(Posted Feb. 17, 2021)
By Rick Palsgrove, Managing Editor
I was never much of a football player as a kid, but I do know one thing about the sport–it’s a lot more fun played in the snowy backyard with your neighborhood buddies.
Back in my days of youth, my older brother organized regular pick-up football, baseball and basketball games among all the neighborhood kids. At first, we usually used our backyard for these contests.
In fact, we played so much baseball there that we wore out the grass in the yard to the point that it looked like a real baseball diamond with patches of dirt at home plate, the pitcher’s “mound” and the bases. I remember my dad being unconcerned about the worn-out turf. He said of the grass, “It’ll grow back.”
As we kids grew a bit older, we moved our football and baseball games from our backyard to a nearby, larger vacant lot. The ground on the lot was lumpy, but no matter.
Whenever a fresh snowfall blanketed our playing fields, the football came out, no matter the month or day of the week or temperature. We would gather at the field, pristine with fresh snow, then proceed to track it up with action.
Football in the snow meant you could slide and glide several feet when hitting the ground. It meant bundling up in warm coats or sweatshirts that served as extra padding to absorb tackles (nobody wore equipment in these games, just your regular clothes). It meant getting cold snow down your back and in your face, which actually cooled you off as you worked up a sweat. It meant hearing the crunch of snow under your feet and also when a ball carrier and tacklers mushed to the ground in a pile. It meant going out for a pass and faking out a defender, then watching them slip and slide in the snow. It meant precision was meaningless. It meant being cold and wet. It meant showing the cold weather that it could not stop you from playing ball. It meant you were alive. It meant having fun!
I think memories like this pop up for people whenever they see a rare college or NFL game being played in the snow. It prompts folks to remember playing in the snow themselves and how much fun it was.
It also makes the usual machine-like nature of college and pro football games, mostly played on sterile looking fields, revert back to the game’s roots of playing in the snow and mud when everyone was on equal footing. I bet the pro and college players like playing in the snow, too.
Those snowy football games we played in our youth ended when we either got too cold, the sun set, or it was time for dinner. We’d gather up the wet football, brush the snow off our clothes, and head home to the warmth of our family homes, tired but happy.
I don’t see kids out in their yards much these days playing football in the snow or making snowmen or having snowball fights or cracking the thin ice on mud puddles just to feel it and hear it give way under their feet. They don’t know what they are missing.