Opinion

Football follies offer a break from politics

By Bob Roegner, Inside Politics

I love the fall — the colors of the trees are beautiful!

Election season is in full swing and all of the sports seasons overlap. But the fall also provides its annual reminder that my chronological clock has ticked off another year.

It’s dark and cold, my daily meeting with the treadmill awaits and everything seems to hurt more than usual. I hate the treadmill, even though it serves as a bulkhead against the inevitable advance of father time. Push the start button.

I just attended my 40th high school reunion and was struck by the question, “Who are all these old people and what are they doing at my reunion? The event has caused a renewed effort at staying in shape, so I increase the treadmill’s incline to 7.0 and the mph to 3.5, then ponder the question “When do you become old?” I move the incline to 7.5 and 4.0 mph as if increased physical challenges will answer the question, and pick up the sports section.

What’s this? A 59-year-old man played a few downs for the Sul Ross University football team! I’m not sure where that is, but doesn’t it provide hope and inspiration to the rest of us?

A few weeks ago, I read that the Northwest Semi-Pro League was still active. I played in the NWSPL as a quarterback for the Whidbey Islanders in 1972 and 1973, which doesn’t seem all that long ago. We weren’t very good and our backfield was nicknamed “stumble, fumble and fall.”

My vigor increased. I up the treadmill to 8.0 incline and 5 mph, then ask myself, “Could I still do it?” I’m going to get a football, my old jersey and go find out! But first I’ve got to get off this treadmill without killing myself. Finding the off switch at this speed isn’t easy.

My wife isn’t home to raise her ongoing concerns about my sanity, so I grab my gear and head for the car. Where to practice? My first thought was a school playground, but if I hurt myself on school property, Superintendent Tom Murphy will never let me hear the end of it. Not to mention the school board members, some of whom don’t exactly love my column.

Celebration Park! There’s nobody there this time of day, and while I have the enthusiasm of a 20-year-old, having witnesses seems like tempting fate more than necessary.

As I retrieve the football and jersey from the trunk, I realize I don’t have my old football shoes. What to use? Golf shoes! Those will work; after all, I’m only going to throw a few passes, just to see if I’ve still got the arm.

The field is clear, other than an elderly couple walking over by the baseball fields. I call signals, seven-step drop throw to the soccer goal post serving as an imaginary receiver about 40 yards away.

Ouch! That hurt and it didn’t even come close to the goal. OK, try again. Maybe only a five-step drop to conserve energy. “Shoot,” I mutter as I crumble to the grass, I should have tied the shoestrings better.

Well, the third time is a charm, but this time try and stay on your feet, with just a three-step drop. No point in overdoing it.

Hut, hut, one, two, three steps and my arm comes past my ear just like it used to. OK, that wasn’t even close I note as the ball flutters mockingly short of the target. Maybe 40 yards is too far away, or maybe my bifocals aren’t tracking the target properly. I move closer and closer, throwing into the soccer goal, which is kind of hard to miss.

After about 15 minutes my arm feels like Jell-O and I’m wondering if this is such a good idea when a young man approaches and says, “Sir, this field is for soccer only, and, uh, are those golf shoes?”

“Sorry, I was just getting some exercise and I should probably be going,” I responded.

“Are you all right? You look kind of flushed, can I help you get your stuff to your car?” he asked. His good Samaritan thoughtfulness only adds to my embarrassment.

“No thanks, I’ll manage,” I say as I sheepishly head for the car. My shoulder hurts, my clothes are dirty from falling down, I broke a shoestring on my golf shoes, and I’ve suffered significant emotional distress at my lack of success.

The two elderly people I had seen earlier wander by and say good morning. “We walk here or at the mall almost every day. Would you like to join us sometime?”

Maybe that’s what I should be doing. Forget football, forget the treadmill, and forget the hard work of trying to stay in shape. Maybe there is a time when you just give in and accept the fact that somewhere along the way you got old.

As the couple move briskly off, I realize that someday I will join them. But not yet, and until then, look out treadmill, we’ve got work to do!

But that’s for tomorrow. For now I need to sneak back in the house without my wife catching me, wondering why my clothes are a mess and what I’ve been up to.

And the football is definitely going back in the garage.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn, can be reached at bjroegner@comcast.net.

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