It’s true. I didn’t like my football coach, Mr. Fink. I’d say I even hated him from grade 11 through to the end of grade 12. I played tackle football for him in grade 10 when I was 15 and I was the only starting playing from grade 10, the others were all older and more experienced than me. He once told me that I was the best quarterback in the city, but he had never seen me play that position. I played tight end for him in grade 10, blocking and catching passes.
That was my second year playing tackle football. I play community league the year prior and it was just okay. Canadian football season goes into fall/early winter, so playing in a foot of snow and -20 degree weather really sucks. Have you ever had a face mask made of indestructible plastic smash into your bare, frozen knuckles by a kid running at full speed? It’s not pleasant. Among other things, tackle football is a very serious sport, at any age. The coaches are aggressive and have bully-like mentalities. When parents aren’t around they become a lot more brutish too.
One time in practice, a kid ran and hit another kid from behind who didn’t have the ball. It was a cheap shot, an illegal block and could have really hurt him. The coach was furious and ran up to the kid and grabbed him by the face mask and threw him to the ground, a very illegal cheap shot in football standards. You don’t grab the face mask because of the high risk of injuring the other person, twisting their head and neck is just savage. That’s what the coach did to the kid who did an illegal block from behind.
I remember him saying, “you like cheap shots do you?!” as I stood over him as he lay on the ground, this is also another foul in football – called taunting.
I’m sure the kid didn’t even know what he was doing was wrong, it was expected you knew all the rules when you joined and most kids barely even knew how to run at 13 or 14 years of age. The 40 year old coach knew the rules though.
Mr. Fink wouldn’t stop pestering me to keep playing football after I played the first year of high school in grade 10. I realized how tackle football is too serious for a kid and I just wanted to have fun, so I didn’t play in grade 11 or grade 12. He contacted my parents, he bothered my brother at the same school, he talked to my friends and teachers to try to get me to keep playing. Even the principal spoke with me about it. I think I just kept saying that I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t really voice why I didn’t like it.
They interrogated me saying they knew I didn’t want to play because I was doing drugs in my free time. Little did they know I would save drugs until I was 18 and out of high school, the fuckers.
Mr. Fink tried to force me into playing every single day, it was annoying and I didn’t understand why he was doing it. I faced some intense pressure from everyone I knew, friends, family, him, other coaches, all the teachers, the principal – everyone I was in contact with. It really took a toll on me. I didn’t want to walk near the gymnasiums, I’d hide around corners if I saw them coming; I’d avoid these talks at all costs.
The pressure was so intense, and at that age I wasn’t really able to voice myself like I can now. I didn’t know how to tell the coach, “I love football, but I fuckin’ hate playing tackle football because everyone is so intense and it’s not a way for a kid to live. If you do well, you say good job and move on. If you screw up, you condemn me so I’ll never forget it. You run us until we’re puking. You call me a wussy if I stay down too long after getting hit. I literally feel miserable after every practice and every game. Go fuck yourself Fink” Somehow I just didn’t think this conversation would go so well when I was 15.
The changing rooms were twisted too. All you wanted to do was change into your gear and leave. The older kids would chase you into a corner in the showers shaking their dick in hand while everyone laughed. There’s more that I won’t divulge, and I’m sure our locker room wasn’t that bad compared to other ones I’ve heard of; the froshing.
To me it was more like, why WOULD I play football?!
I still play flag football to this day and I will for years, but those are casual games and it’s about having fun and staying in shape. It’s about finesse, agility, and strategy, not brute, rage, and pride.
Anyways, I was so stressed out and didn’t know how to keep saying “no” without having a major reason that they would accept, so I decided I had to physically not be able to play football to get everyone off my back.
I went to work, at Princess Auto, and tried to break my hand so that I wouldn’t be able to pick up a football; my good hand of course.
I grabbed hammer off of the shelf, then I put it back and switched it to a rubber mallet – I didn’t want to break the skin.
I put my hand on the counter at one of the tills, I braced for the impact, and I had my good friend Matt Trudeau smash the hammer on to my right hand. I winced in pain – it was probably the worst pain I had felt in all my life at that time. I remember tears coming from my eyes before I realized how stupid this idea was.
It hurt like a bitch, but nothing broke, and I wasn’t about to have Matt do it again.
Trudeau laughed his ass off and said, “why don’t you just tell him you don’t wanna play because you don’t wanna?” And that’s what I did. Over and over, day by day, I told them no. I had to do it even after the season had started. They tried and tried. I lived with anxiety for two football seasons. Essentially, I was still enduring part of the stress that I associated with football, without ever stepping onto the field.
Later on, I found out that when Mr. Fink was just out of university, he had an offer to play professional football. He was young and cocky and declined the offer because he thought he could get more money with another team.
It was the only offer ever extended his way – an opportunity missed. That’s why he wanted me to play so bad.
Many football players suffer from lifelong physical and even mental impairments. Busted knees, smushed brains, and bruised egos don’t always go away. Will Smith was in a movie called Concussion, if you don’t believe me, watch it.
I have dreams from time to time where I’m winning championships, jumping back into football and having an impact like I’m one of the best.
“Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory, lasts forever” was a football quote every kid knew. I knew why they did it – they did it for the glory.
I don’t regret passing up on football. I don’t and I won’t.