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Bosco’s Corner: My kid will never play football

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If ever there comes a day when I am lucky enough to be granted the gift of fatherhood and my child just happens to be a boy, the high school programs of Queens can rest assured my little tike won’t be trying out for any football team.

In my youth, which becomes more distant which every passing day, I was ignorant enough to think that playing football would be fun. What a laugh.

While growing up in Bayside, my friends and I all dreamed of playing for one of the local high schools. Usually it was either St. Francis Prep or Holy Cross, two of the most prominent programs in the city at the time. Their rivalry was legendary, even to my friends and I who had yet to step foot in a high school.

I broke ranks with my friends, most of whom chose to go to Holy Cross. My girlfriend in the eighth grade, who shall remain nameless, chose St. Francis Prep and I, being an absolute lap dog followed her - much to the dismay of most of my friends. They thought me a complete boob.

I never tried out for the freshman team, but built up the courage to ingratiate myself to the moderators and players so that I could eventually join the junior varsity in my sophomore year. I worked out with the team, sat in on meetings and seemed on my way towards eventual gridiron stardom.

I was cursed with maturing early in life, which meant I hit my physical peak about the age of 15 or 16. Ever since it had been downhill, but at the time I felt like I could do anything. Of course, I was tragically wrong.

While I was making great strides with the Prep football establishment, someone forgot to tell me that grades were actually important. Before I ever got to play for the Terriers, I was permanently sidelined by my lackluster academic efforts. The school politely asked me to take a hike.

So it came to be that I found myself playing, along with most of my closest friends, with the Bayside Raiders, a Pop Warner football organization then run out of Crocheron Park, just a few blocks from my parents’ house.

I was 15 years old and playing football in a league meant for 17- and 18-year-olds. Many of the players on the team were considerably older than me. They were the older kids everyone in the neighborhood looked up to. Actually, most of these “kids” were actually men, legal to vote, marry and fight a war. Me, I still couldn’t get a learner’s permit.

I busted my butt to make an impact on the team and cracked the starting line-up, playing outside linebacker. It took a while for me to become a decent player, but I was far from stellar my first season. The team was not so hot either. We failed to win a game except by forfeit.

A year later I was back with the Raiders, having packed on 16 extra pounds — pounds I am still trying to shed. The extra weight prompted the coaching staff to move me from linebacker to nose guard. Instead of chasing down running backs and tight ends, it was now my job to beat up the center and kill the quarterback. I loved it.

But what I didn’t know was that the internal battle on the line was 10 times as physically demanding on the body. Every play, no matter what, you hit and got hit. And the stuff some of my opponents tried to pull was downright criminal.

One time in particular stands out. I was dominating this one center, really giving him a hard time. He must have had enough of me, because on one play his guard buddy leaped out of his three-point stance and wrapped my legs up, a blatant hold, which allowed the center to reign an untold number of forearm shivers to my helmeted head. How wonderful.

And another instance when, one play after I sacked the quarterback, the team’s fullback took a play fake too far, running into the line of scrimmage — me in particular — with his elbow extended outward, plunking me right in my Adam’s Apple. A truly inspired maneuver.

Anyway, that second year, was my last of organized ball. While I enjoyed every minute, I was never the same physically. To this day I have aches and pains from my back to my neck and all places untold that I blame on football.

This past Sunday I watched Bayside High School take on Campus Magnet in what I would say was one of the most physical football games I have seen in years. The Commodores laid the lumber on Magnet something awful. I was amazed, truly amazed that the Magnet players were able to withstand such on pounding, but they popped up time and again. It was inspiring in a way, but downright frightening too.

Had that been me taking those hits, I think I would need a splenectomy or, at the very least, weeks of physical therapy and psychological counseling.

All I could think walking away from the game was that if I ever had a boy, if he ever came to me with a pigskin tucked under his arm and said, “Daddy, I want to play football,” I would lock him in his room with a nine-iron or chess board and wouldn’t let him out until football was a distant memory and all he wanted to do was to play golf or be the next Bobby Fischer.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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