OPINION

Norman: Memories of sports and elementary school days

CHARLIE NORMAN

Sports played a big part of my growing-up days out in Odessa. I mean, we didn’t have trails to hike, lakes to fish, or mountains to climb. But even in elementary school, we had teams — football, basketball, track and baseball in that order.

Charlie Norman

Because I participated in each of those sports, I have memories that have stuck with me all these years. I loved and felt proud to represent Austin Elementary School — home of the Fightin’ Blue and Gold. In football, I was put at the quarterback position by coach Tommie Harrison. Played second team behind my friend Bryce — a taller, stronger, more talented athlete than me.

I say, I “played.” Well, truth be known, on a good game day, I might get on the field 5-6-7 minutes and get to run a couple of series. I will say, though, I did complete 100% of my passes over the course of the season. Yep, all four of ‘em were thrown to and caught by my friend Terry. So there!

You see, I wanted to be Bryce ‘cause he played almost the entire game, and could call/ throw as many passes as he wanted. Fast forward some 55 years later, and Bryce and I reconnected and had lunch together in Fort Worth one fine day. We enjoyed reliving some of those times from our school days, and I finally fessed up and told him of my envy of his days playing QB when we were sixth graders.

You know, his getting to throw all those passes in the games we played. He then said to me: “Charlie, wanna know how many passes I threw that year?” He paused, then said “Zero. ZERO! I never called a pass the whole time I played QB at Austin.”

Well, after that revelation, I no longer wanted to be Bryce. So there! Ha!   Now basketball was a little different because I was good enough start for my team. Scored a few points too. One game I was top scorer (four points... hey, hey!) and my favorite girlfriend Katrina came to watch me play. We won and I got to hold her hand as we walked around the schoolyard after the victory.

All that was quite short-lived though. Not sure we won many more games after that, and Katrina decided for some reason she liked an upperclassman, a sixth grader named Arnold, better than me. Bummer. Go figure.

Our basketball team was mediocre at best, and I think the last game we won was because some kid on San Jacinto’s team scored two points for us by making a goal on the wrong end of the court. I felt a little sorry for the guy because that could have very easily been me. But hey, a win’s a win, and we’ll take it!  

Then on to track, where I competed in the 50-yard dash, the high jump, and 440 relay. I got smoked by a kid from Carver Elementary in the 50-yard dash, but did manage to win the high jump event with a jump of over 4 feet, with my wheelchair-bound granddad looking on.

We also won the relay and took home the first trophy Austin Elementary had snared in over a decade . A few decades later, that very trophy that was given to me by the school principal when the school was doing some renovations, and old trophies were relegated to the basement. 

Then it was on to baseball, where I played 2nd base. I wasn’t much of a hitter, but I could field the ball pretty good. One game in particular I remember, we were playing Burnet — that uppity school from east side of town, all decked out in their spiffy red and black uniforms. I was jealous of how classy those uniforms looked compared to our old faded blue and gold T-shirts.

The thing was, our pitcher Manuel, was struggling, and we couldn’t seem to get their team out. They were hitting him like he was tossing the ball underhand. Those kids from Burnet were scoring 10-15 runs per inning — back then the rules didn’t mandate a maximum number of runs allowed per inning.

I distinctly recall standing out there near second base and just started crying. Really crying. I was embarrassed and humiliated for Austin and my teammates. Big-time tears for a little kid. Finally, Coach Harrison turned to me, and asked if I wanted to try my hand at pitching. Well, why not?

I did, and got the last two outs for our team. That was the only time I ever pitched in a game anytime. I think we probably lost something like 43-5. But I did try my best, and it was a learning, humbling experience for me for sure. It was just a game, that nobody remembers — except me. 

P.S. That kid that scored the winning basket for my team by mistake? Come to find out, just in the last year, his name’s Steve, and one of my best friends now — some 60 year’s later! Of all things and much to his chagrin, we were the ones playing against each other in that game. He was hoping nobody would ever remember his scoring that basket for the opposing team. Not me. I did. No wonder I like this guy so much!

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.