Thursday, January 19, 2012


My dad was a worry wort of the worst kind when it came to my safety as a kid.

He nagged me to stay on the sidewalk, never go barefooted, even inside the house, and always wear my three-bar white Hutch helmet when playing football.

Sandlot tackle football.

Well, because my friends weren't wearing helmets, I wasn't about to either. If I was to wear one, I wanted a Rams helmet, but my dad knew the "uniform in a box'' was just for dress-up. He had to buy a helmet with a friggin safety rating. And no logo.

Anyway, one day in the early '70s I rode my bike to a pickup game in an unfamiliar neighborhood lot. When I parked my bike, I hung my lid off the handlebars just like normal.

I liked to play receiver (think of a sawed-off 5-foot Jack Snow) and it was 4 on 4 or something like that. I went long down the sideline and made a really nice over-the-shoulder catch. After securing the ball, the last thing I remember was


"You OK?''

I was on my back staring at faces but nothing was computing. This must be how it feels when you're the guest of honor at a wake. I was told a telephone pole laid me out after I had been abusing it all day. It was the strangest sensation I've ever felt: I literally saw stars. And moons and planets and the ghost of NFL Past.

A few minutes later, I got on my bike and rode home. Still can't believe I did that. To think in the NFL they help you walk off the field, not pat you on the butt and push you off on a bike.

When I got home, I had to confess to Dad and he raised hell. It continued later on a car ride to the hospital after I started vomiting in the middle of the night. I stayed overnight and got to eat a couple bowls of ice cream. If this is how the pros are treated after they get a bump on the head, these concussions are no big deal.

I resumed my sandlot career, but I still never wore my helmet. I was just a lot more careful avoiding those hard-hitting telephone poles.

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