Many years back I was invited to play in a fall football game by a couple of friends. Two hand touch. Hard touch. I was a stranger to all the participants except the brothers Burlis who invited me. There was a quite a crowd, perhaps sixteen of us, enough for a little eight on eight.
We played on a big grassy field and the endzones were marked by nebulously noted shrubbery and trees. Sides were chosen not by a captain but a sort of mutual moving to one side of the field or the other until all was arranged. It turned out we had an even number, a harbinger of things to come. A good omen for a fall football game.
In the first series it quickly became apparent my side was not quite as athletic as the other team but perhaps our average player was better than theirs. The leaders of my team were somewhat sports savvy and we arranged a zone style defense to combat their better stars, something even our worst players understood and could carry out with some skill.
Play in that fall football game proceeded apace. The going was tough. Our zone proved nettlesome for their stars and even I managed a juggling pick six to tie the game at one point. The game went on but every time one side managed to push the ball past the aforementioned tree line, the other team would respond in kind.
No more than a single score separated the two sides and the hard touches sent me, and a few others tumbling to the ground in grassy delight more than once. Spirits were high, the competition was equal and while not fierce, friendly and unforgiving.
The hours passed quickly and people began to glance at their watches, this was before smart phones. A next touchdown rule was implemented and both sides failed several times before the ball was pushed across the line in a hard-fought finale.
Nobody on the losing side, mine, was particularly upset and the winners were not overly celebrative, it was a moment of joyous fall football for all, it was all winners and no losers. As we walked off the field one of the brothers who invited me, mentioned that it was a good game. He was not a particularly sport savvy fellow but still recognized the moment for what it was.
I smiled and shook my head. “You have no idea how rare that is,” I told him.
Here’s to wishing everyone a fall football game like that, even if it’s not football.