...and what I think now
-- Greg Meakin
When I was 12, I decided I would someday go to America.
Specifically, it was the awards ceremony of my 1971 junior football banquet. How weird is that? But let me explain.
In 1971, I played my third season of Canadian junior football. Americans call it Pop Warner football. I was very excited to play that season. I already had a few years of organized football under my belt, I had practiced all summer long, and it was my first year as a starting quarterback. Even my coach forecast a good year for me. After all, in a league where rookies are snot-nosed 10 year-olds, a kid who’s 12 is a wily veteran indeed.
My coach designed an offense around a running quarterback. Now commonplace at all levels of football, this approach was rare back then. What he did not plan for was his quarterback (or any quarterback really) shattering every offensive record in the league’s history.
And it wasn’t even close.
In a 6 game season I gained 1053 yard on 56 carries. That’s almost 20 yards every time I ran with the football. (Hard core football fans always do a double-take on those numbers!). The kid who came in second was a half-back and scooted for 850 yards on over 140 carries. At less than 7 yards per carry, he was a distant second in league rushing.
On the scoring side, I finished with over 120 points – 20 points a game. The same kid above scored 40 less points with almost three times the carries. Even in junior football, the numbers don’t lie. My season was a “Wayne Gretzky” year; a Secretariat win by 30 lengths.
I tell this story not to boast. After all, it was kid’s football. I tell this story only because of the awards banquet. Not unlike the NFL, junior football trophies were awarded to the league’s leading rusher, leading scorer and most valuable player. That evening, I was beginning to wear a path to the podium, accepting trophies for Leading Scorer, Leading Rusher, and Team MVP. These were nice awards, but the biggest of them all was the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. As the announcement began, all eyes in the room were on me in anticipation.
What happened next was more shocking than an American Idol upset. The league’s Most Valuable Player Award went to the other kid – the one who came in second in
everything. Duncan was a school buddy of mine and a great football player, but when walking up to the podium he looked over to me apologetically – embarrassed really. My coach, who was sitting beside me at my team’s table, whispered, “Don’t feel bad -- they just didn’t want to give all the trophies to one kid.”
Even at the tender age of 12, I felt jilted. You mean they wanted to spread the trophies around so the other kids wouldn’t feel bad? But what if I deserved to win? What if I practiced harder, or worked harder, or studied my playbook harder in order to be the best that year? Wasn’t trying to be the best a good thing?
In looking back, I realize it was my first personal encounter with socialism.