Today (September 22, 2017) is my 58th birthday. Because I am 58, it takes me a minute to remember that I’m 58. The years are moving past me like a high speed train and the blurry view of the world outside my window is almost unrecognizable. Turning 58 has very little significance in my life other than knowing God has granted me another year on earth and a wonderful family that is soon to grow even larger with soon to arrive newborn grandchildren. As the world seems to grow darker and more difficult, my family and friends are the only things that really make sense and for them – I am glad to move into a new year. They give my life meaning that transcends the crazy world that I, very often, find impossible to understand. My life moves on and 2017 and 58 are nothing but numbers.
It is my opinion that numbers really have no real spiritual or moral significance. Numerologists will suggest otherwise. There are those that place great importance on dates and times and construct theories of their importance and hidden meanings even using those numbers to predict the future. I don’t get any of that. For me, numbers help me remember things – like events, historic things, where I was when, and what I was doing. With that being said, there has never been a year that marked more significance for me than 2017. Here are some examples.
- Fifty years ago today (September 22, 1967) I turned eight years old and my dad took me to Union County High School to see OHS play the Braves. Owensboro scored 26 points in the first eight minutes, utilizing a mere nine plays from scrimmage and won 47 – 0.
- Fifty years ago, my father was 50 years old and this past July 5th would have marked his 100th birthday.
- This year during the Labor Day weekend, the 1967 Owensboro High football team had a 50th reunion celebrating the season I wrote about in my book, “A Glory Denied”. It was a thrill for me to meet these players and cheerleaders I had written about and was honored with a plaque declaring me an honorary letterman of that ’67 team. My childhood hero from that team, #24 Isaac Brown, presented me the plaque. It was a moment I will never forget.
But there is one more number that also means something to me. It was fifty years ago this fall that my dad took me to Owensboro High’s Rash Stadium to practice for the upcoming “Punt, Pass and Kick” competition. The contest was one that allowed boys to punt, pass and kick a football for distance and accuracy against other boys their same age. My football had seen better days and using a leather ball on Owensboro city streets would result in broken laces and a protruding inner tube that made the ball look deformed and almost impossible to grip. As the ’67 Red Devils wrapped up their practice on this particular afternoon, the head coach, Gerald Poynter, came over to me and offered me some kind and encouraging words. He then noticed the odd looking football that I was practicing with and then did something I will never forget. He walked into the teams locker room and returned to give me one of the OHS practice balls. He said it was mine to keep. It was the greatest gift I had ever received in my life. I cherished that football, slept with it, tossed it around my yard and bragged to my friends that Coach Poynter had given it to me. I never forgot him for his kindness. In some ways the gift changed my life in that it gave me a sense of self-worth knowing that the famous OHS coach thought enough to take time for me and give me such a gift. To him, I’m sure it was nothing – to me, it meant everything.
Yesterday, fifty years after that famous ’67 season, and the day before my 58th birthday, Coach Gerald Poynter passed away. He leaves behind a family that loved him, players that admired him, and fans like myself that marveled at him and his ability to coach football. I was so glad that I was able to get my book published and present him with the first copy before he became too sick to read and understand what I hope was a story that honored his legacy.
I never played football for Gerald Poynter, I never had him as a teacher. He was a man that I really never knew – except for my time interviewing him for my book and a brief encounter fifty years ago when he kindly gave a little eight year old boy a used Red Devil football and changed his life. I always wanted to tell him how much I appreciated what he did for me and that I never forgot his kindness, but I never got around to saying it.
Today, fifty years later on my 58th birthday and on this the coach’s first full day in glory, I can finally tell him, Thanks!