I will close this meandering stream of consciousness on football, with a heartbreaking story of getting my teenage heart broken while attending a high school football game. It was the last game I ever attended as a student. The story goes like this:
It was my junior year. I’d retired from football the previous season after the injury and intellectual exhaustion with arrogant coaches (in plaid polyester shorts) who breathed bromides with every scream. I had a Super Bowl crush on a fellow junior, easily the most exotic female on campus: clothes, hair, makeup, moves, foreign born but not a foreign exchange student. Her signature look was matching or clashing headbands and leg warmers. She was utterly self-exiled from the popular crowd. I suspected they feared her. No one could fathom her. I no longer recall how we met or what established and eventually deepened our mutual attraction. We might have had a class together that first semester. I do remember our first and last date together—if date is the word. It transpired at a football game! We arranged to meet at halftime of the Homecoming game. Why halftime? Why not opening kickoff? She made the call. She was quarterbacking. We met near the concession stand. A light rain fell. As she approached, I saw she was wearing a red headband and red and white-striped legwarmers. Our school colors were red and white. We got close. Her face was flushed, crimson, and sported a crooked smile. She slurred a little hello and teetered. She gave me a big hug and I breathed in deep: hair, body, soul. It was all booze. She reeked of alcohol. I had never smelled it up close on a person like that, evaporating, damn near visible, but I knew what it was, even thought I didn’t drink in high school and had never been drunk. She told me she’d been drinking rum and produced a half pint out of her purse that was almost empty. She didn’t offer me a belt. In the background, I heard the marching band. I saw the glare from the lights. I smelled hotdogs and hamburgers sizzling on the grills. The PA was announcing some raffle or car wash. She took my hand and led me away from the concession stand, into the darkness of the nearby side streets. She asked where my car was parked. My 74 blue VW Dasher was a few blocks away. We found it and slid onto the back seat. She took a final belt of rum and the bottle somehow got stowed. We started making out. I think I got drunk on rum from kissing her. A rum makeout fog clouded the windows. We were probably in there until the fourth quarter. All we did was kiss. The makeout session concluded. I walked her back to the stadium. She disappeared into the crowd. She’d invited me to come along, wherever she was going, but I declined. I have no idea why. It might have been the dumbest decision of my life up that point and for the next 20 years. I never told a single person about this “date.” I recorded it in my journal where no one has ever read of it. We never had another date. We never spoke of what happened. There was never a look from her in the halls. Every time I see a Dasher, I wince. Luckily, Dashers are almost vanished from Oregon.
I am writing this on a Sunday morning. The NFL games are underway and the religious services connected to them are in full fervor. I won’t be watching because I don’t have television.