Sunday, November 1, 2009

Football the way it should be played

The football field was the same distance.

There were goal posts, a chain gang, fans, cheerleaders, coaches and players. Even officials (gasp, wearing black shorts and one wearing ref socks?).

The fans cheered and a few even let out a few boo’s (although they were mainly limited to the fans from the visiting side).

Before the game, the players ran through a spirit line that was just as enthusiastic as any you would see on Friday night. No bands, sorry, just the music from loudspeakers playing music way too loud.

The coaches coached and the players played. The officials watched for infractions, but thankfully let the players play for the most part. Players got wet and muddy, but nobody complained.

No, this wasn’t high school, junior varsity or even junior-high football being played at old Harvey Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was Arkansas Valley football, baby!

Football played by fourth and sixth graders. It was a playoff game but you won’t see the results in the regional or state newspapers. Media? Uh, sorry. Just me. See STORY.

But the stakes were high for these young boys and coaches. It was the first round of the playoffs. Winner moves on, losers call it a season.

On the home side were the mighty Heavener WolfPups, champions of the league in both grades. Ozark, which finished fourth in the other division, was the visitors and the Hillbillies came to play.

It was simply as much fun as I had at any game this season. I watched the action on the field, wrote down who scored and all that stuff, but spent most of the time watching the boys have a great time.

I really couldn’t tell who had more fun, the players playing or the kids on the sidelines, who taught me a few things about horseplay. Yes, they watched the game, but had fun when they weren’t playing.

That’s not to say the players on the field didn’t have fun. When the players did something good, they smiled and celebrated like their idols who play on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

They encouraged their teammates to do better and jumped around when something good happened.

The little cheerleaders tried their best to also offer encouragement. They led cheers and yelled at the appropriate times.

All the players tried to block and tackle like they had been coached. I must say, at times there was a little confusion about where to line up or what to do. But I have seen the same thing in every game I have watched this season, even those who get paid to play.

The officials helped the players and offered encouragement. As I mentioned earlier, they let the boys play for the most part and kept their hankies firmly tucked into their pockets.

None of the fans hollered insults at the other team or their coaches. Nobody wanted to see anybody hurt. Luckily, all the teams came through the afternoon with nobody hurt.

There were a couple of minor injuries. No, nobody taunted the injured player as he was on the ground or celebrated the injury.

When the guys scored touchdowns, they did not do anything to try and embarrass the opponents. They simply gave the ball to the officials and celebrated with their teammates and coaches.

The little WolfPups won both games and advanced to play again. The Hillbillies lost, but lined up and bravely shook the hands of their opponents.

As I left the stadium after the buzzer sounded for the last time, I wondered why all games weren’t played like this. I did not have an answer, but wished I did.

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