Sunday, February 04, 2007


Let us take a moment to honor the Super Bowl, or at least football. I had thought to treat this as I do the scripture of all other red-letter days, but my books don't cover much sports mythology, and what I know about football and its history would fit in a pill box. This will simply have to be personal anecdote. It's not like you true believers needed any schooling, anyway.

My best friend from college was a monstrous 6' 6'', 280 lb Minnesotan, who played regularly during his freshman and sophomore years as a lineman on our football team. That Rogue, the Stitch, teased me yesterday, "Your school had football?" Many of you might echo his question. The answer was "Yes, A-head, and we won the Rose Bowl back in, like, '26." His retort? "You mean, when there were six schools in the nation?" Except that oops! No we didn't. My bad. Played the first or second ever Tournament of Roses, depending on the logic in the timeline (I really don't get it, and why the thirteen year gap between games?), in 1916, and lost to Washington. Big fat goose egg.

Still, I had moved up in the world; my high school didn't even have a team. Student body of fewer than 120, we were often champions at soccer, dominated state in tennis. We also kicked ass at track (I did the 1500 and high-jump and sucked at both, but that's another story). Prep schools, you know.

Still, at Uni, John Madden's son played for our team, and I would see Big Poppa down on the perimeter of the field, peddling his hardwares (not really). I always wondered if the fellow in charge of the home team ever got a bit itchy with that famed coach skulking about. Did he butt his nose into it? Give instruction from the sidelines? He was quite an imposing figure - looked like two beer kegs piled atop a sturdy trestle. His other son played for Harvard, so sometimes the game was a real family affair.

Boys eat a lot when they play football. My boy, Stephen, couldn't be bothered to take his dinner plate back when he went for seconds and thirds and fourths in the refectory, so his tray looked a bit like the Capitol Records building, stacked saucers.

Freshman year, I took the train with a friend to New Haven, where we watched the heavily tailgated Harvard-Yale game (aka "The Game." If you'd have asked me why before I read up, I'd have said it's Ivy-League pomposity.) It was the end of November, and the mean temperature was just that. I cannot recall the actual thermometer gauge, but it was bone-chilling cold, and there was a massive trafic jam to boot. Before walking to the satdium, I helped my over-zealous male friends stain their torsos blue. I'm sure the intent was more Druid than Smurf, but you can't really avoid looking like a cartoon when you drench your skin with food coloring and RIT dye. We had a few crimsons amongst us too. I remained as bundled up as a Siberian, and despite the schnapps, shivered through the entire game. The boys were half naked the entire game. Amazing what alcohol can do for you.

Wandering back from the bathroom, a photographer stopped me in the stadium and asked to take my picture. How he found me under the blanket, I don't know, but afterwards, he advised me to seek medical attention for the frostbite on the tip of my nose. I worried for a spilt second, registered his opportunism, then smiled to myself. It was blue dye. In the end, it was Harvard, 14-10. Mind you, I had to look that statistic up.

That same year, I dated a guy from Cleveland who played ball as well. In high school he had excited some interest from a couple of Big Ten coaches. I don't know if the offers failed to come, or he just chose our school for academics, but he told me rather proudly and with a big fat smirk on his face, that after one set of recruiters told him he reminded them of a young Bernie Kosar, he was so happy he went into the bathroom stall and jerked off. That's one of many funny masturbation stories from my archives that I intend to compile in an anthology some day. Submissions accepted.

I used to know a linebacker drafted from Yale to play for the Cowboys for five years in the eighties. He was a really good guy when I knew him, and an hilarious smartass, who apparently was booed heavily during player introductions in Nov. of '87. He claimed to have originated the comparison of Jerry Jones to The Beverly Hillbilles. Or was it Jimmy Johnson? Shit, I just shouldn't even try here, might just be spreading misinformation.

Anyway, you can find him here. It's just horrible. The indignities of the NFL. And the 80s.


whosyourhuckleberry said...

You seemed to capture it pretty well...though I do have to say I have always found Ivy League athletics as profoundly comic, if only for the false bravado involved...
Boston College's football was pretty horrid when I attended, and has flirted with relevancy off and on through the years. I have never attended a true football powerhouse, and I regret that.
But every university I have attended has won a championship in their sport of expertise during my time there, so that's something...

Citizen H said...

Ivy-league football is just the same as what you get from the service Academies: An athletic sideshow, but one well worth watching. In both cases, the schools' athletic programs really don't keep themselves relevant, but the inter-school rivalries (think Army-Navy) can be fiercer than the normal run (cf. Citadel vs. VMI last year, with its spectacular sideline brawl).

RE your last comment, KF, I am toying around with some of the better pictures I've taken in Photoshop. Keep an eye open for a massive upcoming post with pictures I've taken over the last couple of years but haven't posted. If you see anything you really want to put up on your wall, let me know. I'm sure something can be figured out.

steve said...

my red letter days are mostly red herrings... and being a Cowboys fan I would like to apologize for the cheesy video...I remember it too well... i think we were trying to keep up with the bears...

jt castleton said...

the truth comes out.