Now that we’re into autumn, it’s clearly the season for football.
I was reminded of my once-upon-a-time participation in this fascinating sport during the Ottawa Red-Blacks and B.C. Lions game this past week.
I grew up in Saskatchewan, the haven of the remarkable Saskatchewan Roughriders. When I lived in Saskatchewan as a kid, Saskatchewan had a tolerable team with an amazing quarterback named Frank Tripucka, later a Denver Broncos standout. He was an artist as a passer, and my friend Keith and I wanted to emulate him.
In those days, we had to listen to football games on the radio, so we never saw him in person. But we grew up still wanting to be quarterbacks like him. As 14 and 15-year-olds, we played pick-up games in our home town’s CPR Park, and both of us got roughed up learning the skills of being behind a centre.
When we graduated to high school, we were ready. My friend Keith was one year behind me, so I joined the Redmen first. That Grade 10 rookie year, I played mostly defensive halfback. But I did play part of one game as the quarterback but didn’t do so well — kind of like the B.C. Lions.
The next year Keith was a rookie on the team, and I became the Redmen’s quarterback. It was an eight-man team, and that year we won five of our six games in the Southwest Saskatchewan league. As a result, we were entered into a playoff game against the northern champs, Lloydminster.
Lloydminster was coming to our hometown, so we thought we had an advantage. Lo and behold, it snowed two-thirds of a meter the night before the big game. Three of our linemen lived many miles from town, and on that day they could not make it to the game. We scraped the field and played the game, but we were soundly beaten. My friend Keith had to take over as the quarterback because I ended up snapping the ball as our centre was missing. The score was something like 49 to 7 for our northern foes.
The next year was my final Redmen year, and Keith and I shared quarterbacking duties. We renewed our fascination with quarterbacking because the Saskatchewan Roughriders now had the amazing Ron Lancaster at the controls. Our Redmen team won six games and lost none that year, so on to the playoffs.
That year the playoffs were a home-and-home total points series against Rosetown. The first game was in my hometown, and the Redmen won by a single point on a last-minute field goal by “yours truly.” Yes, I was also the team’s kicker and had been second in the scoring race that year.
We didn’t fare so well in the second game as again it had snowed, and we played on a wet field. Our team was mainly a passing team, and because Rosetown was a running team, they ground us into the mud. We lost 21 to 13.
I headed off to college and completely forgot about my hometown, the Redmen, and my friend Keith.
Many years later, however, I was looking through old yearbooks from the high school I’d attended. Accidentally, I happened upon a summary of the Redmen’s games from the year after I’d departed. They won the Southwest Saskatchewan league again, and my friend Keith was both quarterback and kicker, emulating what I’d been the year before. He also won the scoring title. And I thought, “Wow,” and right there decided to write him a letter.
My note was only 40 years late, but among football friends that probably doesn’t matter. Ask any football fan.