The Garion Fuller Incident

Garion Fuller was easily the most imposing figure on our football field. At 6' 5" or so, Garion loomed over everybody and shook the ground with his size 14 shoes. We all knew that Garion wore 14's. It was part of his persona. His feet were like great alligator tails. A glancing blow from one of Garion's shoes was enough to put someone like me in the hospital for a week. And as a further complication, Garion had no designs for inheriting the earth with his meekness. Taking advantage of the lesser of his opponents was among the greater joys of his life.

During one particular torture session on the practice field, I was assigned to the kickoff return team (kickoff team fodder). The kickoff portion of the game is where every player on the field puts as much distance as possible between himself and every other player on the field. Then someone kicks the ball, and everyone runs headlong into a single, devastating collision somewhere near the center of the field.

Up to this point, it had been a relatively uneventful practice. However, fate had scheduled a meeting that day between Garion Fuller and myself. The ball was kicked and I began the long journey to the center of the field; the black hole of football where everything within fifty yards longitude and one hundred yards latitude is sucked in and squished under the increased gravity. However, this time I would never reach the black hole. There are menacing creatures in outer space that will occasionally collide with an innocent piece of space matter, causing it to veer off course and never make it to its intended destination. Garion, the only space creature ever to wear size 14's, spotted me from afar as I began my descent down the field.

The Tecumseh high school practice field was a sloping phenomenon made up of highly packed dirt and occasional tufts of very hearty grass. A solitary cedar tree, the subject of numerous semi-tuneful outbursts by Coach Webb of "Shall We Gather At The Cedar," adorned the west side of the field. Now, when I say that I began my descent, I am speaking literally, because the north end of the field was about twelve feet closer to sea level than the south end.

I remember it all in slow motion. I was running with all my might in a northwesterly direction of 310°. I was picking up speed. The wind was rushing by my helmet with a mournful whine. The sounds of people screaming and bones breaking were already beginning to fill the air. The earth shook beneath my feet, but I did not realize that it was with a force that could come only from a pair of size 14's; a force that could only signify the coming of a terrible disaster. Unknown to me, Garion Fuller was approaching at a bearing of 27°, his hawk eyes trained on me in a fatal lock.

I have never understood how Garion got behind me. As Garion was on the enemy team, according to the laws of physics, he should have been approaching me from the front. Anyway, by this point Garion had reached speeds nearing the sound barrier, and I should have at least been aware of his presence by the buildup of air molecules in front of his helmet. But the impact took me so by surprise, I was shaken to the very depths of my soul. My frail, lifeless body was hurled into the sky at speeds heretofore unknown to mankind. Groping in vain for terra firma, I flew like a human projectile through the air for sixty feet before smashing into the unrelenting ground, packed down by millions of generations of football gladiators. A charred trail in the dirt stretched behind me for fifteen yards. Several tufts of once hearty grass lay strewn about in the wake of the disaster. Having lost all capacity to breath, my body remained an immobile smoldering mass in the dirt.

Any ability I once had to comprehend algebra was snatched away in an instant that day, as my brain was shaken to a level of 7.8 on the Richter scale. I also have problems with short term memory, and my vision goes blurry sometimes when I get into heavy rush hour traffic.

Gasping for precious oxygen, I slowly rose and pulled my helmet back around to the forward position. As my eyes began to focus again, I could see Garion standing a few hundred yards back near the scene of the impact. He had a satisfied grin on his face that said all was well with his soul. His size 14's spread out in their characteristic obtuse angle that seemed to cut off any hope of rescue. Spitting out a mouthful of red dirt, I returned to my position of defeat and contemplated my future career as a live human being.

I'm not sure to what degree this particular experience of wreckage impacted my decision to give up football, but by the next year, I had taken up the most unlikely of all sports; track.

© 2015 Dane Tate