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2010/01/30

Confessions of a Football Manager Part I: Alice Falls Down The Rabbit Hole

I watched part of the last Viking’s game this season and got swept up in the drama. It was a very entertaining game which, unfortunately, ended without the hoped for outcome. With the Super Bowl coming up, I thought I’d share a few of my football experiences. No, I never played the game, though I did spend a lot of time in the locker room.

I didn’t play the game because I thought it was stupid. I thought it was stupid because my older brother, who was a bit of a creep when we were growing up, played it and I hated anything he liked – with the exceptions of Bruce Springsteen and Cher. My older brother was actually in the starting line-up and played all through his high school years. He was quite an athlete. I, on the other hand, was an ugly duckling that never seemed quite ready to bloom.

My game was basketball. Yep, I was a dedicated benchwarmer up until 10th grade when the futility of my situation finally dawned on me. That’s when track became my sport. The coach deemed me suitable for only the two mile run, and while I failed to see the insult, I did see it as my ticket to legitimately earn the letter for my letterman’s jacket. I went to Regionals that year (where I came in last place!), but it all hardly seemed worth the effort and time. I ran until I earned that letter. The moment I did, I was done with high school athletics. All that mean boy energy rubbed me the wrong way (no pun intended). Oddly enough, it was only after coming out of the closet and having sex with men that my interest in athletics was restored. Since that time, lifting weights, running, hiking and biking (until I broke my neck – see an earlier blog) have all been a routine part of my life. The most athletic thing I did in the interim involved ballet barres, choreographing musicals and dancing in shows (I was a good dancer). That is, unless you count my time as Football Manager, which I do because during that time I certainly athletically worked a certain muscle over and over again.

In my small town, when sixth graders became seventh graders they also became high school students. Moving from the grade school to the high school turned out to be a very intimidating experience for me. Keep in mind I was pretty timid in general at that age. I was a quiet sponge, watching, observing and recording social interactions and their aftermath, usually from a safe distance. This was probably due to my placement in my family. As a middle child I pretty much became the family historian, the one to bear witness to everything. To this day I astonish my siblings and parents with my ability to recall some of the most mundane aspects of our lives, including events that happened when I was only a few years old. I was a sensitive sentinel. My abilities to absorb the emotional intent of others made me incredibly empathetic. Sometimes that served me well. In high school? Not so much.

So, upon entering those hallowed, hollow halls, I drew into myself even more. I recall being befriended early on by a group of senior girls who were drawn to me because I was so shy and rarely looked directly at anyone or anything but the floor. They became my protectors, escorting me about between classes. They thought I was cute. I would pay them compliments and flirt. Their boyfriends hated me. I was always underfoot. Once, one of the boyfriends became so enraged by my attentions to his sweetie that he pushed me hard into a locker and punched me in the stomach. He was a senior, I was a seventh grader. What the hell? Like I was serious competition? It happens that one of the girls involved happened to be the daughter of the principal of the school. That may be how I came to the attention of the head of the athletics department. But I could be wrong.

I’m not sure why it happened, but I was asked by the coach of the varsity football team, a burly man’s man who also served as the boy’s phys ed teacher, to be one of their Football Managers. The title seemed impressive and I accepted because… well, I’m not sure why. I think it might have had something to do with my lack of a sense of self. I had nothing to define me, save my love of Hot Wheels, my Action Jackson doll and acting out disaster movies in the privacy and safety of my basement (think Poseidon Adventure!). Also, it felt like I was being called before the king of the land and having a favor requested of me.

I had no idea what a Football Manager did, but I agreed to do it. This would be a role I would play for three seasons, until such time as I was informed by the head of the drama department that if I was serious about theatre and wanted lead roles this football nonsense would have to go, because the practice schedules were constantly in conflict. I chose the footlights. Exit the locker room, enter stage right.

It turns out being a football manager was pretty much the same as being a water boy. I and another kid, a nasally, lanky, dark-haired senior whose mouth seemed perpetually frozen in a condescending sneer, would haul first aid supplies, giant jugs of Gatorade, and assorted equipment out to the field for practices and games. We would then haul it all back. We would then hang up each player’s equipment in a damp, cramped room resplendently inundated with decades of funk and stale perspiration. That was the worst job. The equipment was very heavy and smelly. The best job? Oh, that would be handing out the towels to the players after they showered. As I mentioned previously on this blog, the towel room was located at the opposite end of the locker room from the shower room, which meant wet, naked footballers had to tread down a concrete aisle in order to be given a towel. The towel giver would stand in a tiny closet, much like a coat check room, and hand out one towel per player. It was the perfect vantage point for checking out the packages of all the top athletes at the school. Surprisingly, it was always the biggest geeks, dorks and doofuses that were the most well endowed. Oh, well, where God closes a door (by making you a doofus), Satan opens up a window (by giving you a big dong), am I right? But more on that later. In any case, I guess you could say the job did have its benefits – especially if you were a budding homo.

During my first year as Football Manager, I was the shining star. I was Johnny-on-the-spot, hardworking and eager to please. Each game I stood on the sidelines screaming my lungs out encouraging my team to win, win, win! Everybody loved me. I could do no wrong. All this adoration came at the expense of the other Football Manager, whose jealousy always surprised, but also fed me. There’s nothing so inspiring as the jealousy of another.

