Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It couldn’t have been more embarrassing. There I was, working the chains at the high school state playoff game in front of a huge hometown crowd. It happened during a key series as time wound down in the first half of a tied ballgame. Things were happening fast. The offense wasn’t wasting time in the huddle and was snapping the ball on quick counts. They converted a long third down, and when the referee gave us the signal we had to move.
I know you are just a simple personal diary that never leaves the top drawer in my nightstand … (Note to self: lock drawer before nosey holiday guests arrive next week). So, you don’t know what “the chains” are. Well, they are basically two fluorescent-orange hand-held poles connected with a 10-yard chain that shows everyone how far the offense has to go to make a first down.
Anyway, Tim is at the front of the chain and screams, “Let’s go!” I’m full of adrenaline and take off. I get such a good jump, in fact, that I end up moving faster than the chain ahead of me.
That’s when my front foot landed on the chain – a rookie mistake if there ever was one. In a split second I feel the toe of my back foot scrape up the slack behind me. The next thing I know, the chain has wound a figure eight knot around both ankles. Remember way back in 1974 volume II, page 64, when I told you what it felt like when I was carrying that grocery bag full of baseball cards on my handlebars and it got stuck in my spokes when I tried to hop that speed bump on Cemetery Lane (of all places) and I ended up with a severe concussion? Well, this was about the same … only worse.
The stick I was carrying, which is about 7 feet tall, 2 feet wide and trimmed in vinyl padding, hit the turf first, making a loud “Thwack!” I followed with a tremendous “Ooof!” caused from the wind getting knocked out of me. For whatever stupid reason, maybe because it happened in a micro-millisecond, I never let go of the stick and thus broke the fall with my chest hairs.
Did I mention that all of this happened at about the 50-yard line? … In front of the visiting team’s bench? Well, it’s true. I heard lots of players guffaw. Mind you that this was during an intense game. Where was those kids’ concentration?
The head coach and one of his assistants helped me to my feet, holding in giggles like altar boys overcome by incense at midnight mass. The assistant coach asks me between snorts, “Do you … kch … want me to send the trainer over? … chk … He’s got some tape … aspirin … kllch … and some ice if you need it. Haahahaaahaaha … Heyouweee!”
Being my confidant in this, I’m sure you’re hoping that the spectacle happened so quickly that only those in the immediate vicinity noticed. Keep wishing. I turned to see most of the people in the visitors’ bleachers standing up, looking over their players to see what had happened.
Did I mention that we are required to wear bright orange vests during the game so that everyone can easily spot us? Yes, it is a two-edged sword. On top of that, when I stepped on the chain it jerked the stick out of Tim’s hands, so I imagine it turned into a giant, orange shard twirling through the air, catching the corners of a few spectators’ eyes. I wish it would have hit that assistant coach in the head!
Don’t ask how I could have been so careless. I’ve been trying to figure it out ever since. During the previous timeout I was talking with Tim, Bill and Greg, the other chain gang members, about dog crap, of all things. Tim likes to walk up Smuggler Road, and the other day he counted 35 plastic bags full of poop on the sides. People just sack up turds and leave them there for preservation. His solution is to ditch the bags and just kick the piles out into the brush instead. He said, if they insist on everyone using the bags, then the trail patrol should pick them all up and carry them out in a backpack instead of writing useless warning tickets. I tried not to think about this when the game resumed, but maybe I was distracted.
Anyway, I said a little prayer that my miscue was witnessed only by the smaller crowd on the visitors’ side of the field. But the Lord apparently had other plans. When we crossed the field to the concession stand for our halftime hot dogs the razzing was unbearable. “Hey, Marolt,” one guy yells. “Take off the skates for the second half!” Very funny. People don’t realize how hurtful words can be.
This would be the kind of thing where, if it was going to be in the paper, you would go out early in the morning and empty every newsstand before anyone was awake. It’s not a bad idea, just poorly executed by people who have tried it in the past. I would keep all of the copies bound in my trunk for a few weeks until things simmered down, not take them straightaway to the recycling center where you might be identified. I’d tie a brick to the bundle one night and throw it off the bridge in Glenwood, or something.
The one good thing I did this weekend was write my column about how idiotic I think it is for the school district to be considering switching to a year-round academic calendar. Don’t worry. I was more diplomatic than to say it like that. I had a funny thought, though: Wouldn’t it just make this week complete hell if I accidentally got the files mixed up and sent this to the paper instead of my column? Ha! Thank goodness nobody is that stupid.