Marolt: Seeking a variance in chain-gang politics
Tonight is the last Aspen High School football game of the season, and it can’t get here fast enough for me. If I get through it, I’ll have bought myself another year. That’s a big “if,” though.
I’m talking about the chain gang. You know, the chain gang that keeps track of the downs, spots the line of scrimmage and holds the sticks tethered by a 10-yard chain that precisely marks first-down distance. We’re game officials who don’t need any particular knowledge, unique physical attributes, special training or experience to do our jobs, but the game can’t be played without us, so we are extremely important people.
It’s a coveted job. It is said (mostly by us) that the only chance to get on the gang is when a current member dies. It’s an elite and exclusive club in Aspen that no amount of money can buy membership into. (That said, I am not philosophically opposed to someone approaching me with a wad of cash to test this unwritten rule. Perhaps Mark Hunt’s investors are interested. Hypothetically, we could allow them to wear bags over their heads on the sidelines in order to preserve their anonymity.)
Be that as it may, I know for a fact, and I’m not being paranoid, that there has been talk by current members — on first downs when I am standing alone at the far end of the chains or when I use the restroom at the Hickory House during our pregame rituals — of trying to remove me from the gang by enacting a new rule impossible for me to abide. The regulation they are contemplating would disqualify anyone from the gang whose family has been in the valley for more than 100 years. Stupid, right? It obviously targets me!
I’ll be the first to say I am not the perfect gang member. There was the time during the second round of the state playoffs when, while sprinting down the field after waiting on a penalty call on a long punt, I stepped into a loop of slack chain a moment before it pulled tight, binding my feet, and I crashed headlong and hard to the turf, temporary suspending the game while I untangled and got my breath back. I attribute the incident to bad luck and hustle.
Some members also refuse to forget the time I apparently embarrassed the group when I took off quickly to lead the charge to a fresh set of downs and severely pulled a calf muscle. Yes, I required attention from the athletic trainer and interrupted the game again until a substitute could be found, and I had to sit out the fourth quarter, but that kind of thing can happen to anyone. Just because it hasn’t simply means the others are lucky.
It’s not like I’m the only one who has screwed up, either. Greg Gerbaz once had to relieve himself during the game, so he headed to the bushes beyond the lights in the west end zone. That was proper protocol, because the refs don’t want to burn a timeout on that, and nobody would have even noticed, except he forgot to take off his fluorescent orange vest. It was like tracking a comet through a moonless black night.
The thing is, I’d have been voted out already except that the Gerbazes have been in the valley more than 100 years, too, so the gang can’t very well get rid of me and keep him until they come up with a loophole for just him. Maybe they’ll grandfather in Italians; I wouldn’t put it past them.
Trust me, there are other abuses of power and shenanigans going on that could get the others expelled if the Booster Club ever decides to pay attention. We are allowed a free hot dog and drink from the concession stand at halftime. I have personally seen Bill Moriarty take a hamburger and a hot dog. Tim Fortier always, and I do mean always, comes back in the third quarter with the telltale colors of M&Ms smudged into his palms. I’m certain I saw Ken Johnson with a bag of chips behind the Donor Dudes booth. The list goes on and on!
Anyway, I’m so paranoid that I’ve enlisted Dwayne Romero as a consultant and have convinced everyone that he is just an “alternate” on the gang. I hope he can surreptitiously light my way through this billowing cloud of chain-gang politics. With any luck, he hasn’t used up all his dirty tricks on the Base2 campaign.
Roger Marolt has a ball on the chain gang! Email him at email@example.com.
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