Saturday, February 10, 2007

Big Foot, Mexican Square Pants, And The Sixty Yard Tie-Breaker With A Cheap Beer Chaser--

I once went to an event titled “Memphis Song Writers Seminar” or something similar, where three Memphis song writers sat up on stage and sang the songs they wrote right after they explained how they thought of them and what inspired them. If I could remember their names I’d tell you, but one wrote the Bonnie Raitt song I love “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t…” (and I am not even sure of its actual title so those are just the chorus words).

One of the other two guys wrote a song with a chorus line that said - “The older I get, the better I used to be…”

Which I promptly changed to - “The older I get, the better I used to pee…”

And that second chorus, the bogus one, is one that always pops into my head when I sneak off to the bushes to avoid standing in the blue box line at work, which, when sung, always reminded me of the original one, which always reminded me of events that happened to me during my sporting days.

You know, those events that just keep getting more and more important in an aging memory, as the body slows down and the physicality just isn’t there like it once was?

So what I am saying is that this next story was inspired by a piss in the bushes, though it had little, if anything, to do with bushes.

So yes, I know what you are thinking. Standing in the bushes with my willy in my hand reminds me of great sporting moments of my youth?

Yes, it actually does. And the memories usually linger in my mind for a time while I get back to work, finally fading like a tube TV while supplanted with two by four lengths and trim details.

So yes, of course, what I am saying is that this next story was inspired by a piss in the bushes, though it had little, if anything, to do with bushes.

More likely than not, a cup of hot tea induced this soccer story and a broken hearted man’s song coerced it along.

"The older I get, the better I used to be/pee…”

The last great heroic and amazing thing that happened to me sports-wise, at least in this particular lifetime, was when I was about 36. Twice a week, after work, I would head out to this country school in Occidental, California, and change my work boots for soccer cleats, do a few stretches and then run out and pull a bunch of muscles playing in pick-up games with a bunch of oddballers and weirdos and a whole teams worth of Mexican immigrants whose defenses changed with the picking of the season…

Choosing up sides was pretty much predicated on whether you trilled your R’s or not, and the side I played on had a few long-legged English boys, a German guy and an Italian iron-worker who made custom twisty stuff…

Our side was the older, more pious side, as often throughout the game a few of our guys could be seen prostrating toward the ground, chanting “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” in some heaving, panting, ritual.

Often I found myself joining them in this very involuntary tribute to the earth and grasses, and in-between praying I played me some fun soccer.

Some pick-up games for older folks had a no-slide-tackle rule in place, but we didn’t. As long as you played the ball and were fair about it, you could take people out who got too dribbly on you (common among macho Mexican grape-vine pruners).

The Mexican side had a stocky, aggressive, local guy (he was the groundskeeper for the school, actually) who powered people off the ball with his shoulders and played a bit too hard on some of the frailer guys, and it was my job to launch him as often as I possibly and legally could.

But that isn’t the great thing I wanted to tell you about. The great thing was so memorable, it comes back into my mind about once every ninth or tenth pee in the bushes. The great thing was so great, the Mexican laborers all shared their cheap beers with me after the game, and we relived the moment over and over in fits of laughter while everybody mimed the poor goal keepers’ actions with their own rendition of his futility…

The great thing was so great, I could probably try to repeat it a hundred times, and fail a hundred times.

Man, was it great.

The Mexican side had scored and the game was tied heading into the later twilight. We usually played two thirty minute halves, or until we couldn’t see, which wasn’t the case this night although the twilight was an eventual issue discussed at length over cerveza in the parking lot

A very short and squat Mexican man-who looked a bit like Sponge Bob Square Pants in his enormous shorts from a distance- had had enough running and volunteered to man the Mexican goal and we kicked off and the play was resumed. The ball bounced about willy-nilly as in any soccer game, and I was tired so I hung back and played mid-field, AND THERE I WAS when the cosmos aligned and set up everything so perfectly for me.

