A different kind of football

TV Hagenah

When they look at me, a lot of people have problems believing I played football both in high school and college. It’s true. I did. Not well, I grant you, but I did play.

In high school, I played on perhaps the worst football team in the history of Colorado high school football, maybe in the history of the game. In Tucumcari they have no concept of what it is like to play on a bad, really bad football team. It’s not permitted. We were so bad, we used to invent strange ailments so we wouldn’t have to play that week.

“Coach, I’ve gone blind in my right eye,” one of us would say.

“It’s all right, son. We’ll just put you on the left side,” he would respond. It never made sense to me, but I was a high school football players so bought it.

Or, “Coach, the doctor says I’ve only got two weeks to live.”

“Well, son, we’ll just have to put you in at center. They don’t live long anyway, and we might be able to put you out of your misery.”

In one three-week span, my high school team lost by 74-0, 52-0, and 48-0. The 74-0 game was against a Catholic school, and you know you are bad when your own fans begin chanting, “We want a 100. We want a 100.”

They went through their varsity, junior varsity, freshmen, and I think maybe even their junior high teams against us. We were more than a little afraid they were going to put the nuns in against us. We knew THEY would score. Oh, did I mention it was a Catholic girls’ school?

In complete truth, I was the season’s second highest scorer on the team (I had kicked a field goal and two extra points.)
Good teams like Tucumcari can intimidate other teams by their air of superiority. Bad teams, on the other hand, can’t do that. They have to resort to other strategies. For instance, we used to pretend we were crazy in the vague hope that opposing teams would believe as the Apache Indians did in the Old West that crazy people were touched by God and should not be harmed any more than they already were.

We would turn our helmets sideways, peek out the ear hole, and bark like seals as we ran out onto the field. I remember one tall running back who stood in the back field on one leg with his hands tucked into his armpits and his head bowed like some sort of deformed flamingo. It might have worked, but he actually fell over before the ball was snapped and got procedure penalites called against us. Within the same concept, my coach actually even suggested to me, since I kicked soccer style (a new innovation at the time), that I talk with a foreign accent when I kicked off so they would think we had an imported kicker and be impressed.

One of the problems was that after I had been hit a couple of times by tacklers or blockers in my capacity as a back, I couldn’t remember which accent I had used the time before — so I might wander from Scottish, to Russian, to Chinese.
Saying my team was bad was like saying the Titanic had some troubles on her maiden voyage.

Honestly, we were so bad we were booked for everyone else’s homecoming. The only team that didn’t want us to play their homecoming game was us.

You’re probably not going to believe this either, but I ended up going to college on a football scholarship.