Roger Marolt: The steep price of chain-gang fame |

Roger Marolt: The steep price of chain-gang fame

Roger Marolt
Roger This

We were sitting around talking the way men always do in their underwear, sticking to the basics: the weather, sports, you know. There’s no sense getting worked up about politics in that state. As they say, nobody is a stranger in a locker room, but everyone is strange, so don’t get too comfortable.

Somebody identified me as a member of the high school football chain gang and pointed out that we are only three weeks away from the start of two-a-day practices. Bingo! I am that recognizable and, yes, we are that close to that time of summer when we will see the first yellowing leaves of an aspen tree and secretly hope it is dying rather than doing the natural thing that all its brethren will soon follow suit with in foreshadowing fall.

I bid the group a brief farewell, so to speak, and headed toward the exercise room. The guys didn’t realize that I decided to make a pit stop along the way and, assuming I was safely out of earshot, began talking again in quieter, conspiratorial voices.

Over the half-wall between the lockers and toilet stalls, their now-hushed voices carried. I soon realized the subject of their conversation was me!

You know the old saying that you shouldn’t say anything about somebody behind their back that you wouldn’t say to their face? Well, let’s just say they weren’t doing that.

I was uncomfortable, to say the least. Looking back, I should have cleared my throat or made some sound to let them know I was still there, but, as they say, hind-hearing is 20/20 — or something like that.

It’s weird hearing people talk behind your back. I wish I could say I was as uplifted as Tom Sawyer was stealthily observing his own funeral, but that wasn’t the case. I felt about as low as a retired owner of employee housing at an Aspen Young Professionals picnic.

I stood over the urinal, stock still, listening intently, careful not to blow my cover as they spoke. It felt, irrationally, like they might come around the corner and beat me, if they suddenly realized I was still there “spying.” I made a vow to watch less TV.

Finishing my business, I didn’t dare flush or wash my hands, two breeches of basic social conduct that I sacrificed like meat during Lent. Meanwhile, their conversation reached a point of accusation and inuendo where I had to get out of there. I tiptoed to the aisle leading past the lockers and stole a peek around the corner. The coast was clear.

I heard one guy ask, “What’s his name?”

The other revealed, “That’s Romero, you idiot!”

Ha! Those conspiratorial things they said about me were actually about somebody else. A simple case of mistaken identity never felt so good. Namaste, indeed!

I get it, though. Dwayne Romero is a fellow chain-ganger and we’re all easily confused … you know what I mean. Fortier and Moriarty look like twins and Ken Johnson resembles Woody in Toy Story, who everyone is familiar with. On top of that, you put on a fluorescent orange vest and it’s completely understandable. It’s that uniform people respect most.

Obviously, I’m telling you all of this to make a point about how much Aspen has changed. Back in the old days when the chain gang was made up entirely of Stutsmans and Gerbazes, do you think anybody gossiped about them when they went to the gym for yoga? Those were simpler times when a chain-ganger could walk through town and people treated them just as if they were regular guys.

When old … What the heck was his name again? … You know who I’m talking about. We swore we’d never forget him. Anyway, when he died and a spot on the chain gang opened up, I jumped at the chance, not in any small part because of the sort of anonymous celebrity status it has historically afforded members of that elite, militarily precise group of game officials.

As we all know, the patina has been polished around here. Chain-gang members have had to adapt to this culture of celebrity worship like every other superstar who hops off a jet to enjoy this place.

I know we can’t alter history, but now that the cat is out of the bag about who the chain gang is, I think it is fair to request that City Council recognize us as the important and vibrant, albeit undeniably small, segment of this community that we are. All we really want is to be able to approve or deny building permits and building code variance requests. Preferential treatment in the housing lottery would be nice, too.

Roger Marolt is proud to be a member of a group that is making the world better 10 yards at a time. Email at