I remember Coach wafting a cracked ammonia stick under my nose and moving his finger in front of my eyes. I’d been tackled hard and, apparently, had been slow getting up. I insisted I was okay. “Who’s the president?” he asked me. Despite being woozy, I was desperate to get back in the game. When I answered the question — it was Ike — Coach slapped my shoulder pads and sent me in on the next play. That something was, in fact, quite wrong in my head only added to the pride I felt. Even as a high school kid, I knew that more honor was to be had in playing through an injury than in the few passes I actually ever caught.
As I learned when my parents later took me to the doctor, I had suffered a concussion. That was nothing to the embarrassment I felt when they made me tell Coach I’d be sitting out practice for a week. His sneer flooded me with shame. That simply, I’d been plunged into the macho heart of football — a gladiator ethos which has lately drawn scrutiny because, indeed, of brain concussions.