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Tom goes off on Day of the Dead, but really just wanted an excuse to tell you about Pop Warner football

click to enlarge bigstock-day-of-the-dead-catrina-calave-102753071.jpg

Have you ever come across something in your community of which you were previously unaware and then, with a little digging, found that it has not only been around for a long time, but it has its own little thriving sub-society? And no, I'm not talking about soccer. I've always known it was there; I just didn't care.

Rest here Cepudae restem aliciet in consedi aborro dolorehentem Neither am I talking about the Day of the Dead, which has become something of a phenomenon in these parts. I've been a Catholic forever. Some truly believe that I was born Catholic, a notion that makes me want to giggle. Anyway, I had been a Catholic for decades and had never heard of the Dia De Los Muertos folderol. ("Folderol" is one of those words that I promised myself I would use at least once before I die. Next on my list is saying the word "succinct" out loud and using it properly in a sentence.)

I always knew that All Souls Day followed All Saints Day on the Catholic calendar. The way to remember was that if you waited until All Souls Day to go to Walgreens to buy the marked-down Halloween candy, it was probably too late. (In the old days, all that would be left were Abba Zabbas and Clark bars.) As a Catholic, I knew that I had to go to church on All Saints Day, but the next day, I just had to be happy that I was still alive. And yes, as a kid, the greatest calendar alignment came when Halloween was on a Saturday—not a school night—and the Holy Day of Obligation of All Saints Day fell on a Sunday, when you were going to attend Mass anyway.

It's actually strange. I have several Latino friends who either have family in, or deep ties to, Mexico and not one of them was familiar with the Dia De Los Muertos stuff until a few years ago when it blew up in Downtown Tucson. I had never heard of it until one of my high-school basketball players (who is completely non-religious) told me that she was going to paint her face like a skeleton and march through the streets. I thought maybe they were going to do a remake of "The Warriors."

Hey, Fake Dead People, come out to play-yay!

Anyway, finally getting to the topic at hand, I went down to Kino Sports Facility on the south side of Tucson to watch a friend's son play football. Who knew?! The place was packed. Pima County, which should be proud of the spectacular facility (even if Raul Grijalva did put it in the wrong part of town), was raking in the dough at five bucks a head. (Don't tell the tightwad taxpayers who voted against the bonds; they'll probably want a cut.)

It was the day of the UA-ASU football game, but nobody there seemed to care. It was an absolute orgy of youth football that began early in the morning and continued—with a variety of age-level championships—until late in the afternoon. Those whose kids played those later games would miss the telecast of the Duel in the Desert, but, as it turns out, they didn't miss much. Instead, they were treated to good ol' Pop Warner football, which is pretty much an endless series of running plays that end up as rugby scrums, with almost the entire game being played between the two 40-yard lines.

Before writing this, I researched Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner, who played and then coached football at Cornell. He also coached at Georgia, Iowa State, Stanford and Carlisle Indian, where he coached Jim Thorpe and basically introduced the forward pass as an offensive weapon. He lived quite a life, but the picture of him on Wiki makes him look like a moonshiner who called everybody "Boy," as in "You boys be sure to stick to the back roads, y'hear?"

The kid I went to see, Brevin, plays on the Steelers. His team dominated the game, which mostly means that, in a couple of those aforementioned scrums, the kid carrying the ball managed to break free and scoot down the sidelines for a touchdown. His team was so good that they actually attempted a couple passes, one of which Brevin caught (after which he fell down).

If I ever exercise the option on the deal I once made with God that would allow me to be in charge of everything for a day, I would first end world hunger and then I would ban football players of all ages from wearing gloves. It's an absolute abomination. Football is supposed to be a tough game, so be tough.

A few years back, I was coaching middle-school, six-on-six flag football. It was fun. But when we played this one school, a kid on the other team was wearing gloves. To play flag football! In middle school! When I would yell out the defensive assignments, I would say, "You have Number 12, you have 14, and you have the kid with gloves on."

Finally, a parent came up and said, "He's wearing Number 23." I said, "I don't care. He's wearing gloves. To play flag football! In middle school!"

The Steelers won the title and are City champs. They had a great season.

One sad note: They also have cheerleaders.


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