Following A Secret Dream

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The football team at Mendel was as young as the school; one year old.  The young team played games, but always against the Freshmen/sophomore teams in the Catholic league.  Football in the Catholic league was a huge sport.  Since most of the Catholic schools were boys only or girls only, the teams meant a lot to a school.  The dominant footballs teams were from Carmel, Leo, Fenwick, Saint Rita, and De LaSalle.  There were others, too, but these schools dominated the league.

I remember reading about “Red” Gleason, the coach from Leo High School. Leo played in the championships often.  Winning the Catholic school championship meant playing at Soldier Field against the public school champions for the All City Title.  My brother Bill went to St. Leo when Red Gleason coached the Leo team to a championship.

I secretly dreamed of joining the football team.  My limited association with the game came from playing “tackle” on the lawn next to the rectory. Tackle games were few because we had to wait for an evening when Father Horvath was out. I didn’t know about shoulder pads, hip pads, padded pants, jerseys, or helmets. None of my friends did either. Most of the time we played “tag” games in the schoolyard, or on the street in front of the house.

One day, during the spring of my first year, an announcement came: “Anyone wishing to try out for the football team should come to the gym at 3:30 to meet Red Gleason the new head coach.”

Wow!  I thought, Red Gleason, a chance to meet ‘the man’ himself. I couldn’t wait for the day to end so I could rush to the gym to sign up.  Finally, the last bell rang and we rushed to our lockers to put away our books.  There was plenty of time to get to the gym, it was only 3 p.m.  I got there early to stand in line with what seemed like  at least two hundred boys. All of them were anxious to try out for football.

At three-thirty, Fr. McNabb walked into the gym with a short dumpy man, rather portly, with thinning reddish hair.  I recognized him from the pictures I had seen in the newspapers. Red Gleason is really here.

Father directed us to line up single file and shoulder to shoulder. The coach and Father McNabb passed by the line for inspection.  Coach stopped in front of each boy and looked him over head to toe.  Sometimes he asked for a name, or some other question, and occasionally, he even shook a boy’s hand.

It took forever but he finally got to me.  He stopped, looked at me hard and asked, “How much do you weigh, boy?”

I really didn’t know my weight so I answered, “about 90 lbs.”

“Be sure to come to tryout in summer.”

I was in heaven.  Red Gleason asked me to try out for the team!

Of course, the largest obstacle I faced was not the team tryout, but it would be talking Mom and Dad into letting me do it.  Neither of them knew much about the game except that you could get hurt.  I had all summer to do it; now I just wanted to celebrate.

Ideas flooded my mind for how to convince them. After a days of deliberation I decided to work hard all summer to earn my tuition so they would have to let me do it.   The summer of 1953 became the longest summer of my life, and  was also the one that changed my course in a way that tested me beyond all of my dreams.

4 Responses

  1. Hey Grumpa
    I am an ex catholic, being one of tens of thousands of kids having been sexually abused by a catholic priest. While it was bad, it was also good because it caused me to start reading the bible for myself.

    What I found is that the leadership of the church lied to us in a vast way.

    Some examples: Jesus said: When you pray, don’t pray as the heathen do in vain repetitions because they think that they will be heard for their much speaking” What do you think praying the rosary is but “vain repetitions that Jesus told us not to do.

    You were taught to pray to Mary, but Jesus said that: “no man comes to the father except through me.” Jesus is presented as this mean unapproachable God who you have to have Mary intercede for you. Mary was just a vessel no more.

    I can counter every catholic doctrine with biblical teaching that contradicts it if you like. Every christian that became a christian after leaving the catholic church has the same message; “They lied to us”.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • John: I apologize for the unforgivable actions of the ministers of my faith. I myself never experienced any molestation or abuse by a priest. In fact, I took a rather hard stance against our late Bishop from my Diocese for allowing the abuse to go unfettered. It seemed he was the destination of all pedophile priests who were sent to his diocese from the Chicago area. He has since retired and the church is better off for it.
      Priests who commit crimes should be prosecuted under civil law. Our religion is based upon forgiveness. The many Bishops who had to deal with the pedophile priests forgave, and then prayed for them to change. They never do.
      When I was in Scouts as a leader, I came across an outstanding young District Executive who worked for BSA. He was amazingly dedicated to his work. He even went so far as to park a trailer home on public property within the Village to be able to spend more time with us. I learned that he was a reject from the seminary, but never found out why. He eventually moved to Arizona and became a priest in the Tucson Diocese. A few years after his ordination, a fellow Scouter showed me a newspaper clipping about him. He was convicted and sentenced for child molestation in Tucson(the trailer suddenly became suspect). I was in shock and in disbelief. How could such a nice man be such a sick pervert? I never found the answer. My own suspicion is that he is very sick.
      As far as the lies you say are being told by the Catholic Church, I choose not to argue. There as many biblical references to refute your statements as there are to support them.
      I continue to believe and follow the religion of my heritage and choice, and will do so till death. You are also free to believe as you choose, but we will welcome you back at any time.

  2. Grumpa, I went to Bowen, freshman in 1955. I would love to have played but at 4’11” and about 100 lbs. there was no room on the team. That freshman year I grew almost 8″ and met the fairer sex. That gave me something to occupy my time year round.

    • Chuck; As you will see ina later episode, I never played either. I think you made the right decision.

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