I guess I wasn’t paying attention this past week. I didn’t see the usual collection of bizarre incidents and/or people I generally run in to and use for my inspiration for this column.
I don’t understand. This is my forte. This is who I am; the Great Observer.
It never dawned on me that I had no new material for this week’s until I sat down and started writing. What happened to all the crazies and Looney Birds this week? Where did they go? Don’t they realize they’re my lifeblood – my meal ticket? I can’t even rant about the gridlock at the construction site because there hasn’t been any. The traffic has been moving along nicely. This is all very disturbing!
Speaking of disturbing, (nice segue, huh?) the Bruins dropped game five of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Vancouver Canucks last night on Vancouver’s home ice, putting the best of seven series at three games to two in favor of our friends from north of the border. The B’s gave up only one goal but failed to score, losing 1–0. I’m looking forward to game six at The Garden on Monday night and, hopefully, game seven back at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Wednesday.
This has been a great series. I’m amazed at how these guys can do what they do on the ice. They’re so quick and agile; I sometimes forget they’re on skates. And they must have some amazing eyesight to be able to see that puck flying through the air at speeds sometimes exceeding one-hundred miles per hour. Incredible!
I’ll have to admit, I’ve never been a big hockey fan. Truthfully, I’m not a hockey fan at all. I’m not sure why. I suppose the fact that I never learned to skate when I was a kid may have something to do with it. Oh, I tried. Believe me, I tried! But cracking the back of my head on the rock-hard ice and sliding around on my frozen derrière just didn’t cut it for me.
We didn’t have a hockey team when I was at No one around here had a hockey program back in those days. Now every town in the Hockomock League, with the exception of Sharon, has varsity hockey and Mansfield is in the beginning stages of adding to their athletic program.
faired very well this past season under first year coach, Dan Scott, advancing to the Division 2 South semifinals before being eliminated by Franklin High.
I know a lot of people who love hockey, Bruins hockey in particular, but I just can’t seem to wrap my arms around it. I have no problem watching the playoffs because, as any self-proclaimed hockey aficionado will tell you; playoff hockey is an entirely different animal compared to the regular season. It’s faster, rougher and more intense. So much so that even a less-than-casual fan like me is willing to jump on the band wagon for a few weeks.
Oh, well. I suppose I’ll never be a real hockey guy. God knows I’ve tried over the years. I even went over to the Yardley Rink next to last winter in one final, desperate attempt to teach myself to skate but, unfortunately; after about fifteen minutes on the ice I was forced to give it up and go home. I wasn’t injured or anything like that, but I just couldn’t take those show-offs buzzing around me on the ice as if they’d been born on skates. And I didn’t appreciate them taunting me just because I was wearing double-runners. Man, those five-year olds really know how to hurt a guy.
Like I said, we didn’t have a hockey team when I was in school. I didn’t go out for the basketball or baseball teams because, although I had played both sports all my life, there was one little thing that always seemed to hold me back from participating at the varsity level – I stunk! I don’t mean I had B.O.; I mean I stunk at basketball and baseball.
I did, however, play football for five years. No, wise guy! I didn’t spend five years in high school. Mansfield had an eighth grade team back then, so I played one year in eighth grade and four years in high school.
We had a pretty good team my senior year, ending our season with a record of 6–3. Aside from defeating our archrivals, Foxborough, 14-13 on Thanksgiving Day, my fondest memory of playing football for the Green Hornets was during that same season, when we beat the vaunted Oliver Ames Tigers, 26-20.
Val Muscato and his OA teams had feasted on Mansfield and most every other team in the Hockomock league during the fifties and early to mid-sixties, so a win over them was a huge accomplishment. The town went crazy!
I played both offensive and defensive tackle, having been converted from the fullback position during my freshman year. At 185 pounds, I was one of the biggest guys on the team. My, how the times have changed – and the kids have grown!
OA was known for having huge lineman. I’d guess the team we went up against in ‘65 averaged about 225 pounds across the front both offensively and defensively. That was unheard of in those days.
I was lined up against a kid named Preble, a 240 pound behemoth. I don’t remember his first name and I may be spelling his last name incorrectly, but I’m right on the money about him being a behemoth. He was huge!
This guy kept grabbing me by the jersey right above the front of my shoulder pads, holding me so I couldn’t do much of anything. It seemed the referees were totally oblivious to this. I was mad as a hornet (pun intended) and sometime during the third quarter I made the decision that I’d had enough. If the refs weren’t going to throw a flag on this guy I was going to take matters in to my own hands.
OA had been driving down the field and had the ball inside our thirty yard line. I lined up at my defensive tackle position, just inside Preble’s left shoulder, hoping to shoot the gap and get in to the Tigers backfield. The ball was snapped and as I made my move to the inside gap; Preble grabbed me by the front of my jersey again. He was much bigger and stronger than I was and I knew I had no chance of breaking his grip, so I did what any clean-cut, red-blooded American boy would do. I punched him in the mouth.
Yup, I lost my mind and planted my closed fist right up under his facemask. And I hit him hard. The the best part was I didn’t get caught! From that point on I owned him. He never grabbed my jersey again. Funny how that works!
I got home after the game all full of myself and all jazzed about having beaten OA, but my mother, in her inimitable style, quickly squelched my jubilation. Well, maybe she didn’t squelch it, I’m not sure that was possible. After all, we had just accomplished the impossible; we had defeated Goliath. Let’s say, she tried to squelch it.
She came out to the kitchen where my dad and I were sitting at the table, talking about the game. “You always have to get in a fight, don’t you,” she scolded.
“What are you talking about?” I replied, acting as though I had no clue what she meant.
“You punched that boy in the face,” she said, pointing her finger at me. “Tell him, honey,” she continued, looking in my dad’s direction, “Tell him he shouldn’t be fighting.”
I looked over to my dad, hoping he might jump to my defense. He had a big grin on his face. “Listen to your mother,” he said. I knew he didn’t really mean it. He would have done the same thing. Hey, it’s football!
Now I live in Easton, which is home to my former adversaries, the Oliver Ames Tigers, and which may possibly still be the home of my former nemesis, Mr. Preble.
To you, Mr. Preble; if you’re out there, my heartfelt apologies. I’m very sorry I gave you a fat lip. My mother was right; I shouldn’t have done it. I’m ashamed of myself. Maybe you and I could hook-up over at or the , have a couple of brewskies and reminisce about the good old days.
Just keep your paws off my shirt!
Make it a great week!
Bob Havey is an Easton-based freelance writer. His column, "The View From Here", appears each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com and his column "Take Me Back" runs every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com