Remind me again, why did I like playing football?

By Don Rush
By Don Rush

Do you sense it?
Can you feel it?
I know I can and praise be! It has been too long of a hot summer with too much hanky-panky (even for a presidential campaign season) you just knew something had to give. Me, I think the gods — those Titans of The Gridiron Realm — have worked their juju* for this: the opening week of the 2016, high school football season.
Without relying on such silly things as science, cold fronts, and little Mexican kids (el ninos and la ninas), how else can you explain the sudden changes in Republican presidential candidate’s recent turn about and sorta liking everybody AND that we went from hot and humid and feeling like 100 degree days to temperatures in the mid 70s in a day?
Given the choice, I will take the magical and mystical over proven science every time — let’s face it, it’s just more fun to turn to preternatural explanations. But, I digress.
FOOTBALL! (American, not the socialist game).
In my head I see Bud Rowley in his Oxford yellow, stretchy, polyester pants. I can hear him growl, through a wolfish grin, “It’s a GREAT day for football!”
Football. Ah, the memories. Aside from watching football as a kid with Dad, my first memory of the gridiron involved Clarkston’s little league, feeder association, the Chiefs. It was either the summer after forth or fifth grade. Mom and Dad saw the announcement in The Clarkston News for Chief weigh-ins and registration. My old man was super geeked for me to don the pads and play football.
And, he was crushed and not a little miffed, when he was told his only son was too “husky” to play. I was just embarrassed. That was an awesome car ride back to the old Rush homestead on Clarkston Road. Dad didn’t swear inside the house, but that five mile car ride, well let’s just say, “good times.”
Those good times led to a future of running laps around the afore mentioned homestead. By the time 8th grade rolled along I had grown up and not just out and was ready for the gridiron. I traded laps around the house to running a ton more with lots of other strapping, young lads, many who had two, three and four years experience in playing football. It was a good year for learning and readying me for 9th grade football at Sashabaw Junior High School under the tutelage of Mr. Richard Swartout’s favorite conservative and fellow teacher, the ever “calm and collected” Mr. Chris Kruger. That year I think I was awarded “Most Improved.” I don’t remember.
What I do remember is whenever Coach Kruger communicated with me it sounded something like, “Smakin flakin fu coo hazel tac Rush!” Or, sometimes, “Rush, flavca ma gah dah mant it!”
Good times.

From The Cnews' archives. In the middle with "awesome" form, me.
From The Cnews’ archives. In the middle with “awesome” form, me.

Our junior varsity squad was pretty badass. Coached by Gary Warner and Kurt Richardson, we went undefeated and regularly taunted the varsity squad to a scrimmage game. (The varsity squad kinda sucked, and may have one a game that year.) I was mentioned for outstanding defensive play in The Clarkston News that year. Once. The entire season, just one time. (I didn’t know that until this Monday when I went back through the archives and saw it!)

George Jetson and Astro
George Jetson and Astro

The most important thing, I think about the 10th grade season was Coach Richardson nicknaming me Astro (after George Jetson’s dog). At the awards ceremony when other kids got trophies and plaques for outstanding play, effort, toughness or heart, he awarded me a blue baseball cap with gold letters, ASTRO. Thanks Coach! There are still people who, to this day, call me Astro.

Given to me in about 1978, found in my garage in about 2015. The Astro cap!
Given to me in about 30 some odd years ago, found in my garage in about 2015. The Astro cap!

Good times.
The varsity years were pretty good. I recall when Coach DJ Marsh tried to kick a field goal during practice, missed the football and landed on his keister. (There were no snickers). I remember Coach Richardson yelling inspirational things like, “If you don’t puke, you’re not trying hard enough!” I only threw up once, and I think that was from consuming Corn Flakes and whole milk for breakfast and then running a gagillion miles in 90 degree heat.
Good times.
I remember Coach DJ Campe taking us linemen to practice on the gravely girls softball field and him barking at me, “Get up Rush, you beached porpoise!” (At the time, I had not yet qualified for Shamu or whale status). Head Coach Walt Wyniemko liked to call me “Einstein” when I would question his blocking strategy. It would go something like this, “You think so, Einstein? You think so? Hey everybody Einstein here thinks he has a better idea. I got a better idea, everybody go run a lap!”

Einstein laughing
Einstein laughing at my blocking techniques. Coach wasn’t

Wow. Good times! Thinking back, why did I like playing football so much?
*Juju (ju-ju). I went online to a number of websites to get to the bottom of Juju. Webster’s online dictionary says, “the magic attributed to or associated with jujus.” Wikepedia says, “(French: joujou, lit. ‘plaything’) . . . is a spiritual belief system incorporating objects, such as amulets, and spells used in religious practice, as part of witchcraft in West Africa. . . .” And, my favorite from the Urban Dictionary, “jungle speak for magic, or good luck!”