The Chaw

We were a bunch of high school kids dreaming of gridiron glory. As freshmen we were at the bottom of the football totem pole. The varsity players looked at us as though someone had breathed life into tree moss. We were the newbies, the punks, the pretenders and poseurs.

The first day of practice we all walked out of the locker room fully dressed in our gear. Then we noticed that the varsity guys carried their stuff out to the field and dressed after calisthenics. The next day, the freshmen all carried their gear out, too. We were just like them.

The varsity guys also chewed tobacco. Not this sissy Skoal stuff, either. They chewed Red Man Loose Leaf Chewing Tobacco. Red Man was like putting a tobacco salad in your mouth. It was nasty, tasted gross, and they loved chewing it. They chewed, and spit, and chewed some more.

So I chewed tobacco. I thought I was cool. The varsity guys didn’t look at me like I was tree moss anymore. I had moved up to being viewed as a house pet of some kind. Not an equal, but something amusing, nonetheless.

We were practicing in a combined setting, working on tackling in a drill called “Oklahoma.” You lay with the top of your head facing the top of the other player’s head. The coach throws the football to one of you and blows the whistle. Immediately, both players jump up as fast as they can and square off. The guy who caught the ball tries to run past (or through) the other guy, and the other tries to tackle him and not get shown up. It is really bad for the defensive player to get run over. Its embarrassing and really hurts, too.

I was paired up with a running back from the varsity squad. He was a big guy, and instead of being scared, which would have been intelligent, I was jazzed. Here was my chance to “stick” a varsity stud and make a name for myself. As I lay there, I thought about what was about to happen. I would hit this guy so hard his kids would be born dizzy! People would remember this pairing and speak of it in awe for years to come.

Boy, was I right.

The coach threw the ball, I heard the whistle and spun up, looking for my chance. I squared up in front of this behemoth and picked a spot in his chest. I drove my body forward and hit him as hard as I could. For a moment time stood still.

Then it sped back up! He launched me at least five feet and I landed in a heap. I took mental inventory. Everything seemed to be in the right place. Everything, that is, except my Red Man tobacco. It wasn’t in my mouth. I was puzzled for a second, then I found out where it was.

I had swallowed it.

Suddenly, I felt revulsion that only rap music can produce. I jumped to my feet and ran to the sideline. Throwing up on a football field, especially where you will be falling down soon, is bad form. I tipped my helmet back and was sick for what seemed forever. Every time I thought I was done, my stomach would find a new morsel that it didn’t want, and the process would start all over again. Other players walked by and patted me on the back, making fun of me and making sure I knew that they thought I was hilarious.

As I look back on my life, it is amazing how many stupid things have happened to me when I did things I knew were wrong so I could be “cool.” Nobody thought I was cool as I was bent over that bench dry heaving. Compromise will always cause us trouble.

I have compromised at times so I can be part of the crowd. Unfortunately, I am not real crazy about where that crowd is heading. Proverbs 4:12-13 says, “ There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak.” I sure felt like I was dying that day. Sin really does have a cost, and it is usually pretty high.

Trying not to compromise… Jerry

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