It’s That Time Of Year Again

November 21, 2012

It’s the fourth week of November and everybody knows what that means, it’s Iron Bowl week. Oh yeah, it’s also Thanksgiving, but more importantly it’s time for what’s considered to be one of the best and most hard-fought rivalries in all of sports. Now, if you’ve never lived in the South, then none of this will make sense but if you have or do, enjoy. I wrote this a few months ago and  I thought it’d make a nice post while I recover from surgery. Hope to be back with some freshly pressed thoughts soon-

 

Over the Top

 

In 1982, with two minutes left in the game, would-be Heisman Trophy winner, Bo Jackson, jumped over a thousand pounds of defensive linemen to beat Alabama by one point in the Iron Bowl. The final score was 23-22. I was a sun-freckled, pony-tailed, 12 year old girl on that cold November day.  A crimson and white shaker hung limp in my hand, fallen between my feet like the tail of a scolded dog. Until the game clock expired, I wholeheartedly believed Bear Bryant would lead my team to victory in his last Iron Bowl game ever. However, as time ticked down in Armageddon fashion, college football’s winningest coach fell on the sword of rivaled fate. When the game was over the sun went dark, the oceans dried up, people drank Pepsi instead of Coke.

 

Everything felt wrong.

 

Though I was just a child, I had a head full of grown-up profanity. I sat with my jaw unhinged to the floor. The TV made unintelligible noises and our family room felt like a funeral parlor. In a fit of crimson rage, I stormed out of the house through the back door, then the screen door, slamming both as I passed. I don’t know how to explain what happened next, maybe it was the Auburn fight song that made me do it, but without any premeditation, I began kicking our aluminum screen door. It was the kind of door made with aluminum across the bottom and a screen on top. With every kick there was greater satisfaction. It was not until the bottom half of the door hung by a shred like a child’s loose tooth that I realized what I had done. I felt a wave of dread wash over me as I gawked at the demolished door. It looked like it had been half eaten by a T-Rex. The upper screen was the only part spared from the carnage. Now mostly untethered, it bounced lazily on the wind like a dress on a clothesline. Suddenly, through that flapping screen, I could see my dad watching from the other side. I didn’t notice him before but as my eyes began to refocus and adjust, I saw him standing there like Boo Radley behind Jem’s bedroom door.

 

He had seen it all.

 

He looked at the screen door, looked at me and walked inside. I stood frozen like a criminal caught in the act. The white hot spotlight of my dad’s attention felt like a search beam cast down from an overhead police helicopter. I imagined snipers in the azalea bushes surrounding my yard. I dared not move. I did, however, begin to make a case for myself. I thought maybe I could plead insanity. After all, it was a traumatic loss and even Bear Bryant looked disoriented. Not only that, my mother was certifiably crazy and for once, perhaps, this could work to my advantage. Between the dramatic loss and faulty genes, I believed an argument could be made that I was a victim of forces greater than myself.

 

“Michele, come here.”

 

The bark of my name snapped me back into reality. The sound of dad’s voice caused my posture to stiffen. I took a deep breath and stepped through the enormous hole in the door I had created with my right foot. I slinked into the house like a naughty cat. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil and paper. I took the seat farthest from him. He said, “It’s okay to be passionate. It’s okay to get angry but it is NOT okay to lose your temper.” Then he slid the paper across the table towards me, handed me the pencil and said, “I want you to write ‘I will not lose my temper when I get angry’ two hundred times.”

 

“What the…!?” slipped out of my mouth.

 

Then, I remembered the helicopters and the snipers. “I mean, yes, sir” and began laboriously dictating my penitence. As I wrote, my only comfort was the hope that the defensive linemen who had allowed Bo to go over the top were writing, “I will not lose the Iron Bowl in the last two minutes of the game” one MILLION times.

 

For what felt like the three hour drive from Auburn to Tuscaloosa, I wrote. When I reached the two-hundredth sentence, I penned it as neatly as my now arthritic hand would allow. Then, as an act of resilience and triumph, I wrote it again. Two hundred and ONE.  I wasn’t going to be outdone by my dad or Bo Jackson on this day. When I finished, I laid my pencil down and slid the paper back across the table towards my dad. While I made restitution, he sat drinking hot coffee and reading an article in the Mobile Press Register. The Register’s headline the following day would read “Over The Top Bo” but the only thing “over the top” on that day was my anger. Noticing I finished, he folded his newspaper and turned his attention to me. He looked over each sentence as if it might be different from the other hundred or so. When he came to the last page, I watched him read, “201. I will not lose my temper when I get angry.” Burying a smile, he pushed the papers away, looked up at me and asked, “Well, have you learned anything from all of this?”  I replied, “Yes. I learned not to lose my temper when I get angry.” Since I had just written that two hundred and ONE times, I knew that was the answer he was looking for but in reality, all that I really learned was that football will break your heart and Pat Dye must have sold his soul to the devil.

 

 

 

 

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