Robbed of his chance, Hartman shows that it's never too late
Tomorrow has this habit of arriving for all of us, jobs and kids and mortgages, faithfully obstructing opportunities for thought and reflection. In those moments, though, when we lapse into the old days, we remember high school by dismissing class with clinical indifference, while recalling games, bus rides and other various shapes and forms of our teams and teammates with religious zealotry.
Tomorrow arrived for Ross Hartman earlier than it should have. He was the quarterback at Fitch High in 1992. Senior year. You know the deal: You are 17, the quarterback, The Man. Invincible. Right until that one moment you're not.
Hartman, thin enough in those days to be spread across a cracker, wasn't the best candidate for the thud that ultimately resulted in a broken collarbone that hijacked his senior year. Ross Hartman never really got to live the days that would become embellished over the years at reunions.
But he's living them now.
Funny how so many moments in life eventually come around again, perhaps to form a balance, perhaps to illustrate that life imparts answers at its own pace.
Ross Hartman, 38, is a quarterback again.
OK, so it hath not the charm of Friday Night Lights. It's flag football in Preston on Sunday mornings. And again this past Saturday during a tournament at Poquonnock Plains Park where hundreds gathered to honor the memory of the late Raheem Carter, one of Hartman's successors.
There's the old quarterback again, the fastball still not ready for the rocking chair. He's playing with old Fitch pals Calvin McCoy and Greg Drab, among others, all the thirtysomethings in a league of twentysomethings.
"We don't talk as much about the old days because we can talk about right now," Hartman was saying one recent Sunday, wearing a jersey top of his team that, fittingly, bore the same colors, scarlet and black, of his high school team.
"It keeps us sane," he said. "It's gotten much harder. We don't have the same moves we used to. But it gets us away from the grind so we can fret and stress about why we didn't play well when we're 38 years old."
Hartman, who lives in Rhode Island, believes he is more noteworthy now as Matt Harvey's brother-in-law. Yes. He married Jocelyn, Matt's sister. Ross is a husband, dad and business owner, generally busier than Grand Central. No, he doesn't have much time to fret and stress over a 20-year-old collarbone injury.
"Hey Calvin," Hartman said to McCoy rhetorically, "do I think about my injury a lot?"
"It bothered me in the sense that I thought I let my teammates down," Hartman said. "I think it had bigger impact on my dad. It hurt him that it crushed me. My father knew how much I looked forward to playing. You're 17. You have a lot of stuff going on in your life."
And so Hartman was plenty busy without football until one day a few years ago when it changed. It began, as so many good stories do, with a phone call.
"We had been playing in the (Preston) league and our quarterback was 'pick 6' after 'pick 6,'" Drab said. "Finally, I said, 'hey, I heard Ross is staying in shape.' So we called."
You never forget your old quarterback.
"I went in the backyard, threw a football 20 times against a tree and I was ready," Hartman said. "We went to the finals in Raheem's tournament against teams half our age."
Drab is still happy to report that Hartman "has a missile."
Hartman is one of the people in the world closest to his brother-in-law, who is becoming baseball's most famous pitcher. They text and talk frequently.
"I'm commonly referred to as the guy who walks behind Matt's sister," Hartman said, alluding to how he was portrayed in a Sports Illustrated piece. "That's still a good place to be.
"The cool thing about Matt is that for what he's going through, he's done a very good job handling it," Hartman said. "He really does a good job keeping in contact with people he's known. He hasn't changed in that sense. He stays in touch with his friends and his family. A special guy. The relationship he has with my wife is great. With me, too. He's my brother."
And Hartman can attest that if Matt is indeed his brother, he sure isn't heavy. That was illustrated recently in the ESPN The Magazine "The Body" issue when Harvey proved hot stuff in the buff.
"He's gluten free now, so he's in good enough shape where he can do that," Hartman said.
Then Ross Hartman grinned and said, "Maybe we'll get the chance to do it here with our flags on. Me, Calvin and Drab."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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