Camaraderie of the team that can last a lifetime
I got word just the other day of the death of my childhood friend, Daniel “Killdee” Johnson.
Daniel’s best friend was actually Jimmy Greenway, but they often let me hang around on one of their many adventures. I have great memories of mud football on the banks of the Tennessee River, possum hunting, and Red Man around a campfire.
Daniel’s mom died when we were in the seventh grade and his dad was what we called a “tenant farmer,” which mostly meant that he lived and worked on another family’s farm.
Daniel could jump out of the gym, being the first person in our class to dunk in junior high but wasn’t the basketball star in high school we all thought he could be. After graduation, he joined the Air Force and spent most of his adult years in North Dakota.
I never saw him again.
I’m getting old enough now that I’m afraid that this is going to happen more and more. I don’t want to get all maudlin but it does make you think about things.
Like, never miss an opportunity to tell people what they mean to you. You’ll want that moment when it is past.
I know I wish for one more moment with my dad. I’d ask him “how’d I do, Pops?” I’d want to talk to him for hours. “How did I do raising my own kids?” Maybe “did I make you proud of the man I’ve become?”
I don’t think my dad missed too many opportunities to let me know that he was proud of me, that he loved me.
I can remember one time in particular when I was getting an award in college. It really didn’t mean much to me but after getting the award, as I was walking back to my seat, I found my dad crying. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. This was from a man that didn’t return for the seventh grade and instead went to work in the textile mill to support his father-less family.
That award got a whole lot more important to me at that point. I’ve never taken anything like that for granted since.
I’ve heard more than one coach tell their team not to take their season for granted. At the beginning, it might seem like the season will never end but before you can blink, you’re playing your last game.
And the relationships that you make through the shared experiences of being part of a team will remain fond memories throughout your lifetime.
I remember things that happened in football practice that happened 43 years ago. I remember Dickie Blankenship hitting me when I was a sophomore and trying to decide if the big guys hit like this little guy, maybe this wasn’t my sport after all.
I can remember successfully blocking Mike Bivens in practice one day. “Big Mike” was, by far, our best lineman. I was pretty sure on that day that football was my sport after all.
I can remember tackling MHS fullback Hal Ferst in a mid-season game. Playing linebacker, I stepped up into the hole and took him on with my right shoulder, moving my feet like I had been coached. 15 yards downfield, I made the tackle and then got up and looked for my right arm, which I was pretty sure Hal Ferst had taken off at the shoulder. Shared hardships. Winning and losing together. Teammates. Friends. Memories to last a lifetime.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (firstname.lastname@example.org)