On Sept. 13 the UNB Red Bombers will kick off their sixth season in the Atlantic Football League against Dalhousie University in Halifax. Many of you reading this have played football and will understand the pure excitement that a football field, immaculately kept, on a sunny fall Saturday afternoon can generate. The feel of a new ball and turf underfoot is palpable as is the restless anticipation of kickoff and first contact.
When the Red Bombers played in the AUAA in the 1970s, I was working as a ball boy on Saturday afternoons at College Field. At halftime, while heroes like Stewart Fraser had briefly vacated the field, we would take the game balls and play our own game, running patterns and scoring imaginary touchdowns. I love football, and collegiate football in particular.
As I sit at my desk, on the verge of turning 50, I can honestly say my only real regret in life was my decision to stay at home for university. I chose to attend UNB, in the years immediately following the cutting of the football program, and to forego at least trying to play football at the collegiate level. At the time there was a healthy program at Mount Allison University, just three hours down the road, that I could have tried out for while still getting a BA. Even in 1999, while deciding where to complete my doctorate, I briefly considered applying to the University of Maine at Orono, and for a moment daydreamed about “walking on” with the Black Bears and offering my services as a 36-year-old tackling dummy. I would have been happy to just be part of the team (I have no delusions about being good enough to actually play in the NCAA) and to experience football again from the vantage point of a player.
My purpose in writing this, though, is not to wax nostalgic about my memories of football and all that it encompasses. Rather, I want to encourage the students arriving on campus this week who have decided to come to UNB (a good choice in and of itself) but who may have given up their relationship with football when they left high school. You have an opportunity that I didn’t have back in 1982. You can attend this great institution and benefit from all that it has to offer AND you can still play football. A practice schedule is available online on the Red Bombers website and players are welcome to express their interest in playing to the coaches at any time in the next few weeks.
My time playing is done and I am left to daydream and watch football on the weekends. You, on the other hand, can still play. And as you do, you allow me to vicariously enjoy again the exhilaration of a football team going through its pregame preparations, with the feeling of turf under my feet on a sunny fall Saturday afternoon.
-Jeff Landine, Ph.D., L. Psych., Associate Professor, Faculty of Education (Counselling)