Grant Keltner

The Concussion

The concussion

I was seventeen, it was the fall of my senior year, and it was October, 1975.  That was a great fall, one of my favorites, I had just finished watching the Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox in the 1975 World Series, it was a painful world series, game six was a great memory for me back then, when Carton Fisk waved for his home run ball to stay fair as it sailed out towards left field.  I was a huge Red Sox fan back then; it broke my heart when they lost game seven.  It was a beautiful fall back then, the leaves had turned, and a wide variety of fall colors decorated N.W. Portland that autumn.

I was attending Lincoln High school at the time, located in S.W. Portland.  I was getting ready to play for the Portland city championship with men’s soccer this particular day, I’ll always remember the night, and it was going to be a magical night.  We were ranked second in state at the time and the team had worked hard the entire season in readying ourselves for a run for the state championships.  I had fallen in love with soccer a couple years earlier, right around my sophomore year.  I had played club soccer with the Portland Oysters (High school club team), within a year the state of Oregon included both men’s, and woman’s soccer, making it a varsity sport by the fall of 1974.  Everyone was excited that day, we had been written up in the Oregonian, several sports writers had gathered this day to cover the event, many local television stations had scheduled to show highlights of the big game.  It was a cold, rainy, dark night with the championship game.  We had played well my senior year, several of the players had been playing soccer both in high school and with club and select all-star teams.; the varsity soccer team at Lincoln that fall finished league going 11-1-0.  We would be playing the city championship at historical Civic Stadium, we’d be playing on old Astroturf, the field would be wet and slick, fog rolled in during the late afternoon, it began to pour, I thought to myself, I knew the soccer ball would surly skip along the artificial surface, unexpected bounces off the turf would certainly make the ball move faster than normal.  Dark clouds came rolling in that night, they covered the west hills.  I remember feeling apprehensive, a bit scared; there was a lot of pressure that day.

After school I went home right away, and if I remember right I walked back to N.W. Portland, I couldn’t sit still; I was so nervous, anxious in wanting to play the game as the afternoon wore on.  The phone rang a few times, I didn’t pick it up.  I had a really good year that season as the starting goalkeeper, I had been the starting goalkeeper for the Lincoln Cardinals for almost a year now, my junior year we had finished second in state, we were ready for the city championship game that night, we’d be playing the Franklin Quakers.  I had allowed six gals the entire season up to the city championship game, I had several shutouts that year, matter of fact I still hold the school record for fewest goals allowed in a season, I was always proud of this accomplishment.  I had some great players that helped make my job much easier.

I laid out my soccer gear on my bed.  I said a prayer, a small prayer in asking to watch over me.  Soccer is a hard physical game of endurance, skill teamwork, dedication, and creativity.  I went into the kitchen and made a sandwich, put on some music in helping relax, I sat down and worked on some writing that I was doing for the Cardinal Times, at that time I had a column that ran in the school newspaper, it was a satirical, factual, humorous column, I had been working on a portion of the article that day, I had a tight deadline and wanted to make sure I finished the piece before I turned it in on Friday afternoon.  Mr. Baily was our journalism teacher; I knew he was a stickler in making sure my stories were written correctly.  He was one of the toughest teachers I had at Lincoln, he wanted us to be the best we could be.

I sat alone for a while gathering my thoughts.  My mother’s apartment faced out towards Montgomery Park, the leaves flew by the window of her apartment as I sat there thinking about the upcoming game.  All my friends and family were planning on attending the big match that night, I called my grandmother.

“You can do it Grant, I know you can, I have faith in you!’ bubbled my grandmother.  She wished me good luck; she knew we’d do well.  She was so reassuring.  She had been following me through my high school athletics, I started on the baseball team, started in left field my sophomore and junior years, I played city league basketball and club soccer in the winter and spring, needless to say I was active.  I tried out for the Lincoln club soccer team my sophomore year, I watched and learned the game, I learned from Steve Angel and Rich Director and Mark Coldwell, all great players with Lincoln soccer, some of my team mates transferred from Catlin Gabel (a famous private school tucked up in the west hills.  Catlin was a powerhouse with soccer back then, they had won six straight state titles), on Saturday mornings we watched “Soccer Made in Germany.”  It was great fun, the Timbers made their debut in the spring of my junior year in high school, the Timbers made it all the way to the N.A.S.L. championship game, eventually losing to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  Within a matter of a few months soccer became a huge sport in Portland.  The city of Portland had fall in love with the sport.

