by Dan Smith
Editor's note: Colloquialisms were retained to emulate Mr. Griffith.
Football season in Florida weirdly begins in mid-summer or at least that's how it feels. I always have a great sympathy for the high school kids who must begin practice in 90-degree heat and 90-percent humidity.
That's not weather conducive to the sport, but somehow the Sunshine State always turns out better players than you might expect. Our colleges win far more than they should be expected to and they send an inordinate number of players to the NFL.
As a kid, I played in Southern Louisiana and that was no picnic either.
This year, I am saddened that this will be my first football season ever with out the great Andy Griffith.
As you all know, Andy passed away a few weeks ago. He was one of our most beloved actors and has left us with hundreds of reruns of his old TV shows that were set in the not-too-fictional town of Mayberry N.C. Best of all old Andy left us with his famous pigskin soliloquy "What it was, was football."
Andy was the consummate southerner and in 1953 he produced his version of a country bumpkin describing his very first football game.
It is an enduring classic that has always been a part of football season. Here, I will give you just a taste of it, but writing about it just does not do it justice. You have to hear it in that wonderful accent that was pure Andy. He begins by talking of stopping to buy a big orange drink. The people begin to push and shove until he is inside the stadium. Andy says that in the middle of a big field there are three or four convicts with striped shirts and them and a couple fellows in funny-looking outfits go right to the middle of the field and pull out a quarter and begin odd-manning. After that two groups of men begin to fight over a funny-looking pumpkin. Andy says it couldn't have been worth eating cause they kicked it all over the place, and it never bust.
Finally, one feller grabs it and runs the length of the cow pasture zigging and zagging all the while so as not to step in nothing. (Please see it on YouTube.)
You had to know that Andy's way with the English language was most unique. On his TV show he would impart wisdom each week as only he could. In one episode pretty Barbara Eden ("I Dream Of Jeanie") guest starred as a new manicurist in town. Once she talks Floyd the barber into letting her work out of his shop, every man in town was lined up to get their nails done. Things are fine until the ladies of the town catch on to what their men folk are up to and put a stop to it. When Barbara complains to Andy that she does not know why she now has no business his response is classic. "Well see," he begins "Mother Nature has been real good to you. Reeeeeal good. In fact, I can't remember when Mother Nature spent so much time in one place." No one could top Andy for country logic.
Young Sarah Carden is a middle school teacher over in Polk County.
Each year in her history class she plays them the episode where Andy's pal Barney Fife (Don Knotts) tries to recite the preamble to the Constitution from memory. Barney assures Andy that he remembers it from high school and Andy wants to hear it. Barney then needs Andy's prompting for the first word and every word after that. All the while he is pulling his hair and making all sorts of faces. When Andy finally gets to the end, Barney straightens up and says, "See once I learn it I never forget." The children in Miss Carden's class don't know Andy or Barney but each year they find it hilarious. Can you think of a better way to get them to remember the preamble?
All of us football fans, and quite a few more, will miss you Andy.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.