Most of my stories are about growing up, but more importantly, they are about growing up during a time that was really different than it is today. In so many ways, we were thrown out of our house by our mom’s in the morning and told, “Go outside and get some sunshine”.
This story again includes the Stoll brothers. The family of four brothers that my brother Charlie and I had the fortune to grow up with. Like most young boys, sports figures were our hero’s. In our neighborhood our hero’s were Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Roberto Clemente, Bob Gibson, Brooks Robinson, John Brodie, Daryl Lamonica, etc.
So often on weekends, rather than go all the way over to the junior high school, (3 blocks, we were lazy) for a game, we would play 3 on 3 football on the front lawns of our houses. This is amazing to me because we would tear up people’s yard, break plants, trees, flowers, (accidentally of course). Maybe only once that I could think of, a neighbor yelled at us to get off their yard. My conclusion is that our parents were more lenient back and they were cool as long as we did not intentionally try to do something evil. Either that, or my neighborhood just did not really care about their yards. I think it was the former.
The teams were usually, Eddie, Howard and Charlie against Andy, Mason and me. The combination of skill and age was comparable. The game was tackle football, just like to pros; however, without helmets and pads. We were young and stupid. We would play on the front yards of 3 houses. The homes we grew up on were not very large. All were small 3 bedroom, one bath homes on modest size lots. The homes were built in the early 50’s and typical starter tract homes. Each front yard was about 20 yards long.
The real challenge was dodging trees, shrubs, and bushes and avoiding getting tackled on a concrete driveway. A play called in the huddle went something like this, “Ok, Steve, snap the ball, use the bush on the Millers lawn to screen Howard and I’ll hit you there. Ready Break!” Or the inevitable, “Everybody go deep, I’ll run it and you guys block downfield.” Or always the trick, “Snap the ball, Steve you block, Mason you stay behind me and when I am getting tackled, I’ll lateral you the ball”. We were always lateraling the ball, workin for the quick 6. Half the time, the lateral was being questioned, (Stoll brothers again) as a forward pass and the other time the ball would get fumbled and become a mad scramble for the ball, either way, it was not boring. We were always competitive and the games did not end smoothly. Nevertheless, had so much fun.
These days, unless you are part of organized sports, today’s youth are in front of a video games. I believe that is a significant reason our youth are overweight