Bob Huber: Humor Columnist
“What’s happened to manners in American sports?” I cried while watching a televised football game where a linebacker danced a clumsy jig after transforming a quarterback’s head into sludge. “I’ll bet his mama would nail his hide to the barn door.”
I was visiting my daughters at the time, and they said, “It’s because modesty and chivalry are blasé and no longer acceptable. They’re too boring. Proof is, rudeness has 18 synonyms while courtesy has only six.”
Obviously they took after their mother and misunderstood my query, so I sulked away for some quiet meditation amidst fond memories of my own mannerly sports career.
Compared to today’s antics, my personal pursuit of excellence in athletics was replete with common courtesy. Almost.
A much misunderstood incident occurred during the final contest of my high school football career, a game that would decide if our team could clinch the next-to-last place in our conference and thereby break a long-standing school record as champions of skunkdom. We had only to play the Colorado School for the Deaf to be elevated out of the ranks of the totally skunked.
Obviously my high school football team was not championship caliber, but as the end of the season approached, we saw a flicker of light at the end of this otherwise gloomy tunnel.
The Deaf School team, meanwhile, had also lost every game that season, because their coach had a unique problem — his team couldn’t hear signals. So he developed a defensive strategy whereby his team watched a designated player on the opposing side. When the player moved, his team moved. It was a reasonable ploy.
But a sub-problem cropped up for the Deaf School team — opponents quickly figured out who was being watched, and that player never moved. Schools ran up 14 points before the Deaf School players moved out of their original defensive stances.
Confident we could figure out who the designated player was, we strode into a bizarre arena that night. Within a few minutes we knew he was our left tackle, Swifty Darmitzel. All Deaf School eyes were on him.
Huddling up, our quarterback said, “Swifty, don’t move. We’ll run the right side.”
Twice more we came away with points before the Deaf School coach realized what was happening. That’s when the Deaf School coach called time out and named a new designated player for his team to watch.
Huddling again, our quarterback said, “Huber, don’t move. They’re all looking at you.” I nodded with an evil glint in my eye.
I’ll have to admit a mood of cockiness swept over me. This was so easy. All I had to do was — nothing! (It was a posture I was familiar with.) I saw myself as the game’s hero. When the fat lady sang, my teammates would carry me on their shoulders.
Down in my stance, I glanced across at my opponent, a gangly boy with eyes bugged out at me. I quickly looked at other members of his team. They were all turned in my direction, all watching my every move. So easy.
I looked once more at the gangly youth, and to this day I don’t know why I suddenly pointed a finger at him like a pistol, crossed my eyes, and blew a slobbery raspberry in his face.
How was I to know my movements would trigger the Deaf School linemen to smash into our team just as the ball was snapped, causing our quarterback to fumble and the Deaf School to score. Fired up by the play, the Deaf School went on to stomp us, and I was not carried on the shoulders of my teammates after the game.
In fact, I had a hard time keeping away from them. I might have made it out of the stadium but for an ungrateful cheerleader who smashed me in the face with her pompon.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.