much worse are nothing to celebrate.
Fortunately, back when I played, most of us were already in pretty good shape. A lot of the guys played baseball or basketball during the summer. Many of us also had jobs that required physical labor. Guys cut grass. Guys wielded shovels and planted trees and shrubs for a local landscaper. Guys caddied or sprinted for cars while valet parking at the local country club. Some guys even baled hay.
Absolutely nobody sat around all day long. There were no video games. There were no remote controls for the television. If you wanted to watch something else, you got up and changed the channel. The same with the garage door. If it had to be open, you got out of the car and opened it. There wasn’t a drive thru restaurant on every block, and gas stations sold gas, oil, cigarettes and soda pop and that was about it. Gas stations weren’t mini marts like they are these days with pizza, doughnuts, Slim Jims, fried chicken and 12 different kinds of flavored coffees.
So it was a lot more difficult to get fat and out-of-shape. It actually took a little effort to prepare food. You had to whip out a pan, not just your wallet, for a meal. For the rare kid who was a little plump, the coaches worked the fat off him in a hurry. They ran us mercilessly, even in heat that would cause a Bedouin to cry “Uncle.”
Somehow, we still had fun. We made memories. It is nearly time for high school kids to huddle up again. A word of caution: Healthy foods should be on the training table. Cheap cigars should not be.


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