Imagine Mexican Square Pants standing sixty yards or more before me, in the goal mouth, pulling up his too-big-for him shorts, sort of not paying too much attention and looking entirely way too ungoalie-like and ill-prepared (I was a goalie, so I know the not-look well). And imagine the ball just happening to be rolling straight toward me, in one of those smooth, unbouncy rolls that don’t come often enough in this rough and tumble world. Just rolling right over the center line and heading right at me. So in my field of vision I’ve got Mexican Square Pants standing way far away in the opposite goal, and a ball rolling across the centerline and heading right for me.

What would YOU have done?

Bear in mind that I have size 38 inseams and size 13 feet. What that means is that while most of the guys on the field were swinging eight irons or five irons, I was swinging the big wood. The driver. The Holy Moly.

I had often wondered if it was possible to score a goal from behind the center line. Like wouldn’t it be fun to kick off and pass the ball back to your midfielder and let him kick one in?

So I took a shot at it.

I gave the ball my big boot. I struck it extremely well. The ball- once rolling peacefully and smoothly in my direction, was now rudely turned around and heading in the exact opposite direction, although now it had some loft to it, and it turned people’s heads.

Poor Mexican Square Pants could not believe his misfortune. I mean, there he was, just pulling up his too-big-for-him shorts, relaxing in the box, “playing goalie”, when suddenly, and from out of nowhere, there is a shot on goal.

A save was going to have to be made. Mexican Square Pants was going to have to stop the ball.

As the ball arced its way along, I could tell it had the right “stuff” to get to the goalie. Maybe it even had the right stuff to go over the cross bar? It was hard to say. I never dreamed it had the right stuff to split the two so perfectly, though. Over the goalie, under the cross bar. That would be the stuff of legends and the stuff of dreams…

That’s what happened.

Mexican Square Pants backed up and found himself right in the goal mouth. He was squinting and trying to judge what was coming in. The ball was up in the air a long time. For Mexican Square Pants, it must have seemed like an afternoon. As the time neared for the big save, Mexican Square Pants bent his knees. He squatted some. He dropped his hands down low and threw them upward. His square body sprang, and he did-- to my eyes, anyway-- a single jumping jack.

Yes, just one jack. Maybe half a jack. That’s what it looked like from way back where I was. The only trouble was, he had jumped a bit too early, and as his jack was coming down, the ball had not arrived yet. It was still in transit.

The look on Mexican Square Pants’ distant face was priceless. The ball soaring over his already clapped together hands was even more priceless. The ball going into the net from this distance sent me reeling over backwards, and I fell on my back and kicked my feet in the air and went into convulsions of the laughing kind. So did the rest of my team. From a distance, it may have looked like we were hit with a lethal gas that the Mexican pickers had grown accustomed to. It was all very suspect and surreal.

After the game, the Mexican boys invited me over to their cars and we drank cheap beer and all took turns trying to recreate the single jack performed by Mexican Square Pants while the man himself stood there red-faced and took it all with great humor and huge swills of beer.
These days, my pastimes are different. I have different priorities. I have discovered the beauty of the reclining chair...

The older I get…

“Just shakin’ the bushes, boss! Just shakin’ the bushes!”


Jeannie said...

I was waiting for the too-big square pants to fall down but it was an excellent story. My kid was on a team for years with a defender who had a hell of a kick on him - I always hoped one day he'd get a goal from behind the centre line but he didn't. There's nothing like a perfect goal. Soccer's the only sport I can stand to watch.

kario said...

How does a 40-something guy know about SpongeBob Square Pants? Never mind, I don't want to know.

Loved the story, love the images, congrats on the goal. Reminds me a little of Al Bundy re-living his glory days in HS football, but better.

Jean said...

Damn... you're good!

...and, I love that Bonnie Raitt song.

PeteS said...

Yo ho ho, Scott from O. Haven't dropped by in way too long. Don't know if I'll ever manage to catch up with the back issues, but this one is great.

CSL said...

That Bonnie Raitt Song is just called "I Can't Make You Love Me." Great song.

I am always astounded how sports-people (if that's a word) can remember a play in such exquisite detail, whether their own or someone else's. I think I'm missing that part of my brain.

slaghammer said...

I’ve never had a sports moment of any consequence. I came close once in a pickup game of football, well executed play, caught the pass, eluded all defenders except the one who pushed me into a leg of a swing set. No touchdown, cauliflower ear, lost the game. The ear was an interesting conversation piece till the swelling went down.