If it had happened to the Red Sox (and it has), I would be in mourning. The Patriots? Not so much.
I’m referring to the recent loss to the Miami Dolphins. There they were, five points ahead with a few seconds left in the game. The Dolphins were somewhere around their own 30-yard line, their quarterback was having trouble walking, and the game was in the bag. Then it wasn’t. If you haven’t seen it, go to YouTube or somewhere else online. You won’t regret it.
The play in question, a pass followed by a run, a lateral, a run, another lateral, and a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock, produced some great post-game comments. Someone said, “We practice that play all the time.” The hobbled quarterback said, “When I saw Gronkowski covering the goal line, I knew we had it.” Coach Belichek said, “No one died.”
As for me, I saw the play with my very own eyes, and it brought a smile to my face. “That,” I thought to myself, “is why I like sports. You just never know.”
It’s a lot like life. You never know what lies ahead, which is a good thing.
And I thought back to my short career as the Stevens High School junior varsity quarterback. I had grown up playing the sport outside our house. We weren’t playing touch, mind you. Tackle football, complete with helmets and, for some of us, shoulder pads. That was in the days when kids played pickup games, three or four on each side. No league, no coach, and (fortunately) no serious injuries.
I wanted to be the next Sid Luckman, all-star quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Not only was he a great football player, but he was Jewish! If he could do it, why not me?
It was not to be.
My high school football career lasted one season and it was, to put it mildly, undistinguished. Even six decades later, our won-lost, actually lost-won, record is imprinted in my brain. Zero and eight! As for my passing success, about the same.
In case anyone is wondering just how I got the starting position in the first place, the answer is that Dominick Zotto got hurt and couldn’t play that year. By sophomore year he was healthy and took over, while I marched in the band at varsity games.
When we were seniors, the team went eight and zero and won the New Hampshire state championship. Dom was the quarterback.
Today many parents say they wouldn’t let their sons play football. Even Drew Brees, the great New Orleans Saints quarterback, has parental reservations about the sport. And they’ve got a point. The connection between football and serious health consequences, including concussions and traumatic brain injury, is undeniable. Brees’s three young sons play the flag version, which is a lot safer.
At 120 pounds and with a weak passing arm, obviously I wasn’t cut out for a career as a quarterback. But I’m glad I played that season, even if I still get an occasional twinge in my elbow. Not to mention the coach’s good advice when I had trouble getting up one time. “Run it off, Steinfield.”
As for the last few seconds of the Patriots-Dolphins game, not only should you watch it, but so should young boys and girls, even if they’re not interested in football. As the great philosopher Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”