The Norman Transcript

November 16, 2012

The biggest game of my life


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

The biggest game in my life took place at Lions Park in 1954: the Norman Grade School City Football Championship. The game pitted the team from my school, Washington (original), against the team from McKinley. Only the quarterbacks were destined for greatness. There was Jay Wilkinson, a future star at Duke University, and Tommy Pannell, of University of Oklahoma fame.

Back then, the elementary school sports program, as far as I know, was run by the school system. We had a coach, who was also a teacher. I expect they had a coach who was also a teacher. Maybe they were teachers first, then, as an afterthought, coaches. The fifth- and sixth-grade kids played on the same team.

Games were played on school days, right after school. We probably walked from Washington to the game as, I expect, did the McKinley team. The sidelines were sparsley populated ... parents who could get off work before 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. or folks not employed.  The only parent I remember there was Bud Wilkinson, Jay’s daddy and coach, of course, of the Oklahoma Sooners. There were cheerleaders. Can’t do without them.

Do I remember the score? Sorry, I don’t. The two teams shared the Norman City Football Championship that year. Nice spread in The Norman Transcript.

Saw a couple of guys who played in that game Sunday at Harve Collins field. Parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, all over. My interest was the sixth-grade championship game between Whittier and Longfellow. A truly great game. 

Press box announcer, electronic clock, post-game awards ceremony with all the families on the field, refreshment stands open, all thanks to the Norman Public School System and the Optimist Club. And good recognition for the half-dozen coaches for each team ... all volunteers, of course. And nobody stompin’ and yellin’ louder than those 69-, 70-, 71-year-old guys from 1954, whose parents likely couldn’t get off work for their game in 1954.

While my wife and I spent much time from about 1979 to the late 90s chauffeuring our stars and future stars all over hell and half of Georgia, I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t better when the sports belonged to the kids, whether on a summer morning or a school day afternoon ... and a parent’s time was spent doing something besides driving from one sports venue to another.

Anyway, my guy playing for Whittier, Levi Merriman, may someday consider Sunday’s game the biggest of his life. But, I hope not.

MIKE McDANEL

Norman

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.