When I was in high school, so many, many moons ago, my favorite class/subject was History. Cranford High School (Cranford, N.J.) was a little different from the norm in that only 11th and 12th grades actually attended the high school. The 9th and 10th grades (freshmen and sophomore) were lumped in with the lower grades at the junior high schools. There were 2 of them, one on the north side of town and one on the south side of town. Then the juniors and seniors from both sides attended the high school. I mention all of this because, in my Sophomore year, while I was still at one of the Junior High Schools (Orange Ave., on the north side of town to be exact), I had the bright idea to go out for the High School football team. Now, dripping wet and fully clothed, my weight at that time was at best 120 lbs., which made me the smallest guy on the team.
Needless to say, I didn't see much action, and what made matters worse, when I did get into a game, I still didn't see much action because I was pretty much blind as a bat without my glasses. Since they didn't fit too well under the helmet, and I didn't want to take a chance on smashing them and my nose in the process, I mostly wandered around in a fuzzy haze. It wasn't until after college that I finally got my first set of contact lenses. Anyway, my high school football career was short-lived and mostly limited to special teams action. My one chance at pulling off any heroics came in a game on a rainy afternoon, when I was actually inserted into the game as a wide-out. As I ran the route, and made a particularly good move on my defender (if I say so myself), I turned back to the quarterback and lo and behold, the ball was headed my way. Although it was a little overthrown, I think if I could have seen it better, I could have adjusted better to make the catch, but it's hard to judge distances on a blurry object that you can't really focus on.
So, my one shot at a touchdown went by the wayside. My two other most vivid memories from that season are the broken coccyx (tail-bone) I received from one particularly hard tackle during practice one day. I was a halfback on this play, and had the ball when the defender decided that tackling me wasn't good enough. He had to pick me up and carry me about 10 additional yards before slamming me to the ground. Which brings to mind my other memory. My coach, Mr. Messina, liked to say that contrary to popular belief, football was not a contact sport. "Dancing", he would say, "is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport." My broken tail-bone can attest to these words of wisdom.
So, to get back to the first sentence above, here I am about to enter my junior year at the high school, and my American History teacher turns out to be, oh no, Mr. Messina. Well, since I didn't go out for the team that year, I figured that I was really in for it in this class. And while I did take a little ribbing on the first day of class, it turned out to be a great class and Mr. Messina became my all-time favorite teacher. So much so that when it came time to select my classes for my senior year, I made sure that I was in his Far Eastern History class. His approach to American History and Asian History and their impact on current events still resonates with me today, 43 years later.
As I watch the unfolding political scene of today, I can't help but think about how he might tack on an addendum to his adage from those days. If dancing was a contact sport, and football was a collision sport, I'll bet that politics would be a demolition derby. The participants seem to be of similar mind sets as well. In a demolition derby, the last car "standing", or able to limp across the finish line in one piece is declared the winner. Barring some colossal mishap however, spectators are generally not a part of the "action", and will walk away from the event unscathed, having enjoyed the afternoons' festivities. Not so in politics. We seem to be such a polarized nation lately, what with the Tea Party and the Occupy folks and everything else, that the participants in this particular "sport", have lost sight of the fact that by the time they are finished, by the time the "last man (or woman) standing" limps across the finish line, there's going to be nothing left after this particular demolition derby. And that would be a shame.