Other than war, there is nothing more traumatic, more hellish, than Two-A-Day football practices.
Especially if they were in Oklahoma, under the brutal, scorching, relentless August heat, circa 1972-1974.
I had not thought of Harve Collins in a million years. But when we drove by there recently on my ‘Merican vacation, memories came flooding back.
If I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I blame the blood, sweat and tears, the screams and the whistles. And the moldy jock strap.
Oh Dear Lord, not the moldy jock strap.
Even if the coaches watered the field in July, come August, it resembled the surface of Mars – hot, dead, no sign of life.
The perfect place to
torture coach high school football players.
Breakfast of Champions
As a Tiger, my two-a-day breakfast consisted of a jug of Gatorade, a piece of dry toast, and two Allerest.
Anything more, and it would have come up during wind sprints. Anything less, and I would have died of heat stroke, dehydration or hay fever.
You’d start with calisthenics, which were bad enough.
Then you’d move into drills, by position.
The quarterbacks would put on their pink dresses and go throw to the ends, before flirting with the cheerleaders and doing media interviews.
The rest of us — backs, linebackers and linemen– would then run drill after drill, smashing into each other, jumping over tackling dummies, slamming into the steel sled and driving it — and the coach on top of it — back, back, back, until, finally, he whistled.
Time and time and time again. Until the first upchucks, which meant it was time to start running plays.
If you were a “scrub” like me, not a starter, you might be on defense for a hour, as wave after wave from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd team offenses ran play after play right at you, without pause, unless the star quarterback got a hang nail and needed urgent medical care.
Then the scrubs, most of whom had muscles or chest hair, would then fruitlessly try to run plays against the first team defense,which consisted of werewolves, zombies and criminals who were just killing time before going off to prison.
In those less civilized times, coaches would punish you by denying you water. So if they thought you were dogging it — while carrying 20 pounds of equipment, in the 100-degree, 100-percent humidity, dust bowl — they would make you keep running and running and running until you started hustling.
About that time, one or two of the weaker scrubs would have died of heat stroke, and the vultures would by pulling them apart and eating them in the far endzone.
That would put the defensive coaches in a good mood, especially if someone had been so hard “right in the jewel box”, that he started to hurl.
You had to fight your teammates to get any water at all out of those awful old hoses. The water was hot and tasted like a dead lizard had been in the hose, but you gulped down as much as you could in maybe five seconds, before being pushed away by an angry coach.
Then you’d scrimmage for maybe an hour, frequently running the same play over and over and over until every player had a concussion, or the quarterbacks had soiled their little pink dresses.
That’s when coaches would really start to have their fun, “separating the men from the boys”, deciding who “had to squat to pee like a little girl”, who was “nothing but a dooberable” and deserved to “run until your legs turn into jelly.”
Yes, after practicing for two or three hours in the blazing sun, that’s when it was time for wind sprints. Up and down Harve Collins field. Fighting for air, but that was impossible, because in August, there is no air in Oklahoma.
Certainly not at Harve Collins Field, a place that will live in infamy, the place that prompted this riot of memories.
Including the “jock strap incident”.
I reckon it would have been a Friday afternoon in my Junior year.
We’d just finished the first week of the most sadistic, brutal, two-a-days I’d ever been through. We’d probably lost 100 men, maybe 200.
Every day was like playing in an oven. No, a volcano. No, a forest fire.
You get the idea.
This is what molded young men into 4-A, Boomer Conference, football players.
PTSD Locker Room
In my mind’s eye, I am back in the NHS locker room.
It looks like a bomb has gone off. Bodies are sprawled everywhere.
Some are naked and lying motionless on the cool cement floor. They are the lucky ones.
Sadly, the cool floor offers me no solace. I am a crumpled heap on the bench in front of my orange steel locker; exhaustion and dehydrated and concussion have killed me dead.
But, over time, somehow I manage to remove my pants and shoulder pads, and steam rises from them.
I have no energy to remove my half t-shirt, my jock or my tube socks. So there I sit.
My half t-shirt is dripping with sweat, sweat that kept me alive during wind sprints as I sucked it from my shirt, which smells like ammonia.
My tube socks are so filthy that I can actually tell if I have them on the wrong foot.
My jock strap? Don’t ask.
Nothing has been washed for a week; that’s 10 practices. Because, who has the strength to carry this disgusting sweaty mess home? Better to leave them piled in your locker.
I look around and, more than anything, I want to drag myself into the shower, to life-giving cold water. I see that some of my teammates have done this and been rejuvenated. I think they might live.
But, I cannot move. All I can do is sweat and wait to die.
Yet even in my last moments on Earth, I take comfort in one thing.
The enormously annoying Senior who lockers next to me is even worse off than me. He will surely die before me. And this is a truly wonderful thing.
