The Moment

clifford - milton, Delaware
Entered on June 29, 2008
Age Group: 65+
Themes: change, sports

The Moment

I believe there are moments that can change your life— they come unexpectedly and forever leave their mark.

Such a moment was on the horizon when my family moved to Brooklyn, when I was ten years old. Adjustment to a new school and friends was challenging. Complicating matters was my home life, which was disintegrating.

As my parents lives were in distress, mine was in the balance. I felt isolated and upset with the acrimony, and detached from my peers, who mostly came from solid middle class families.

Having been skipped in an earlier grade, my classmates were older and more mature. The boys were active playing ball, and the hierarchy of acceptance was factored by athletic ability. Having never played ball before, my lack of confidence eroded my attempt to compete at their level.

When I was about thirteen, a local semi pro football team decided to form a junior team with the local kids. Some basic equipment was provided, and a game scheduled with the Invaders, an organized team from a rival area.

We were cautioned that the other team had a star running back named Siegel. His reputation made him sound unstoppable. I was assigned the position of defensive end. A coach, named Charlie, gave me my only advice, when he said, solemnly,-“hit low.” I knew nothing about football, and it made a forceful impression. This was serious business.

As the game progressed, I became more an observer than a participant .That changed suddenly when I saw the ball carrier, Siegel, charging straight at me. Either I got out of the way, or he was going to run over me. With Charlie’s words still fresh in my mind, I launched my body toward the ball carrier’s knees. There was an explosive collision and a crashing sound of leather. Siegel was stopped in his tracks, hurled backwards without gaining an inch. I don’t know who was more surprised, Siegel, me, or my teammates, – who engulfed me.

Later, the Invaders came back to the same play. The result was the same. It was no fluke. It was a visceral experience, which reached my core. I wanted more of it- a lot more.

My High School did not have football, but I was developing a reputation on local sandlot teams. Off the field I still carried the baggage of my troubled personal life, but football was relieving the burden. It gave me an identity and a sense of pride.

A High School dropout, with little direction, I worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the goal of playing football at the college level, I finished High School at night, and began college studies in the evening.

At age twenty two, after four years at the Navy Yard, I decided to leave, to chase my dream .I cashed in my savings bonds, and enrolled in college full time. It was difficult being on my own, but I managed — with football as the catalyst.

I played varsity football for three years, and earned my degree. Education opened the door to the business world, but I continued to channel my love of the game into a long coaching career

It all started that day on a sandlot in Brooklyn, with Charlie’s advice, and the tackle that transformed my life.

The Moment

I believe there are moments that can change your life— they come unexpectedly and forever leave their mark.

Such a moment was on the horizon when my family moved to Brooklyn, when I was ten years old. Adjustment to a new school and friends was challenging. Complicating matters was my home life, which was disintegrating.

As my parents lives were in distress, mine was in the balance. I felt isolated and upset with the acrimony, and detached from my peers, who mostly came from solid middle class families.

Having been skipped in an earlier grade, my classmates were older and more mature. The boys were active playing ball, and the hierarchy of acceptance was factored by athletic ability. Having never played ball before, my lack of confidence eroded my attempt to compete at their level.

When I was about thirteen, a local semi pro football team decided to form a junior team with the local kids. Some basic equipment was provided, and a game scheduled with the Invaders, an organized team from a rival area.

We were cautioned that the other team had a star running back named Siegel. His reputation made him sound unstoppable. I was assigned the position of defensive end. A coach, named Charlie, gave me my only advice, when he said, solemnly,-“hit low.” I knew nothing about football, and it made a forceful impression. This was serious business.

As the game progressed, I became more an observer than a participant .That changed suddenly when I saw the ball carrier, Siegel, charging straight at me. Either I got out of the way, or he was going to run over me. With Charlie’s words still fresh in my mind, I launched my body toward the ball carrier’s knees. There was an explosive collision and a crashing sound of leather. Siegel was stopped in his tracks, hurled backwards without gaining an inch. I don’t know who was more surprised, Siegel, me, or my teammates, – who engulfed me.

Later, the Invaders came back to the same play. The result was the same. It was no fluke. It was a visceral experience, which reached my core. I wanted more of it- a lot more.

My High School did not have football, but I was developing a reputation on local sandlot teams. Off the field I still carried the baggage of my troubled personal life, but football was relieving the burden. It gave me an identity and a sense of pride.

A High School dropout, with little direction, I worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the goal of playing football at the college level, I finished High School at night, and began college studies in the evening.

At age twenty two, after four years at the Navy Yard, I decided to leave, to chase my dream .I cashed in my savings bonds, and enrolled in college full time. It was difficult being on my own, but I managed — with football as the catalyst.

I played varsity football for three years, and earned my degree. Education opened the door to the business world, but I continued to channel my love of the game into a long coaching career

It all started that day on a sandlot in Brooklyn, with Charlie’s advice, and the tackle that transformed my life.