Football hero's homeless grace


HawkRecently a man in my town took up residence on the town football field, in a small tent in the northwestern corner, near the copse of trees.

He had been a terrific football player some years ago for our high school, and then played in university, and then a couple of years in the nether reaches of the professional ranks, and then he had entered into several business ventures, but these had not gone so well, and he had married and had children, but that had not gone so well either, and finally he took up residence on the football field, because, as he said, that was where things had gone well, and while he knew for sure that people thought he was nuts to pitch a tent on the field, he sort of needed to get balanced again, and there was something about the field that was working for him in that way as far as he could tell after a few days, so, with all due respect to people who thought he was a nutcase, he thought he would stay there until someone made him leave.

He had already spoken with the cops, he said, and it was a mark of the general decency of our town that he was told he could stay a while as long as he didn't interfere with use of the field, which of course he would never think of doing, and it was summer, anyways, so the field wasn't in use much.

He had been nicknamed the Hawk when he was a player, for his habit of lurking around almost lazily on defense and then making a stunning strike, and he still speaks the way he played, quietly but then amazingly, and when we sat on the visiting team's bench the other day he said some quietly amazing things, which I think you should hear.

The reporter from the paper came by the other day, he said, and she wanted to write a story about the failure of the American dream, and the collapse of the social contract, and she was just melting to use football as a metaphor for something or other, and I know she was just trying to do her job, but I kept telling her things that didn't fit what she wanted, like that people come by and leave me biscuits and sandwiches, and the kids who play lacrosse at night set up a screen so my tent wouldn't get peppered by stray shots, and the cops drift by at night to make sure no one's giving me grief.

Everyone gets nailed at some point so we understand someone getting nailed and trying to get back up on his feet again. I am not a drunk and there's no politicians to blame. I just lost my balance. People are good to me. You try to get lined up again.

I keep the field clean. Mostly it's discarded water bottles. Lost cell phones I hang in a plastic bag by the gate. I walk the perimeter a lot. I saw coyote pups the other day. I don't have anything smart to say. I don't know what things mean. Things just are what they are. I never sat on the visitors' bench before, did you? Someone leaves coffee for me every morning by the gate.

The other day a lady came by with twin infants and she let me hold one while we talked about football. That baby weighed about half of nothing. You couldn't believe a human being could be so tiny, and there were two of him. That reporter, she kept asking me what I had learned, what would I say to her readers if there was one thing to say, and I told her what could possibly be better than standing on a football field holding a brand-new human being the size of a coffee cup. Everything else is sort of a footnote.

If you stay really still at dusk you can see the progression of what's in the sky in order, which is swallows, then swifts, then bats, then owls, then lacrosse balls, and when the lacrosse guys are finished they stop by to say hey and to tell me they are turning off the field lights. Real courteous kids, those kids. If the world to come is going to be run by kids who play lacrosse, I think we are in excellent hands.

Brian DoyleBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices.

Topic tags: Brian Doyle, hawk, football hero



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Existing comments

a truly wise and compassionate piece

peter roebuck | 10 November 2010  

As always, Brian, you get to the hub of life. Yes, I enjoyed it very much. Thank you. Trish

Trish Taylor | 10 November 2010  

Beautiful writing. Thank you so much, Brian.

DavidB | 10 November 2010  

I really enjoyed this piece too - thank you.

MBG | 10 November 2010  


Thank you, Brian.

Bob GROVES | 10 November 2010  

Very good article. I even enjoyed the 161 word sentence. That must be a Eureka Street record!

Tom Cranitch | 11 November 2010  

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