Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Here’s how the cheer goes:
Cheerleaders (enthusiastically, of course): We gonna do that boogie woogie!
Crowd: Yeah, man!
Cheerleaders: We gonna do that boogie woogie!
Crowd (predictably): Yeah, man!
(Repeat 1X more, then …)
Cheerleaders: And THEN we’re going home …
Crowd: … and THEN we’re going home …
The “and then we’re going homes” fade out as they go back and forth.
This is a cheer designed for away games, of course, and is always a crowd pleaser. It’s as close to a Ray Charles call-and -response moment one could hope for at a junior high basketball game.
I did a little stint as a junior high b-ball benchwarmer. It was then that I discovered that the sporting life was not the life for me. It was a moment involving that cheer I just taught you, so keep it in mind. Or refer back to it if you need to.
The details of this particular away game are not important, which is good, as I’ve repressed them pretty effectively. What I do remember is that our team, the Greenville Christian School Saints, have just won the game, and we’re feeling pretty good about it, even those of us who are just there to participate in the pregame lay-ups.
We’re all in the locker room, and the mood is seriously elevated, a dozen pre-pubescent guys feeling pretty manly. We’ve just come off the court, and the high fives are flying. (Maybe there were high fives. Did we high five back in the late ’70s? Hmmmm … why don’t I know this?) Anyway, I seem to think that we’ve just soundly defeated our long-standing rival. The game details are sketchy, but I know one thing – we are pumped.
The details of what happens next are, alas, all too clear. The excitement is building, and I suddenly see an opening to contribute. I’m useless as a basketball player, but perhaps I can contribute in another way. Yes, what’s clearly needed right now is for someone to initiate the “Boogie Woogie” cheer – and I’m just the guy to do it.
I play the scene out in my mind. I’ll seize the energy and yell: “We gonna do that boogie woogie!” and everyone will let loose with a “Yeah, man!” I’ll do the line again and everyone will respond even more appropriately, delighted that someone (me) had the idea to initiate this war-whoop of a cheer. When we get to the “And then we’re going home” part, we’ll do it in unison, building to a satisfying crescendo upon the realization that we are, in fact, going home (having recently done that boogie woogie.)
Oh, this’ll be great! I’m usually pretty quiet, lingering in the perimeter, but after this my teammates will have newfound respect for me. I didn’t EXPECT to be hoisted onto their shoulders, but I’m willing to go with it.
“WE GONNA DO THAT BOOGIE WOOGIE!” I yell.
The resulting silence is as immediate as if a gun has just been fired.
Everyone stops their babble and turns to look at me, and not happily. It’s as if the group has suddenly and collectively wondered who I am and what the hell I’m doing here.
“He’s wearing one of our jerseys, but I don’t remember seeing him around before.”
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 clear that more cheering from me was not what was called for. I pretend to have trouble unlacing my shoes until the attention drifts away from me. Whew.
The emotional scars are still there. I’ve grieved, and forgiven, and processed, but still, I wonder who I’d 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 ever since that day – would I be able to do that boogie woogie?
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