It’s been said that what’s far more likely to remain in the front of our cerebral cortex are our moments rather than our days, and that again occurred to me in my recent interviews with former Lima Central Catholic football defensive standout Steve Contini, who told me both of his gridiron moments and the health repercussions he has today from those moments.
Steve’s recollections were not full games or practices or seasons but rather specific plays and hits that both solidified his love for the game yet sewed the seeds of painful consequences years later.
It wasn’t surprising to me that I received quite a few reactions to the story that ran a couple of weeks ago. After all, in a small market, I think readers tend to communicate more with local writers because of the increased familiarity in small towns. In my case, many from whom I hear, I also know personally.
Most of the reactions I receive are positive, not because everything I write is solid gold but because most who don’t care for something remember the admonitions of their mothers from long ago who told all of us that if we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all.
Of course, there are exceptions, and proof of that came in a text a friend who I don’t see very often anymore sent. His text read as follows: “I know you have a lot of b———-, but that’s beyond the realm of reality.”
I believe I took the high road in my response to someone I haven’t seen or spoken to since last New Year’s Eve, by simply telling him that I trusted my sources of Contini and a couple of well-connected high school sports guys, Mike Schepp and Bob Seggerson, and their recollections. I think my own mom would have been proud that I resisted succumbing to sarcasm by ending with, “Stay classy, friend.”
However, aside from that snide reaction, those from whom I heard reacted positively, and what they had to say I found interesting and worth your time.
I heard from longtime LCC fan Joe Stoll, who, over time, has seen hundreds of T-Bird games in multiple sports and remembers Contini and his high-impact hits well. Perhaps as testament to our ability to remember moments, Joe saw something so familiar about the photo that accompanied the story, one showing Contini about to lower the boom on an Allen East runner, that he thinks he just may remember the play.
Recalls Stoll, “I know it sounds crazy since it was almost 40 years ago, but I know I was at that game at Lima Stadium because I went to all the games. I think that just may have been the hit that caused both Steve’s and the ball carrier’s helmet to dislodge.”
For several, the Contini story brought back into fond focus their own grid times of yesteryear when they played like kids for friends and family under their own Friday night lights.
However, the piece also elicited a different type of reaction, one far different than a yearning for football days of yore, for one octogenarian, Bob Corson. Said Corson in his email, “This column should be read by every parent and posted in all locker rooms. I don’t care about The Heads Up program [which teaches safer tackling and blocking techniques to protect the head, neck and back], considering it’s a Band-Aid and not a fix.”
Corson, a former college track man good enough to run at indoor meets in Madison Square Garden and at outside at the Penn Relays back in a time when track and field drew a large national sports interest, sees the potential for injury in football to be far greater than any benefit the sport promotes.
Concluded Corson, who told me of his briefest of flings with football as a senior in high school before walking away, “Now at 86, I’m still happy my football days were cut short, as I still play golf and enjoy winters in Florida.”
Current Bath administrator Brad Clark, a former Bath player in the early 1980s, also found interest in the Contini story, especially Contini’s recollections trying to bring down St. Marys All-State running back, Jeff Cisco, and Shawnee’s powerfully built fullback, Rod Apfelbeck. Said Clark succinctly, “Apfelbeck and Cisco both ran over me too.”
Speaking of Apfelbeck, I also heard from the former Indian who now lives in Cincinnati, and his email provided a pretty neat final anecdote for you. While he didn’t say he remembered the actual play Contini told me about, one where Contini shattered his facemask trying to wrestle him to the turf, Apfelbeck had to smile when he read the figure of speech I used to describe him, one in which I likened the beefy fullback he once was to an M-1 Abrams tank.
Said Apelbeck, “After Shawnee, I went to West Point and became an Army officer. During my plebe year at West Point, one floor below me, lived Cadet Robert Abrams (U.S. Military Academy Class of 1982), who was the [son] of Creighton Abrams, after whom the tank is named!”
And, with that ironical twist, uncovered when I did the writer’s version of a blind squirrel finding an acorn every now and again by selecting an apt metaphor, I’ll end by saying thanks for all the reactions to Contini’s piece and also for reminding all of us that, indeed, while remembrances of our full days tend to fade, there are those moments that seem to last forever.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.