OPINION: The alphabet sidetracked my sports career
Being an avid sports freak, you can probably only imagine how thrilled I am high school sports is returning next week. I can hardly wait to watch the football, cross country and volleyball athletes begin working out. Much like spring in the harbinger of the return of life, the fall sports is the beginning of a heartbeat for me.
I can remember back when I was just a young pup growing up in West Texas, I couldn't wait for school to start so we could play football. I grew up playing for the Cameron (Elementary) Redskins, the Crockett (Junior High ) Colts and the Ranger (High School) Bulldogs.
When I was younger, I was a pretty active athlete. I played football and baseball. I even played basketball. Well, I played as much as a skinny 5-foot-2 kid could while sitting on the bench and handing towels and water cups to the other kids. Let's not kid anyone, I was not a great football or basketball player. In fact, in most cases when it got to me playing, most of the coaches were settling for a forfeit.
I even tried my hand at rodeo bull riding. That was probably the longest 4 seconds of my life. I'm pretty sure if She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Made-Mad hadn't unplugged the electrical bull at Wal-Mart I might have been killed. And yes, SWMNBMM and I have know each other that long.
The one place I did have ability was on the track. Having benefitted from years of running for my life from big running backs like Robert Hernandez (at Crockett), Darrell Fox and Joe Stewart (at Ranger), I was pretty fast. I was so fast, in fact, it led to my nickname "Boomer the Bullet." Well, truth be told, I didn't really get the "Boomer the Bullet" nickname in high school because they rarely call a guy who runs the 1,600-meter race a bullet. I actually picked it up when I was in the navy, but let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story, OK?
The honest truth is I could have been a star in track when I was in high school if weren't for a few letters in the alphabet. It is true. I, like so many others, was one of those athletes that had their careers dampened due to letters.
Fox, who actually had a deal in place to play running back at Texas A&M, had his career ended as a senior with a torn ACL. I'm not sure why Hernandez and Stewart didn't make it to college, but I can only assume it was because the college's didn't have X's in their uniform sizes to fit them. So, basically, they got X'd out of football.
Now I know you are wondering how a short, skinny white kid whose greatest claim to fame in football was the fact he got penalized 45 yards in just three plays while filling in as an offensive lineman got lettered out of football stardom. Well, the principal at our school, Joe Wesley and Charles Koch, verified informed me when I was a sophomore that I had been diagnosed with D-F Syndrome. It wasn't a painful — well, at least to me — or deadly disease, but it almost certainly prevented me from becoming the world's fastest midget. I can remember those days in track practice when I would run and run and run - beating the varsity milers with ease.
Then, just six weeks into my sophomore year, it all came crashing down. Mr. Wesley (he said I could call him 'Joe' now, but somehow that just doesn't seem appropriate) and Jerry Watson called me into the office ... OK ... OK ... they sent me a note via the PE teacher ... informing me that I had been diagnosed with D-F Syndrome and that I wouldn't be allowed to run again.
At first, I was worried. I knew Robert and Darrell had never tackled me so my ACL's were fine. I knew I hadn't stretch or turn any muscles in basketball or track. I did dislocate four fingers playing touch football with the junior high kids ... but the doctor promised I was going to recover.
D-F Syndrome scared the heck out of me. So much so that I went to Mr. Wesley's office and told him I didn't think I was that sick.
"You aren't sick, Tommy," he assured me. "You can't be on the track team because you got D's and F's on your report card."
"Whew!" I remember telling him. "I thought it was something serious."
To be honest, I never recovered from that initial diagnosis. By the time I figured out what an A looked it was too late. SWMNBMM had already tricked me into getting married by telling me she was rich.
Never fear, though. After I had graduated I resume my athletic career in the U.S. Navy as a member of the U.S.S. Manitowoc's football team, the Marauders. Being slightly taller that I was before (smarter is another issue altogether), I was a decent defensive end/strong safety. I was fast enough to break up plays and force turnovers. And the Marauders did well. We played our way into the Little Creek playoffs.
I guess I finally recovered from the D-F diagnosis ... so now I'm ready for some football, cross country and volleyball. I'll see you on the sidelines and in the bleachers.
Tommy Wells is the editor of the Homer Tribune. Everything in this column is true, except for the parts that have been fabricated, exaggerated or just plain lies.