Monday, July 31, 2006

Memories of August

Joliet Morning
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
August 2003

Of all the months in the year, August is the only month that isn’t aligned with a particular event like all the other months in the year. Ask ten different people what’s the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of August and you’ll likely get ten different answers. As for me, when August finally rolls around, I’m not pressed at all to come up with an association for this eighth month of the year. In my mind, August always reminds me of summer football practice.

The recollection of summer football practice probably equals any one game worthy of memory. Besides the uncontrollable salty sweat dripping down and burning my eyes from the confines of the helmet, I remember how everyone couldn’t wait to “hit.”

Summer practice usually entailed at least a week of non-contact conditioning. We’ve all seen this driving by a practice field—players wearing only helmets, shorts, and t-shirts—no other football gear required. Then would come the day that we would dress out in all our gear, but we were always told that contact was still prohibited (according to state laws handed down by the high school athletic associations). Despite this dress rehearsal, the coaches usually started putting us through drills that invited contact and when such occurred, they usually looked the other way or calmly reminded us that there was no hitting. So, on that full-dress, non-contact day I was always on full alert reminding myself, “Expect to be hit.” And usually I was.

Walking out to the practice field on that first day of contact, the air was filled with talk of “finally sticking someone.” You’d thought we were all about to lose our virginity. I never went too overboard about this like most of the players on the team—chomping at the bit to paste someone, knowing it was the most telling of football attributes for coaches to consider who was worthy of a starting assignment. I only welcomed hitting and everything associated with it because it broke up the monotony and endless volley of conditioning drills—making practice seem shorter and a bit more colourful.

Players that shined during conditioning drills often faded after that first day of contact—some never returned the next day. For the most part, I made others look good during contact drills. As one of the smaller players and usually placed in the position of a running back, I felt more like the hunted than the hunter.

For whatever reasons, I never caught on to the concept of being fired up to nail one of my own teammates on that first day. I equated it to the instinct found in the animal kingdom of eating one’s young. This was probably the single factor that found me spending more time on the bench during game days than on the playing field.

Not long after the calendar moved from July to August this year, a subtle, but noticeable coolness in the evening air appeared despite the relentlessness of the sweltering hot days. While out on a run yesterday, I noticed a barley field had already been plowed under following the harvest and thus ready for another winter of dormancy. At the same time, the local football field is now pampered like a triple crown contender as summer begins its waltz off the seasonal dance floor. Yet more reminders of August here in Wyoming.