In the subtitle to his book, "Dream Season," Bob Cowser describes himself as "a professor" who "joins America's oldest semi-pro football team."
The characterization is a little misleading. Cowser is no George Plimpton. This author actually played a little organized football in his youth; he's a big, strong guy; and as his experience with the locally legendary Red and Black, an upstate New York semi-pro team, commences, he's no older than some of the more experienced players.
Still, his decision to return to football as an adult with a job and a family bespeaks either a surfeit of courage or a lack of sense...perhaps both. The resulting book will reinforce the convictions of folks already inclined to think grown men who play football are morons: Cowser's teammates favor foul language and fraternity-type initiations. They are suspicious of his weird inclination to read, even after he proves he can get up after somebody knocks him down. The professor in pads seems to make fewer close friends than one might have anticipated, given the bonding potential among teammates of all ages and both genders. But Cowser's determination to explore his own inclination toward competition, including the requisite bruises, is intriguing. He's perceptive and honest enough to see and discuss his limitations on the field, but stubborn in his attempts to make a place for himself on the team. Playing football still doesn't sound like much fun to me, but I have a more informed appreciation of how others might feel otherwise.
When I talked to Bob Cowser, I was a little surprised to learn that he has continued to play semi-pro football, albeit for a new team. Maybe I shouldn't have been. At the end of Dream Season, he provides readers with a sense of how he's been able to maintain a reasonably healthy perspective on his adventure even after part of the motivation for it - the book — is no longer an excuse. "The boys called me 'Bobby,' a name out of my childhood," he writes. "I guess I represented a figure of some authority as a veteran and college professor, but I had to laugh when I heard one of the younger guys, bless his heart, refer to me as 'a no-nonsense family man.' What do you mean, I wanted to say, it's all nonsense. All of it. A game."
This program aired on November 6, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.