The Football Bounty
THE REQUEST: Write your favorite story about your dad
Okay, here comes the all-timer. You asked for it.
I've told this story before, so some of my friends might have already
heard it. But here comes maybe my favorite Lanza Family Story of them
all. Not to mention the greatest and also, simultaneously, the most
horrifying Pee Wee Football Story of all time.
Early side note:
My brother and I have talked about all these stories over the years,
and Dom and I both agree that this one is definitely the showstopper.
In the words of my brother, "that football bounty story is unreal."
never played football as a kid, but my
brother did. And my dad was ALWAYS my brother's Pee Wee football coach.
year in the Bellevue Boys and Girls Club Football program, between the
years 1982 through 1988, there were the Foxes. And there was my brother, their star center. And there was his
ever-present coach, Coach
The man of the questionable tactics.
Coach Jim. The Bad Boy of the Bellevue Boys and Girls Club.
And WHY do I call my dad "The Man of the Questionable Tactics?" Well I'm glad you asked, friend. Because I'll tell you.
because my dad is the only coach in youth football league history
who literally put a bounty on an eleven year old running back.
You hear me, thirty-four? This was a message from Coach Jim.
is one of the rare stories on this page where I wasn't actually there to witness it
myself. But my brother was there, and he's told it to me many, many times
over the years. So for this one, I'm pretty much just repeating the legend as it's been told.
one Saturday morning out on the pee wee football
field, my dad's team is playing against some other random team from
Redmond. And on the other team they have this incredible eleven year
old running back.
And this incredible eleven year old running back is absolutely just
KILLING my dad's team. He's
pretty much scoring at will, every single time he touches the ball. And
my dad is apparently getting more and more pissed, because no one on
his team has the ability to stop him.
when the game reaches halftime, my dad pulls his team into a little
huddle. And this is where he hands out the offer that will forever
mark the reason why coaches in the future will now be required to
have "background checks."
My dad says, "You know what? First one to knock that kid out of the game gets ten bucks."
That's right. My dad literally put a price on the head of an eleven year old kid.
Sorry son, Coach Jim said you were worth ten bucks. Blame the economy. Important side
There has been a lot of controversy regarding this story over the
years. Not so much over the ethics of the whole thing (yes, I'm aware that
putting bounties on children is a moral gray area at best, I'll fully concede that.) No, the controversy has always
been... was my dad actually serious when he said that? Or was he just
joking around with one of the coaches? Since I wasn't there that
day to see it, I couldn't tell you for sure. And my brother has always demurred
on this over the years, too, if dad had actually been serious or not. So
honestly, neither one of us knows. Although I can ABSOLUTELY tell you, without a
shadow of a doubt, that it's something my dad would have said. I
know that because just like he was always Dom's coach in football, he was always my coach in basketball. And I
ABSOLUTELY heard him say very similar things in basketball. If you
were ever the star player on the opposing team in basketball, he would send in the dogs
fact, I had this one teammate in basketball, Kjel Holmberg (pronounced
"Shell.") Kjel was always my dad's... for lack of a better term...
we'll say... "enforcer." And I literally heard my dad say stuff like this
to Kjel all the time: "Hey you see number six over there? The kid with the good jump shot? Well... make sure he doesn't have a very good day."
Kjel Holmberg, number ten. My dad's twelve year old hitman.
"When I first started playing, I barely knew what a basketball was. Jim saw that. He was an excellent evaluator of talent."
-Kjel Holmberg, 2023
yeah, this really was what it was like when you played for my dad. He
would always have an enforcer on his team. And that enforcer would
ALWAYS get used. In fact, this was literally my dad's favorite phrase
as a basketball coach: "You get four free fouls in a game. USE
Lanza taught me my signature Boys Club move: The hip-check in the paint
"they won't call a foul if your arms are in." Good life lesson there. Without Jim Lanza I never would have reached my full potential on the basketball court."
