You Can’t Go Back (Redux)


This week I’m recycling a blog from a couple of years ago – for a couple of reasons. (1) For week 9 of the season, I wanted to write something about “Senior Night,” and I realized I already I had. (2) I like this one. (Any time I can reference Uncle Rico, I’ve done my job.) If you read this before, read it again! If you haven’t, I hope you enjoy it.

There isn’t enough football in Napoleon Dynamite for it to qualify as one of my favorite football movies, but it is definitely the best movie ever that mentions “delicious bass.” One of my favorite scenes (there are so many to choose from!) is football related. Uncle Rico is sitting with Napoleon and Kip and they are watching a video he made of himself throwing a football. No receivers – just him with that classic headband zipping the ball around the prairie. Kip seems neutral; Napoleon proclaims it the “worst video ever;” and Uncle Rico is almost mesmerized with his performance when hearkens to his high school playing days and pines, “Ohhhh, man I wish I could go back in time. I’d take state.”

This is especially hilarious to old(ish) guys like me because we all have a little Uncle Rico in us. There isn’t an ex-high school athlete (except for those very few who went onto greater athletic glory in college or the pros) who hasn’t thought back to their playing days and wondered what could have been. “What if I could go back and play that game (or season) again?” I admit that I’ve done that plenty of times – I just never filmed myself as a 30- or 40- or 50-something wannabe athlete re-enacting my youthful sports life.

Here’s a memo to current high school athletes everywhere: you can’t go back. Do it now. Whatever you have dreamed; whatever you have worked for; this is your time.

Especially you senior football players. Forget your first three years. Maybe you played a lot; maybe not. Your team may have won tons of games and maybe they have been terrible. It doesn’t matter now. All you need to care about is the now.

Don’t worry about next year. Maybe you’ll be in college this time next year and maybe you’ll have a job. Forget about it. All you need to care about is the now.

What you and your football team do over the next few weeks is all that matters. From the starting quarterback to the freshman on the end of the bench, now is the time to grab the glory. Make the memories you will never forget.

Week 9 will be a beginning for 96 teams that move onto the playoffs while it will be the end for everyone else. A lot of seniors will play their last game ever on Friday. That may not dawn on you right away, but it will soon enough. So if you were ever going to play like it’s your last game – you need to do it Friday night. Don’t waste this opportunity to be great. Even you underclassmen. Your last game will come sooner than you think, so make the most of week 9 – and every game – while you still can.

Only six teams will raise championship trophies on the floor of the UNI-Dome. Every other team will end their season with a defeat, and it will taste bitter. If your team isn’t one of fortunate few that will be celebrating, just make sure you go down knowing you gave it your best shot. Don’t be Uncle Rico 20 years from now saying, “Yeah…if Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we woulda been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.”

Woulda, shoulda, coulda doesn’t cut it. Do. Leave the field with no regrets. Because you can’t go back.


“Bye” Week


Earlham has already chalked up their fourth win of the season thanks to Griswold announcing they would have to forfeit this Friday’s scheduled game. Citing “not enough players,” Griswold will drop to 3-2 in district play and is most likely eliminated from the playoffs. Student-athlete safety and well-being has to be the top priority, but the cancellation is particularly a shame because Friday was supposed to be Earlham’s homecoming.

This reminded me of a story from my travels across Iowa researching my book in 2010. The Meskwaki Warriors entered their eight-man opener with just 11 players dressed. When they lost their quarterback and star player early in the second half to an ankle injury, they were in deeper trouble – and it led to an amusing (to me, anyway!) quote from their coach:

So it was a matter of survival in the second half for Meskwaki. Without YoungBear, the Warrior offense struggled badly and their defense continued to be gashed for big plays. Cramping started to be a problem in the first half and became almost epidemic in the second half, making it difficult for Coach Dale to even have enough guys to play. At one point during a timeout, he looked around and saw two of his players being stretched out by coaches and teammates due to cramps and said, “Two guys down! If you’re not down, you’re in!”

warriorsThere’s no way to put a positive spin on anybody’s homecoming game being cancelled, but some glimmer of a bright side for Earlham is that a week off might give the team a chance to heal up a little and refresh for the stretch run. But…I think they’d rather be playing tomorrow.


I’m no mathematician, but I do like the BCMoore Iowa high school football rankings. Polls and rankings by the newspapers are interesting and most people compiling them pay a lot of attention to football and are good judges of talent. But the BCMoore rankings are  strictly statistical – no bias can creep in.Teams are ranked according to various statistical categories, and the system uses cool terms like standard regression and pre-regression data set. I’ve always been kind of a stat geek, so I’ve been spending some time checking out this site, and have found a few interesting items:

Earlham is judged as having the 4th toughest schedule in Class A. Many teams in their district are ranked quite low, so their schedule strength is due to playing Madrid and Van Meter (ranked 6th and 7th respectively in 1A) in their non-conference games, and St.Albert’s, Council Bluffs (ranked 1st in A).

Speaking of Madrid and Van Meter, both teams are undefeated and headed for a collision course in Week 9 in Madrid where they will most likely play for the district title. Their various statistics are strikingly similar. In points scored, Madrid is second while Van Meter is third, and in points allowed Madrid is ninth and Van Meter is first – having not allowed an opposing score all season.

District 4 in Class 2A is quite top heavy. Union, Laporte City, North Fayette Valley and Waukon are all 4-0 in district play and are ranked by BCMoore as 2nd, 3rd and 6th in the state respectively. Even the teams in 4th and 5th place in the district race – Cascade, Western Dubuque and Beckman Catholic – are ranked fairly high at 16th and 19th. There are no easy outs in that neck of the woods!

My inability to deal effectively with numbers is one reason why I am a writer, but the BCMoore numbers are fun – and there is never a test. Check it out.