Playing football on a team was all I thought about as a kid. From the moment I woke up until I closed my eyes to sleep at night. I was nine years old when I was introduced to the game and I have loved it ever since. I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood. A melting pot of ethnicities, white, black, Yugoslavian, Albanians, you name it and they lived there. It wasn’t uncommon to catch the sweet smell of Potica (Yugoslavian Bread) coming from one of the small houses on Ferry Street as we passed on our way home from elementary school. There weren’t many officials’ parks in our neighborhood, but for us that was okay we would simply find an open lot and toss the ball around until dusk fell on the small universe that was our neighborhood.
One by one we would hear our mother’s voices ring out in the distance calling us home for dinner; bath, and then bed. I was small, and at the time not particularly fast, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I had the heart of a lion and my dream was to don the helmet of the Hamtramck Chancellors and that’s what I was going to do. Tryouts were held on Saturday at 9:00 am at Keyworth stadium. Keyworth was a towering concrete stadium with a tunnel and home team and away team showers, it was a big deal.
Most of our opponents played on grass lots, but the Chancellors played in a stadium. As we pulled into the parking lot I remember being struck by the massive number kids trying out. The energy was high, footballs were zipping back and forth, and young men from all over were buzzing about trying to make a good impression on the coaches. This was a cattle call, all the neighborhood super stars had gathered to fight for the forty-five slots on the rooster. My stomach tightened with nerves, and my mouth went dry and pasty and I remember wanting to turn around and run. My father, sensing my nervousness gave me a gentle pat on the shoulder and said,
“You don’t have to do this if you don’t want too. It’s up to you.”
“But dad,” I said as I looked at a host of boys tossing the ball around near our truck. “What about the forty dollars?”
“Don’t worry about the money. I just want you to do what makes you happy.”
I thought about it for a minute then got out of the truck. The chattering, and the smell of the freshly cut grass was overwhelming. I then walk across the parking lot and joined the long line of boys signing up. The tryouts took a few hours, but at the end of the day I received my helmet and jersey. I was overjoyed, I was a member of the Hamtramck Chancellors.
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