My Blog


Like most kids, I tried to answer the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up.

For me, the answer came in the mid-1960s during a Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers game while preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. I recall sharing the couch with my grandparents in the family room of our rented ranch while sitting before our tiny, Panasonic black-and-white TV. Both my parents were drunk. My mother was hovering between the family room and the kitchen while trying to watch dinner and the game. The smell of dinner was overpowering.
“Oh, I just love Alex Kraus,” my mother wooed and ogled at the Lion’s defensive tackle during one pass through the room. “He’s so big and strong.”
This inflammatory statement ignited a heated response from my father regarding Kraus’ Greek heritage and alleged gambling habits.
To prove her drunken courage, my mother persisted to poke at the snake by saying how safe she’d feel being wrapped in Kraus’ huge arms.
An argument, typical of my drunk parents, ensued.
But as an adolescent, searching for a method to his mother’s love, I had found a route. I naively decided that afternoon that I wanted to play professional football when I grew up.
Also as a naive adolescent. I had no idea how difficult the path to my goal might be. Nor did I realize the greatest obstacle to reaching my goal wouldn’t be the long years ahead, the athletic skills needed, or the strength of my determination. My greatest obstacle was always my father. He persisted that sports were, “Just a game.” For him, the only way to get ahead in the world, and make money, was getting a good education and hard work.
What my father couldn’t imagine, what he never realized, was that my goals weren’t the same as his. My life was never about the search of power over others in search of a lofty corporate position and great wealth.
As it turned out, my father wasn’t against me playing all sports. He allowed me to play Little League baseball and basketball, but he drew the line at football, saying I’d get hurt.
Fate stepped in. On september15, 1971, my father’s job had our family transferred to Mexico City, Mexico. I was in sixth grade. During my first spring at my new school, a sign-up sheet for middle-school football was posted. I signed up, but had to forge my parents’ signature on the permission slip. An after school bus schedule allowed me to remain late at school unnoticed by my parents
My first attempt at football was hardly the beginning of a hall of fame career, but I enjoyed the game immensely. I played again the next two years, and thanks to the oddity of Mexican sports leagues, I was eligible to play freshman football in eighth grade. My fortune was holding out, since I received no serious injuries which required medical attention. I’m certain my mother suspected I was playing, but she never ratted me out to my father. They still weren’t getting along.
My luck failed me my sophomore year of High school. I sprained my ankle so bad I couldn’t hide it from my parents. Although my mother feared it was broken, my father refused to take me to have an X-ray. He claimed that if I was hurt, it was my own fault. An X-ray years later would showed that it had been broken.
My junior year, colleges began to visit me to offer football scholarships. My father was upset when I was taken out of class to take to them. He didn’t care that college was paid for. He didn’t see me playing sports beyond high school. “It’s just a game. You’re going to have to quit playing games sometime in your life to support your family.”
The funny thing about his feelings were that his co-workers later told me how much he bragged about my college games at work.
After four-years of Big-Ten football, where my ass was smeared all over the field, I learned that I lacked the talent, and by then, the desire, to continue playing football.
Ironically, whenever I missed playing in the weeks after graduation, I consoled myself by saying, “It’s just a game.”