My grandmother wished me good luck; she knew we’d do well.  She was so reassuring; I always liked calling her when I faced a big event.  Several of my team mates had planned on meeting at Blaine Deming’s house, which at that time was about a block away from my mother’s apartment.  Seems like the Deming’s had offered to have the team over before the game, they would provide us with dinner and a ride to the game.  Everyone showed up at their house that night, friends from the football team and from the cross country team came over, everyone was excited, and dogs barked in the courtyard of their backyard, a few kids on the team started to kick a soccer ball in the back yard.

The phone rang and it was Blaine Deming at the other end, Blaine had talked me into playing soccer when I was a sophomore, he believed in me, he thought I was a great goalkeeper.  I kept reminding him I hadn’t done anything yet.

“Grant, when will you be at my house?  Franco is here and a few of the other guys,” said Blaine.

‘Blaine give me a few minutes, I’ll be there by 5:00 P.M.”

I hung up the phone, went back in my room and started to put on my soccer gear, I put on a warm turtle neck first, followed by my black goalkeeper jersey, and then I put on some shorts, then some stretchy warm-ups, followed by my socks, shin guards and another pair of soccer socks over the shin guards.  I put on some tennis shoes and grabbed my soccer shoes.  Andrew Groshong loaned me a pair of Puma molded cleats that were made for AstroTurf earlier in the day.  I grabbed my goalkeeping gloves and put them in a back pack and stuffed in a clean t-shirt and a hat along with my soccer shoes.  I put on my rain coat and looked around in making sure I didn’t forget anything.  I headed out the front door and shut the door.  I headed over to the staircase that led up to N.W. Cornell road.  I headed east, down Cornell, crossed the street and soon I was at the Deming’s house.  I could hear some of my team mates busily hurrying around outside of the house.

I rang the doorbell, it was Blaine that answered.

“Come on in Grant!”

I entered their home, it was a beautiful spot, well decorated, everyone had congregated in the kitchen, there were thirteen, or so of my team mates, most of them couldn’t stand still, a soccer ball was on the floor, everyone was excited.  Mrs. Deming had made some spaghetti and a huge tossed salad, bread and fruit.  We all sat down and got our fair share of food.  The doorbell rang and a few more kids came on in.  Everyone that started on the team was there, Dan Shallanberger (Right wing), Franco Ferrua (Striker), George Kissas (Center midfield), Blaine Deming (Left wing), Andrew Groshong (Right half back), Robert Jumonville (Left half back), Peter Serrier (Central defense), Ben Miller (Fullback), Gordon Bowen (Sweeper), Tim Green (Left back) and Phil Bennet (Right back) were there, John Monague was there, Chris Leonard, Pat Burns, John Bennet, John Williamson, Richard Paxson and a few other people that would be called on as substitutes if need be. We had some really good athletes on the team.  A bunch of underclassmen showed up, kids on the junior varsity team, friends of their friends showed up.  We had close to twenty five people there!  Our head coach Greg Kreble showed up along with Dennis Tong the assistant coach.  We talked about the team, sat down and discussed what we needed to do to win the game that night, we discussed what we had to accomplish to win, dogs barked, some of the younger kids started to scream and get excited, it was close to 6:00 P.M or so.

“Let’s go Cards!” yelled one of the parents that had showed up in helping Mrs. Deming.

We all laughed and started to get ready to go, I piled into Andrew Groton’s fathers big Dodge pickup, and he headed down to Lincoln high school.  We laughed and joked on the way down to the school.

Several cars pulled up in front of the Deming’s, kids pilled in cars and soon we had a caravan heading down through N.W. Portland.  Within a matter of minutes we arrived at Lincoln high school, it was around 6:30 P.M.  We were supposed to meet at the locker room with the men’s soccer team, we were supposed to go over some chalk talk and then walk over to Civic stadium as a team.  It was dark and cold that night, it was just a couple of blocks in getting over to the stadium.  I was excited; everyone came up to me, slapping me on the back or my shoulder.  I loved soccer, it had quickly become a true love of mine, and I received awards and had received admiration from coaches and players around the Portland metro area.

