One On One Football by Chris Zito

Football is often called the ultimate team sport. But my brother Mark and I didn’t always have twenty other guys.  So we played one-on-one football.

There’s a limited playbook in one-on-one football. The passing game definitely takes a back seat. And field goals are almost impossible. You had to rely on your opponent to hold the ball for you.

In one-on-one football basically you hike the ball to yourself and try like hell to run past the other guy. Really the football was only included so it didn’t look to Mom like we were in the backyard trying to kill each other. Of course, there was no protective equipment involved. It just never occurred to Mark or me that brain damage or a compound fracture would befall us. We were both convinced we would bring this type of punishment on the other guy! Mark was older so I mostly played the role of the other guy.

You’ll notice there is no football in this picture.
See? Looks like they’re trying to kill each other doesn’t it?

There were occasions where we would play two-on-two with the Conjack brothers next door. These were shoot-outs. Ray, the older Conjack brother, would huddle up with me and say, “Just throw it as far as you can. I’ll run under it!” And he would. Every possession was like Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary against Miami. Everybody remembers Flutie. My experience with Ray Conjack tells me that Gerry Phelan, the receiver, is the guy that should be famous.

We grew up in a neighborhood crawling with kids. The Baby Boom was at its peak. The Reams across the street had ten kids, the Bose’s next door to them had seven. Mrs. Adams had eight kids and only one ovary. Imagine what she could have done at full power! We were the smallish family on the block with only five. With so many kids around, it’s hard to understand why Mark and I would choose to mostly stay in our own yard for one-on-one when a full squad game was taking place only a few blocks away. Hard to understand unless you’re Sicilian.

Yes, we were connected. To each other.

Dad always had that classic mistrust of anyone we weren’t related to. He’s never been a man with many friends. He’s always been surrounded by brothers, sisters, and cousins. Any time I had a beef with a kid in the neighborhood Dad would just say, “You don’t need him. Play with your brothers.” So I would. Not a great lesson in conflict resolution, but blood is thicker than water. I discovered this while playing one-on-one football with Mark one day when he tackled me and split my lip wide open. Yes, it hurt. But watching him get read the riot by Mom over, “Trying to kill your baby brother!” made it all worth it.

Thanks for reading. Tell your pals.
Chris Zito


2 Responses

  1. Chris
    Thank you,I enjoy these more than I can express

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