Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I was recently thinking about Scouting and what pulled me from the Scouting movement.

I will agree that probably the biggest motivating factor was the fact that my dad and my brother left for Scouts while I was in Cubs and I felt less than enthusiastic about the replacement Akela. Not that he did a bad job. Merlin was a good leader who worked hard. But to my limited experience, my dad was Scouting. I didn’t want to be there anymore. I didn’t want to be in Cubs if my dad wasn’t Akela.

I like to think, now that I am thinking about it, that I would have returned to Scouting once the scar of my dad’s departure had healed over, if my attention had not been captured by another passion: football.

I was in grade 6 when Neal Campbell showed up at my school, recruiting people for football. My world was shaken. During recess, we would play soccer (or a bastardization of that sport) and I was probably the weakest member of the group, being slow and unable to kick. Here was a chance to use my size to advantage, and a place where my lack of speed would not hurt me.

I talked with my parents about it, and they were willing to get me in. I showed up to pick up equipment (having no idea what my parents did or did not do in registration: they told me to go there then, and I went there then). They had run out of bags, so I had to, to my gross humiliation, empty out a used garbage bag (thankfully there was no wet garbage in it) and fill it with my equipment.

The sting of that didn’t last long, since there were practices, training, more practices, running, running and more running. Neal Campbell was a big one for running. We would run a kilometer before we started calisthenics, then do calisthenics, run another kilometer and start practice. Thankfully, time has taken away my memory of the early running. I had never played many sports, I was not used to the idea of running when you are tired. I think Gimli said it best in The Two Towers when he said “Dwarves are useless over cross country. Dwarves are natural sprinters.” Still, the running got easier, and I actually got in shape.

A note about Coach Campbell:

Coach Campbell was probably the meanest, angriest, pettiest son of a bitch that I’ve ever met. He passed that misery on to his team by way of practice. Too many penalties? Run them out of your system. Too little success running the ball? Practice running. Out of energy in the fourth quarter? Here’s a solution. Run more in practice. It will help your stamina. He was miserable, and he probably spent a lot of his time in his private life being unhappy. But he was a hell of a football coach. And he lived for his team. He drove you, because he wanted you to succeed. He insulted you as a motivational tool. I’ve had a half a dozen coaches over my football career, some tried running you, some tried goading you, some tried cushy sensitivity training. None made me angrier, or more prized than Neal Campbell. I will never forget the lessons he taught me because he did not teach me with words. He taught me with results. If I am ever a head coach of a football team, I can only hope to inspire the despair, the anger, the hatred, the pride in oneself, the loyalty and the love that Coach Campbell did.

Sad to say, a car accident cut short my football season. And it set back my running, my shape and my attitude coming out of it pulled me out of caring. I think that attitude probably affected the next season of football, where I was less than effective as a player and I did not enjoy it as much as I had the year before. I’m sure that a different coach affected that as well. It is hard to climb the mountain by yourself when you only know having been driven up the mountain with a stick. Still, that first year drove into me a love of football, a desire for competition, an appreciation for being in shape and it taught me what it meant to be a team united against a common foe, whether that foe was another team on gameday or Coach Campbell during practice.

My most vivid memory of football was before my first game. We were all more than a little nervous and Coach said “This is for you! The practices are for me and the games are for you. Take this and make it yours!” The love and respect we had for that old bastard at that point was just amazing. We kicked the crap out of whoever it was we played that week,and in the end, despite what Coach said about it being for us, we decided that we won that game, at least, for him.


Anonymous said...

Ahhhh coach Campbell.... Is he still alive? If all things are true about smoking and obesity he shouldn't be. Did I cheer your first year or was that the second Hmmmm can't remember. What a horrible experience cheer was. Did coach Campbell drive a van I'm remembering a van.

maggyj said...

I was anonymous but now I have a google account. This isn't my first time here. I was here last monthn I do care. really.

Liam J. said...

I don't know if Coach Campbell is still alive but I'm guessing yes. You can't kill a gnarled piece of old wood.

You Cheered in my second year.