“You can do it Grant!” yelled one of my buddies on the cross country team, it was David Boileau, one of my closest friends of mine while I was attending high school.  David was always good about going to my soccer games.

It was a great group of guys; looking back we had some wonderful players on our team.  Peter Serrier, Robert Jumonville, Franco Ferrua, Blaine Deming, Gordon Bowen, and George Kissas were the players with the most experience with soccer back then.  Several of our players went on to play college soccer.

I remember walking out of the Lincoln locker room that night, I had visited with the trainer, I had got some ICEY Hot rubbed on my legs, I headed out the side entrance to the locker rooms, and I walked down along the sidewalk of the school.  K.G.W. channel 8 was located right next door to Lincoln, I walked out to the coach’s parking lot, a few players were there, looking at me, you could see they were ready to go, several teachers were there, planning on going to the game, Mr. Baily was there, Mr. Morton and a few of the athletic trainers started to walk briskly up to S.W. Salmon.  I kept reviewing what I had to do in the game, I had to be aggressive, I had to come off my line as quickly as possible, I had to dominate the box, make sure I talked to my defenders, make sure my kicks and punts were accurate, if there was anything in the air around the 18 yard box I had to be able to capture all fifty-fifty balls.  I walked along S.W. Salmon, the lights were turned off at the Lincoln football field, and I looked through the cyclone fence that surrounded the football field.  It started to rain, a few of the guys from the team went running by, I made my way across S.W. 18th and then approached historical Civic Stadium.  We headed down the service entrance road out near center field, we walked down into the stadium, the lights were on, the players from Franklin were there, warming up, kicking soccer balls up against the center field and right field walls, I proceeded to head to the team locker room located under the main grandstands.  I found the locker room; a big piece of paper was hung from the front of the locker room door, it had the word “Lincoln” written out in dark felt marker, there was everyone on the team standing in the middle of the locker room, everyone was getting ready for the game.  I could hear people start to enter the stadium, fans poured in, some had drums or plastic horns.  I could hear cheer leaders, people started to scream.  I got nervous, I went into the room containing the urinal stales and went the bathroom, I went back into the locker room and stretched, someone threw a ball at me, and I caught it quickly.

“O.K. boys this is it!” cried coach Kriebal he looked at us with pride.

Everyone started to yell, and scream, we met in the center of the locker room and each player put a hand in the middle of a circle, we looked at each other and smiled.  It was an amazing feeling that night; I had all the faith in the world in my fellow teammates, we were truly a team, we played as a team and stood beside each other.  Everyone started to walk out the locker room; we headed through a dark narrow tunnel leading us down towards the playing field, we headed out to the main entry of the tunnel that led us out onto the huge soccer field.  The lights lit up the entire stadium, you could see the rain falling down against the huge light towers that surrounded the stadium, there were four or five thousand people at the game, and there were people up on the porch of the Multnomah Club.  I could hear Ben Millers mother ringing a big cow bell, there were about a thousand people on the porch.  My mother had gotten off work that night early to watch me play, she was so proud of me.

Franklin had won the P.I.L. eastern division that year, they had a big team, physical, they had Ricardo Zalinski on their team, and he was a tough player.  Both teams were ready to go full tilt, I could tell my teammates were nervous, some of their kicks went flying in the air.  I started to warm up, I felt good; my punts were long and deep, almost sixty yards or so.  I practiced my throws, threw the soccer ball about thirty yards to two or three defenders on the team.  I got in goal and they practiced shooting on me, I dove to my right and to my left.  I felt quick and agile in the goal, I made some great saves.  People started to yell and scream, kick off was scheduled for 7:30 P.M. that night.  I could see my mother up on the porch of the Multnomah Club, I waved to her.  She waved at me, she was excited.  My mother was always so good about attending my athletic events.

Soon the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the large center circle, the captains from each team met in the middle, the referee tossed his silver coin in the air, it landed heads up, and we would kick off.

We met over on the east side of the soccer field; Franklin had the west side of the field.  We gathered in a circle and gave out a team cheer, the captain of the team back then was Robert Jumonville, he was a spark plug for our team, he never stopped running, and I loved playing soccer with Robert.  He looked at me and smiled.  I jogged down to the south end of Civic stadium; I looked up toward the porch overhanging off of the Multnomah club.  I ran back and forth in the goal, I tapped the cross bar for good luck, it became quiet, just for an instant as I stood in goal waiting for the kick off.

