FIRST MAN DOWN THE FIELD
© 2015, Gadi Bossin
P.O. Box 20
Kiryat Bialik, Israel
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
FIRST MAN DOWN THE FIELD
Zach, this is my gift to you in celebration of your becoming a Montana State Bobcat football player. In a way, it’s also my father’s gift to you. I know he’d be bursting with pride over your achievements on the gridiron.
You see, your great-grandfather, Robert Reuven Bob Bobby Bossin, was an outstanding football player in Toronto in the early 1930’s, between 80 and 85 years ago.
It had been decades since I last looked at the collection of Dad’s sports memorabilia. But for you, Zach, I climbed up into the crawl space above our rooms in order to forage through the box of my father’s medals, newspaper clippings and team photos.
There is a lot more to tell than I’m going to tell you now, Zach. Dad excelled in baseball, softball and football. But now on the occasion of your joining the Montana State football program, I’m going to limit what I tell you here to a few remarks about Dad’s gridiron days.
First, I want you to know that he and his Kiwanis club teammates won five championships between 1931 and 1934.
In 1931, they won the Toronto and District Midget age group championship.
In 1932 and 1933, they won the Toronto and District Juvenile age group championships.
They added the provincial title, the Ontario Rugby Football Union championship, in 1933.
But they didn’t stop there.
Your great-grandfather and several of his teammates moved up the following year to the Toronto Junior Argonauts and won the 1934 Canadian junior championship.
The following year, he and several of his Kiwanis and Junior Argonauts teammates went up to the big team, the Canadian Football League Toronto Argonauts.
But unfortunately during the preseason, your great-grandfather suffered a serious knee injury that forced him into early retirement from rugby football.
In those days, medicine couldn’t provide the kind of career-saving surgery it can today.
That injury kept him out of the army in World War Two.
I know he hated it that the Canadian forces rejected him because of his injury, but it’s occurred to me that perhaps I owe my life to that knee injury of his.
Zach, I’ve dug up a few articles reporting on those championship football teams he played on.
Two in particular celebrate the 1933 Kiwanis Juveniles Ontario football champions.
The first is going to amaze you.
It refers to the team’s astounding points for and against record for the season “which may never be equalled in Canadian rugby. Their year’s score against all comers was 176 points for and only 4 points against.”
Points for: 176. Points against : 4!
The second speaks about the importance of line play and sounds very up-to-date. It could have been written about the 2014 season.
It notes that “a championship team is just as strong as its line and the Kiwanis juveniles excelled in strong line players who could take it and stand up under fire.”
That article about the line singles out your great-grandfather for high praise:
“Bobby Bossin was in a class by himself when it came to running interference at offensive tackle. He also broke up many plays as a middle lineman on defense.“
Zach, in those days players played both ways, on offense and defense.
There was one other very special keepsake I came across.
It’s a paper dinner place setting in the shape of a football. Dad once told me it was from the end-of-season banquet celebrating the victory of the 1934 Toronto Argonauts in the Junior Grey Cup game.
Dad signed it in the middle and the other players autographed it all around his signature.
On the flip side, Dad printed in bold capital letters:
1934 CANADIAN JUNIOR GREY CUP CHAMPIONS!
Among those autographs, I recognized some of the names, names Dad had mentioned over the years, men he ran into every now and then around Toronto in his workaday life or when he attended ball games at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium where the Argonauts played in the 1950’s.
He would reminisce with them and then come home and tell me about what they had talked about.
In a place of honor in the upper left corner of the dinner place setting “football” is the autograph of the team’s quarterback and sometime running back, Annis Stukus. Stukus was a well-known sportscaster on a Toronto television station in the early 1960’s.
Though agile and sure-footed on the playing fields of his youth, as a middle-aged sports announcer, Stukus tripped and stumbled over his words—I always thought he was a bit of a bumbler—but he was after all well-respected as a knowledgeable football analyst and was revered by fans who had seen him play decades earlier.
Dad used to say it was impossible for one man to bring “Stuke” down.
“He had legs like tree trunks. You needed to gang tackle him. And then he would carry the tacklers along for several yards before they could bring him down.”
Stukus had played together with Dad on both the 176 PF-to-4 PA Kiwanis Juveniles in 1933 and the Junior Grey Cup-winning Argos.
Zach, back in those days, everything was different.
Dad’s playing weight was 175 pounds and he was only five feet seven inches tall. Even though there were a few “big” guys playing the game, most were shorter than six feet and weighed less than 200 pounds.
In general, people were smaller than they are today.
Unlike you, Zach, your great-grandfather was no speedster.
The secret of his outstanding line play was quickness, not speed. He was super-proud of his quickness and of the way he and his fellow linemen played the game.
He told me that he and his line mates outsmarted and outmaneuvered their larger, slower opponents.
When I was a boy, he showed me a few tricks of the trade.
What I remember best was about how to force fumbles and how to fall on them. Forcing fumbles and falling on them were his specialties and they became mine, too.
(Even though I played organized tackle football only at the junior high school level and played flag football thereafter, including in college intramural leagues, I used those pointers to good effect and pried many a ball loose and fell on them just so, exactly as Dad showed me.)
So I love it—really love it, Zach!—when I see that you, too, as a defensive ballplayer make the most of every opportunity to create a turnover, that you have made recovering fumbles and snagging interceptions your trademarks, along with being the kickoff team player my father, your great-grandfather, could never have been—he was just not fast enough—the first man down the field, making the tackle on the kick returner.