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Just a little pinch

Rick Ryckeley's picture

They say confession is good for the soul. If that’s true, I should feel rather good after this column.

Unless Jim reads it, finds out where I live, chases me down and finally pounds out his revenge.

But after 38 years, what are the odds that’ll happen? Besides what I did didn’t break any laws, and there was no such rule against it. I know; after the football game I checked.
But it sure did work, and we won.

Back in the day, Briarwood High home of the Mighty Buccaneers was a football force to be reckoned with – especially the defense. Tipping the scales at just over 240 pounds, Bubba Hanks lined up as strong side defensive tackle. Big Brother James was linebacker, Twin Brother Mark was nose guard and yours truly was weak side tackle. Okay — stop laughing. I was only 195 pounds in high school.

Most Friday nights the Black and Gold owned the field, except those Fridays when it came to Lakeshore and Jim, the biggest running back in the South.

Every year we went nose to nose with Lakeshore, and every year it was guaranteed to be a long night – usually with Briarwood on the losing end. That is, except when I was in the eleventh grade.

That year it wasn’t Coach Reeve’s fancy fake pass, hide the football, reverse sweep that would eventually help win the game. Nope, the region final was actually won by a punted helmet.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, a punted helmet may seem an odd way to win a football game. Did I mention someone’s head was still inside it at the time of said punt?
Guess whose head?

The week before the big game, Coach Reeves had us working on tackling drills every day. A perfect hit would be the only way to stop Jim from breaking loose and running up the score. Come Friday night, little did he know it wouldn’t be a perfect tackle that stopped Jim, but rather a simple little pinch.

That Friday night at halftime Briarwood was losing badly. With the locker-room pep talk under our belts, we went out to get pounded on again and surely lose. Lakeshore had the ball and was marching down the field – nothing could stop them.

Coach Reeves call a red slant. The ball was hiked; I slanted to the right and lined up perfectly to tackle the behemoth Jim. After sticking my face in the center of his massive chest and wrapping my arms around him, Jim dragged me down field like an insect on a bear’s back. Finally I tripped him and we fell to the ground as all the rest of the Buccaneers piled on top of us.

At that moment, facemask to facemask and under a ton of flesh, Jim said, “Took your entire team to take me down. You tackle like a girl.”

Guess I lost it, because I did something that I’ve never done before in a football game. With arms still wrapped around him, I gave Jim a pinch. He said, “Ouch!”

Now anyone with brothers knows the last thing you do is say, “Ouch,” when being pinched. Receiving such a reaction and plenty of time before the pile of players was removed, I did what any brother of four would do. I pinched Jim again.

Another ouch, another pinch, another ouch; soon it was out of control. I was pinching Jim for all the wrong things my brothers had done to me over the years and trust me – that was a lot of pinching going on under that pile.

By the time the referees peeled off the last player, Jim was right irritated. He finally was able to push me off. I rolled over onto all fours laughing under my breath.

Guess Jim didn’t care too much for that – must’ve had brothers at the house. He jumped up, planted his foot, and kicked my helmet as hard as he could.

Red flags went flying, and so did my gold helmet. Jim was ejected from the game before my helmet hit the ground. We won.

The next Sunday afternoon when we gathered to view the game film, Coach Reeves showed the replay a dozen times. Said I did a great job controlling myself. He had no idea.

By the end of the next year I was awarded Mr. Briarwood Football. It was partly because Big Brother James had already graduated, partly because Bubba received it the year before and was ineligible, and partly because of that now famous punted helmet.

Confession may indeed be good for the soul, but I still ain’t giving the trophy back.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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