Another one in from our man Senna. He writes, I post, you read. We all win.
I’m watching out of my window. I’ve never noticed before the ravens and their behavior, but today I’m seeing what they are doing. There is a gang of about 6 of them flying about the tops of the cedar trees across the avenue. One by one, they are practicing dives. This is equivalent to watching basketball players do layups. The crows have the sophistication to show up one another in a display of practice, of drill. All of a sudden, a larger gang of ravens come along and stir up the perching, diving, and fluttering of the small gang, and off they go, leaving not one of the black birds remaining on the tops of these cedar trees. My attention is drawn now instead to the Sunday traffic. The cars and trucks roll by steadily on this two lane road. Two young men walk by smoking cigarettes and wearing basketball shorts. I no longer see ravens within my scope of vision. They are gone.
Two strange occurrences of uncanny causation have occurred in the last seven days. At home, I was listening to a Beatles album, one of the several hundred records in a cabinet here. The song that I liked the most was called ‘Anna’ and this song was playing and replaying in my head for an hour or two before I actually ran into an interesting woman at the food coop, and what do you know, her name is Anna. Today, as it happens, I was imagining visions of something I missed out on so far in life – playing football. I imagined I should find a way to take this sport up and find a place to do it, when I took a left turn off of the bike path (past the circular running barking dog) and what do you know, three boys tossing a football around. I stopped and threw the ball a few times, caught it a few times, before re-mounting and heading home. Boy, that felt good.
If a third event happens of this nature, I’ll start to believe that my mind has extra powers beyond what I know. But let’s get to the football part. This is important. Crucial. I have at times had dreams of football.
As a 145 pound guy around six feet, I’m by and large considered too small to play football. I have been, and still am, an athletic man. Cycling is my sport. I ride the bicycle. I’ll take a bicycle anywhere. I have taken hits, I’ve gone down a few times though not that often and I haven’t yet been hit by the other fielders (cars, trucks, and other cyclists). It is the explosive nature of a football play that intrigues me, and I tend to wonder if I could make it as a quarterback. I could, with about 2 years of training and a lot of work, get up to about 170 lbs and be explosively strong again. I’m only 34, and I don’t believe all that hogwash of ‘steady muscle loss’ after you reach a certain age. If I was 60, this would be an impossible dream. Today, as the window closes on my opportunity to learn the game, I still see it as a possibility. It has been said that on a football field, time stops during play and the players enter a zone that is indescribable.
I’m not very strong overall, but I have been riding at least 3 miles per day on the bicycle nearly every day. I’m capable of doing a 12 hour work day as a builder or painter, tomorrow. I have outstanding dexterity and my reflexes are still very solid. Most importantly, I have a kind of sense of accuracy with things that I toss, or nails that I set by hand, or where to put the wheel; the leading edge. I daresay the hits are harder, though by comparison to football less frequent, in bicycling. No pads, not the kinder bones and muscle of a tackler, but a BOOM slam off of the bike and suddenly impacting an unforgiving medium – the asphalt. A grassy field; a friendly thing. A 6 lane boulevard; a deadly thing.
If I should find the finest football my money can buy and carry it in my pannier, at times it might be possible to find a person to toss it with, even if it is a child. No one doesn’t understand the football. My first shot, the spiral is close to perfect but then it diminishes. I could work on this. I could fire it from a seated position on my saddle to a tree, and learn to throw on a run. Stopping to pick it up is awkward, though.
I must admit, I’m at a disadvantage. It is less than a butterfly’s dream to imagine being a truly competitive football player. At that point in skill and training it becomes a business, and the fun is removed from the game. Small victories, yards gained through struggle and might, all become diminished by the competitive aspect reaching unnatural levels. By default, and by drawing no satisfaction or entertainment from watching football, which 99% of people do on TV, I insist that playing it or being near the play must be many times more interesting and satisfying. A game of men, I think of what football was and what football is, to most people, today. It is a place for beer advertisements and too much talk, too much jowly white shirted talk, and not a trace of joy on the faces of the men. The men on the fabled gridiron.
Even as I was 19 and collecting football cards and reading about these big, rich strangers who play the professional game, I knew it was too late and I was just too small to consider it. In reality, I’m even too small to be a professional cyclist when the volume of my lungs is taken into account. The reality is: You miss the early training, and the time, and the coaching, and the inspiration at the right formative time, and you’ve lost the chance to buy a house by playing a game, riding a bicycle, or riding a pair of skis.
I have seen women play football, yes, a team of all women on a football field. Helmets, pads, gloves, lineups, and sudden movement. I was passing this field in central Tucson one sunny afternoon and gazed at a woman in white uniform, the uniform of champions and greatness, as she walked off to the bench. I was transfixed. To say that I would love to have a woman like this is an understatement. I was given a sexual locker room fantasy that may never wear out… this, on top of an already predisposed taste for big, strong, buxom women. I’m thin boned, and so envious of, and amorous toward, the complement to my daintiness – the thick.
