Saturday, September 23, 2017

In praise of famous football teams

The 1957 Wickenburg Wranglers

By Tom Walker

 Sometimes life sneaks up and hands you an honest-to-goodness surprise.
Not like the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City or the series of hurricanes that have ravaged Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. Those were nature showing us who’s really in charge here – not Donald Trump or the EPA – but good old tectonics and meteorology.
Or to put it another way, the disadvantage of building a huge city on an ancient lakebed that shakes like jello  when you give it a jiggle, or the trouble with pretending that man-caused climate change is just a hoax. Or, closer to home, the failure to install a patch that would have prevented the Equifax security breach.
We know all about those. We donate, we pray, we advocate for political change and we try to protect ourselves from the Equifax mess that let thieves steal personal information – including Social Security numbers – for  half the adults in the United States.
After all, what else can we do?
Well, thank you, Sandi Hartman, for giving me something else to do – a welcome break from all the natural, political and financial news that has kept me up late at night.
Sandi is a long-ago schoolmate at Wickenburg High School. After reading about my Equifax troubles last week on Facebook, she pointed me in a different direction. Did I know, she asked, that there was a photograph of me in the Sept. 20 edition of our hometown newspaper, The Wickenburg Sun?
 Well, no, I didn’t know that. In fact, I had forgotten there was a Wickenburg Sun, even though it had been around most of my life. I had seen it when we passed through town on our way to Las Vegas, and had even purchased an occasional copy.
But we hadn’t lived in Wickenburg for many years. I still knew a few people there, and luckily Sandi Hartman was one of them.
I tracked down the Sept. 20 issue of the Sun on its website. And there I was, with a big Number 51 plastered across my chest. It wasn’t only a picture of me, though; it was a picture of the high school football team that I used to play on.
The Wickenburg Wranglers. And what a mighty team we were that season. Under Coach Ralph Moran, we were the undefeated champions of the B-West football conference. I don’t remember how many games we won, but our only loss was to a much larger school: Class A Tucson Sunnyside.
There were some great players on that team: Bobby Rubash, Tony Kreider, Dan Doom (wow, what a name for a football player!), and Leonard Hershkowitz.
My name wasn’t among them. As a 145-pound guard, I played bench-warmer behind really skilled players like Hershkowitz and Doom, getting to play mainly when we were ahead by lopsided margins. Fortunately, we often were ahead by even more than that.
 Once, playing defensive guard against a desperately outclassed opponent, I broke through into the backfield and there was the quarterback, alone, unprotected, searching desperately for a receiver. It was a classic situation for the move Coach Moran had drilled into us: put your shoulder into the guy’s gut, wrap him up in your arms, tackle him down and complete the play by rolling over him.
Dramatic stuff, for sure.
But what I did was, I grabbed him by the shoulder pads, swung him around a few times and dragged him to the ground.
And I heard the announcer say over the loud speaker, “Looks like something from the rodeo.”
So that was it, the highlight of my football career. The following winter, we moved to another town that didn’t even have a football team. It did have a rodeo field, but it was too late to learn a new career. Sometimes life just doesn’t deal you a second hand. 
I became a newspaper reporter instead. 



Mary Walker Baron said...

I love this.

Tom Walker said...

To my immense surprise, The Wickenburg Sun published a slightly shorter version of this story. You can find it at and also catch up on the latest news from Wickenburg.