Family Lore

By Mike Johnson

Holidays. The warmest love and deepest laughter occurs when family patriarchs settle into reciting the liturgy of shared past events. No one can tell the stories better than those who lived them.

Over time, these stories evolve into such colorful, heroic tales that the entranced younger listeners lap them up like Cool Whip on pumpkin pie.

In our family, "The Football Game" always starts the memory cascade.

Me and my younger brother Rick were team captains. He had one daughter and four sons oozing with testosterone and over-confidence. I had my two daughters, Margie, two other girls and a nephew.

Touchdowns counted as 1 point. After an hour, the score was tied at 3-3.

We had the ball at midfield. It was third down. Exhausted, I suggested we call it a tie and all walk off feeling like winners.

The cockiest of Rick’s sons set the stage for the eternal memory.

“I’d rather lose than tie!”

Instinctively, my inner voice said, “Then you, young Skywalker, shall lose!”

We all agreed the next score wins.

On the very next play, my nephew Drew took the snap.

I leapt off the line, faked a step across the middle, shook my defender, then broke deep straight to the end zone. Drew lofted a pass so perfect that I started laughing the instant the ball left his hand.

No way. This was too Hollywood. The trajectory of this slow-motion spiral was going to catch me at full speed, over the shoulder, right on the fingertips.

My little brother the underdog, perpetually trying to beat me in every single sport, saw it too. All he could do was hopelessly watch as I caught the pass in full stride on the 5 yard line, sprinted through the end zone, ball raised over my head, circling back to my teammates for an extra 50 yards of glory.

30 seconds after "I'd rather lose than tie!" the over-confident sons were kicking the dirt in bitter defeat.

Rick had tried to warn them and just shook his head. Then he immortalized the memory with the funniest, most understated, four muttered words in Johnson history.

“Had to be Mike.”

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