Archive for December, 2005

Football and Thanksgiving

Posted by Arlo on Dec 5, 2005 under Life of Arlo

Staring down the line of scrimmage

When I first read about “flashbulb memories” in Psych 101, I immediately understood the metaphor. Sometimes an event occurs that is so perfectly captured by the mind that, in retrospect, time seemed to have slowed down and the tiniest detail can be recalled…

I sprinted off the line as soon as the ball was snapped. It was fourth-and-long and the cornerback, as usual, was giving me plenty of cushion. Without cleats, I didn’t bother to offer a fake. Eyes on the quarterback, he let me pass unhindered. The gusting wind was incredibly strong that Thanksgiving Day (benefiting our team that half) but the accompanying rain cast any throw in doubt. The defender must have decided that I was outrunning the quarterback’s arm.

With the gap between us widening with each step, our QB launched the ball into the air. It arced too high, giving the defenders time make a play, but at least it had some semblance of a spiral. Still, it wouldn’t reach me.

I reversed direction as quickly as I could, the rubber soles of my court shoes almost skidding out from under me on the hard-packed dirt. Now advancing on the backpedaling cornerback, I could tell that he could have a chance a intercepting the descending ball. I ran farther back than I needed to, consciously making the decision to block him out with my body’s position. But now the ball was sailing over my head.

I barely had enough time to think that I had made a mistake; this would be one of those difficult directly-over-the-head catches…

In one motion, I jumped and twisted my body around, losing sight of the defender. I saw my arms out in front of me, coming together from odd angles, and then football was between them.

There was a fleeting moment of surprise, and then the cornerback’s arm was wrapping around my waist. But his center of gravity diverging from my own, and as I spun away, his hand failed to find a purchase on my muddy sweatshirt. The end zone loomed in front of me; I ran.

We were evenly matched in speed, but I knew that his cleats would give him and edge in both acceleration and cutting. It was a footrace, plane and simple, and I put everything I had into stretching my legs for the orange cone that marked the goal. I crossed the line barely a stride or two in front of him, scoring the winning touchdown.

Without fanfare or celebration, I looked back down the field to see almost every other player near the line of scrimmage, some 60 yards back. I hadn’t realized it, but it was to be the last play of the game.

As vivid as that play is in my memory – illuminated as though a “flashbulb” went off, freezing each motion and thought in place – it’s an earlier play, one in which I may have broken my wrist, that I keep going over in my mind.
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