This means that the 6-2, 225-pound gorilla — whose *name I cannot divulge, in case he has gone on to be a Supreme Court Justice, or maybe a mass murderer — will be unable to put his big, fat mouth right next to my ear and makes this noise. (Please, click on the link to fully appreciate this story).
He has made this noise directly into my ear, before and after every practice, twice a day, for a week. Why? Because he was always unbalanced, and two-a-days have turned him into a psychopath. He is well on his way to being All Boomer Conference.
Since I am 5-3 and maybe 120 pounds, including 10 pounds of sweat, I’ve had to tolerate his behavior, while considering my options.
Yesterday, I had decided that right before he started going AHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGAHH!!! in my ear, I would reach down, grab my helmet by the facemask and, with all of my might, smash it right through his big, fat head.
End of siren.
But, sadly, I realized there was a fatal flaw in my plan. The psychopath was really good — a two-way starter. If killed him, coach would get really pissed off at me, and I would never get any playing time.
So I had to tolerate it, day after day.
But today, since he is almost dead, there is peace. Yay.
Shower or Die
After maybe half an hour of watching my battered and bleeding teammates heroically struggle to the shower, drag on T-shirts and shorts, and stumble out, I realize that it is now or never.
If I don’t get up, I will die right here, in this disgusting, filthy, smelly, slimy locker room. And no one will ever know.
The coaches will just turn out the lights, lock the doors, and go home to their air-conditioned houses, to drink iced tea and dream up new ways to torture us.
So I summon every ounce of strength left in my battered little body.
I remove my half-t shirt and drop it. It lands on the floor like a wet towel. Sploosh.
I pull off my tube socks. They make a crinkling sound, as dirt clods fall from them.
And, drawing on my last reserve of strength, I try to remove my jock, which has literally cut into my waist.
It is so wet and moldy that it will not pull off like an article of clothing. I have to roll it down my legs. like a big rubber band.
But when I get it to my knees, stabbing pain from my cracked ribs paralyzed me.
I pause, take a few breaths, and then slowly, laboriously, hook one big toe into my jock and pull it down one leg. Then I use the other big toe to pull it off.
I am exhausted, but victorious, and naked, except for the tape on my ankles and knees, which is never going to come off.
Before heading to the shower, I try to flick the rolled up jock — which looks like a disgusting pretzel — into my locker. Because if you leave anything on the floor, the coaches go insane and make you run more wind sprints.
But as I try this, my leg spasms, and my jock is airborne.
Up, up, up it goes, in slow motion, like in a Stanley Kubrick film.
It makes a thud as it bounces off the top of the locker, and falls into the gap between our row of lockers and the one behind us.
And I think, “let the bastard rot.”
I bet it has.
* Kurt Sellers, who actually turned out to be a nice guy.
** Editor’s note: After googling, we decided not to including a photo of a jock strap, because, garf.
*** Editor’s note: We plan to write a blog explaining why all of this was worth it because we got to play at Owens Field and, in the OU locker room, we actually touched the silver shoes that made Joe Washington fly.
“You’ve been cutting your eyebrows again, haven’t you?”
Says the Missus.
In that tone that your Mother used to use.
When you had been very bad.
So I man up and give my answer.
“No, I have not.”
And I quickly walk away because, I may look stupid, but I’m really not.
See, you reach a point in life when you get Deranged Old Man Eyebrows.
There is nothing you can do about them. Like Abs of Pudding, they are part of the cycle of life.
I try to ignore my Deranged Old Man Eyebrows (D.O.M.E.), but when they start getting stuck in my glasses, they make me crazy.
Sometimes, I rip those suckers right out of my head, but I prefer not to do that for two reasons.
First, because I have so little hair left on the top of my head, I have an emotional attachment to the hairs that are still with me.
Second, these D.O.M.E. hairs have seriously deep roots. When you yank one out, it really, really hurts, so bad that you expect a stream of blood to squirt right out of your head.
So, to salvage our existing hair, and preclude the possibility of eyebrow blood squirting onto the Missus’ new bathroom wallpaper — which we do not even want to contemplate — every now and again we decide to “trim” the offending D.O.M.E.s.
Now, if you are a loyal follower of this blog, you will know that our skill with tools is legendary, as per the gate latch below.
We live by the motto, “close enough is good enough.”
So when the mood strikes us, we grab whatever tool or utensil is handy, and we proceed to hack away at the D.O.M.E.s.
The utensils of choice have historically included tiny little scissors that will not cut anydamnthing; toenail clippers; and the giant scissors in the kitchen that, according to a TV commercial, can cut right through a beer can.
This may explain why the Missus, who is a trained graphic artist, with a visual precision that is uncanny, gets so aggravated when she has to look at my D.O.M.E.s and they are not, how you say, symmetrical.
Walmart Grooming Tool
The asymmetrical hair issue has increased significantly since our recent ‘Merican vacation.
We came back to New Zealand with a $12 Walmart hair trimmer and a goatee.
