Sunday, August 23, 2020

#14 All of Our Story


All of Our Story. Welcome back Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for being good sports by allowing me to runoff to a little fantasy, fiction and darkness in that last Post. I really wish I could hear Voices speaking to me from beyond. When you can do that, you can charge good money for it and call yourself a Psychic. I ran-off to fantasy because reality was too difficult. I was frightened by unexpected grief. As a small boy I learned to protect myself with my imagination. This is an entirely different Story. The Story that I’m telling right now is All of Our Story. If this was a real book, All of Our Story might be the best title. What triggered my grief? What trigged my grief was Larry’s obit that my Mom had cut out of the Oak Ridger and sent to me in Seattle 19 years ago. Larry died about two weeks after our 20 year Reunion. At that time I had a 7 month old baby girl, mortgage, car payments and a stressful job. I didn’t have time, nor know how to grieve. I stashed that clipping unread in my ’81 Oak Log and only discovered it again last week, 19 years later. My grief had been perfectly preserved in a hermetically sealed time-capsule, patiently waiting for me to return. Grief is really patient and unescapable. I don’t hear Voices and I don’t see Ghost and I imagine few of you do either, but some of you may. I think we all get touched by glimpses of intuition. A gut feeling. Something raw, gnawing at our heart. It’s not cerebral. We can’t figure it out by thinking about it. There’s no Killer App for grief. Maybe a good therapist can help you. For me, only being still works. Being in solitude. Walking in woods or on a beach. Sitting. In Prayer and or Meditation messages come clear. What was really clear to me last week was that I’m missing something and or somebody in Our Story. My gut told me at least part of what’s missing is related directly to Emory. This was very clear to me. That’s why I said “Emory is upset. He won’t be silent.” My intuition was telling me that I had left or missed a critical piece of the puzzle that belonged to our Fearless Leader. Also, a person. Someone left out was speaking to me through my subconsciousness. That someone was saying something like this: “You left me out. You always leave me out. Don’t forget about me. You’re leaving me, just like you did before. This is Our Story. All of Our Story and I too was there.”

Last week I heeded a “Call-to-the-Wild.” That’s where I go when I need clarity. I’m drawn to the Wild of Olympic National Park. It’s primitive landscape of Snow covered Glacier Mountains, Old Growth Rain Forest, rushing white Rivers and the mighty Northern Pacific Ocean. This is a place which Speaks to me. 

On day two of my trip last week, I went into a small town called Forks, WA (setting for Twilight). While having breakfast at a diner, I was flipping though my Oak Log and stumbled across Larry’s obit. I read it for the first time. I felt a minor grief burp while reading Larry’s obit, but I kept my stoic composure in front of the waitress. It didn’t hit me until I was driving down the twisting road that leads to the Ocean. I’ve been dealing with a lot of death lately. My Dad in May. My sister, LeAnn in July, and seeing Larry’s picture and reading what I had hidden away for almost 20 years unlocked a swell of repressed grief. I’m not going to do a deep-dive into Larry and all the others that we have lost. I’m not going to list all the friends that we have lost. I fear I will leave someone off our list. I know that the hard-working volunteers that Host our Reunions do an amazing job of creating a special place of tribute to those we have lost. I’m going to keep telling Happy and Funny Stories. I do need to digress and tell a funny Larry Rivas story because it’s important to my Story and how I made the leap from Woodland Pothead to starting Left Tackle. Larry and I smoked pot pretty much everyday. One of our favorite times to burn a joint was on our way to school. We had perfected how to smoke just the right amount of pot in the morning. We wanted to be high, but not too high. We had been experimenting with this ritual since seventh grade. One day, in tenth grade, Larry and I were walking from Woodland to High School. We had just finished a “Goldilocks” joint—it was just the right size and were functionally-high. Out of nowhere, Bruce Pernell came flying up in his car and came to a skidding stop. He rolled down his window and yelled, “Get in!” We were more terrified of Bruce than Coach Brewster. Larry and I didn’t know if we should run for safety inside McDonalds or scream out for help. Bruce commanded again, “Get in the car, now!” We obeyed. Bruce peeled-off out of the parking lot. It was about .15 minutes before first bell. Bruce proceeded to light a gigantic joint. At this point, I knew this was going to be really bad. I was going to be really stoned and really late to class. Bruce made us. I mean made us smoke that entire joint that was rolled like a thick cigar. Knowing Bruce, he may have even made us eat the roach. I don’t remember. I do remember that he sped us like a madman up and down Providence while we watched from his car windows the last students hurry into the building. Bruce didn’t have a care in the world. He finally released his Hostages. Like Beavis and Butt-Head, totally Baked, we scurried to our first class. It was Mrs. Swartzendruber’s English class. Larry and I were both in it. We sheepishly opened the door. The class was already reading from a Literature book. Mrs Swartzendruber gave us a stern look over her reading glasses. We took our seats. I opened my book and could barely see the words. They blurred and letters seem to move like tiny ants. It was a round-robin reading exercise. I sat anxiously waiting as my turn to read was quickly approaching. Eventually it was my turn. I barely got through it. The girl sitting next to me was Valerie. She leaned over after I finished reading and whispered, “If I didn’t know better, I would think you’re stoned off you’re ass.” I felt as if I had dodged a bullet when my reading turn was over. Larry couldn’t do it. He was too Cooked to read. He stumbled through the passages and eventually Mrs Swartzendruber let him off the hook. The bell rang. I dashed for the door and Swartzendruber blocked my path. She let Larry leave. Alone, in her Classroom, she looked me over. I thought for sure she was going to say, “You’re busted! Come with me young man.” She didn’t. She said something like, “You might make it.” She gave me one more of her stern looks and shooed me into the Hallway. Nothing else needed to be said. 

