Hulne: Frozen football holds strong memories

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Whenever winter comes and snow starts to cover the grass, I always harken back to my younger days.

For me, my family and my friends, winter often meant playing snow football. While living in the small town of Hatton, North Dakota, we would often play in our back yard, using the neighbors garage as a ‘turnaround point’ and my parents’ lilac bushes as the goal line.

I still recall going out to play football with my brother at halftime of a Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills playoff game in 1992. We felt the Oilers had won the contest when they held a 35-3 halftime edge, but as Warren Moon and the Oilers were folding to to Frank Reich and the Bills, my brother and I were making sideline catches and jumping over imaginary defenders for touchdowns. When we came back in and saw the Bills had won, we were surprised, but we were far too cold to get worked up.

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By the time my family moved to Shell Lake, Wisconsin, our games moved to a frozen lake. The ice didn’t hurt so bad when you had about a foot of snow soften the blow of being tackled. 

There were plenty of epic battles on that frozen surface over the years. My friend, who ended up playing running back at UW-River Falls, used to come over and make a fool of us as we hopelessly chased him as he quickly shifted through the heavy snow. There was also the memorable time when one of my brothers’ friends once foolishly played shirtless in the dead of winter. How he survived without frostbite, we’ll never know.

We often played until sundown and we always had fun.

Those games were as thrilling and as exciting as we could hope for back then. There was nothing on the line, but pride.

When I walk the streets of Austin today, I wish I would see more kids out playing football, or any sport, on their own. There’s something special that happens when kids get together and bond without the influence of an adult coach or a ref. They have to learn to get along on their own and there are no excuses for shortcomings on the field.

When I do see kids tossing the ball around in the back yard, or playing a game on their own, I always smile to myself.

After all, those may be the games they remember most when they get older.