The Day I Lost My Ribs


Suavecito Armendariz

I played for the Wildcats football team, a small cheap club team in Albuquerque. I was a pretty average growing 10-year-old boy who loved sports and tried all sports, but the only one that ever really stuck with me was football.

Now, I want you to picture a kid with arms soooo small that they make spaghetti look large. So the first time around I always came home sad. Mad. Beaten. And came home looking like Mike Tyson’s punching bag. But as I got used to practice, things got easier and easier, and it felt good…It was almost addictive. It got to the point where I lived and breathed football. I had gone from being the gremlin that lived in your closet to being the guy you would ask to come get rid of the gremlin.

Coming from a really bad part of town, I was afraid the other kids would be scared of me or look at me like a street dog, or call me names like “commoner,” or “poor F,” or worse, or they wouldn’t want to be friends with me. But it was the polar opposite of that, and it actually made me pretty happy. It might have even been the happiest time of my life. I felt like I was accepted, and if you’ve ever been the new kid on a team, you know that NEVER happens. In fact, everybody usually waits for you to slip up, almost like a desperate wild, starving dog that sees any movement and they just automatically go for the kill. Savages they were.

As each day went by, the Wildcats team become almost indestructible and more popular among local 10-year-olds. And is it just me, or do 10-year-olds just get bigger and bigger? Watching the average height for a 10-year-old go higher and higher is almost like looking at a damned Animorphs book cover.

One day, the coach, who everybody admired by the way, announced that we’d be getting a new kid on the team. I had never seen eyes glisten with violence the way they did that day. My very own teammates had become exactly what I feared, and I don’t blame ‘em. I was worse. In fact, I was getting everyone riled up. I felt like the leader of a prison riot, and that’s just too much power for a 10-year-old to have. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I stood up on one of those flimsy foldable tables and shouted, “The new kid has no idea what’s coming to him! If he messes up a tackle, we’re gonna hang him by his toes for three days, with no food or water!”

Everybody was freaking out — kids foaming from their mouths, throwing water bottles. The coach couldn’t even get us to calm down. At some point, I even got scared of myself. I felt like I was on the brink of 40, having a midlife crisis. I stepped off the table like an old man with my hand over my back and just whispered to myself, “I really gotta retire.” The new kid showed up too, which was not the proudest moment of our lives. As he walked down the hill to greet everyone, I’m pretty sure he himself blocked out the sun…completely. He was huge.
Sammy was in general a very nice kid, but he was completely new to football, so he had no idea how to hold back. That day at practice there was nothing but tackling. The whole premise of tackling practice is to challenge your teammates, right? Not to floor them into the ground. But that is exactly what he did.

The coach was eager to put him up against me, just to see how I’d hold up. At first I did well against the 500-pound meteorite. Unfortunately he was too rough and completely put the smackdown on me. He slammed me into the ground. He DESTROYED me. He also broke like two of my ribs, maybe three. I laid there with my ribs broken, staring into the blank blue abyss in complete defeat. Everything faded to a dark blue and then just to black.

When I came to, I was in the ER with an IV strap stuck to the inside of my vein. When I fully opened my eyes, all I saw was this massive Sumo wrestler. I was actually excited to see Sammy — I was going to kill him. Luckily, before I was able to get my hands wrapped around his neck, the doctor walked in. He gave me no mercy. He said, “About football, you can’t play again.” The x-rays showed that I had several broken ribs and the tissue surrounding them would never truly heal. My stomach dropped so far I thought I wouldn’t eat for months. I’d never been more devastated.

So then my daily life consisted of eating terrible hospital food for a month and not getting exercise and then I soon became the biggest kid in elementary.

When I got out I would go to the Wildcats games. Even though it wasn’t surprising, Sammy was actually pretty good at football for a kid his size. His catches and throws were superior to the other kids on my team, so eventually he climbed his way up the ranks to back-up quarterback. I loved the way he played, as cautious as a mouse finding his way through the maze to get the cheese and almost just as eager as a cheetah during a kill.

Me, I’m not as big I used to be. I play baseball now. And I’m still friends with Sammy.