Sunday, February 5, 2017
The Naked Goldenboys at Football Try-Outs
"All entering sophomores invited to try out for junior varsity football," Dad reads from a brochure that came in the mail.
"That's nice," I say, immersed in a course catalog. In just a few weeks, I'll be going to Rocky High, a mature, sophisticated, grown-up high school with tons of cool courses to choose from.
Arthurian Legend or Greek Mythology?
The Great Depression or The Civil War?
Advanced Spanish or Elementary Swedish?
I must have that course catalog memorized!
"You dropped out of wrestling and judo," he points out. "You have to play some kind of sport in high school."
"Is that a rule? I don't like sports. Besides, I'm going to be busy with orchestra, jump quiz, Spanish Club, Writers' Club..."
"Yes, it's a rule! And stop pretending that you don't like sports. You're a boy, aren't you?"
"Well...I wouldn't mind the track team, I guess."
"Why not football?"
"Football players always get the cutest girls," Dad says, assuming that I, like "every boy," decide on courses of action solely on their likelihood of acquiring girls.
"What kind of date can I go on in Intensive Care?"
"Don't get smart! It won't hurt you to try out, at least."
When Dad says "Jump," you say "How high?" I have no choice but to try out.
Rocky High is about 2 1/2 miles from my house, a straight shot down 18th Avenue to Longview Park, then left on 17th Street and down the hill. I walk slowly, hoping to arrive too late.
I have only seen the high school from a distance. Close up, it's vast and imposing, two huge limestone monoliths, a dozen outlying buildings, a huge parking lot. Suddenly I feel very small. How will I ever find my classes? I was one of the top students at tiny, ordinary Washington Junior High, but here, surrounded by rich kids from the South Side, the children of Augustana professors...what if I...
Somehow I find the locker room. It's deserted, silent except for the sound of a shower. I walk over -- a heavily tanned, muscular guy, probably a senior, is soaping up. Enormous penis. But what I remember most is his trapezius, the muscle the goes across the top of the shoulder. How did he ever get it so big?
I stand staring, open mouthed. Is this what playing football is like? Constant sausage sightings?
He smiles. "You get lost, kid?"
"Um...I'm supposed to go to junior varsity football try-outs."
He points the way.
There are 30 guys already on the field, doing push-ups. I know some of them from junior high -- well, knew of them, since they were too far above me on the social ladder to speak to. They were the goldenboys who played every sport, led every school club, and presided over every assembly. As handsome as Greek gods, and built, tall, broad shoulders, thick biceps, and huge hands. They drank three cartons of milk at lunchtime, put their legs on the desk in front of them in class, came in late, left early without ever getting in trouble. They could do no wrong: teachers and students alike were in love with them.
No doubt the other guys are goldenboys from their own junior highs.
I stand staring, open mouthed. Is this what being on a football team is like? Hanging out with Greek gods day after day? Sitting with them in the cafeteria? Pairing up with them for class projects? Being invited to sleepovers at their house?
I'm in! But wait -- that would mean playing football. Gross! There must be some way to hang out with goldenboys without having projectiles aimed at you!
The Coach, a short, solidly built bulldog who will also be my gym teacher in the fall, takes my name, asks what position I want to play ("um...I dunno -- whatever he's playing"), and tells me to do push-ups..
I haven't started weight training yet. I can only do five.
Turns out we are just warming up. After some sit-ups and jumping jacks, the real try-outs begin. There are five tests. After each, the coach walks up to a few of the guys, ones who did well and ones who didn't, and asks their names.
The Running Test. I'm good at running -- I easily zip past most of the guys. Only two pass me.
The Obstacle Course Test. "Run in between these giant things as fast as you can without knocking them over."
Easy, and sort of fun. This might not be so bad after all.
The Catching Test. A gigantic projectile hurled at me. I missed it by a mile.
Ok, this isn't going well. It's not worth hanging out with Golden Boys if you have to throw projectiles, or get them aimed at you!
The Tackling Test. "Hurl yourself with all your strength at that big square blue thing."
Forget that! I run around it.
After the coach finishes marking things on his clipboard, he says "You all did a great job. Hit the showers, and then wait in the locker room for me to call your name. I'll tell you whether you made it or not in private."
Showering with the Golden Boys is exciting -- a roomful of hard pecs, washboard abs, and gigantic Mortadellas. And fun -- the guys tease each other, snap towels, pretend that they're going to grab each other's penises.
I want to be part of this group, get sausage sightings and penis-grabbing every day. But then...shudder...I'd have to play football!
"I'm not too worried," says the boy to my right, whose Mortadella+ I gawked at just a few minutes ago. "There are 20 guys on the JV team, and 27 of us -- I counted. That means 3/4ths of us make it."
My heart sinks. What if I make it? There must be a position that's all running and obstacle-course. Then I'll spend my first semester at Rocky High getting pummelled!
"There's going to be a pizza party Friday after practice, for the ones who make the team," he continues. "Maybe..."
At that moment the Coach calls my name and waits for me to approach. But we don't turn left, to his office, like the other boys. We turn right. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and leads me to a little caged room with athletic equipment in it.
"Boomer, I know you gave it your best shot, but not everyone is cut out to play football. I can see how much you love the game, though, so I had an idea. Do you have your Red Cross First Aid Certificate?"
"Sure. I got it last year."
"Well, how would you like a job as an athletic trainer? You'd be part of the team, just as valuable as the quarterback."
And I could hang out with goldenboys without getting pummeled every day!
See also: My Crush on the Girl Next Door's Boyfriend; and I Get a Job as an Athletic Trainer.