Now, let us move beyond the fact that this blog thinks our goatee is awesome and makes us look totally like Billy Joel, but the Missus thinks it makes us look like Col. Sanders.
The issue of asymmetrical hair — which mocks the Missus of Precision every day — now includes not only lopsided D.O.M.E.s, but the Billy Joel trademark goatee is somewhat, how you say, cattywonkous.
In a macho stud musician kind of way.
It’s as good as the blog can get it, with our $12 Walmart hair trimmer which, sadly, does not have the range of “grooming shields” that are standard equipment on the $79 Vidal Sass0on Grooming Tools for Wankers.
So we have to wing it.
Which explains why our goatee at present looks similar to the gate latch.
Functional? Studly? Totally Piano Man-like?
You’re damn right, Missy.
Not so much.
We dare not give you side-by-side comparison photos of our Deranged Old Man Eyebrows.
Because, thanks to the $12 Walmart hair groomer, and our absolute precision in all things mechanical, our D.O.M.E.s are, how you say, *shazbot.
*In loving memory of Robin Williams and the deranged hair thing he always had going on.
I’m not sure why the death of Robin Williams has hit me so hard; why this thing’s weight is so heavy, so suffocating, so oppressive.
It may be because initial reports of his death said it was self-inflicted asphyxiation.
Rightly or wrongly, that gave me a ghastly image of poor Robin hanging himself.
Rightly or wrongly, it made me think that the demons he battled so long and so hard, finally convinced him with their lies.
That it was all too hard, too pointless, too over. That whatever he had done was unforgivable. That no one cared anyway. So he should just end it all.
When such a kind, enormously talented person like Robin Williams falls like this, I just feel so very sad.
There is no question that Tombstone is packed with great acting and memorable dialogue.
“I’m your Huckleberry,” says Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) before he kills crazy, evil Johnny Ringo.
“Go ahead, skin it! Skin that smokewagon and see what happens,” spits out slate-eyed Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell).
Spoiler alert and fightin’ words
…That notwithstanding, there is no way in the world that Tombstone is the best Western of all time, as has been proclaimed by some, including my Buddy, who is right about every damn thing, except this.
I’ve been watching Cowboy movies for almost 60 years – since I was knee-high to a coyote. And my pedigree is as authentic as it can be – my Grandpa came to Indian Territory as a baby in a covered wagon, no less.
By birthright and by study, I have come to know that there are 10 sure-fire, dad-gum, requirements for a Truly Great Western.
Chronically low water pressure and this stupid shower head have been the bane of my existence for 15 years.
Things are bad enough during the summer months: I defy you to get all the soap off your body, even if you push right up against the wall to get directly under the shower head.
But winter is the worst: a fat man Down Under could catch his death of cold while simply trying to take a shower.
“That’s just not right, and something has to be done!”
I came up with this battle cry recently because a) I enjoyed long and luxurious hot showers in ‘Merica, and, b) it is freeking cold in New Zealand, and I am way too old to get frostbite on my dangly bits.
Besides, if the G.M. Finance can spend up large on her bathroom renovation project — which involves painting and tiling and sanding and who knows what else — I can get the damn shower fixed.
There, I said it.
(Photos from my recent Okie ‘Merican vacation)
If a picture is worth 10,000 words, this blog must be worth a billion. Give or take…
This is *Jack (above photo). Don’t hate him even though his butt has gotten so HUGE that he can’t properly close his shell, which must be a major embarrassment when lady turtles walk s-l-o-w-l-y by. Never fear, my niece the Vet Tech, has Jack on a diet of what we assume must be low-cal lettuce.
There was a time about 40 years ago, when a friend of mine’s ’69 Cougar had many, many street signs in the trunk. How they go there is beyond me. Last month, while riding around Norman with my sister, I saw this sign near Andrews Park, which was the site of many, many teenage transgressions that we will not get into here. I very much wanted this sign. I thought, perhaps, I should take it home to New Zealand for safe keeping, lest it be damaged by an Oklahoma shark-quake-nado or something. You may remember that, maybe 70 years ago, James Bumgarner ran with my Mom and Dad in Norman. So I wanted the sign. Now I really wish it had fallen into our trunk. R.I.P. James Garner, Norman’s favorite son.
(Another story from my miraculous Okie ‘Merican vacation)
Twenty-five years ago, I was sitting in a maternity “hospital” in Alexandria, Virginia, waiting for the missus to deliver our son, Eli.
I actually thought we were in an examination room, because it looked like an Embassy Suite.
I was sitting on a plush couch, talking on the phone to the insurance company, as required, when the baby doctor looked at me and said all nonchalant-like: “We’re ready to have the baby. You want to join us?”
My immediate thoughts were: “Are you INSANE? This room is not sterile! Where are all the doctors and nurses in masks and gowns? We are NOT having my baby in here. WHERE IS THE REAL HOSPITAL?”