• Pop Warner Football, Busted Lip, Stitches… And What It Taught Me!

    in Personal Blog,Self-Improvement

    If you’ve read my story about being born severely bowlegged with little chance of walking properly, then perhaps you’ll understand why mom and grandma kept me away from sports.

    (To be honest, I think my grandma would’ve kept me from sports regardless. She had some very unfortunate lethal tragedies with BOTH of her sons, my would-be uncles, at very young ages so I can understand her fear of “EVERYTHING.”)

    But somehow, pop warner football slipped through the cracks and I found myself playing tackle football for the first time in my life. I was 12 and boy was I thrilled!

    Prior to that, the closest I ever got to football was stuffing my pants with socks and towels like they were real pads… all while putting on a bicycle helmet. I’d go “heads up” against my sofa like it was William “The Refrigerator” Perry.

    While I was banned from ever thinking about playing football (or any other sport) for years, the ironic part was that my family, especially grandma, LOVED football. After all, her daughter’s boyfriend was Gary Jeter from the former Anaheim Rams, among other NFL teams.

    So now I was the real deal. I had real pads. A real helmet. A real uniform. No more prancing around in home-made articles.

    Instead of going “heads up” against my sofa, I went heads up against my teammates… and ultimately against my opponents, come game day. (Oh yeah, “heads up” just means lining up in the classic football stance and ramming into another person, or in my case, object!)

    But apparently, I didn’t understand you weren’t supposed to solicit your classmates and go “heads up” in the back of your 7th grade English class while the teacher wasn’t looking (Yes, I was quite a character… more on my class-clownishness in another post).

    There we were. My already 6 foot friend, Travis and I going heads up in the back of the class.


    I ram forward as hard as I can and he unexpectedly goes really low. Really low.

    What happened next changed my life.

    I literally flew over his back into the corner of the wall… face first, splitting my upper lip into two.

    All I could feel was numbness. Blood poured out of my lip. I vividly remember my shirt soaked in blood.

    I don’t even think the teacher fully discovered how I busted my lip. Everyone was sworn to secrecy. In fact, I don’t think I ever told my mom the whole truth. She knows I ran into a wall… just not how!

    (Incidentally, she reads this blog so I guess I’m busted now. Sorry mom!)

    That whole ordeal ended in several stitches, a week out of school, 3 missing football games, and a permanent scar above my upper lip that will forever remind me of my audaciousness.

    I bet you’re wondering how I’ll tie this to music?

    (Gosh, why do I always have to tie my stories to music anyway? Can’t I just tell a story to tell it!?!)

    Haha, I’m joking. I don’t mind because there *IS* a message here.

    The message is there’s always a time and place for everything.

    Yes, I was excited to finally be playing real tackle football. To the next kid who had been playing since 7, it was perhaps just another year of ball. For me, it was something I wanted to do for years!

    Going “heads up” isn’t a bad thing… WHEN ON THE FIELD, UNDER SUPERVISION!

    Going heads up without the proper equipment and in the wrong setting is BAD. It wasn’t the time nor place to be engaging in such a thing, and unfortunately I paid the price. Everyday, I see the manifestation of “bad time and place” on my lip (although, now disguised a little bit by my mustache.)

    Undoubtedly, as you excel in your music and learn new chords, voicings, patterns, and ideas, excitement is going to overwhelm you.

    You’re going to want to play everything you know in the first 20 seconds of your performance. You may even have the urge to be super busy sneaking in a “lick” or “run” after every other chord.

    This is no different than my desire to go “heads up” all the time, whether against inanimate objects like sofas or in the back of classrooms. Rather than saving and harnessing that energy for the RIGHT TIME, I was like a 2-year old at Chuck E. Cheeses.

    There is a time and place for everything.

    Veteran musicians know when someone is new and inexperienced because the new guy will “pull out all the stops” right from the beginning. They’ll start the song with the same intensity and dynamics they should instead end with. They’ll be “flipping” and reharmonizing melodies from the first chord! (Don’t get me wrong, “flipping songs” and making things your own is the name of the game but you gradually build up to that.)

    The experienced one, on the other hand, will approach their performance thoughtfully and strategically, “keeping their powder dry” until the right time. They may start the song very basic. The next time around, they may add a little something more. And as the song progresses, they’ll include more and more of them at the right time.

    They understand the importance of “time” and “place.”

    So the next time you feel tempted to act this way, remember my lip.

    You’ll have plenty of time to go “heads up,” don’t worry.

    Silence is more musical than any song.
    Christina Rossetti

    And that goes for anything in life!

    Balance, my friend, is the key word.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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