Every now and then, the greatest single sports event of the year occurs on my birthday. Today is one of those days! That’s right: it’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m turning something between 30 and 59.
Now, I am not a big celebrator of my own birthday. I do, though, appreciate those who do. Today will be a good day because I not only get to watch my favorite sport but I also get to eat a ton of junk without sneaking around. Festivities, obviously, will be smaller this year but I’m sure it will be a great day. There have been many memorable ones and today, two came to mind.
The first, I didn’t even remember at first, even though it was just last year! Last February 7, my books arrived. I went over to my publisher’s house and did the honors of cracking open that first box of copies of ALL NATIVE. I can’t describe the feeling of being able to scratch one of the top items on my bucket list off, of holding my first novel in my hands. I only remembered today because my publisher, Chris, texted me the photo he took of me holding the book on, fittingly, the street I grew up on.
Despite COVID, it has been a pretty good year for me. The book came out, I got a new job, and most wonderfully, my first, beautiful grandchild. It has had challenges, of course, but I cannot complain as I know many people have had truly tough years. So today, I will appreciate the family who will be spoiling me and the fact that I get to do what so many others don’t.
Of course, today has brought on other memories, including one where the game fell on my birthday and was one of the biggest gong shows I have ever been a part of – and that’s saying something because, as anyone who knows me can attest to, I have been involved in MANY gong shows.
This particular one was a party at Rupert’s Crest Hotel exactly 11 years ago. Many of my family and friends, including most of my flag football team (which was sponsored by the Crest), attended. There was great food, cake, and lots of beer and shooters. And violence – oh, don’t worry. It’s now comical, as such stories often are.
You see, at some point that night, my buddy, whom I will keep anonymous by calling him Stef Esso, punched me in the face. Now, don’t feel bad; remember, this is a funny story!
I don’t remember much of the actual incident but, long story short: I bragged that I could take his best shot and insisted on proving it. I was too blotto to remember it but I woke up the next day to a hundred texts from him, apologizing profusely and asking me to come out to the parking lot (he had been kicked out) and make things right by punching him in the face.
Huh? I thought foggily, as I read his texts. Then, I saw my partner looking down at me with a frown and knew a story was coming. She told me how I had asked him to punch me and then it all started to seep into my memory and I remembered everything up to the punch but not the punch itself.
I recall telling Stef how I could take a punch. I remember boasting that I could even take a punch from the biggest guy in the league, a behemoth whom I shall keep anonymous by calling him Randy Benns. Thankfully, this wasn’t a punch from Randy, from whom I once received a bleeding nose and was left with no feeling in the left side of my face for weeks after I ran into his shoulder trying to get around him in a game.
Of course, all was good between my bud and I but there was a call for revenge from some of the other teammates when the next Super Bowl party rolled around. Of course, I said there was no way that I was going to sucker punch him and they agreed, suggesting a different act: pants-ing.
Now, I had never pants-ed anyone before and was worried that I would bungle it, that I would only get his pants partway down his hips and, once again, the joke would be on me. But, no, instead I proved a natural. It certainly helped that he was wearing sweatpants.
I waited until he had several beers in him which, if you know Stef, was, like, an hour or two into the party. His back was to me and he was holding court, on one of his trademark, epic rambles, standing in front of two tables full of friends.
I snuck up behind, did the ‘shhh’ gesture to everyone, and bang! I whipped his pants down in a flash, all the way down around his ankles. It was a perfect pants-ing … although there was one thing that I didn’t expect: he wasn’t wearing underwear.
Everyone roared in laughter and I howled at the unexpected sight of his bare ass. But, if the whole idea behind the act was revenge, it failed miserably because Stef’s reaction was to act as if nothing had happened. He just stood there, as everyone chuckled, and had another drink of his beer and continued on with his ramble, only pulling his pants up when bar staff insisted. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Today, I am wearing my Crest Saints jersey, and I remember the days when we could all hit each other then later shake hands and gather for drinks and laughs.
I have so many good friends because of sports. Even most of those who were bitter rivals are now friends. That’s why I believe strongly in the after-game handshake ritual, because without the other team, there’s no game. It’s our way of saying thanks for coming out and making this game happen.
So, hey, thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday today. I know I haven’t always been a good person and pissed a lot of people off but many of you are still there. You’ve forgiven me. You’ve stuck with me. You’ve supported me in my efforts.
A special thanks to my beautiful partner, whom I will keep anonymous by calling her Gronya, and who always spoils me on this day. Thanks as well to my kids and family, who have endured my quirks for so long. And a special thanks to my niece, Caire, today, who is working hard on today’s treats.
And, now, onto the big game!
It’s a great matchup between a quick, talented kid who is a fantastic improviser, and an old gunslinger with plenty of guile. I like the kid, and the Chiefs should win but, today, I’m going to go with guile because, well, eventually, that’s all many of us are left with. And, sometimes, it’s enough.