I didn’t always dream of becoming a writer.
I was going to become an NFL quarterback. I could throw a perfect spiral in fourth grade – with a plastic ball OR a Nerf. Talk about versatility. I had all the tools.
Except the talent and physical gifts.
But if dreams were those things, I’d be giving a Hall of Fame speech at some point. As early as I can remember, I had a love affair with the game of football.
The cool thing about my quarterback aspirations is that nothing could dent them.
And when stuff happens in life and obstacles pop up, I remember those days. When I’d doodle pictures of my jersey in the margins of my homework assignments.
My teacher, Mrs. Gunby, asked me once about the jersey – Pacheco, #10, same as my idol, Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn. That’s what I’m going to wear, I told her, when I play in the NFL. She squawked. Yeah right!
I didn’t mind that. I didn’t play in the NFL, but not because of Mrs. Gunby.
I was the kid who brought the ball to recess, but didn’t star in the game. I was more likely to get big laughs, not get in the end zone. But damn, did I love football.
There’s more than one way onto the field, though.
As my friends passed me with growth spurts, I grew as a writer. As they became starters on the team, I fought like hell to be their backups. When they made the high school team, I made my way to a class called Intro to Journalism.
Our friend Kent even made it to the Division I college level.
He played for Oregon – or was it Oregon State? We teased him that we didn’t know the difference. I’m a duck, not a beaver! he’d yell at us, and yes, it sounded as ridiculous then as it does now.
Finding a way
As my friends went off to college, too, they were already looking back at the good old days of football.
My good days had just gotten started. I got a job my final year in college covering an NFL expansion team called the Carolina Panthers. At halftime, writers gorged themselves on Carolina barbecue in the press box.
I tried to do my English homework (but usually gave up for the barbecue.)
I toiled my way from small paper to big, interviewing high school kids on Fridays, NFL stars on Sundays. I learned my craft and as my friends watched from the couch, I got to tell the stories. One day, I even got to talk to the same guy I was going to wear No. 10 in honor of: Jim Zorn.
By then, I was a middle aged dad – he was a quarterbacks coach.
I wasn’t throwing spirals, I was asking questions. I thought of Mrs. Gunby, and how I never had to say goodbye to a dream. I had to find a different way there, that’s all.
But talking to players … that’s not the same. It can’t be as exciting as being ON the field, can it?
E is for End-of-your-career awards
F is for Frank, my uncle
H is for ✊🏻 haiku (my quarantine journal)
L is for learn
P is for purify your mindset