Sunday, November 27, 2011

Maybe, The Most Glorious Fall Afternoon Ever

When I was a kid, we had a neighborhood "open space" that served as our football field.

We did not have official endzone pylons.

The end zones were the faint gravel walking track that encircled the space. One sideline was roughly defined by a concrete drainage sewer, which thankfully never killed anyone. Although it surely could have.

The other sideline was defined by a few sweatshirts plopped down by one of us kids.

The grass was anywhere from 3 to 4 inches in height, mowed on a very random basis by some entity the HOA employed for the task.

So when I decided to move way the F out to the suburban Washington D.C. countryside (note: never, ever take a fall "pumpkin" drive, or "apple picking" excursion. Events can spiral out of control...) and absorb a 56 minute door-to-door commute, I was excited to have some land to play with, and some grass to mow.

And I was especially happy that my brother-in-law Todd, the Giants fan from Jersey who lives in suburban Philly, was bringing his two similar aged sons (9 and 13) to my daughters (9 and 12) for the weekend and they wanted to play some football.

So with that in mind, I sought out the flattest chunk of grass I could find, and promptly brought the blade down to 2.5 inches. I then brought my walk mower down for a deeper scalping to define the outer boundaries of the field.

After that, it was about 24 cans of spray paint, and maybe 4-5 hours of good ol' grown-up fun.

Just making the field, would have been enough to tickle me silly inside for weeks. Having a little 3 on 3 game with my own family was even better.

But two things happened that made the day after Thanksgiving truly awesome.

One: the weather. It was unreal. I mean, insanely nice. 62 degrees, low angle late fall sunshine. Not a breath of wind.

Then something pretty nutty happened. A group of kids, perfectly aged between 8 and 14, boys and girls just came walking down the gravel road behind the house.

LOOKING FOR A PICKUP FOOTBALL GAME.

I am not making any of this up.

Mind you, we have a smattering of neighbors in our little swatch of western Loudoun County, but the amount of "foot traffic" on that gravel road is maybe 2 people per day. Maybe.

These kids were visiting their in-laws, about a mile up the road. And you should have seen their faces when they saw the field I had made.

So when they asked if they could play, I told them to beat it, and if they don't I would CALL THE COPS!

Ha. Kidding.

They poured over the gap in the stone fence and onto the field, and the rest of the evening was nothing short of awesome. Having daughters myself, I was thrilled that just as many girls were in the visiting group as boys.

And guess what? They were some of the best players!

I made them all pose for a trading card style photo on my NFL Shield logo. Some of them didn't want to. I would not take "no" for an answer. I told their mom and dad I would send them the pics. Being an adult, and knowing how I would KILL to have more pictures of myself as a kid, I know someday they'll enjoy the shit out of these pictures.






Now, as for the logo, how did I do it?

Simple.

Excel spreadsheet.
8 x 8 grid. (each square = 2 ft.)
Download logo.
Resize to fill grid.
Print.
Bring grid to field.
Make grid with kite string and golf tees. (Tedious, but necessary).
Stare at grid, start with outline, and go from there.

Of course, a sadness came over me when I saw my in-laws leave, and the weekend drained out. I don't have friends who live close enough to play. The field is a bit small for big boys. And I'm gonna watch that sweet grid fade away from my back window as the winter sets in.

But I had that one glorious day. And I have the photos (and video) to prove it.

It was, perhaps, the best Thanksgiving ever.



35 comments:

  1. gotta say....i loved this story. had a similar backyard/common space when i was growing up.
    we'd play football, softball, kickball year round on it...
    if any of our dads had taken the time to do what you did, you'd still be talked about as the coolest m'er f'er around.
    and taking pics and vids of the game, especially trading card poses, is awesome.
    i would like just one picture of one of our pickup games, but i think our parents were just glad to be rid of us/happy we weren't playing atari.
    and, being a painter myself; that is one great replica logo; i'd hire you anyday!
    Mike Losik
    SWT class of 99.
    Go Donks!!!!

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  2. Czabe, so awesome. When I started dating my wife in 1988 I was brought into the fam on Thanksgiving Day and brought into their family tradition of Turkey Day football. They have a field much like yours and 23 years later we are still doing it in the same spot. AWESOME. Their only addition to yours is PVC painted yellow goalposts.