This all relates directly to my Football experience. I knew I could not keep smoking pot and cigarettes and play football. I was puking everyday running Banks. I had to choose. I chose Football. To this day, I carry Survival Guilt around Larry. Larry felt that I left him. I know now I didn’t leave Larry. I left the life that Larry and I was living. Even back then, as a fifteen-year-old Stoner from Woodland, I knew I wanted something more from life and being a Wildcat was my path out. I have much thanks to give specifically to Emory and many, many great Oak Ridge Families that supported me. I’m the Poster-Child for it takes a Village. Our Village Story is All of Our Story. 

This Story is All of Our Story as it relates directly to the 1980 State Championship. Almost the exact same Story could be told about the 1979 State Championship by only changing the names of the Seniors. Kevin Hurt was special though. Kevin unexpectedly popped into my head.

Let’s now ask a fair question: “If Kevin was here with us today, what would Kevin do or say if he really thought Big E was upset?” Here’s my speculation: Kevin, being the consummate leader that he was, would speak with Big E and calm him down. Kevin would convince Emory that this is not his Story and that the 1980 Championship was not really his Win, but All of Ours. The entire Oak Ridge Community: Every single member of this humongous Team—Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores, Trainers, Coaches, Special Assistant Coaches, Volunteers, Dr. Tittle, Cheerleaders, Flag Girls, Majorettes, Band, Entire Student Body, Teachers, Families and especially all of those diehard Wildcat fans throughout our very Special Oak Ridge Community. This Story is not just about the starting Seniors who got to live a Dream. It’s All of our Story. For all us boys who got to live a Dream in 1980, there were those boys watching from that gigantic hill, under the Autumn Moon with a tinge of hurt. These boys were super athletes as well. Boys of broken bones and shattered dreams: Joe Carey, Jim Easton, Steve Fitchpatrick. These are three that come to mind. Joe Carey was an outstanding Defensive Nose Tackle. Coach Brewster loved Joe. Joe was destined to be All-State. Jim Easton, the same. Brewster loved Jim. Jim had incredible speed and strength. I think both Joe and Jim had knee injuries that prematurely ended their Football. Steve was a tremendous Tight End as well. He had terrific hands. Steve shared this with me about his experience: “I remember Dr Tittle setting my dislocated shoulder on the field for the third time and the shame I felt because I thought it was my fault for not being able to play out the Dream we all had. I remember distinctly standing up on the hill with tears streaming down my face the night the Team I grew up with won a State Championship and I was no longer a part of it.” There are many aspects to Our Collective Story. All those Players who got to play and didn’t get to play. It’s all of Our Story and we all participated in it and we’re all celebrating the 40th anniversary.

Now back to Kevin. If I could, I would try to tap into Kevin’s wisdom. I would say, “Kevin. Something is missing in this Story around Emory. Kevin might tell me this: "Attention must be made to such a person!” And I would reply, “What? What in the world are you talking about, Kevin?”

"Attention must be made to such a person!" He would say. “John, listen to me, you understand this line from Death of a Salesman. Attention must be made to such a person!” Eureka. I would reply, “Yes! That’s it, Kevin. Thank you! Now I understand why Emory will not remain silent. He’s due. He’s overdue full-respect. He’s not asking for shameless, self-promotion. This great Coach is way too humble and proud. Emory Hale has yet to be rightfully recognized for his personal achievements while leading The Wildcats.” Kevin would probably nod in agreement. Only Kevin could help us hear this. That’s the kind of Leader that he was. Kevin would then give us that smile, that beautiful smile of Kevin’s that I will never forget. Kevin would then fade away like an elusive Wildcat silently stalking through Old Growth Forest.

It’s time Ladies and Gentlemen: Attention Must Be paid to Emory Hale. It’s time for his Bronze Statue at Blankenship. Armstrong got the Stadium name with 4 State Championships. Attention Must Be paid! It’s time to commission an artist to create an Emory Hale Statue. On this historic 40 year anniversary of the 1980 State Championship. Attention Must be Paid. Dear Honorable Randy McNally, Lieutenant Governor of Tennessee, Attention Must Be Paid to Emory Hale. The Time is Now! Dear Booster’s Club, Attention Must Be Paid to the Man who brought our Community 3 State Championships: 1975, 1979 and 1980. In 12 years, Emory Hale delivered an impressive overall record as Head Coach: 114 wins and 21 loses. His last 6 years in Oak Ridge he won 86 games and lost only 9. Attention Must Be Paid to the man who coached Steve Spurrier at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, TN. Attention Must Be Paid to the Man who positively influenced so, so many boys and girls in Oak Ridge and helped many boys receive Football Scholarships. It’s time to start raising money to memorialize Emory Hale as one of the Greatest ORHS Coaches of our generation. Attention Must Be Paid. This is All of Our Story!

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