I can picture it now.
An old, brown, dusty couch settled in the center of a scanty, smoke-filled living room. A hole ripped in one of its cheetos stained pillows and a surly middle-age man – his jeans worn and his wife-beater smudged with pancake syrup – staring stupidly at a Hooters ad on television.
Not too far in the future, this man could be me. I may one day become: Al Bundy.
Now, I don’t know about the wife and kids and the dog named “Buck,” but I fear that, like Al, I will spend the rest of my life dwelling in past successes.
This fear surfaced a few days ago, when I phoned an old friend, a teammate on my college water polo team.
“Remember that one game, Charlie. Remember what I did that game?” I said, disregarding the snores which blared from the receiver. “Seven goals. Could you believe it? Seven. That was somethin’, wasn’t it?”
The snores stopped, but that didn’t mean Charlie was listening.
“Yeah, that’s great. Listen, I gotta go,” Charlie replied, his voice languid.
And then I thought: It’s happening! Like a vietnam veteran who dresses in his uniform and stripes for the trip to the supermarket, my future conversations will be dominated by prosaic glory stories from my years as a young adult.
Everyone I meet will hear it. My children, their children, my cousins and their cousins. Everyone will hear the “Seven Goal Story.”
It’s inevitable. Those were the best years of my life and will remain my fondest memories. In a bleak and very real sense, my life may never be that good again.
But, hey, it could be worse.
I could be Frank Furintini, Sir Francis Drake High School’s “bully.” He was short, paunchy and wore a red-bandanna as if to say he was a part of some street gang, but everyone knew he lived in a Belvedere mansion and spent his summers playing Nintendo in his over-sized toy room. His only good memory will be about the time he stuffed a banana down Principal Clifford’s gas pipe his junior year.
And John Derrick, the guy who spent much of math class at the unofficial “smoking section” picking the ground for cigarette butts, won’t have a story to tell at all. Unless, of course, he tells it to a judge or the people at his weekly AA meeting.
In a way, Al Bundy is more a character of success than failure. Sure, he may own just one pair of socks and a rainy day may be his idea of a shower, but he made the most of the years when it counted: He scored four touchdowns in one high school football game.
He may not have discovered cold-fusion, or made millions of dollars or played in the NFL. But he was an athlete, once. and a darned good one in his little sports world.
Take Jimmy Respet, a former bench warmer with the Fordham University baseball team. He played just four games in his two years as a walk-on with the team, but in one of those games, he hit a grand slam – a towering floater that nearly smashed the windshield of a car on a boulevard 420-feet from home plate. It was Fordham’s second grand slam of the inning, and it tied an NCAA record.
Respet may not have played much in his college years, but he played just enough to create valuable memories; enough to say he made his mark in sports.
And I too, made my mark. Even if it was in a sport as spectator-friendly as chinese checkers, it was nonetheless a moment in my life where I felt on top of my game.
That, to me, is a story worth being retold.