By Don Newberry
It was a “coolish” night toward year’s end. Granddad, his head buried in the newspaper sports section, wasn’t aware of his grandson’s arrival. When he felt the seven-year-old’s breath on the back of his neck, he knew that silence, for hours gently punctured only by the crackling fireplace, was about to end.
“I’m getting pretty good at reading, Granddad,” the youngster bragged. “Soon I’ll be reading the newspaper.” Confident hat he could read the sports headline, the youngster was urged to do so.
Granddad, whose “doting meter” is set on “occasional” as compared to Grandma’s “24/7,” smiled when the youngster belted out the words: “STEROID PITCHER DENIES ALL CHARGES….”
“I’ll have to grade you down a letter,” Gramps chuckled. “You missed the first word. It is ‘STORIED’.”
Settling back in his overstuffed chair, he reflected on his kin’s “goof.”
“Maybe I’ll just give you an ‘A minus’ instead of docking you to a ‘B,’” he kidded. “Actually, you may be closer to correct with ‘steroid’ instead of ‘storied’,” he continued. “These are sad days in sports, and when you’re older, we’ll discuss whether the curse of steroids marks the end of an era….”
The youngster cocked his head sideways, like a dog caught in the hen house.
He hadn’t expected a drill on ethics; shucks, he just wanted to show off his reading skills.
Granddad offered one parting shot: “For way too long, it’s been easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” At mid-sentence, the second-grader tip-toed away, not realizing that he had drop-kicked Pandora’s box squarely between life’s goal posts by misreading just ONE WORD….
Speaking of goal posts, fans of the Dallas Cowboys are euphoric about post-season play. “All you have to do is glance at the sidelines,” one fan said. “Last year, during close-up shots of Coach Bill Parcells, I feared we’d see blood spurting from his wrists. The ‘big tuna’ never looked happy.
“He was rigid, dour and gray. Buzzards circled over Parcells, then opted for freeway road kill.
“Conversely, the new coach, Wade Phillips, is animated, given to smiles and high fives. After touchdowns, he acts like a guy just chosen as a contestant to ‘come on down’ for The Price is Right….”
Dr. Richard Jackson, a former athlete, enjoys sports at all levels.
Luckily, when he dialed a wrong number recently, he reached a like-minded person.
“During our 25 years in Phoenix, dialing a wrong number could result in scowling responses,” he joked. “I’ve always heard that in a small town, you can dial a wrong number and still talk for 10 minutes. Now I’ve experienced it in Brownwood….”
The errant call went to Harley Ethridge, Sr., a former coach and school superintendent. Ethridge is “button-popping proud” of his grandson, Tyler, a football phenomenon at Richland Springs High School.
For 10 minutes, he hardly came up for air as he rattled off stats that make college coaches salivate.
The numbers include: 230 TD passes spanning 10,755 yards and 99 rushing TD’s covering 4,551 yards. He’s led his team to three state championships, and the Coyotes lost by a touchdown in the state semi-finals during Tyler’s sophomore year. The won/lost record for this six-man football team was 56-1. Throw in his junior high years, and the record ballooned to 80-2….
Ethridge spoke of the “mercy rule;” this means that when a team is 45 points ahead and at least a half has been played, the game ends. Only in the 2007 championship game this season was the full game played. All other foes went home early.
Tyler’s dad, Harley Jr., had an early clue that football might be the boy’s sport of choice.
At age three, he threw a perfect spiral with a toy football, cracking a window….
Back to the phone call. Jackson, sensing a pause in the proud granddad’s voice, begged off after 10 minutes, promising a “to be continued” visit later.
He said that Mr. Ethridge reminds him of another proud grandfather whose quadruplet grandsons were legendary football players.
“Old granddad claimed that they were so tough, any one of them could whip the other three,” Jackson said….