So its Super Bowl Week. Super Bowl LV, to be exact.
Shouldnt be that big of deal in Chicago, because the Bears have missed the cut LIII times.
But I did run across an item of interest to people who follow the so-called Monsters of the Midway.
While decluttering the basementbecause, what else are you gonna do in a pandemic?I discovered two aging spiral notebooks.
Across the top of each, it simply said: ``4th Period A.A.
The Fourth Period Athletic Association!
I had completely forgotten.
The FPAA was a league for lunch-time football players at a high school in suburban Chicago. The league culminated in the Dixie Cup championship game.
It was played at the Deerfield High School cafeteria with little triangles that were flicked or pushed across the table. If a portion of the triangle was hanging over the edge of the table when it stopped, that was a touchdown.
Field goals and extra points were kicked by holding the triangle on its edge. and flicking it into the air through flesh-and-blood crossbars that were made by your opponent, who held his index fingers together and his thumbs in the air.
Or something like that. It was a long time agoaround the time when Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey were jousting for the presidencylong before Nixon was whistled for too many men at the Watergate.
One thing bothers me. I have no idea how a field goal fit into our game. Why would you kick a field goal? Its kind of fun to do. But is it harder to hang the triangle/football over the edge of the table from a distance? All these years later, I have no idea. And I dont have a suitable table handy to test the theory.
This mystery is not explained in the surviving rules that are contained in these faded notebooks, along with entire seasons of scores, standings and the signatures of the players.
The rules dont really explain how ``the ball is advanced. I cant imagine that there were first downs.
The rules are exceptionally detailed, though, regarding the length and time of the game.
For example, Section 1.2 says, ``The game shall be terminated when:
``Section 1.21 One team scores 100 pts. Hence, The first person to 100 wins.
Or ``Section 1.22: The clock strikes 11:34.
Fourth period must have been awfully early for lunch. More like brunch.
Or ``Section 1.23. A teacher tells you to terminate (the game).
Apparently, our civil disobedience was confined to protesting Vietnam.
Section 2 is devoted to The Ball
``Section 2.1 The Ball shall be a triangle, preferably made out of notebook paper.
Section 2.2 Each ball (triangle) must:
2.23 Have three sides, none of which exceeds 4 inches or are less than 1 inch.
A three-sided triangle? No controversy there.
2.24 Be approved by both teams.
Apparently, there were a lot of disputes about The Ball, or triangle, that were resolved in the second season. In the second notebook, Section 2, The Ball, simply says, ``The ball shall be an official league ball.
These balls apparently were precious. In one of the notebooks in my basement, I found an envelope containing three of them. In perfect condition.
And then, there is a Fifth Amendment, which states: ``Each team will be given an official ball. The home team shall supply the ball for the game. Teams keep the ball themselves or keep it in the official FPAA envelope safe. If the home team does not have its official ball at game time, the result will be an automatic forfeit. If a ball is lost during a game, the visiting team ball shall be put in play. If the visitors do not have their ball, they will automatically forfeit.
The Sixth Amendment, I suspect, also addressed another controversy: ``Fingers must be closed when the ball is pushed.
I can imagine the sniping that must have gone on before these amendments were adopted.
The first season, there were eight teams in the FPAA, divided into two divisions, the Central and the Coastal. Remember that long-ago time in the NFL?
I have no idea how the teams were assigned, but it must have been some kind of a lottery. I was Chicago, which Im sure I liked, in Season One. On the other hand, in Season Two, I was Los Angeles. So go figure.
I only have first names from Season One. In the Coastal were Tom (Baltimore Colts), John U. (Atlanta Falcons), John E. (San Francisco 49ers) and Ed (L.A. Rams). Besides me and the beloved Chicago Bears, the Central had Kirk (Detroit Lions), Jack (Green Bay Packers) and Bruce (Minnesota Vikings).
If I had to guess, I would say John Unger, Jack Strichman and Ed Karlin competed in that pioneering season. Bruce Homer and Tom Gottlieb also are possible, but I am drawing a blank on Kirk and John E.
I mention these names in hopes of bringing everyone together for a reunionat the Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio.
In Season Two, the FPAA expanded to 10 teamsthe original eight plus the New York Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
I am the only one who played in both seasons. I will attribute that to the vagaries of staggered lunch hours rather than any disinterest in flipping a triangle across a lunchroom table and calling it football.
In Season Two, we traded our two Johns for a pair of Als, Al Z. and Al F. And I have last names for eight players because everyone except the ``expansion teamssigned a pledge to ``abide by the rules. That would beDale (New York) and Jim (St. Louis).
The Original Eight were Cregg Wennstrom (Minnesota), Alan Feldman (San Francisco), Blair Neller (Baltimore), Marc Minkus (Detroit), Howie Fleishman (Chicago), Roger Brook (Green Bay), Al Zucker.(Atlanta) and me (L.A.).
If any of you guys are out there, Hupmobile!
As for results, the notebooks show that in Season One, my Bears had the best regular-season record (20-8), edging Kirks Lions (19-9). But Eds Rams (15-10), who won the Coastal Division, prevailed in the playoffs, beating me 100-95 in a thriller to win the Dixie Cup.
In Season Two, my Rams had the best record (23-4), but lost in the Dixie Cup final to Howies Bears, who had a modest 13-14 regular season but got hot in the playoffs to bring the Dixie Cup to Chicago.
I have no record of a Season Three, so I assume the FPAA folded after just two seasons. Deerfield might have had an open campus by senior year, removing the need and opportunity for Triangle Football.
The notebook says there was an All-Star during Season One. Its a shame that cant be found on Youtube.
But the burning question that remains after so many years is this: Under what circumstances is it wise to kick the field goal in Triangle Football?
Hence, the first person who can answer that shall receive an official FPAA football. Um, triangle.
If you like sports history with an extra bit of drama, check out Herb's 1908 Cubs novel, The Run Dont Count. Excerpts and other information at facebook/therundontcount. Its available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com.
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