The Steakeaters

FALL CAMP is merely days away. I can't wait. So much so, I've been wearing my Washington State Cougars helmet around Seattle lately. Nobody seems to mind.

Maybe they just don't notice.  Seriously, Husky fans here in the Emerald City are stumbling around in a daze.  A lengthy conflict with your ‘current' Head Coach, wondering about your ‘current' Manager, all while examining your ‘current' morass will do that to you.


So I continue to sashay around greater Seattle, wearing my crimson headgear.  Shopping.  Driving.  House hunting in Medina.  Jogging around Montlake as I point and laugh -- it doesn't matter.  I wear it everywhere.


It's a nice change from the 10 gallon Cap'n Crunch cap I usually wear around town.


Speaking of breakfast cereals and managers and such, I was in a popular Montlake restaurant the other day.  Allow me to relate the events in real time, as they occurred.

– ­– – – – – 

I enter, dressed to the nines.  In addition to my battle-scarred Cougar helmet, I'm sporting a WSU jersey.  I've also got on my Coug pads and my Coug pants as well as my Coug eye-black.  And I'm wearing my Coug attitude.  I'm quite the vision.


And then I actually had a vision. 


I am Josh Parrish, a 6-6, 322-pound senior.  I am a former tackle whose talent and agility has resulted in the move to guard.  I pull right and sweep around the line.  I see the defensive end who has (smartly) stayed at home but is (foolishly) in my path.  I obliterate him.


I hear a whoosh, a sound whose violence is matched only by the speed with which it vanishes.  I look up from the now spit-bubble blowing DE.  I see the number 30, that of Jermaine Green, growing rapidly smaller in the distance.  The whoosh is on his way to the house. 


I race off the field to the sidelines.  Line coach George Yarno is literally coming out of his shoes to congratulate me.  I wish we could suit him up, sometimes.  But that wouldn't be fair.  To our opponent, of course.


Briefly, I am jolted back to reality.  A woman, now wearing her wine and cheese, is swinging her purple purse at me since I just pancaked her now-purple table.  But I have no time for Ms. Hedges. 


Because I am now 6-2, 275-pound senior Mike Shelford.  I have worked and sweated and toiled as a backup.  I am a walk-on success story, earning the starting job at center with my play this Spring.  Bill Doba says I have good technique and don't make mistakes.


I relish the challenge opponents will throw at me.  I am the anchor in the middle.  Hiking the ball to Matt Kegel, I immediately stand the nose tackle straight up - he gets nowhere near my quarterback this day.  Not on my watch.


A waiter is attempting to wrestle the coat rack from my grasp.  But I do not allow this sweater-vested buffoon to break my concentration.  My focus is on the field.


Because I am now 6-7, 283-pound senior Billy Knotts.  I have intensity to spare and the flexibility to play virtually anywhere on the line.  I look intently across the line of scrimmage.  Coach Yarno's words this offseason are still fresh in my mind.


Its about me and the guy across from me.  And who's going to win that battle.  And who's tougher.  And who's going to fight harder.  I slam into my opponent. 


I hear the grunt as he yields field position.  His momentum failing, I take full advantage and drive him off his feet, eventually putting him flat on his back. 


The play is over yet he lingers on the turf, looking for answers in the Palouse sky.  I suggest if he turns his gaze to the left, he can see the new luxury boxes here in Martin Stadium.  And then I smile.  It is going to be a long day for him, and he knows it.


I am interrupted by a fry cook wearing a headset, asking for a handout.  I take no notice of Mr. Neuheisel, there is unfinished business to attend to..


Because I am now 6-9, 310-pound junior Sam Lightbody.  When healthy last year I played in nine games, starting three.  I surprised people with my performance.  There will be no surprise in ‘03.  My size, strength and mobility are now known quantities.


I will use those assets to knock people off the ball this year.  It is just that simple.  I meet the defensive tackle head on.  It is a thundering collision.  And I decaffeinate him. 


Now some patron is questioning why I body slammed the espresso machine.  But I am not listening to Captain Husky.  My head is in the game.


Because I am now 6-4, 244-pound Troy Bienemann.  My TE position is stacked deep with outstanding athletic talent - - Jesse Taylor, Adam West, Cody Boyd - - a nice dilemma for my coach, Robin Pflugrad.  I have great hands, snaring everything thrown my way last year.  And then there's what I do after the catch.


I stay at home to pick up the blitz, then release out into the flat.  I cradle the short pass from Kegel and turn up field.  I leave a safety clawing at thin air as I change direction.  And I turn what should be a short gain into a backbreaker, dragging would-be tacklers along for the ride.


The restaurant manager approaches, his arms outstretched in disbelief.  After the final whistle, I may chat with Gilby before heading to the locker room.  But not now.


For I am 6-8, 321-pound junior Calvin Armstrong.  I am mentioned repeatedly as one of the best offensive linemen in all of college football.  But I'm not too concerned with all the hyperbole regarding my performance last year.   


Nor am I focused on the talk of my potential to scale new heights this season.  I'm concerned with winning the battle up front.  Winning the battle in the trenches.  Winning the game.  And so it begins.


On the run, I drive through the defender.  On the pass, I stuff my opponent.  I note the bewildered look in the eyes of the defensive linemen, and it intensifies my desire.  And then I see the change in their body language as resignation takes hold.


Realization has slowly dawned on our opponent - they're going to lose this Saturday.  And there's nothing they can do about it.

– ­– – – – –

Sadly, time expired and the game was over.  I looked around the restaurant.  Victorious, I waved to the fans.  Stunned, they hesitantly smiled and waved back.


Later, I walked past a Montlake movie theater - and suddenly realized the restaurant scene would make a rousing finale to the motion picture I'm directing: Crouching Bolton, Hidden Cougar.  The screenplay is on my mantle.


I keep it behind my battle scarred Cougars helmet, of course.  That stays front and center.

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