A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
I wasn't asking much for my football career. I didn't expect to be Gale Sayers or Bart Starr or Jim Brown. I just wanted to be Kim Nelson.
Kim was one of the stars of my Pee-Wee league football team. He could do anything. He was quick. He was fast. He was strong. He could run the ball, or he could throw it. He had that knack for making the big defensive play, and whenever we needed a touchdown, Kim was just the guy to do it. And he did it often enough that we won the league championship.
Everyone on the team received a championship trophy. I couldn't help but notice that the little golden guy on top of the trophy looks a lot like Kim.
Not that I was jealous or anything.
Well, OK. Maybe I was a little jealous. The way I saw it, the only advantage Kim had over me -- I mean, besides athleticism, looks, personality and talent -- was size. He was smaller and lighter, which of course meant that he would be quicker and faster, right? But since I was taller and heavier, I figured that meant I would be tougher to bring down. I dominated neighborhood football games because it always took three or four little guys to tackle me.
But I never got the chance in Pee-Wee league. I was a big guy, which meant only one thing to my coach: offensive line. So I spent the entire season blocking for Kim on his gallops to glory. Oh, I did have one sweet moment when the ball actually touched my hands. We were running a sweep to my side of the field, and I was out in front of Kim blocking. All of a sudden, I heard everyone yelling "Fumble!" at about the same time I felt the ball hit me in the back of my legs. I turned around to look for the ball just as it took one of those weird football bounces right up into my arms. I was so stunned and excited that I just sort of stood there.
"Run!" someone shouted from the sideline. "Run!"
Well, duh! Of course I knew I was supposed to run. I wasn't stupid. I just didn't know which direction I was supposed to go. By the time I finally decided, a couple of players from the other team crashed into me, knocking the ball loose. Thankfully, someone from my team was in just the right place to pounce on the fumble and recover it for us.
You'll never guess who that someone was.
"Way to be alert out there, Kim!" the coach shouted.
Oh, and he had a few choice words for me, too: "Fall on the ball . . . what's his name again? Walker? Fall on the ball, Walker! Don't try to pick it up! You're not a ball-carrier!"
It was at about that point that I decided to leave the glory stuff to Kim. He was better at it than I was. Besides, I figured I could block for him better than he could block for me. And blocking is important -- if not especially glamorous. The way I saw it, the face on the trophy may have been Kim's, but the ankles were definitely mine.
Ever since then, I've felt a special affinity for the non-ball-carriers among us -- and not just in athletics. In every walk of life there are those who do the dirty work for those who get the glory. Homemakers, laborers, secretaries, paralegals, nurses, tellers and all manner of assistants may not be the first people you think of during any discussion of society's movers and shakers. But without these folks behind the scenes, there is no moving, and precious little shaking.
No matter whose face is on the little golden guy.
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--- (c) Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.