One morning on Aviation bike way I wasn’t paying attention, riding no hands, in a spin toward a group ride, and tossed a banana peel, foolishly watching where it was going – the direction of greasewood and agave. In most situations of having enough pavement, this would not have caused a fall. My handlebars caught the railing merging onto a bridge over a wash. BOOM! DOWN! I smacked my hand pretty bad and landed on my side in a violent fashion, but my helmet’s head did not strike a surface. A stream of curses in my pain ensued. I ‘limped’ back to my government brown dormitory and missed the ride, but dedicated the rest of the day to eating, resting, and reading. Living in the base housing sucked – pure and simple. Being on the bicycle was camaraderie, work, pain, sweat, sunburn, and miles of scenery, both horrifying and gorgeous. The longer rides, the 80+ mile rides finished in under four hours, created endorphin ecstasy that made my prison-like surroundings into heaven when I returned, often times before other lazy airmen were not even up out of bed yet. Sure, I drank beer, but I did not do those binges. I did not stay up and yell and make stupid hell until Sunday. I woke up at 5:00 that’s Oh five hundred and rode to the University to meet other cyclists, and we would ride.
I imagine the mist and chill of meeting other footballers for practice, and the slippage of snow, the discomfort of the wet pants, and the commands rising up through speech. I yearn to know what is said before that guttural command to release the ball, or to be the one to act upon that code. The number is on the shirt, not on the man, and this is what makes football pure.
I gather that cleats hurt, and bones break, but the hope is simple and maybe it is instinctual in kinder men to not hurt the smaller man, as he is like the woman that he loves, a resilient but fragile thing. I’ll run around the edges of the play, like I did at soccer games in fifth grade as a wing position player. I got in there one day, and started to take over defense, and got hit, and kicked, but once, only once the ball came my way directly and I had my ‘assist’ – the ball went to a good striker and was projected into the net. I’m perfect for a game where I can simply be of assistance to another, to be the lead-out man, to make the pass that lands in hands, even as I crumple pushed to the ground. The big man saves the
day, and the thin one walks behind him, loyal.
In junior high school there was a terrible bully that was bigger than all but two other boys in the school, and his name was Jeff. He had a skin disorder, and hated himself, but he was already into pushing himself onto girls. I’d dealt with bullies before; people that doggedly use their bigger size to get away with being sadistic or mean, but this guy terrified me. He was too screwed up, grades wise and extra-curricular wise, to play football on the LJHS team. I wanted to play football those days because we were all little, but my family afforded me a trumpet instead of a uniform, and neither of my parents encouraged sport, I regret to say.
Jeff would grab my arm and twist it, burning my skin. He was in some of my classes and would accost me in the hallway. Once or twice he came with a pin stuck on the end of a pencil and violated me by sticking it into my back. Implied threats stopped me from reporting this abuse, as I was certain that administrative remedies would not have had any effect on Jeff. He was psychotic, and for some reason found an easy target in me. We had an archery segment in our PE class, I say we had the best bow case I had ever seen. I remember the fear of seeing Jeff Travis with a bow and arrow in his hand. I wanted one in my hand at the same time, trained on him. I already had a sense of self defense at 14 years old. I already felt the surging contemplation of killing him before he killed me. He threatened me before class, in a whisper, that I’d better watch out. I fired my arrows at the target imagining my bully’s chest at the center. It was that day that I discovered the sentiment of true sympathy for the one that abuses you. I felt bad for his fucked up life, his piss poor parents, his skin condition resultant of lifestyle, and of course this transferred into a smug feeling of betterness.
One day I wandered the neighborhood truant instead of going to school because that day there was gym class with him included, and it was in the gym, where supervision was less close. The locker room was a frightening place, because at that point Jeff’s harassment was becoming sexual. It is anyone’s guess what happened to this boy, but I wouldn’t imagine he got far before landing in jail; for rape, assault, or who knows. I don’t remember if I ever gave a reason for my truancy, or whether the VP ever brought me in for that, but I was in trouble oft enough, and once watched my best friend Ben gloriously beat up the incredibly loser like, annoying, class dip shit and face the talking to with a rare courage and sense of justice. It was as though he was hitting for everyone, and for a few strange hours, our Ben was popular, raised above his usual status of awkward and alienatingly smart.
I must overcome the trauma of being last kid picked, and overcome the shame of being second to last picked, and seeing a kid stronger, but less approved of than I, picked last. I wish to redeem this past wound and experience new wounds, ones that bring not shame but personal glory, a dim but true light, like the candle in the window of home.