On a Saturday morning, June 22, so profoundly perfect it would bring tears to the eyes of a visitor from Oklahoma or Texas whose environment is defined by brutal weather, scorching heat and tornadoes, two worthy teams engaged in a spirited non-contact contest at the Cambria Grammar School.
Under cloudless, baby-blue skies, it was the Turtles going head-to-head with the Blue Frogs. It was healthy, happy youths from fifth through eighth grade engaging in flag football on a luxuriantly fertile playing field with an eagerness and energy unique to growing boys.
It’s the second half of a very close game. The quarterback for the Blue Frogs takes the snap and heaves a long spiral downfield. It hits the diminutive receiver — who has found his way into the end zone — right in the hands. The kid drops it.
The parents, siblings, grandparents and friends along the sidelines issue a playful “awwwwww…” in unison and Norm Martin, AKA “Field Commissioner,” bellows “THIRD DOWN!”
The next play features a hustling, fleet-footed Blue Frog runner — no doubt a future Coast Union Bronco football player — who zigs when pursuers zag, who darts left when defenders are faked to the right, and with sheer will power he gains a first down before a Turtle in a green shirt yanks the long red “flag” from his belt for a “tackle.”
“FIRST DOWN!” Martin barks, as he sets the ball down in the approximate spot where the flag was pulled, and the parent on the sidelines moves the first down marker to a spot fairly nearly matching where Martin has placed the ball.
As the final seconds ticked off, the Turtles held court against the Blue Frogs, 22-19, but the score hardly mattered because these players were having so much fun — and learning the game of football without getting injured in the process — that even the 10 trillion or so blades of grass on the lush green field straightened up and applauded.
More than a hundred years ago, Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” It is a certainty that Martin – who had the vision to start flag football a few years ago – isn’t hallucinating when he yells “THIRD DOWN!” and “TOUCHDOWN!” and “ILLEGAL FORMATION!”
The CYAA flag football games continue at 9 and 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29, on the grammar school field.
Email John FitzRandolph at firstname.lastname@example.org.