Within a few seconds we had kicked off, the players for both teams ran hard and fast, people slid on the turf when they tried a slide tackle, we put pressure on the Franklin goal, Dan Shallanburger took a shot on goal, it went right to the goalkeeper.  He held the ball for a few seconds and gave the ball a long kick; it went passed the midfield stripe, drifting to my left as I stood looking to the north.  The ball bounced at midfield and took a big bounce, Ricardo Zalinski trapped the ball, split two of my defenders and came running full speed at me.  I ran off my line, actually I sprinted as hard as I could, I came flying off the goal line, I slid on the AstroTurf as my left side of my body got covered with water that had gathered in small puddles along the top of the AstroTurf.  I came flying out of the goal, Ricardo pushed the wet soccer ball in front of him, pushing the ball towards the goal, I slid low about three feet in front of the attacker.  My hands touched the ball, his momentum carried his body towards mine, his right foot came forward, my head got in the way of his foot, his foot hit me just below my left ear, my head hit the Astroturf, the back of my head hit the turf with a thud, it felt like I had landed on cement.  I could feel the ball hit my stomach as I came sliding on my side.  His foot snapped my head back in an instant I was out, everything went black, I vaguely remember the ball being cradled in my arms, and he couldn’t stop his impact.  I was knocked out, my body laid motionless as I held the ball in my hands, teammates came running over, pushing and shoving preceded the hard foul, and the referee came running in with a yellow card held high in his hand.  The athletic trainers along with my coach came running over from the far side of the field.  They tilted my head back and gave me a strong dose of smelling salts.  I started to come too, my teammates faded in and out of focus, I didn’t know where I was, and I looked at my teammates.  I couldn’t figure out where I was, I lied there on the ground.  They helped me up to my feet, things were foggy, I started to panic a bit, they checked on my eyes.

“He’s good, he’s going to be O.K.!” shouted the trainer, my coach looked at me.  He looked at my eyes.

“Are you O.K. Grant?”  I looked at him and nodded my head.  I went back to the goal, people were yelling down from the Multnomah Club, my mother got worried, people kept screaming down to me.  It felt like I was in a dream, I kept going in and out of consciousness; I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing at Civic Stadium.  It was eerie, it felt dark and cold, frightening, I panicked a bit, the images dancing in front of me as the soccer players kept running around on the wet turf, there was some excitement within a couple minutes, Franco had scored our first goal, one of my defenders came up to me and looked at me.

“Are you O.K. Grant?”

I looked at him and just stared back, my head hurt, if felt like I had a headache, where was I kept asking myself?

By that time nearly twenty minutes had passed and soon we scored another goal, it was eerie how my teammates that night looked like ghosts, they looked like ancient spirits floating in air as I tried to stay focused, I kept blinking my eyes, trying to remember my name and what year it was.  It almost felt as though I was experiencing an outer body experience, it felt strange and uneasy.  My concentration started to fade in and out.

Ten minutes before the first half ended I was subbed out of the game, my back up, John Montague went into the game, I remember being upset that my coach subbed me out; it was the right decision at the time.  I came running off the field, and I immediately went to the bench located on the fifty yard line, I sat down, two of my classmates, Donna Hartman and Lori Maletis were taking photographs for the Cardinal Times, they came up to me, I looked at them and I started to come in and out of consciousness, I was dazed and confused and couldn’t make out to where I was.  The team physicians came over and looked me over, the half ended and a few of my teammates came over to me.  They looked at the team trainers.

“Is he going to be O.K.?”

“Let’s get him to the locker room.”

We headed into the locker room, I remember looking into the stands, and seeing all these people cheering, I looked up towards the Multnomah Club and tried to find my mother, I couldn’t find her.

We went into the locker room; everyone was yelling and encouraging everyone to keep up the good work.  We had played great in the first half.

I sat down and drank some water, they put a towel behind my head, and I sat quietly as the coach went on about the second half.

“How do you feel Grant?  We need you, can you play?” asked my coach.  I looked at him.

