We huddle and I turn my back to the defense. On my left palm I trace out the straight line route with my finger. “On the count of three, go long.” We break huddle and approach the scrimmage line where the defense, a single nine year old, awaits.
“Ready set - Hut 1, hut 2, hut 3!”
Off runs the receiver, my son -- another nine year old, and with him, step for step, the defender, as if anticipating the “go long” play. Someone hesitates and the receiver gains a step and I loft a pass just over the defender’s outstretched hands into the receiver’s. Touchdown! Except we aren’t really counting touchdowns. But it’s still a touchdown!
We switch every four plays. As Quarterback, I mix up the play calling each time tracing the route on my left palm with right forefinger.
“Go out 5 steps then turn left.”
“Go our 3 steps, stop, turn and I’ll fake it, then go long.”
And there is always at least one “go long” each set of four plays.
And so it goes as the game swings back and forth with my older son and neighborhood friend.
Going long is always my favorite play. It’s the riskiest, and least complicated at the same time. And if successful, it’s the remembered play. The plays involving “running to the left, touching the fence, then cutting across,” and so forth, may seem like they’ll be cool when called, but rarely are executed properly. And even if successful, are only noteworthy for their complexity, not the beauty and simplicity of a well-thrown and caught long ball. And when playing one-on-one football with Dad as steady QB, “just go long” gets called a lot.
And on we played. . .
Walking from the field after the game I stopped in my tracks as memories of similar games fired through my neurons.
“Was it really 35 years ago I was on the receiving end of those thrown balls from my Dad?” I said to myself.
And there I was, as if it were yesterday, in my child-hood front yard, catching passes from my dad as my neighbor played defense. And just like that, three-and-a-half decades were compressed into the fleeting moment it is.
They say your life flashes before your eyes the moment before you die. Who needs to wait until death for that to happen? It is happening all the time.