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Thanksgiving's the time we travel to join in with family. And it's sort of marks a yearly signpost in our life's travels. We all have stories of the different Thanksgivings. Remember when we skipped tradition and went to Key West and had key lime instead of pumpkin pie? We get out the picture albums and the elders recall shenanigans of long lost cousins none of us have ever heard before. Contributor Hank Rosenfeld starts the show out for us today with some of his own autumn flashbacks - to college football trips and, even further back, to childhood football with his dad.

Remembering Football

by Hank Rosenfeld, 11/16/2001

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So, I was at this party Saturday night in Venice. The host, Stu Charnov, puts on Verve Jazzmasters 12 and out comes, recorded late Spring, 1952, in Los Angeles. Out comes this: Billie Holliday's Autumn in New York.

But I smell autumn, seeing the leaves turn it always takes me back, to my college days playing full-back - NO further - I'm with my dad and my brother, I'm playing defense and here comes the first sweep my way.

Dad taught us how to punt, pass and kick. He was my first football coach, and what a great one - he'd line my brother up and send him out for a pass, and I'd defend ... backpedalling on the balls of my feet and batting the ball away as it came spiralling down. Yes! And sometimes I picked it off: "BINGO!"

Bingo! My brother Jimmie, who always went out for the pass, turned out to be a great halfback, fastest in school history. He scored numerous touchdowns for the Yellowjackets. And, well, I played D. I was small -- only 144 lbs, (160 in pads) but what dad taught me paid off. Well, it didn't exactly PAY off, but he schooled us well in the backyard. I played for the 'Jackets, and also for the Wesleyan Cardinals on the college level in Connecticut. I always think of playing with him like that when that first chill comes in around the midwest.

Near the end of my senior year, I made a trip with the Wesleyan team up to Massachusetts to play against our rival in the LITTLE THREE division - Williams College. Man they were good. We could beat Amherst every other year, but rarely rarely did we ever beat Williams. I remember a beautiful crisp mid-Fall day up there in Berkshires, sunny so I rubbed some of that burnt cork black under my eyes. Didn't ever really do anything, but I thought it made me look cool. And we almost beat Williams too, but I gave up two td passes, in the last few minutes and we lost by 7.

They'd call them "hook patterns" today -- pretty tough to defend, but I wasn't making any excuses. I lost the game and was feeling absolutely horrible. I left the locker room early, just to get away, but instead of sulking on the bus, I went back to the field of play. I was exhausted so I just sat in the stands soaking up the late afternoon sun. I looked down to the torn-up field and I saw a man playing with two kids, they may have been his sons, maybe a son and a friend, I don't know. He's tossing the football, one son playing defense, one on O goes out for a pass. Dad in a raincoat throws it in the endzone. My brother catches it. I tackle him. Touchdown! We fall into the grass.

I got a chill from the cold I guess. I had one of those realizations you get so few times in life, when everything connects and you learn why exactly you're doing the thing that yer doing, no matter how yer doing it, as long as you get to do it, while giving your best? Like an acid trip where even though everyone tells you not to look in the mirror, you look in a mirror and see your face and then your brother's face and your father's face and the entire history of your family's face appears glazed like an illuminated manuscript over yours, telling you the wonderful story of your life.

We played the ARMY once. Yep, West Point-dang-U.S. Military Academy. Our big old DATTCo. bus rolling down Highway 66 to 84, Golden 91 oldies in the back, guys asleep cradling textbooks. Connecticut's beautiful in the fall, the maples are the first to go, hinting red out there. Waterbury, Danbury, Kingsbury , Simsbury. Mediocre college kids. Burger huts and blowouts, summer jobs pre med, good dope. "Take care."

The only genuine feeling left is the game. The field, the crispness of the afternoon, the first sweep your way.

Here it comes.

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