Go back to www.tylerkungfuandfitness.com

Archive for May 17th, 2010

Ready For Some Football – Part One

Monday, May 17th, 2010

To say that high school football in East Texas is a big deal, is an understatement. However, quitting football is even a bigger deal.

During our eighth-grade year, John Cheng and I juggled kung fu training with playing football. After practices, we’d head home drenched in sweat with our entire muscular and skeletal systems shot. Yet, we’d still roll out of John’s car and put in some kung fu time.

One afternoon, we looked at each other, and said, “Why are we doing this?” We agreed that football was not in our future but KF definitely was.

Feeling confident with our decision, the next morning we strolled to the coaches’ office to tell them we were quitting so we could devote more time to the Fu.

The season was over, and John and I were on the second team. I played maybe two games. I figured us quitting would be no big deal.

We got to school early because there was a particular coach we hoped to talk to, Coach Smith. He was in Sifu Fogg’s fraternity and he was pretty cool to us. Hoping Coach Smith was the only one there, we knocked. I was very disappointed to hear four “Come ins” from the other side of the office door.

We stepped inside the huge office to see all four coaches sitting at their desks. The place reeked of burnt coffee and cheap cologne. Each coach looked up from his newspaper and stared at John and me as if we were a pair of water bugs they considered squashing. Plastered to the wall above their heads, was a banner that read A Football Team is not just a team. It’s a Family.

My backpack suddenly felt a thousand pounds.

“What do you want?” Coach Martino, the head coach asked, as he searched for something on his desk. It was a mess. Stacks of folders, World History textbooks, copies of sports magazines, papers, and a Big Chief yellow pad scribbled on with Xs and Os covered his desk. I kept waiting for something to fall, but it never did. Coach bobbed and weaved around the assorted piles smoother than Ali dodges punches.

When I tried to speak, some kind of shrill squawk burst forth from my voice box, a toxic mixture of puberty and fear. Thankfully, John was there to take over.

“We want to quit football,” he said, “to spend more time doing kung fu.”

So there it was, out there. As quick as a blink we had stepped off the cliff.

Silence filled the room except for the ticking of the coaches’ Coors Light wall clock. It sounded like a bomb in my ears.

As if on cue, the three other coaches slowly folded their newspapers, laced their fingers behind their heads, and then leaned back in their chairs. They stared at us. The rusted springs from their swivel chairs grinded and set my already frayed nerves even more on edge.

Martino found what he was looking for, read it, scrawled something on it, then added it to another pile. He rested his elbows on top of a coffee-stained playbook then squinted at us over his round glasses the way Clint Eastwood does before he blows somebody away with his .44.

As always, John stood there with no emotion. I, on the other hand, was fighting off a stroke.

Hoping for an ally, I glanced at Coach Smith. He just scowled at me, chewing his toothpick. I quickly looked away and tried to focus on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar. It hung crooked on the dingy paneled wall above the coffee pot. Looking at hot bikini babes is usually a cure-all for a fourteen-year-old boy, but this particular morning it just made me feel stupid. It’s like she was laughing at me, saying, You just signed your death warrant, kid.

After sixty seconds of tortuous silence, Coach Martino pulls out a pouch of Redman chewing tobacco and stuffs a huge brown wad into his mouth. “Alright,” he says, as he rolls up the package of chew. “Finish class. Then clean out your lockers and tell the office you want a schedule change.” He spit in a yellow plastic cup and wiped his thick black mustache. “Now get outta here.”

The other coaches went back to their papers and Martino started writing something in a black folder.

John and I ran to the gym and didn’t look back. We couldn’t believe it had gone so smooth.

With a huge weight off our shoulders, we ascended the old wooden bleachers for the last time and found our spot midway up. Athletics was our first period. All we had to do now was get through this class. We sat and waited for the coaches.

Coaches came in, blew their whistles, and said they had some news before we started our morning run.

“Cheng, Jones,” Coach Martino shouted. “Get down here.”

Oh crap!

***