Roger Marolt: Roger That
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I have to apologize for not showing up to work at the Booster Club concession stand last Friday night. I had better things to do. Well, I had one thing better to do, anyway. I was on the chain gang.
No, no, it’s not what you think. Don’t rush down to the post office expecting to see an updated photo on the bulletin board. As far as I know they haven’t yet proved that all of the phony letters I used to write to the newspapers affected the outcomes of any local elections, as alleged by some.
The chain gang I’m talking about is the one that roams the visitors’ sideline in florescent orange vests, holding up the sticks marking the line of scrimmage and yards needed for first downs at Aspen Skier football games. It sounds like a gig for rednecks with nothing better to do on Friday nights than track the progress of a football up and down the lonely visitors’ sideline while rehashing their own faded gridiron glory days between plays. And maybe it is. But, there is one hell of a long line of people around here waiting for a chance to do it.
After the first game of the season I saw my old friend Greg walking off the field, all smiles, in official capacity with the rest of the gang ” Dexter, Ole, and Bill, all old-time locals and three of them former Aspen High players themselves.
“Hey,” I said as nonchalantly as possible under the circumstances. “That looks kinda cool. Can I try it?”
“Ha!” he laughed smugly. “Someone has to die for a spot to open up!”
Well, who would have thought that volunteer work in Aspen would be so competitive as to provide a motive for murder? Unfortunately, being the law-abiding type frightened to death of capital punishment, my hopes were dashed. I was relegated to the bleachers, insulated from the game by a chain-link fence, 10 yards of running track, and 15 more of turf behind the bench. There is so much distance between the stands and the action that I’m not convinced that our fans and players are even situated in the same school district during the games.
I tried to get involved in other ways. I talked my way into a stint at the concession stand, serving up bowls of Frito pie and hot dogs, but my heart wasn’t in it. The white apron was a far cry from the official garb that the guys out on the field wear, and getting the right condiment combination wasn’t urgent enough for anyone to swear at me over. Where is the adrenaline rush? My lack of enthusiasm must have affected my performance because I wasn’t asked back.
More desperate to be involved than discouraged, last Friday I got up the nerve to ask Gretchen, who is a mover and shaker in both the volleyball and football concession stands, to give me another chance at maybe grilling some hot dogs or emptying the trash. She told me to show up at the game and she would see what she could do.
My wife had already made other plans, but the kids were eager to go, so we went out for an early dinner and then to Grandma’s house to kill some time before the charcoals would turn white. That’s when things started happening!
At 10 to seven my cell phone rings. It’s Bill in a panic calling from the field. “Get out here, quick!”
“Oh my God,” I thought to myself. “A slot has opened up. This means that one of my dear friends on the chain gang has suddenly and unexpectedly died!” I looked at my watch, choking back emotion. “I wonder if I can get to the field before kickoff?”
As it turned out, Ole wasn’t dead. His daughter’s volleyball game ran late. As I got to the field the teams were huddling. The security guard held the gate open and I dashed across the field, my kids cheering me on. I got the crash course on my duties and slipped on an orange vinyl vest just as the ball was booted to begin play.
The Skiers scored quickly, and as they lined up to kick the extra point, Dexter urgently yelled, “Roger, it’s your job to catch the ball! Hurry! … And don’t let it hit the ground!”
Oh, I didn’t want to screw this up after finally getting the chance. I sprinted head down with all of my might to a position behind the goal post and got there just as cowhide met pigskin. I had judged the distance poorly and knew instantly that the ball would land 20 yards behind me. I dejectedly followed its flight path … back to where 30 10-year-old boys, who had done this a hundred times before, jostled for position, looking up at me in my glowing vest like, “what the hell are you doing here?”
I glared back to the sideline. Even some of the Carbondale coaches were laughing. I had just paid the price for admission.
The rest of the night was great, aside from the time we sprinted down the sideline after a long gain and I inadvertently stepped on the chain, violently yanking the sticks out of the others’ hands. It looked like a train wrecking in slow motion, but delayed the game only momentarily. Oh, and then there was the time I narrowly avoided having my kneecaps shattered by barely hurdling half a dozen players tumbling out of bounds on a sweep. Needless to say, I didn’t go home with a clean uniform. For our efforts, the Skier coaching staff sent over some very cool Under Armour hats with the home team’s logo on them. Talk about running up the score!
So, I just wanted to let you know that you won’t be seeing me around the concession stand anymore. The Frito pie is just a tad high in cholesterol. You know, I have to watch my health more closely these days. I’m not dying to let anyone take my new job.
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