LARGO, MARYLAND (Teenager)
I didn’t grow up in a poor neighborhood, nor did I grow up poor or as some would say ‘less fortunate’, but the kids in the community were very creative and had great imaginations. In order for a large group of us to play football, we either had to find someone’s backyard, a series of backyards or go hardcore and play in the street. We didn’t play football in the street too much, but it was definitely the turf for kickball, which I will get into at a later time. Our football field moved numerous times, and I remember we started to play in my backyard and used the neighbors’ yards to mark our end zones. That worked for a while, but as we got older and bigger my backyard became too short of a field, so naturally we had to search for another location.
I can’t remember in what order we went in, but I remember for a good long while we ended up using a series of lawns, which were not fenced in, as our football field. It was a good length size field, but eventually the home owners of the four lawns that we were using came out and banned us from playing football. So for the first time in many years we were given a ‘No Play Zone’ and began to worry that we wouldn’t be able to play football anymore. Now, we did have a neighborhood football field, but it was too far and no one was going to drive us or ride their bikes all the way across town just to play football. So once again our search was on in the area to find a new football field, which we found one, but it definitely wasn’t ideal.
It was an open field and just big enough to accompany two teams of maybe 8 on 8, but anymore than that and you felt crowded. Sometimes we would get as many as we could, and have subs, to make it more challenging. However, streaking above us were powerlines that were just high enough for us to not worry about, but surrounding the outer perimeter of the field were the back of homes. We had no clue who owned the land, but played there until we didn’t play anymore, which wasn’t long before some of us were drafted to play flag football for a church league. That was the first time we all played together in an organized fashion, and even though we lost every game we played, it was a good experience. I was drafted as the quarterback and basically ran the offense and called the plays, which wasn’t long before the other teams marked me as one of the top players on the team.
Going back to our playground football conversation, we also formed a small league where we would have four teams from different areas of the community playing against each other. That was fun! That caught on for a quick while and we ended up having our own bowl games during the winter snow fall, which really added to the excitement. However, we had a few people that would join us every so often, from other neighborhoods or within the same community but didn’t play with us that much, and acted like they were pre-Madonna’s and that they were being scouted for some big Division I school to begin their career. I remember we had one guy, named Rasheed, that would come out and play with us sometimes and his skills weren’t bad, but he wasn’t the greatest either. Rasheed brought out his brand new football one day and threw it around. Well, he was my quarterback and when he threw me the ball I ended up scoring a touchdown! Ordinarily, I celebrated by spiking the football, which got him upset at me and immediately grabbed his ball! Rasheed was mad that I had scratched up and scuffed his football because I spiked it!!! He began to rub the dirt off of it as if I had played with his trophy cased, autographed football!
I looked at him and asked him with a very annoyed voice, “Why did you bring the football out then?” That turned me off completely and made me look at him differently. I think he was also one of those that didn’t want to get to dirty if we were playing tackle football, which we did at least 95% of the time and people in the area knew that. Playing with guys like that sometimes made playing football less fun, and once in a while a physical fight would break out between guys. Just like any community and neighborhood some people moved away, some went to college, some went on to begin their careers (such as me) and others stayed in the same area, but just got older. When I go back home to visit I do sometimes run across some of the guys and funny to see some of them grown up with families and good careers, especially the ones that I thought wouldn’t do anything with themselves. A pastime in my life that I will never forget and always look at as most of my fun times.