The Football Season

598D7629-77EE-4538-AED1-0DBCBD19F6F1.jpegIt would seem that I have too much time on my hands today. I stumbled across this little story on my computer and thought that I should give it some air. Perhaps I have already done so in the past. I apologise if that is the case. I am beginning to go a little senile and tend to forget things.

The Football Season
It was a cold June Saturday morning in the kitchen when my father broke the news. He was looking me up and down as I stood in a singlet, new football boots, socks and shorts attempting to warm myself by the oven. I felt ridiculous and more than a little scared about what was to come.
“There’s nothing wrong with being dumb you know,” he said, by way of a soft opening, “Hell, I’m no genius, myself. Your sister is stupid. And your mother….. Christ, your mother, bless her, is as thick as two planks.”
“Oh,” I said.
“So,” he continued, “it’s a simple matter of genetics. You’re dumb too.”
“Oh,” I said again, “thanks for that.” But the sarcasm passed right through him. He just looked at me.
“Dumb as shit,” he added, to make it clear.
There was an obvious flaw in the genetics argument and I leapt upon it. “What about Uncle Wally and Uncle Stephen?” I asked, referring to my mother’s siblings, “they’re both doctors.”
“Your mother was adopted.”
This was a disturbing revelation. The sudden unveiling of a family secret was not provided for educational purposes. Clearly there was sinister intent. Secondly, and more importantly, it dispelled forever my optimistic half-belief that it was I who had been adopted. And, of course, it added to the mounting body of evidence pointing to my own stupidity. “Oh,” I said once more, “so that’s it then.”
But he had not finished.
“So let’s just hope that you’re half decent at football.”
He looked me up and down again as I stood, white knees shivering before him. And we both knew then. That there could never have been any such hope.

****

That one season of football was predictably awful. In the beginning things weren’t too bad – the coach was reasonably patient with my ineptitude and, to my surprise, even some of the other boys were there with an occasional comforting pat on the back when I made some dreadful error. The second worst player in the team welcomed my involvement with open arms.
And, early on, we actually won a couple of games.
I spent most of my time on the bench, of course, to limit the damage, but when, at my father’s insistence, a rule was introduced requiring that all boys be given at least ten minutes on the field per half the losses began to mount. My twenty minutes per game seemed to coincide with crucial shifts in the momentum of play. I am not sure what position I played – I think it varied quite a bit, but wherever that place was was quickly identified as an attacking opportunity by opposing sides. And as all hopes of a semi-final appearance began to fade my teammates began to look for somewhere to place the blame. I was the obvious choice.
One day late in the season after a particularly inglorious loss the coach’s son suggested (in front of my father) that I try my luck at netball.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you’re a fat fucking girlie spastic,” he said. Whether this was an attack on just me or whether he also had issues with women’s sport and the disabled was unclear at the time. I think he was just expressing his frustration over lost opportunities.
My father saw it as an opportunity to express his frustrations as well. He broke the boy’s nose.
This was at a time when assault charges were not so commonly laid and my father, on this occasion at least, escaped arrest. But we were not welcome back at the football club and I never again laced up a football boot.

21 thoughts on “The Football Season

  1. I was fortunate in life that football of any code was never considered as a career opportunity for me. My mother played tennis and so decreed that her sons would play too. I’m still thanking her for even though I was close in ability to the protagonist in your story I’m grateful I could hit a ball over the net.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well if you lived where you do now, it is very much a football town. Though I do recall playing tennis there when I was at school and copped my usual hiding.

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      2. Were you famous? The other day I met John king famous St George winger who now lives around my parts. Should be good games this afternoon.

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      3. I do remember Johnnny King playing during that St George golden era. But I played rugby union but would never compare myself to him. My football was much like my writing. I am, at best, a hack.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Gee dad you sound just like my brothers, you sure you aren’t their father as well?
    Footy is just legalised violence but good write up as you gave evidence of that side also!

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    1. Kate …. darling … sometimes it’s hard to know who’s father you might be. And I do get a bit confused. The truth is that I did actually end up playing a lot of football. Some of the confusion (and the children?) may be connected to that fact.

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  3. What a great story. With all the emotions. And you ended it with a punch!
    I loved playing football/soccer/footy. I thought I was very good at it, but only the scorers were really celebrated back then, and I only scored occasionally (not my position!). But somehow the team fell apart when we all went to different schools and had less time to practice.

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  4. A very sad story, but here in US, if you want to be a “star” in any sport you have to start early and continue to improve, probably to the detriment of education.

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    1. As it happens, I actually spent about half of my last year of schooling in hospital due to football (and trying to be a star) …. so, yeah … the education suffered a bit. I was so dumb that I went back to football after that …. and got the crap beaten out of me again several times before I got smarter (though I’m still waiting for the brain damage to really kick in). So, the school of hard knocks, I suppose.

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      1. Maybe if I’d moved to the US I could have got some sort of scholarship playing cricket and football because none of the kids who were good at sport did and none of the kids who did well in school did either.

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