When Toby Keith’s “I Ain’t as Good as I Once Was” blared on the stadium speakers just before kickoff a few Sundays ago, I couldn’t help but think how fitting the selection was. For the first time in nearly two decades, I was in front of a crowd playing a sport, albeit flag football and albeit against kids one-third of my age.
It was the 40th Anniversary Alumni Flag Football game hosted by Tehachapi Youth Football. We had to do some digging to grab a few alumni and a lot of fathers stepped in to line up against their kids. In the end we made it all work and TYF put on a great event to commemorate the 40 years this program has existed in the community.
There were a few remarks by board members who commented on the community support for TYF, echoing some of my earlier sentiments that the Tomahawks are the only Golden Empire Youth Football League team with their own facility. Are others jealous? You bet, because they’ll most likely never receive the type of support the Tomahawks receive from the community. Sure, someone could donate a field to another program, but who is going to take care of it, water it, have it ready for game day? That takes a community, and we have a strong one at that.
Back to the playing prowess of us older folks on the field. I’ll be honest, I didn’t miss a step. That’s really not a compliment. I was never that fast, so 20 years later, that’s probably a bad thing. I think young me and old me would be in a dead heat in a foot race.
It’s nice to be back and be a part of something again, to play in front of fans on a football field. We were more of a side show than a main attraction, but again, I’ll take what I can get. I saw a few former coaches of mine, and again was reminded about what makes this organization so great: the people, the parents and the volunteers.
Speaking of parents, there were plenty of dads who took the opportunity to share the football field with their sons. They endured a few weeks of trash talk to line up against their offspring with a smile on their face and in many cases, good-natured malice on their minds. You have to teach lessons somehow, right?
I was impressed with both sides of the ball, the alumni and dads I played with and the young men that now wear the TYF colors. One significantly smaller boy on the freshmen and sophomore team was so happy to play he didn’t care what position. At one point he lined up on the offensive and defensive lines. He went full-bore the entire time. That’s what this game is all about.
The alumni team was pretty darn good. We really weren’t keeping score but let’s just say, we left the field feeling pretty good about ourselves. Again, we’re counting victories against children, but like I said, at this age, we count them all the same.
In 10 years when TYF celebrates 50 years, maybe they’ll do something like this again. I can’t imagine trying to play into my late 40s, but what the heck?
Like Toby Keith’s song so brilliantly points out, now my body says "Oh, you can't do this boy," but my pride says, "Oh yes you can."
Thanks for a great time.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com.