“I can play coach,” he smiled at me.  I looked over at John Monague, I could tell he was nervous, I don’t think he expected me to get injured in the game.  Soon we were heading back on to the field; the score was 2-0 as we started the second half.

Within fifteen minutes we scored again to make the score 3-0, I remember people yelling and screaming, I remember my teammates running around in front of me, it seemed like a foggy dream.  Near the end of the game we scored again to make the score 4-0.  I don’t really remember anything about the game, people came up and celebrated, I remember my teammates running around the field holding the trophy, the celebration went on for at least a half hour, it was a really great moment.

I don’t remember anything that went on during the game; I was told I made six or seven saves that I saved a couple of goals.  To this day I don’t remember a thing.

Reporters from the Oregonian came running up to me and poked there cameras in my face and wrote notes in small paper tablets that they held in their hands.  A couple of news cameras were pointed in my face as people asked all kinds of questions, I was at a loss as to what to say.

“Grant, Grant, you played a great game!”  I looked at them and smiled, funny because I couldn’t remember a thing.

“Grant, what did you think of the game?  What did you think of the score?” replied one of the head sports writers for the Oregonian.  I blinked and looked at him; I really didn’t know what to say.

“We won 3-0 didn’t we?”  Everybody laughed.

I remember the lights that shinned so brightly down on Civic Stadium that night being shut off, the field was pitch black when we left, I remember walking back over to Lincoln and taking a shower, putting my dress clothes on and feeling drained.  My head hurt, actually it throbbed.  We had won the city championship that night, it was a great feeling.

“Hey everyone, were going up to the Mrs. Jumonville’s house, Robert and the guys are going to have a celebration party there!”

I called my mother; she was in a panic, poor thing.

“Are you O.K. Grant?” asked my mother.  She had left at half time; she couldn’t watch the game in knowing that there was something wrong with me.  She went home and waited for my call.

I assured her I would be O.K. and that I was going up to the Jumonville’s and join in the celebration.  Andrew Groshong drove me up to Roberts’s house.  When we arrived there was around forty or so people laughing and singing, when I walked in the room everyone cheered.  It was a great feeling.  There were two or three television sets on, each one had a channel on, soon the sports segments came along, and each sportscaster reported on the game, everyone cheered.

I remember going upstairs and lying down for fifteen minutes or so, just to get away from the noise.  I went back down stairs and celebrated; my mother honked her horn and was parked out front of the Jumonville’s home.  I thanked everyone and ran out to the car.  We drove back to N.W. Portland, my head hurt, it kept throbbing.

“I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment in the morning, I want you to see the doctor,” replied my mother.

I remember going to bed that night, it took a while before I could find peace and fall asleep.

The next morning my mother laid out the Oregonian for me, there on the front cover was a big story about the game, there was a picture of me on the front of the Oregonian.  The reporter quoted me in the article with the score.

“We won 3-0 didn’t we?”

My head throbbed and I looked at my mother the next morning.  I was scheduled in seeing a doctor that morning.  I ate breakfast and went with my mother to the doctor’s office.  The doctor examined my head and noted that I had suffered a concussion.  I left his office and my mother dropped me off at Lincoln around lunch time, I walked in the cafeteria and several friends came over to congratulate me on the championship.  Everyone was so kind to me; they had a ceremony at school in the gymnasium, the gym was packed.

We went on to state that year, beat the number ranked Sunset Apollo’s in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, in the semi-finals we lost to top ranked Parkrose when one of my defenders scored an own goal on a clearance in front of the net, it was heartbreaking.  In the game for third place we won on penalty kicks, I was named to the all-state, all tournament, and Oregon select all-star.  I received a lot of recognition in the Oregonian and other local papers, I went on to receive a scholarship to play in college, and I was chosen to be a PAC-8 collegiate all-star representing the University of Oregon Ducks.  I played for the university when I was in college.

I’ll never forget the night of the concussion, it was haunting in a way, when I go and watch sporting events at JELD-WEN field (formerly Civic Stadium) I get a funny feeling every time I see the soccer field.  I was proud of my accomplishments in playing sports at Lincoln High school, I’m proud of my team; I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.  I appreciated the recognition.  I was glad to have been part of helping shape soccer in its early stages here in Oregon.  They were great memories.

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