Archive for the Believe it or not Category

-Football: Cue the inspirational music…

Posted in Believe it or not on July 21, 2009 by evanjm02

They called me Rudy -or Lucas, depending on whether you talked to varsity or junior varsity. I guess there was a slight generational gap. I knew both cinematic characters but preferred to be called, by my J.V. teammates “Stoyo” -the nickname of the at-the-time Miami Dolphins kicker, Pete Stoyanovich.

Rudy

Rudy

          I love football and always have. I suppose when you’re taken to Miami Hurricanes Games during the 1980s, when they won 3 championships, your view of football becomes favorable and slightly skewed. And my pro team, the Miami Dolphins, had arguably the best coach and quarterback in football. I was in my single digits, and my teams won ALL THE TIME. When you’re at an impressionable age why wouldln’t you think the good times will never end?

              In the meantime, we were years away from a pro baseball, basketball, and a hockey team. Who knew South Florida would land a hockey team? What’s a hockey team?

For the older players, Lucas

For the older players, Lucas

             I knew my strengths and physical limitations: I had no strength, and that was my physical limitation. Perhaps a position where I’d regularly have to tackle or be tackled wasn’t for me.

              But there was one position where physical contact was minimal. Heck, if you got hit most of the time, the barbarian who did it would be slapped with a penalty.

This position: punter/kicker.

              Sure, these were positions dominated by South American and European soccer players. But, since my feet grew at exponential levels (I was a size 8 in 8th grade), I figured this gave me some kind of advantage.

              My parents, however, had no interest in letting their flat-footed son play soccer or football.

              My scheme: I’d wait till high school, try out for the football team, and THEN my dad would HAVE to let me play.

              In the summer before 9th grade I went to the J.V. coach and asked, “Coach, is it too late to try out?” To which he answered, “Do YOU think it’s too late?”

              Not sucumbing to his mind trickery, I hopped on board, got my pads and found out soon enough that you don’t try out for the team like in the movies. You join the team, keep your grades at a C average or above, and try out to play in each game every week.

Still, I went home and said, “Dad, I made the team.”

“How far can you kick?”

I calculated about 10 yards below what good kickers did in the NFL and gave him that.

              He went along.

              I played as second string punter behind one guy and third string kicker behind him and another guy. They were both South American born soccer players and, unable or unwilling to pronounce my last name, referred to me as “Monkey Spanker.” They’d kick field goals and I’d run after them and punt them back. Sure it was hot, it was August, and it was Miami, but I had to at least try.

             One day, as we (or the rest of the team) was beating up badly on district neighbor Sunset High, our coach asked for the “short, white kicker” to go in and kick an extra point. My dad had come to the game but at that point had left. Another player gave me his gold chain to wear so he wouldn’t get it mangled since I never got playing time. And, I wasn’t the least bit ready for this.

              I responded, “Um, I can’t do it coach, I haven’t been practicing P.A.T.s (point after kicks), just punts.”

              As he, the other coaches and half the team laughed, and, for some reason I still don’t know, the J.V. cheerleaders cheered me on, I went up. The holder was on the wrong side, switched and missed the snap. I was frantically trying to figure out how to handle this unexpected turn of events and finally realized I should pick up the ball or jump on it. An opposing player beat me to jumping on it and I jumped landing on him.

          

Pic on the lower left, me on the upper right of it

Pic on the lower left, me on the upper right of it

   

              The cheerleaders cheered as I walked off the field and the guy whose necklace I had on told me how much he’d beat me up if I had broken it.

              The only other memorable experience that season was when we played North Miami and my usually distant and uncaring grandfather came to watch and sat down and tried to do pre-game stretches with us. Upon hearing that I wasn’t a starter he offered to “punch the coach in the nose.” The coach, also the school weightlifting instructor would have beaten him senseless. I should have told him to try give it a shot.

             

Big, bad "Papa" Morgenstern

Big, bad "Papa" Morgenstern

 

              After that, my loving mom would jump the fence with me during the off season at school and hold the ball while I practiced extra points. I even looked up kicking instructors and found one on a message board on Prodigy. We also got a kicking net.

              The next season I went out prepared. This time I’d be in the two months of two-a-day practices. That’s 4 hours a day of 200 kicks and 300 punts with no shadow under humid Miami Summer heat in July and August. The coach even got a soccer player from the girl’s team to offer kicking competition for me. Being the tough guy I am, I instead told her she could kick and I’d just punt. I heard the murmurs from other players: “The kicker (referring to me) can’t even kick like a foot or something. We’re going to be a laughing stock with a girl kicker.” I didn’t change my mind. I was punting. And, at least I had someone to talk to out in the field.

              Near the end of two-a-days, when I’d finally get some real playing time, seemingly, I hurt the soft tissue at the top of my plant leg (the one you lean on while the other kicks.) I tried to fight through it, but the heat and injury made me quit. I told the coach I had hurt my achille’s tendon because I thought soft tissue damage was too lame. He laughed and said alright.

              I don’t like to regret, but sometimes I think I should have stuck it out. Maybe I could have gone on to play punter in college, get a championship ring, and earn the NFL league minimum at the time, $200,000 a year to punt or even back up punt and travel for free. (Out of practice I still emailed the NY Giants when I moved up here but try outs are not open to the public. The Jets I don’t care for.)

              Having dropped out of the drama club (the teacher was a dick) and having dropped out of J.V., I moved on to be an editor on my school paper.

              The real Stoyo went on to miss a kick that cost the Dolphins a playoff game, and the kids who’d given me that nickname banned me from talking in my math class.  Stoyo then went on to get a D.U.I. and was eventually cut from the Dolphins.

Former Miami Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich

Former Miami Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich

              I never punted after high school.

              I never kicked.

              I never played again.

              Still, the picture of me in oversized shoulder pads and my team uniform remains prominently displayed on my parents’ bar in the living room back home.

"Glory days..."

"Glory days..."

Advertisements