I still get excited when I see rain on a day when I am covering football.
Granted, some teams have gone to an artificial turf playing surface and ruined some of the fun, but there is nothing like watching a player get tackled and pull up a huge chunk of muddy turf in his facemask.
Rain and mud change the game. Passing teams won't ever agree with my love of the muddy gridiron. Teams who prefer to run the ball have fewer problems plodding around on sloppy soil. Kickers will be in a bad mood all day.
My love of a muddy football game goes back almost four decades.
I was eight years old.
I was a big kid and got to play fullback and linebacker. It had rained all day. Other teams had the first game of the day. By the time the Mighty Mite Redskins got on the field against the Bears, most of the grass and lines on the field had been turned into a muddy mess.
The Bears scored early and we were behind almost the entire game. We could barely run for falling down. The clock was winding down late in the game and one of my friends on the other team ran the ball up the middle. My teammate and I collided on either side of him and the wet ball squirted out of his hands and landed under me.
We had the ball with a chance to tie the game. Our tailback got the ball down close to where the goal line probably used to be and we faced a make or break 4th down play with time running out.
Coach called my number. It has been almost 40 years but I still remember seeing the linebacker slip and fall down in front of me. I plowed over him for a touchdown and I will also never forget the taste of the mud and grass that splashed into my mouth when I landed face first with both arms wrapped tightly around the ball just to be safe.
It was 6-6 with an extra point left to determine the outcome. Our coach wasn't in the mood to be creative. I had just scored so he figured he would give it to the big kid and see if I could do it again.
Of course, nothing went right on the extra point. Our quarterback dropped the snap. I stood there for what seemed like a minute waiting for him to pick up the ball and give it to me. By the time he did, there were more Bears waiting on me than Goldilocks ever had to deal with. I lunged toward the goal line and they were pushing me back. I turned my back and started pushing hard. Luckily, my wet and muddy jersey didn't make a great handle and I slipped away enough to fall into the end zone. We kicked off and made a tackle and the whistle blew to give us an 8-6 win over the best team in the league.
You never know what's going to happen when the ground turns to soup.
That was the only touchdown I ever scored as a running back. My growth spurts in both directions pushed me out of the backfield and onto the offensive and defensive lines from that point forward.
After the game, I remember my poor parents trying to figure out how to get me home without destroying the car. We put muddy stuff in the trunk and I slid carefully into the back seat. They even hosed me off before letting me into the house for a hot shower.
Hopefully, teams have extra cleats because anything used Friday night will probably be destroyed. I know I wore old shoes this week knowing that there was a decent chance I would be throwing them away after I finished covering games. I know the guys on the field were a mess.
But that is the fun of football. You don't always get perfect conditions, and when you don't, it can change the game.