I was the older of two brothers. My older brother, seven years older than me, had moved out at an early age and gotten married. I was seven years older than my next youngest brother, and twelve years older than my baby brother, whom I tried to make into the perfect athletes that I had become.
My parents had cautioned me against throwing a football in the house, for the usual reasons of possible destruction of valuable objects, but we tended to forget those instructions when mom and dad were gone. The house was just structured in such a way that the living room, dining room, and kitchen were in a straight line.
With a wide double door leading from the living room into the dining room, it was easy enough for me to map out a route for my baby brother to run, with my middle brother acting as defense.
Since most of the patterns allowed by dining room space had been worked out, I began devising ways for my baby brother to ru into the dining room, fake a move, then head into the kitchen, where I would, with my expert arm, float the football just over my middle brother’s head into the arms of my baby brother as he entered the kitchen.
The route was complicated by the fact that my mother had a preparation table in the kitchen, which meant that I had to throw the ball in such a way that it cleared my middle brother’s hands, went just under the clearance of the kitchen door, and dropped into my baby brother’s hands, just as he crossed into the kitchen, giving him time to both catch the football and swerve around the table in the kitchen.
This allowed both my brothers to become quite agile in dodging the kitchen table as they fought for the ball. All this, of course, was aided by my remarkable talent for throwing a football.
After doing this on a regular basis for several months, all the routes we could imagine had been developed, and my middle brother had pretty much learned the art of playing “zone defense”. I was actually quite proud of him.
But athletic talent must always be honed by creativity. Ask any great football coach. In the mold of my favorite coach at the time, the legendary Vince Lombardi, I devised a route that would employ not only the living room, dining room, and kitchen, but the two bedrooms and bathroom as well.
All my baby brother had to do, I said, was to circle through the side door into the bedroom where we slept. he could then run through the bathroom, into the next bedroom where my parents slept, and make a left turn through the bedroom door into the kitchen, where I would simply float a football over my confused middle brother’s head, and voila! an easy touchdown!
My baby brother had his moves down. he zipped through our bedroom, turned through the bathroom, and headed into our parents’ bedroom, when my middle brother realized what was going on.
he dropped straight back in zone defense to our parents’ bedroom door and waited for my baby brother to make his sharp left turn into the kitchen. As my baby brother cut sharply and turned to the bedroom door, my middle brother slammed the door shut.
I heard a door slam and another slam instantly, as my baby brother smacked the door full face. I then heard words that would have made a sailor proud. I learned some words myself that day.
Unfortunately, I had thrown a “timing” pass, one of those where you have to anticipate the receiver, depend on him and the ball arriving at the same instant, and everything is perfect.
It was less than perfect. I had thrown the football well enough, it had cleared the kitchen door and was floating on to the back wall, since neither my baby brother nor middle brother were there to stop it, and it crashed into mom’s spice rack.
My mother considered herself a chef, and she was a very good cook. She had accumulated all those spices in expensively marked bottles, on a rack built by my father, but not built to anticipate a crashing football.
Seconds later, the floor was covered with different colored dust-like particles, mostly black, which my agile mind realized would be unrecognizable if we simply swept up all the dust and put it back randomly into the bottles.
We didn’t completely get away with it. My mother wondered for several days why the food tasted funny, and my baby brother spilled the beans, so to speak.
Football season was cancelled forever.