I hated that damn wind. But, the stinging cold of the November wind was nothing compared to the pain of having my face pounded into the frozen turf. As I got up off the ground, the falling snowflakes provided a momentary distraction from the grim situation. It was third and eighteen.
This could have been a great game. It should have been a great game. I mean, what thirteen year old kid doesn’t like to play tackle football against his sworn rivals, in full pads, in the middle of snow storm? And in Scranton Memorial Stadium for that matter. But for me, reality had just set in. We were doomed.
As much as we tried, nothing was working. Our receivers couldn’t hold on to the rock hard football, the running backs kept slipping on the icy grass, and this last sack was about all I could take. So, maybe it was the wind. Or, maybe it was my aching head, or just maybe I was too frustrated to think clearly anymore. For whatever reason, I started to cry as soon as Coach Donachie called timeout and motioned for me to come to the sideline.
And I have to tell you, the walk to that sideline with tears streaming down my face was overwhelming. With the whole team watching me, I felt like I was in a scene from a movie where everything is in slow motion. The first person I looked at was my Dad, who happened to be the Defensive coach, for some kind of indication why I was being called over. I couldn’t quite tell what he was thinking as he stood next to Coach Donachie. But, there was certainly no question what was on the head coach’s mind.
As I approached the sideline, my sobbing must of made me look like a little kid who had just been beaten up by older bullies. Rather than let the other players on the team see me in this sad state, Charlie Donachie and my Dad took a few steps onto the field. This was not a good sign. Now I knew they were gonna let me have it out of earshot of the other players.
To my surprise though, the first thing that Coach Donachie did was to not scream at me for getting sacked twice in a row. I guess he knew that the offensive lineman weren’t up to the task that day. Instead, he put his hand on my shoulder pad and stared me right in the eye for what seemed to be an eternity. And when he finally spoke, he delivered the single most memorable phrase that I would ever hear.
He said simply, in a quiet voice, “Mike… Quarterbacks don’t cry.” And then added in a loud voice that everyone on the sideline could here, “Now get back in there!”.
Those simple words changed my life.
originally written December 30, 1994
From the forthcoming book “Quarterbacks Don’t Cry”
Learn more about M. Pell at www.futuristic.com
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