Show me the testosterone

It’s a summer rite of passage for young American boys—their introduction to the block-knocking, ankle-twisting, cup-cracking world of full-on tackle football. My thoughts turned to boys and football recently when I spied a group of young lads on the field, running laps in full pads in the 95-degree heat. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these kids were thinking the same thoughts I thought while running those same stinking laps so many years ago—“Boy oh boy, do I miss my Slip ’n’ Slide!”

Actually, I was probably thinking about how much I disliked the damned salt tablets, which I hope nobody has to eat anymore. If you’re unfamiliar with salt tabs, those are the pills we took to make sure we didn’t die from sodium depletion while we were getting seriously dehydrated, which was happening because all coaches thought the desire for water while practicing in triple-digit heat was a sure sign that the thirster was worthless, weak and a probable future cross-dresser.

I remember the day I discovered I would never be a real football player. In fact, I remember the precise moment. It was my first year of high school, I was trying out for the JV team, it was the third day of summer practice, and we were embroiled in primitive tackling drills (as if there are any sophisticated tackling drills). In this one, two boys lie on the ground on their backs, 10 yards apart, heads pointed at each other. Coach Wagner (like most JV coaches, an evil bastard with complicated hang-ups who found release only while helpless in the chains of Madame Zina) would then blow the whistle, which would be our cue to leap up, turn around, and run at one another, with one of us being the tackler, and the other the tacklee. Well, on this sweltering hell of a Fresno August day, Coach was moaning about how everybody was half-assing their way through this little spleen-popper of a drill, and how he was wantin’ to see some decent gosh-darned collisions out here or he just might send a bunch of us off to the debate team. His moaning reached a fever pitch just when it was time for me and my good buddy Scott to have a go at each other. While lying on my back, awaiting the whistle of violence, I made up my mind to nail Scott but good to show Coach that my gonads were manufacturing serious amounts of nearly flammable testosterone. Unfortunately for me, Scott was thinking the same thing. The whistle blew, and the two of us positively thundered into each other, delivering a crowd-pleasing collision that finally gave Coach the little taint-buzz that he had been so earnestly seeking.

As I stood in the back of the line with aching guts and jangled bell and not really believing that I was gonna have to go through this savagery again in about two minutes, I remember thinking very clearly, “You know, Bruce, it might be time to start working on the ole free throws.”