During a typical practice, one Football Manager would be out in the field with the varsity squad, while the other stayed in the locker room holding down the fort and passing out towels to the younger grades whose practice times ended before those of the varsity squad’s. The favored job was to stay inside, since practices tended to happen in all kinds of weather – that weather frequently being less than wonderful. Being the new guy I got stuck out on the field, chasing stray footballs and running errands for the coaches; rain, wind or shine. So basically the only dicks I got to see that year were those belonging to the seniors, juniors and coaches. I hadn’t learned to masturbate yet, and was, in fact still something of a sexual eunuch. So while I secretly admired these visions of manly wonder, I remained pretty much a clueless wonder.

I remember being awestruck by all the naked bodies running about. The general atmosphere was (especially during a winning season, which this one turned out to be) one of great camaraderie. I especially liked it when the students and coaches would engage in horseplay, usually naked – chasing each other with snapping towels, wrestling about and such. It was during one of these episodes that something that now strikes me as very odd occurred. During one particular ruckus, the head coach, who was naked, grabbed me and dragged me, fully clothed, into the shower room, where he held me under a steaming shower, getting me soaking wet. He was completely nude at the time, as were the players. I remember squealing like crazy, not out of terror, but rather like a little girl who is being teased mercilessly by the boys. I liked the attention. It felt like a rite of passage, a moment of ordained acceptance. I was one of the gang.

At the end of the season there was an athletic banquet where I was honored for my hard work and dedication. Seems that my being on the sidelines, screaming and cheering had some kind of impact on group morale and my contributions were deemed award worthy. I got my letter for my letterman’s jacket and a certificate. That made me the first person in my grade to get my letter. I was proud of that for about two minutes, until I realized that getting a letter for being a Football Manager was not the same as getting it for being an athlete. That’s why in 10th grade I would join the track team and earn my letter in the traditional way. Yes, sometimes a letter is not a letter.

The rest of the school year was spent trying to play basketball and then competing in the speech contests; both worthwhile activities, in spite of my lack of success. It wasn’t until the summer that I would come into my own… or maybe I should say I would cum into my own - my own hand, that is. Yep. I learned to masturbate. How, I’m not ready to share. It had something to do with the fact that I was now old enough to babysit and that every single home I babysat in had a copy of either Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) or a book by Xavier Hollander. The first time I masturbated; I succeeded and because I had never experienced anything like it before was certain something horrible had just happened. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to die; that God was not going to come down and smite me and that my Mother didn’t know what I was doing, it became my new favorite activity. Everything I cherished in my life at that time: singing in church, being an altar boy, practicing and playing piano, and listening to music all took a backseat. Hot Wheels and Action Jackson had to move aside – there was a new toy in town.

This new found passion swiftly became an addiction, and soon no place was sacred. It began to color how I viewed and interacted with pretty much everything in my world. That was especially true of the boys who played football and the men who coached them. My fantasy life became infused with the info and images I became privy to due to my proximity to all that relatively adult male nakedness. Those smells in the equipment room now seem much less distasteful. Jock straps suddenly became not something to be embarrassed about, but something to revel in. And I did, revel. I reveled all over that locker room that fall.

You see, my nemesis, the hateful, hawk-faced senior who got to remain inside while I toiled in the rain and wind? He graduated. That meant the team needed additional manpower. And who did the phys ed coach recruit? The boy most likely to succeed, the smartest kid in my grade, and someone who filled me with horrible feelings of jealousy and someone whom, for the sake of this story, we will call Tim. Everybody loved him. Tim was super smart, well-spoken and good-humored. Beloved of teachers (his father was one), priests and little old ladies throughout the town. In seventh grade he managed something no one else had done before – he made it to the State Speech contest with a precocious reading of a Mark Twain piece. I, on the other hand, labored away in the serious prose category where I languished unappreciated and undiscovered. I was eliminated early in the season. During speech practice I would sit with a tight smile jammed onto my face, as the speech coaches went on and on, ad nauseam, about the tremendous potential and God-given talent Tim possessed. He would go on to become class president and then a priest.

But I think I knew the source of just why it was he was so studious and clean; he didn’t enter puberty until senior year! I know this because I peeked when I could and subconsciously kept track of such things. He had some sort of hormone deficiency or something. Hence, I don’t think he learned to masturbate until then. In an ironic twist, in our senior year, it was I who went to the State Speech contest (I made a deal with God that if I stopped masturbating he would allow me to place at State), placing second in my category, while Tim got bumped at one of the earlier levels of competition. It was probably due to his being distracted; making up for lost time no doubt. But then again… he did become a priest, so who knows.

What I do know is that as freshmen, Tim was the sexual eunuch, while I was quickly graduating to the level of a secretive, chronic, kinked-out masturbating deviant. My situation was further exasperated due to my new ranking as head Football Manager. Since Tim-The-Perfect was the newbie, he was the one who went out into the field leaving me to explore the joys of an empty locker room.

And I did. I ‘explored’ all over that place like a dog marking territory.

End of Part I
Next Week: Part II: The Joys of an Empty Locker Room - Alice Unleashed

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