Letters to Tom — Button Hook

Dear Tom:

 Well the Super Bowl is over and we will not be watching football for another 6 months. Not that we will not hear a lot about football, the potential strike or lockout, the 2011 Draft, trades and signing of free agents will all dominate the sports channels, but an actual game is now half a year away. ( I don’t count spring games or scrimmages these days). As I watched last night’s game and the precision pass routes the receivers ran, I remembered a football fundamental pass route I was taught long ago called the “buttonhook.” It was named after what many people these days have never seen — a tool called a buttonhook. It was a tool used to facilitate the closing of shoes, gloves or other apparel that used buttons as fasteners. It consisted of a steel hook fixed to a handle which may be simple or decorative. Sometimes they were given away as promotions with product advertising on the handle. To use, the hook end is inserted through the buttonhole to capture the button by the shank and draw it through the opening.

            The pass route took a path that mirrored the tool. The receiver would run straight down the field for 10 to 12 yards and then pivot and turn to face the receiver. If timed properly the ball would arrive just as the receiver made his turn making the play difficult to defend. The key to the play was timing, and the receiver remembering two fundamentals. First, the receiver always went to a specific a spot before he turned and that spot was usually about two yards past the yardage goal for the play. That goal was usually across the line where the receiver would accomplish a first down if the pass was completed. But why two yards past? The first reason—to make sure the goal was reached, the first down. By going past the goal the receiver made sure the play would not come up short. If the receiver turned precisely at the line he risked if tackled immediately of coming “up short.” The linesman might mark the forward progress a few inches short and the goal of a first down would not be met. The second reason, even the best receivers forget on occasion. You go past your goal, make your turn, and step towards the quarterback. It is called coming back for the ball. The defender who usually is behind the receiver is prevented from going through you or getting to the same spot if the receiver takes a necessary step back after making his turn. Try it sometime with a partner and you will see how taking a step back after your turn insures the only person who can catch the ball is the receiver. But again, you have to go past the first down line before you come back to receive the ball past the goal.

            Why all this explanation of one of the most basic plays in football? Like the receiver, we run our routes and our journeys with goals in mind. We should remember to run a little bit further before we turn, and to always take that step to the source of life’s reward. We take a step toward God in order to receive.

Your friend, Webb

PS: Suzy says football is over, enough, and besides the Quarterback isn’t God except to Packers fans.

About the author

Webb Hubbell is the former Associate Attorney General of The United States. His novels, When Men Betray, Ginger Snaps, A Game of Inches, The Eighteenth Green, and The East End are published by Beaufort Books and are available online or at your local bookstore. When Men Betray won one of the IndieFab awards for best novel in 2014. Ginger Snaps and The Eighteenth Green won the IPPY Awards Gold Medal for best suspense/thriller. His latest, “Light of Day” will be on the bookstands soon.

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