Speaking of football... in the street

You know, the things we did in the course of our childhood would in current times be considered damned stupid at best, and get our parents locked away for neglect/abuse at worst.

The topic of today is Street Football.
As kids, we would stake out a long stretch of road in the neighborhood, generally one long block or two tied together, totally what we estimated as several (50ish-75 yards long) and picked teams, usually 5-on-5, to play football.
The rules, as the 32 year-old me remembers back on 20-25 years ago remembers, changed VERY wildly based upon our imaginations. This was not terribly dissimilar to Calvinball.

How goes it?
I will start by explaining the basics…

  • 5 players on each side (more if the street was pretty wide or if people just HAD to play)*
  • A player would be considered “downed” if he was touched with 2 hands – but more on this in a few*
  • 4 downs to score or get a first down
  • 2 completed passes equals a first down
  • No “punting,” you scored or first down, or give the ball away
  • Laterals are allowed, as were handoffs, but only in the same general rule as the NFL, and all forward passes have to be caught in front of the line of scrimmage to count toward a first down
  • The lines hanging from the phone/power poles count as the field of play, so if a pass hits it, it is still live and available to be caught/intercepted.
  • Any play interrupted by a coming car would be stopped re-played, unless the driver was cool enough to stop and let it play out

  • Odd numbers of players would be satisfied by one player willing to be the “all time quarterback,” in which he plays QB for both sides.
  • With the consent of ALL people entering the game, the game is 2-hand touch “in bounds,” but there is no such thing as “out of bounds” (within reason, of course), but as SOON as you’re in a yard then you can be tackled… hard. Furthermore, being TOO CLOSE to the sideline was good enough to get your ass tackled ONTO the yard, so be careful out there.

Usually, we would score by 7, but it became more worthwhile to just say fuck it and score by ones, considering we weren’t going to any particular number as much as just until we were too tired to continue. And that explains when we knew we were done. Games would sometimes commence for HOURS, stretching from (or through) meal times and completely without water, unless we played in front of someone’s house and everyone would drink from the water hose to avoid being yelled at for “LETTING ALL MY GOT DAMN AIR OUT MY HOUSE!!!” or made to stay in for some arbitrary reasoning.
No pause of injuries were allowed unless someone could LITERALLY not stand to continue, and even then only long enough to determine whether or not they could recover to continue the game and if not then to reconfigure the teams. The simple presence of blood was NEVER enough to stop a game, so long as it was not coming from a nose or couldn’t be quicly contained.

20+ years after the fact, I can still point to scars on my legs, elbows, knees and chest that came from these summertime gridiron sessions, and I REALLY feel like the fact that we were ALLOWED to be children made us all better for it.
The games were hot, brutal, grueling, and MOTHERFUCKING FUN!

The conversation that led to this post was a status/tweet I posted that I pity those people whose sons will NEVER play football in the street. Agreement came from those of my own generation (or those who were in the shit with me), and many a reason were guessed as to why it just doesn’t happen anymore. I am attributing it to the pussification of our sons in this current nanny state, but at the risk of sounding like a Bush43 Conservative, I will stop there.
Sometimes I randomly ride through my old neighborhoods – not difficult since my mother lives in one of them, and I live 3 blocks from one of the only 2 others we lived in as kids – and look to see what kids are doing outside if anything.
Sometimes I see them on bicycles, but most of the time they’re on the porch with a Nintendo DS in hand, totally aloof to the passing traffic or absolute THRILL that could be happening right there in their street. I pass parks and see pitiful basketball games played by 4 or fewer people and wonder what happened.
I SWEAR to you, if I happen upon a group of boys playing football in the street – especially with “sideline pop” rules – I am stopping, parking and watching the proceedings, then posting a video of it on youtube.
I am not holding my breath, though. These little fuckers are afraid to get dirty these days.


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