This made me
happier than anything that had happened so far at Columbia, because also I
certainly wasn't happy that I hadn't yet read the Iliad or the Odyssey, John
Stuart Mill, Aeschylus, Plato, Horace and everything else they were throwing at
us with the dishes.
Comes the St.
Benedict game, and what a big bunch of lugs you never saw, they reminded me of
that awful Blair team a year ago, and the Maiden team in high school, big, mean
looking, with grease under their eyes to shield the glare of the sun, wearing
mean looking brown-red uniforms against our sort of silly looking (if you ask
me) light blue uniforms with dark blue numerals. (Sans Souci is the name of the
Columbia alma mater song, means "without care," humph. And the football
rallying song is Roar Lion Roar—sounds more like it.) Here we go, lined up on
the field, on the sidelines I see that coach Lu Libble is finally there to give
me the personal once-over. He's heard about the Rutgers game naturally and he's
got to think of next year's backfield. He'd heard, I s'pose, that I was a kind
of nutty French kid from Massachusetts with no particular football savvy like
his great Italian favorites from Manhattan that were now starring on the
varsity (Lu Libble's real name is Guido Pistola, he's from Massachusetts).
St. Benedict was
to kick off. They lined up, I went deep into safety near the goal line as
ordered, and said to myself "Screw, I'm going to show these bums how a
French boy from Lowell runs, Cliff Battles and the whole bunch, and who's that
old bum standing next to him? Hey Runstedt, who's that guy in the coat next to
Cliff Battles there near the water can?"
"They tell me
that's the coach of Army, Earl Blaik, he's just wiling away an
Whistle blows and
St. Benedict kicks off. The ball comes wobbling over and over in the air into
my arms. I got it secure and head straight down the field in the direction an
arrow takes, no dodging, no looking, no head down either but just straight
ahead at everybody. They're all converging there in midfield in smashing blocks
and pushings so they can get through one way or the other. A few of the red
Benedicts get through and are coming straight at me from three angles but the
angles are narrow because I've made sure of that by coming in straight as an
arrow down the very middle of the field. So that by the time I reach midfield
where I'm going to be clobbered and smothered by 11 giants I give them no look
at all, still, but head right into them: they gather up arms to smother me:
it's psychological. They never dream I'm really roosting up in my head the plan
to suddenly (as 1 do) dart off, bang to the right, leaving them all there
bumbling for air. I run as fast as I can, which I could do very well with a
heavy football uniform, as I say, because of thick legs, and had trackman
speed, and before you know it I'm going down the sidelines all alone with the
whole 21 other guys of the ball game all befuddling around in midfield and
turning to follow me. I hear whoops from the sidelines. I go and I go. I'm down
to the 30, the 20, the 10, I hear huffing and puffing behind me, I look behind
me and there's that selfsame old long-legged end catchin' up on me, like Cliff
Battles done, and by the time I'm over the 5 he lays a big hand on the scruff
of my neck and lays me down on the ground. A 90-yard runback.
I see Lu Libble
and Cliff Battles, and Rolfe Firney our coach too, rubbing their hands with
zeal and dancing little Hitler dances on the sidelines. But naturally by now
I'm out of breath and that dopey quarterback wants me to make my own touchdown.
I just can't make it. I want to controvert his order but you're not supposed
to. I puff into the line and get buried on the 5. Then he, Runstedt, tries it,
and the big St. Ben's line buries him, and then we miss the next two downs too
and are stopped on the 3 and have to fall back for the St. Benedict punt.
By now I've got
my wind again and I'm ready for another go. But the punt that's sent to me is
so high, spirally, perfect, I see it's going to take an hour for it to fall
down in my arms and I should really raise my arm for a fair catch and touch it
down to the ground and start our team from there. But no, vain Jack, even
though I hear the huffing and puffing of the two downfield men practically on
my toes, I catch the ball free catch and practically say "Alley Oop" as
I feel their four big hands squeeze like vices around my ankles, two on each,
and puffing with pride I do the complete vicious twist of my whole body so that
I can undo their grip and move on. But their St. Benedict grips have me rooted
to where I am as if I were a tree, or an iron pole, I do the complete
turnaround twist and hear a loud crack and it's my leg breaking. They let me
fall back deposited gently on the turf and look at me and say to each other
"The only way to get him, don't miss (more or less)."
I'm helped off
the field limping.
I go into the
showers and undress and the trainer massages my right calf and says "O a
little sprain won't hurt you, next week it's Princeton and we'll give them the
old one-two again Jacky boy."
But it was a
broken leg, a cracked tibia, like if you cracked a bone about the size of a
pencil and the pencil was still stuck together except for that hairline crack,
meaning if you wanted you could just break the pencil in half with a twist of
two fingers. But nobody knew this. That entire week they told me I was a softy
and to get going and run around and stop limping. They had liniments, this and
that, I tried to run, I ran and practiced and ran but the limp got worse.
Finally they sent me off to Columbia Medical Center, took X-rays, and found out
I had broken my tibia in the right leg and that I had been spending a week
running on a broken leg.