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  3. Reminds me of "Desmond Stadium" or "Hatch field" or "Schneider's Collosium" of course all of these places had unique trees, ditches and other obsticles...but were by far the best fields I've ever played on.

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  4. AWESOME, AWESOME!

    I see a couple of Auburn fans in there too! War Eagle!

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  5. Awesome, it will never be recreated or replicated but talked about forever.

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  6. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Did you shower with the kids afterwards? Just kidding...

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  8. Wow - that is one of the sickest things Ive ever seen! My buddies & I play flag every Saturday morning . . . I would literally, literally give a nard for a field like that. Really, really cool. Impressive logo.

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  9. Where are the "tebowing" pics?????

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  10. Czabe, you got to watch the clip of Joe Kapp, ex-Vikings quarterback, taking a walking cane to the face from Angelo Mosco at a CFL Alumni Legends lunch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrkEROiQsa8

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  11. Pretty sweet stuff Czabe, but no Packer jerseys?
    Even an old worn #4 would have made it a bit more special. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. What a great story. I expect the NFL suits to swoop in and remove all traces of this event, citing you for trademark infringement. Meanwhile, their "creative team" is filming a feel-good duplicate version in Hollywood for promotional advertisement.

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  13. Have great memories of playing sandlot football on Thanksgiving. That Field is AWESOME! Even Better than Jerry World.

    I'm sure you were wearing your 'Wranglers'.

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  14. That kid in the gray shirt looks like he got pancaked in that last photo. Well done sir! Only pain can turn a boy into a man and if his dad won't do it, might as well be you.

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  15. I think this sums up why I enjoy listening and reading you so much, you are just one of the guys, someone who loved playing ball as a kid and still do. Well done Czabe, well done.

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  16. great stuff, czabe, but i find the part about the trading card pictures way too hard to believe...it should be 100% OBVIOUS to anybody reading that norman rockwell himself walked in unannounced from out of the woodss and painted individual caricatures of each child

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  17. Czabe, simply awesome! That brought back tons of fun memories. Hearing you talk about it this morning was really cool, but the pics just enhances it.

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  18. Reminds me of the ice on the lake I grew up on in Northern Indiana. We'd shovel snow for hours, dad would water it down with the garden hose, squeegee, and with spray can paint the lines. My sisters would tend goal with snow shovels. In their absence we'd hand a cow bell. No ring, No goal. Shop lights on makeshift poles and extension cords insured we'd be skating into the wee hours of the morning. I have no pictures of this, but will never forget those games. You've done these kids right. They'll thank you someday.

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  19. Nice art project. Homo. The whole reason your childhood memories are so good is because your parents didn't sissify you with fancy-shmancy sidelines and logos. Sorry so few pictures of you exist, I guess your parents were too busy working their asses off to support you without the ability to follow you and your douchebag friends to the park where you fumbled around the field like the bunch of no-talent-ass clowns that you undoubtedly were.

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  20. Takes a man of vision and action to produce a day like that. Great job.

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  21. Gee, I guess there's a hater in every bunch. Whatsamatta Perry? Had an adult friend by the name of Jerry Sandusky when you were a kid?

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  22. That is awesome, I agree with the above poster who said it is reasons like this that I love listening to you. You are a genuine sports fan, and family guy. You are the same guy on the air as you would be in the bar watching the game. I can't see Same and Samer taking the time to do this for their kids, it would be beneath them.

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  23. Czabe, I hope I'm not becoming a girly man, but this story actually makes my eyes well up. Just a little. Well done.

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  24. Well done on the field painting. You've set the bar high for the rest of us...

    I have been painting mine for almost 10 years. I have one of those field painting wands; a must have. My lines are a little wobbly - yours are perfectly straight.

    Loved the story - hope it becomes an annual tradition for you.

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  25. Goal posts. Where are the goal posts? Every Thanksgiving I kicked field goals over the swing set. We had snow back in the late 60's early 70's. The family was inside I was outside. Girls didn't play sports. Friends were incarcerated at their home compounds. I threw passes to the swings. Blue seat swing was my guy, red seat was the D. I never threw an INT and never missed a game winning field goal. Well done Czabe. Good to be your kid.

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