Barry Smith: Barry’s boogie-woogie blues |

Barry Smith: Barry’s boogie-woogie blues

Here’s how the cheer goes:The cheerleaders say, enthusiastically, “We gonna do that boogie-woogie!”The crowd answers, “Yeah, man.”The cheerleaders repeat, “We gonna do that boogie-woogie!”The crowd, now getting the hang of it, responds, “Yeah, man.”Predictably, the cheerleaders let loose with one more “We gonna do that boogie-woogie!”Following the final “Yeah, man,” the cheerleaders then chant, “And THEN we’re going home … and THEN we’re going home …” and the whole thing slowly fades.This was a cheer designed for away games, of course, and it was always a crowd pleaser, as well as a personal favorite. It was as close to a Ray Charles call-and-response moment as one could hope for at a junior high assembly.Before I came to realize that the sporting life was not the one for me, I did a little stint as a junior high basketball benchwarmer. In fact, I can remember the very moment when I discovered that the sporting life was not the one for me. It had a lot to do with that cheer I just taught you, so try to keep it in mind as you read on.The details of this particular away game are not important, which is good, as I have repressed them pretty effectively. What I do remember was that our team, the Greenville Christian School “Saints,” had won the game, and we were feeling pretty good about it, even those of us who were just there to participate in the pregame warm-up activities.We were all in the locker room, and the mood was seriously elevated, a bunch of 12- to 15-year-old guys feeling pretty manly. We were huddled loosely, having just come off the court, and there were high-fives flying and all that sports stuff going on. I think we must have soundly defeated some long-standing rival, but like I said, I don’t remember all the details. However, I vividly remember what happened next. The excitement was building, and I could suddenly see an opening to contribute. I was useless as a basketball player, but perhaps my keen eye for detail and my already well-developed insights into human behavior could be put to use at this moment. Yes, what was clearly needed at that festive moment was for someone to initiate the “Boogie-Woogie” cheer, and I was the guy to do it.When this thought hit me, I immediately played the scene out in my mind. I would seize the energy and yell: “We gonna do that boogie-woogie!” and everyone would respond appropriately. I’d do the line again and everyone would respond even more appropriately. When we got to the “And then we’re going home” part, everyone would do it in unison, building it to a satisfying crescendo upon the realization that we were, in fact, going home (having done that boogie-woogie.)Yeah, this would be great. I was usually pretty quiet, lingering in the perimeter, but after this my teammates would have newfound respect for me. I didn’t necessarily expect to be hoisted onto their shoulders for my cheerleading prowess, but I was willing to go with it.Ahem …”WE GONNA DO THAT BOOGIE-WOOGIE!” I yelled.The resulting silence was as immediate as if a gun had just been fired.Silence. Everyone stopped their enthusiastic babble and turned to look at me, and not happily. It was as if the group had suddenly and collectively wondered what the hell I was still doing there, and the message was obvious on their bewildered, staring faces.Silence.Where do you go from there? Sure, I suppose I could have just gone on with the “Yeah, man” part, in hopes that they would have eventually joined in. But it was pretty obvious that more guidance from me was not what was called for. The emotional scars are still there. I have grieved, and forgiven, and processed, but I still feel that hurt. That was a defining moment in my development, and I often wonder who I would be now if that moment had turned out as planned. Would I be more expressive? Would I love sports? Would I be able to high-five without discomfort? Would I be perky? And most important ? the question that has haunted me every day since ? would I be able to do that boogie-woogie?[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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