In 1985 at the age of 13, I would meet my childhood best friend Dary. Dary and I didn’t become besties immediately though. We met because we lived in the same neighborhood of La Jolla Shores Heights, a condo complex near UC San Diego. I was in my front yard, doing what I did most days which was playing in a mock game of the Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington Redskins.
I would play the role of Gary Hogeboom, my favorite Dallas Cowboys third-string quarterback. In 1985 Hogeboom started two whole games and played parts of three others, so how he left a mark on me to become my favorite Dallas Cowboys quarterback ever, I have no idea. Anyhow, I was Gary Hogeboom and I would drop back to pass, survey the field, looking to connect with Tony Dorsett, Tony Hill, or the invincible Mike Renfro. The snap was always a shotgun snap, and the pass was always a bomb deep downfield. Not just because a shotgun snap and a deep bomb comprised the greatest standard play in football, but because of the unique way that I played, you had to have a shotgun snap and deep downfield bomb. You see, as an only child, I had a vivid imagination. Also as an only child from a divorced family, I didn’t have a lot of friends, and by a lot I mean, any. So, the way I played football in my front yard, was something like this (and don’t think I didn’t typically narrate this play by play out loud while it was happening)
“The cowboy’s lineup in a shotgun formation. Dorsett in the backfield at halfback, Tony Hill flanked to the far left, and Mike Renfro to the right. ‘Blue 92, hut — hut — hike’ Hogeboom drops back, surveys the field, sees a streaking Mike Renfro open deep downfield, launches the pass, and it’s caught — Mike Renfro for the touchdown! Touchdown Cowboys!”
This all sounds like a sophisticated play call in a robust backyard game with say six or seven of your buddies. Except I was in the front yard and I was the only one playing. In case that didn’t sink in, I was playing a full game of football by myself. I would snap the ball to myself, I would drop back pretending to find an open receiver, then I would throw the ball up high enough in the air to give myself enough time to sprint ten or fifteen yards and run under said ball, catching the pass from myself, running into the fake end zone and spiking the ball in a jubilant celebration with . . . myself.
On a fall day, Dary came rolling over on his skateboard and watched this seemingly mentally disturbed thirteen-year-old playing football by himself. But he didn’t run in terror, instead, he said “want to throw the ball around” to which I replied, “no, I’m in the middle of a game.” Let me repeat that. I told an eligible and available human being who wanted to interact with me, that I was busy playing a game with . . . myself. He starred at me I’m sure entirely befuddled by my response and then skated away.
A few days later Dary came by again on his skateboard, and again I was in the front yard entrenched in a football “game” of the Cowboys vs. the Redskins. Again he inquired if I wanted to throw the ball around. Even though it was rude of him to interrupt my very serious game, I thought I could only reject this kid so many times. I acquiesced and we passed the pigskin for over an hour.
What a revolutionary concept of playing football with an actual human being. We would play daily, and eventually would get together a regular neighborhood game of three on three, but don’t think I didn’t still carry on with my daily game of the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins. Long live Gary Hogeboom!