Yes, he might be approaching 40, but that just means our author is taking his talents to the next level. At least he hopes so.
My friends and I have been reminiscing for as long as I can remember. About what doesn’t matter. Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” has never been and will never sound ironic to us. Maybe we’re missing something. . . or maybe we’re simply obsessing over every detail of our memories. In short, the rehash is the adventure when the tale’s told well. That’s what movie posters mean by “timeless” and what 30-something men-children on skateboards are sharing with Instagram tags like “#classic.”
So the stupid shit people actually do can live forever. But what about untold stories (or, more accurately, all the amazing things we never did)? Those poor defenseless fantasies are mortal. You cannot get shitfaced and enjoy talking about what you never did. (I believe that’s the theme of a Shakespearean tragedy that went straight to DVD.) But are we left to curse fate, or can we evolve and maybe find some way to take our talents to a better place, may it be heaven, Florida or some similar venue associated with maturity?
I was 16 once, opening Busch Beer bottles with a sharp rock (evolution be damned) under high tension power lines during a thunderstorm, saying things like, “Oh, that’s just heat lightning,” when my ultimate sports fantasy flashed across my consciousness, but the game clock on that dream is about to strike triple-zero. Ironically, this is just when the dream would have begun.
I’ll get to the dream, but first a little reality, which never hurt anyone (or kills everyone):
A friend of mine recently told me that women see us as 40-year-old men. The ladies are wrong about me, as usual. I am 39. But, also as usual, there’s no more accurate mirror for a man than a woman. Yet, upon cresting this hill, poised for a Frome-ish careering through my final chapters, my first thought was not of my beloved things past, any sexy obstacles that may lie ahead or the Final Stop in oblivion (or Bolivia, as Iron Mike prophesized—his guess as good as any). Instead, what slapped me with the sobering force of an ex’s good fortune was that my sports dream is dead.
If I had ever professionally strapped on any sporting goods, everyone from my kids to grown men in game jerseys and dress shoes would be telling me to “hang ‘em up” for the good of my team, my legacy, and my health. (Metaphysical therapy and pain killers here I come.) Crashing into the reality of professional sports retirement age may be less relevant to me than to anyone who ever actually played or had any realistic shot of playing professional sports. I saw some quality minutes in junior high basketball, and by “quality” I mean as opposed to “quantity.” But that doesn’t take the swirled-wet-towel sting out of the loss of my sports dream.
Other dreams remain (please take care of yourself LiLo, and you too, Axl)* but I will never give a pro’s post-game interview. That was my dream.
I’ve been told by past lovers and bosses (insert redundancy joke here, right here) that I tend to see and do things differently than most. Apparently that is not always a compliment. Remember that old Apple ad campaign, “Think Different”? Everyone kept bitching that it should say “differently.” Then those hepcats went on to transform high tech esoterics into everyman accessories.
So now for something (entirely?) different: Me, I’ve always dreamed not first of sports superstardom or groupies or trophies—although, yes, those too, and quite necessarily in that subsequent order—but foremost I envisioned myself shirtless, plain white towel around my healthy waist, hair wet, seated on the low pine bench in front of my locker, mikes, tape recorders and cameras in my face.
I don’t mind the fuss. I’m the Champ. The MVP. The wily Vet who did it one more time. Perhaps, instead, the Rook who took ‘em all by surprise or the Bench Warmer who stepped up. What I may have done is less important than the fact that I’ve got something to say about what I did (something you only dream of doing) and the fans want to hear all about it.
Maybe it’s that I’m a storytelling devil’s advocate in possession of a soul that craves contact to conduct my atoms to the sublime. Or maybe I just love talking and showering. I had Jimi on the shower radio just yesterday. Are you experienced? Have you ever been experienced? Nope. . .
Upon reflection, I’m not sure if my post-game press conference career wouldn’t have morphed into a bad business trip even if I had been in the Show. Today most post-game interviews are literally staged. Icons climb onto a platform that looks as if it were built to host a hotdog eating contest or used RV auction. Legends enter one at a time in an orderly, and often grumpy, manner as if they’re paying for socks at Marshall’s—Register 6 is open, sir. And please don’t wrap the towel around your body until you’ve purchased the item.
The staged press conference offers players too much time for reflection and too much reflection, though it may slow things down (or, perhaps, distract from the fact that you can’t), doesn’t allow for those genuine moments of honesty, of feeling. I know what feels right—and what hurts. Platitudes, like kicks to the balls, hurt—even if the star couldn’t have kicked you so impressively without the help of his or her teammates, support of the fans, blah, blah, blah. . . On that daily list of names and parts professionals sports teams issue to the press before games, there I’d be marked as injured between “[some dude], groin” and “[some other dude], foot.” “Boyle, soul,” listed as day to day—because aren’t we all.
Also, people don’t use tape recorders anymore, unless they’re also wearing skinny jeans while asking questions about the modes of media as they relate to the meaning of life, which always gets back to unwrapping other tightly clothed, yet thoughtfully tattooed, youngsters.
Where does that leave a 39-year-old scribbler with answers at the ready but no gracious inquisitor? Seated (at a desk, alone) fully clothed (business casual) trying to tell myself it’s OK to let it go, to move on, to begin the next stage of my fantasy life.
So tomorrow I’ll get up, put on my best and only suit and/or cut the sleeves off all my hoodies a la Bill Belichick (I have more of them), and start to train for my fantasy press conference, not as a player anymore, but as a coach. I’ll begin a strict jogging-away-from-reporters-while-conversing-with-them regimen, and begin meditating on how best to express that ‘I hate you, but you need to hear, believe & live my wisdom’ pathos of the Winning Coach.
Maybe the shift from fantasy player press conference to fantasy coach press conference is devolution, more akin to the wannabe writer who abandons novels to write B-movie scripts than to the pupil who becomes the professor, but either way, you still get an audience. . . and the crowd goes wild, or at least occasionally someone says “cheers.” Which reminds me, ladies, besides bringing my drinking inside, I now open beer bottles with an opener instead of a rock. Evolution is such a timeless classic.
Footnote * Axl = W. Axl Rose. The fantasy would be his voice returning to 1987 vintage and a reunion with Slash and the boys, plus, if we’re in the realm of fantasy, maybe Neil Young joins the band for a tour that opens in my hometown. LiLo = Lindsay Lohan. The fantasy is not that she wins an Oscar—but equally unlikely.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson