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Football and youthful memories

By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

I’ve gotten so that every time I watch a Redskins football game, it is like watching a dentist pulling teeth. Gone are the days when Washington had a winning team. Gone are the days of Joe Gibbs, who coached Washington to five Super Bowl appearances with three wins.

Back are the Redskins I grew up with, who season after season were perennial losers. In 1960 the team was 1-9-2. In 1960 there was only a 12-game season. In 1961 the schedule was expanded to a 14 games, and the Redskins finished 1-12-1. Flash forward to 2010. Now the team plays a 16-game schedule. The Redskins record was 6-10. So it goes.

I mention all of this because I want to state I love football.

I played it in high school and before that I played a lot of made-up games before dinner and on Saturdays. From September to late December, I looked like one large bruise.

Pretty much the same dozen or so boys played. We played so often that essentially we had two teams ready to go. If there was a new kid on the block, he would sit out until he was asked to play. The teams had such names as the Duke Bombers and The Navy Yard Boys. We were all around the same age – 10, 11 and 12 years old.

During the day we all sat in the same classroom. After school we would all meet on the grass part of the playground and the game was on. While on school grounds, the rules were we had to play flag football, which is grabbing a flag off of the person with the ball rather then tackling him. When we were by ourselves or played down by the Anacostia River, the game would be tackle football. We played from fall through the bitter, cold days of December. The games could be high scoring, such as 52 to 10. Every now and then, we would go home with the score tied.

Most of the equipment we used were hand-me-downs. My football helmet came from one of my uncles and was nothing more then a piece of leather with a strap. The football was also used and in cold, wet weather was hard to grasp. None of us had football shoes; we played the game in our sneakers.

Through all of those games we played through my childhood, I don’t remember any one of us getting seriously hurt. There were a few scrapes and cuts, but no broken bones. As time passed and we got older, the teams started to thin out. Some of us were lucky enough to make organized teams.

Over the years I always looked back fondly to that old neighborhood. I can still see the “gang,” as we liked to call ourselves. We spent a lot of time playing sports.

When I get home to Washington, I sometimes stop down at the old field by the river. I can almost see us still playing football, or maybe, yes, it’s kids playing football today.

What a wonderful sight.

Jim Whipple is a community columnist with The Chronicle. His opinions are his own and not that of this paper. He can be reached at jwhip78013@aol.com.