-Kjel Holmberg, 2023
Oh, and also...
And wasn't I just the cutest little girl in my knee socks?
So anyway, back to football.
my dad has just put a price on the head of an eleven year old running back. Ten bucks if you knock that kid out of the game.
And whether the offer had actually been serious or not, I don't know. But, I mean, his
team had been listening.
about midway into the third quarter, this kid with the price
on his head gets
tackled. And the whole thing winds up in a big dogpile. All these kids
are just piled there on top of each other, in a big scrum. And when they
pull the running
back out from the bottom of the pile, it turns out he has twisted his
knee. Some kid from my dad's team has fallen onto him at the bottom of
the pile, and it has screwed up his knee. Some swear it was an
accident. Some swear it was on purpose. Who knows. To this day, forty years later, it's like Fight
Club. No one will talk about it.
In any case, as you can
imagine, the minute the kids on my dad's team see the kid with the
bounty on his head is going to have to come out, they start to get all excited.
Because they know that some
lucky son of a bitch on their team is about to get paid.
Some lucky eleven year old has
just pulled off a hit, and is about to get ten dollars in cash.
Tough luck, Theismann. Maybe next time you won't run for eight hundred yards in the first half. Oh, and also, consider this a message from Coach Jim.
I'm not going to mention the kid's name, the one who actually got
credit for pulling off the hit. Let's just say he was was one of
the bigger kids on my dad's team. And his name was... uh... "T-Bone."
Let's just say it was T-Bone. And because T-Bone was the last one they pulled off the kid,
naturally T-Bone is the one who instantly gets credit for it.
And this, of course, is the moment where everything on the field quickly devolves into chaos.
"T-Bone fell on him!" one kid on my dad's team says, excitedly, when he
sees the injured kid. "T-Bone knocked him out of the game! T-Bone gets
Then a few other kids join in, excitedly chattering. "T-Bone gets ten
dollars! T-Bone gets ten dollars!" They're all super excited about it. Now
they all start cheering and chanting. "T-Bone! T-Bone! T-Bone! T-Bone!"
all the cheering, and the injury, the coach from the other
team now comes STORMING onto the
field. Because he's pissed. He wants to know exactly A) what just
happened to his star running
back, and B) why the kids on the Foxes are all cheering and saying
"T-Bone fell on him! T-Bone gets ten dollars! T-Bone! T-Bone!" He's
absolutely furious, and rightfully so. Because something seems a
tiny bit shady about this.
Meanwhile, over on the Foxes sideline, there's my dad. Who is furiously trying
to get every kid on his team to shut up. Doing whatever he can not to
give away the fact that some kid on his team has just earned a fresh, crisp new ten dollar bill. And
this is the point in the story that I have to kick myself because
damnit, I NEVER ACTUALLY SAW ANY OF THIS. The only reason I know about
this story at ALL is because of the two hundred times over the years
that I've heard about it from my brother. He was the one who
all the chaos on the field that day. I didn't.
And I don't know about you. But as a storyteller who missed one of the great stories of all time... THAT KILLS ME!
Apparently she had something better to do with her Saturday, like bake muffins.
Oh, and the greatest part about all of the chaos on the field? Well here's the punchline that I always like telling people.
ALL the chaos on the field, and ALL the screaming and shouting, and ALL
the furious efforts by my dad to get his kids to shut up, the
ref blows a whistle. And he calls for a penalty.
The coach for the OTHER team gets docked fifteen yards for storming onto the field.
The REAL villain of the story. Because remember, kids, sportsmanship is important.
And anyway, that's how my dad got away (scot free!) with putting a bounty on an eleven year old kid.
Oh yeah, and in case you're wondering. Legend has it that one night...
in a shadowy back alley somewhere... under the cover of darkness...
T-Bone was indeed handed an unmarked white envelope with a fresh, crisp, new ten dollar bill inside of it. Because remember, that's what a good Godfather does. He rewards you for loyalty.
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