As we finished up football practice before our last season game, our coach pulled us all together.
“I checked the weather report, and it predicts blowing snow tomorrow, so dress warm.”
The next morning when I milked the cows, it was freezing, and the wind was blowing. I had already played a game on a frozen field of ice and didn’t relish the thought of experiencing that again.
As we gathered after school as a football team, Coach called a meeting.
“With the temperature where it is, no one would blame us if we canceled the game. But if we do, it would count as a forfeit to the other team. What do you want to do?”
The snow had just started falling, and the wind was whipping it everywhere. Despite this, we unanimously voted to play.
We made the trip to the other school, which was quite a distance away, a trip made longer on icy roads. We found out that the other team thought we would cancel and weren’t ready to play. No thought had been given to clearing the field, and it was still a foot deep in snow. A snow blower was run down both sides of the field so we could see the sidelines. Though it was still snowing, the clouds had partially cleared, and the temperature had dropped further. It was close to zero. The wind was blowing ice crystals of snow that felt like miniature needles into exposed skin.
The other team, being a home team, set up lots of gas heaters for themselves. Two fathers from our team had each brought one. We got one, and the cheerleaders got the other. But I didn’t have to worry. I was first-team offensive line, first-team defensive line, and the kicker. I was always on the field and kept moving and stayed warm. It was the guys who were in and would get sweaty then would go out and freeze that I felt sorry for. They would huddle around the heater trying to stay warm.
Our cheerleaders were dressed in big parkas. They would break apart to do a quick cheer if we made a big play, then they would huddle around their heater.
“We don’t have cheerleaders,” Lenny said. “We have supporting polar bears.”
Even the refs had their striped shirts over big, thick coats and looked like over-stuffed zebras.
We won the toss, so I got to do the first kick of the game. When I kicked, I got it off well, but my other foot slipped, and I went down flat on my back. The other team receiver slipped, couldn’t get the ball, and it bounced into the end zone. They fumbled the next play, but as we flopped around in the snow, it was hard to tell where the ball was.
The game went much the same way. The wind whipped snow into our faces, making it hard to tell who was where and especially where the ball was. At one point, their quarterback dropped back to pass. I busted through the line and headed for him. He backpedaled and threw it at the last minute. I couldn’t stop and plowed through him and the ref behind him. The quarterback wanted a late hit called, but the ref pointed to my skid mark as evidence that I tried to stop.
When halftime came, we were down twenty-eight to seven. We gathered in the locker room for the half-time pep talk.
“Howard,” Coach said, “you have had more than half of the tackles and most of the blocks. Why are you doing so well compared to everyone else?”
“I’m always on the field and stay warm,” I replied.
Coach thought about that and said, “We receive this half. If you offense can make a touchdown, we’ll just do onside kicks to try to keep you out there so you can stay warm.”
When we came out, the cheerleaders wished us good luck and went home. So did most of the crowd. Only about a dozen spectators stayed to support each team.
We received the ball and marched down the field for a touchdown. We kicked onside, and in the powdery free-for-all, we got it. We continued this, and our offense was never off of the field, except for the kicks, and we won forty-one to thirty-five.
As we left the field and headed for the bus, Lenny said, “Howard, remind me what sport that was we were playing, because it sure wasn’t football.”