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The Sounds of Competition: The Past is Present for the Industrial Football League January 30, 2009

Posted by William Spear in >> News, >> Radio Drama.
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In 2007, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Industrial Football League (IFL), executives of the team’s six teams commissioned a tribute titled “The Past is Present”. They turned to Johnny Parks, longtime IFL announcer, to write and voice it.

The IFL is a six-team, two conference organization consisting of independently owned clubs around Roberts County. It was started in 1932 during the Great Depression by local businesses as a means to boost morale among employees and customers.

Players also earned extra money at a time when extra money was hard to come by. This “second job” status from the league’s early days was never abandoned. Even in current times, the league’s players hold down jobs elsewhere and play for their respective teams in the evening and on weekends.

Only choice for tribute was Johnny Parks

Parks’ reputation as a sportscaster was legendary. His broadcasts of events in and around the county had thrilled listeners for decades. He was the first announcer voted into the Roberts County Hall of Fame and the only sports figure inducted before retiring. His choice as the voice for the tribute was never questioned.

In the summer of 2007, Parks began writing the tribute. His health had been failing and he would give himself as much time as possible. He spent the entire month of August at Spring Lake, New Jersey crafting the piece. His words and voice would be accompanied by original music and archival footage of the IFL’s first 75 years.

In September, about one month before the start of the 75th IFL season, Parks recorded “The Past is Present”. Everyone in the recording session raved about the piece. Parks captured both the historic roots of the league and its parttime players. However, he also presented the pain and grueling season players endure in terms and extremes similar to other professional footballers.

Tragedies

Later in the evening, a fire broke out in the recording studio. Everything was destroyed, including that day’s work on “The Past is Present”. No backups or duplicates had been saved nor had second versions been stored elsewhere.

Parks and the league hastily scheduled another recording session for two weeks later. But before he could go back into another studio, he died.

Words survive

Parks’ words linking the current office workers/footballers with the previous generations of farm and factory hands trace an arc of the league’s history and continuity. Although no recordings of “The Past is Present” survived the fire, his words are printed in their entirety:

“The Past is Present”

Offices they flee
Their echoed strength to see
If age or softness rule.

Suits during the day
Football nightly they play
Hitting and blocking duel.

Teams are of seven
And pain south of heaven
Wearied beyond fatigue.

Their muscles are sore
In the I-F-L, or
Industrial Football League.

Speed is the power
Which carries the hour
And brains help win each game

Courage, together
With helmets once leather,
Will bring the victors fame.

The season is long
For the men who are strong
As they fight to excel.

Their journey each week,
Not for mild or meek,
Is called the I-F-L.

Started in bleak times,
With few nickels and dimes,
In nineteen thirty-two.

Winning footballers
Promised cheers and dollars.
Losers left black and blue.

From fact’ries they came,
And their farms just the same
All had stories to tell.

Drenched in the cold rain,
And stabbed by frozen pain,
To play the I-F-L.

October they’d start
With a rise in their hearts
And smiles as wide as fields.

December they’d slow
Running through ice and snow.
That’s when desire yields.

At length, two teams stood,
Above all others good,
To answer one last bell.

Then fiercely they’d fight.
With all means in their sight.
Such was the I-F-L.

Many decades hence
On fields frostily dense
They rage and roar and yell.

Victors still echo
Through past and present snow
To win the I-F-L.

The Present

The IFL commissioned other announcers to perform Parks’ work at the start of the 2007 season as a memorial to him. His work with aurally branding the league’s six teams was also featured each week of the season.

The loss of Johnny Parks was a severe blow to the IFL and the league continues to search for its next voice.

Credits

“The Past is Present” is scheduled to be included in the forthcoming anthology titled “Mayonnaise in My Cake” expected to be released on October 1, 2009. Ongoing details will be published at Lit Between the Ears.

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