Sunday, July 24, 2011

Going Camping

An axe wedged in a pile of firewood.  A full moon sitting aloft the soft cradle of a row of pine trees.  The whole team huddled around a campfire, sharing jokes and stories while toasting marshmallows.  The plaintive howl of a lone coyote in the distance.

No.  Not that kind of camping, stupid.  Football Camp-ing.

For those of you for whom the "Football Camp" ideal is virgin territory (where the hell have YOU been?), I will give you a little primer.  Football Camp is the glorious meeting of the minds that occurs every summer at a semi-private, undisclosed, ridiculously expensive patch of turf about a hundred miles away (i.e. far enough away that wives don't drop in for a "surprise" visit).  Coaches take their team, cram them in tents or classrooms, subject them to three punishing daily workouts, feed them like they are slopped hogs and (this is in the brochure) "grow as a team."  Up to speed?  Good.  Let us continue.

Now, since by some grave oversight, I have never been invited to a Football Camp, I can't speak with any expertise on the goings on there.  But I am a friggin' brain surgeon of Football Camp Preparation.  Because I have seen it all.  And it is not pretty.  There have been manure trucks overturned on a major freeway at rush hour that look better than this.  Remind yourself, please of this fact:  Mr. Coach has had a looooooong time to prepare for this little adventure.  And, since most coaches are teachers, the summer farts along at a more leisurely pace so they have plenty of extra hours in the day to plan and prepare.  But, miraculously, it is all left to the very last minute.  Eleventh hour.  Phone the governor!  Get a stay of execution!


Olivia Newton John has not uttered, "Let's Get Physical!  Physical!" more times than my husband has.   These players need a physical (by a real doctor) releasing them to play at camp.  My husband requires it.  The School District requires it.  The camp requires it.  They are told seventy times:  "Get Physical!  Physical!"  And, without a doubt, the morning they are shipping out to camp, some kid ambles up:  "Heeeeey Coach!  I don't have my physical yet."  Which requires an immediate cockroach-when-the-lights-come-on scurrying from everyone trying to get copies of medical information and files from doctors and general mayhem ensues.


These camps cost these kids $200 bucks a player, and all of it must go into buying the very best coaching and instruction that the planet Earth has ever seen.  Because there is exactly ZERO dollars left over for food.  So, this means that Mr. Coach loads up OUR griddle and OUR BBQ and all of OUR coolers and proceeds to raid Costco and pack it all in a disordered heap in OUR truck in order to feed these children.  UNICEF trucks have never been this overloaded with food.  Small nations could eat for days out of this larder.  But these kids mow through it in 4 days.  And all that is left is some discarded packaging blowing in the wind, a few forks and my griddle that is now missing one leg (True story. Not happy).

Phone Calls.

These are my FAVORITE.  They start about twelve hours before the ship is leaving port.  All of these kids have been given lists and requirements and sign up forms.  Short of tattooing this stuff on their arms, they have been duly notified.  But, since they can't get a booger from their nose to their mouth without forgetting the destination, they can't make it from practice to home with a list of "To Do."

  • Coach, do I need a suitcase or a duffel bag?
  • Hey, do I need shoes?
  • What are we going to eat?  What about in the car on the way there and home?
  • Can I bring my mom/girlfriend/cell phone/cat/Nintendo XL Commodore 64 Chex Box 360?

This one is a doozie.  "What should I pack?"  What should you pack??!?!?  Are you kidding me?  Well, let's see.  A unicorn.  And an orange.  Some high heels.  And a cigar.  That should just about do it, son.  See you at camp!!
How about using my simple packing formula!!  Put the number of days you are going to be gone in front of each of these categories and multiply (that is the silly "X" that you learned in math know "times"):
then add (that is the little "+" sign) just ONE of each of these:
     your football pads and cleats

Wa-Lah!  Genius!  This is not copyrighted.  You can have the equation.  Free!!


What?  You are shocked?  Kids always get all the way to camp and drop these little nuggets on the coaching staff:  "Coach, I forgot my cleats.  Can I play in flip flops?" 
"Hey coach, were you serious about that whole [air quotes] 'get a physical' [end air quotes] thing?  Because, if you were, we have a teensy problemo."
So, one lone coach has to get back into a vehicle and drive back to the town of origin and pick up the forgotten items.  Happens every year.

Timely Preparation.

I always know a storm is a-comin' when Coach starts looking like a rabid monkey about 12 hours before "Go Time."  The calls start coming in.  He starts shoving papers into folders and folders into bags and bags into cars.  He is running down to the school twice an hour.  He looks like a Mr. Magoo-PigPen hybrid.  There is crap swirling all around him and he is just bumbling through the middle of it.

In a flurry of paper, Bike coaching shorts and hot dog buns he peels out of the driveway.  And so, I always come to the part where I know no more beyond what I see in the preparation.  I am the queen of Spain staring out at the ocean, just knowing that ol' Chris Columbus is going to sail those ships right off the edge.  I bid him a safe journey, waving furiously.  And just like the queen, I can't help but think that, considering the fateful preparation for this journey, will he make it back safely?   Is this the last time I will see him?

But, alas, my questions are soon answered.  Here he comes back.  He has forgotten his bag.  [Shocker, I know.]

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