A moveable (football) feast

The other day I was sitting at a table at an outdoor cafe on the campus of McGill University, in downtown Montreal. My friend's wedding was coming up. So I was enjoying the early evening while penning the toast that I was scheduled to give, as the <I>garcon d'honneur</I> (best man).

I was in the midst of looking up a word in my translation dictionary, when I heard in very blunt English, "Hey! We're gonna kick your BUTT!".

My eyes immediately shot upward, and met the friendly gaze of a guy in his mid-forties, wearing a MICHIGAN hat. He was smiling and pointing toward my purple shirt, where the words WASHINGTON FOOTBALL were emblazoned across my chest.

He stood and chatted for what started as a few minutes, but before long we were deeply engrossed in a conversation about college football. He said that there wasn't one person in Michigan who could believe that we snatched victory away from them last year. He said he couldn't wait for the season to begin. He hoped UW-Michigan could meet in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1st .

A simple conversation, yet it felt so great to talk college football again.

The next day I was in the small town of Sainte-Hyacinthe, when my cell phone rang. It was my friend's parents. I had faxed them my speech I had written the night before, and had asked them to review it. They were politely horrified, and said that it needed to reworked. I was confused as to what was wrong. Madame handed the phone to Monsieur, who in choppy English told me, "Derek, you… quoted… Ronald Reagan? Nobody here… wants to hear about… Ronald Reagan. And you quoted Don… James? Who is he, this Don James? Please, remove this at once."

So the wise words of our great Northwest legend were thus stricken from the text. I thought it was a great quote, when The Dawgfather said, "Isn't it great what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit?" In my mind it was comparing teamwork within the structure of a football team, and teamwork within the structure of a marriage. Is not the trust between a husband and wife, to be likened to the trust between a Quarterback and his Offensive Line? Or perhaps we could coin a new phrase, say that "a marriage is only as good as its offensive line."

Or something like that.

The wedding itself was a grand affair, embedded in the Catholic tradition. I was driving the second car amid the entourage making its way to the church. Sitting in the passenger seat was the little pillow that held the rings for the ceremony. As I parked the car and began to climb out, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was a metal object lying on the seat. With closer inspection I discovered that one had fallen off of the ribbon! Yes, I came very close to entering the church with one of the wedding rings left behind on the seat of the car.

Can't afford any fumbles in the red zone.

Fortunately, all went well. My friend entered the church, looking dapper in his tux. Then the bride, Marie-Claude, made her grand entrance. She was beaming and looked radiant and lovely. There was a tremendous feeling of happiness in the eglise. The high lasted for several minutes. The priest began reading passages, and for me it was rather difficult to follow along. He was mumbling a bit, along with a voice that featured the very soupy patois of the Quebecois accent. The further north you go into Quebec, the twangier and thicker the accent gets.

I believe it was something like, "Abraham… who begat Isaac, who begat Mathew… etc… Verily, verily, verily….". I will admit after ½ hour I stopped trying to follow what was being said. I alternated between looking at the radiant couple, and allowing my mind to drift into thinking about my Huskies (yes, it was a long wedding).

I was snapped out of my reverie when the bride and groom began reading their vows to each other. Despite how nervous they later claimed to have been, their words to each other were very eloquent and touching, and well-delivered.

At the reception and party that followed, all had a good time. My revised speech was well received.

The party went into the wee hours. At exactly 2:00 AM, I hugged my buddy and kissed the bride good-bye, and I jumped in my car began heading for the border. An all-nighter was in front of me, through upstate New York. My adrenaline was pumping and I was very happy. Some seven+ hours later I would be pulling up into the Yankee Stadium parking lot in the Bronx, New York. But not before having stopped at a gas station at about 5:00 AM, off an exit that led to Poughkeepsie.

It was there in that convenience store that I encountered a clerk who was wearing a University of Oregon hat. I wish I could report that he was an Oregon grad, but I can't. His cousin had given the hat to him, he said. Nevertheless, he loved the Ducks. He thought that the Washington-Oregon game this fall would be a "real barnburner". We talked about the prospects of life in Eugene without Joey Harrington and "Mo-Mo".

After awhile I bid adieu and hit the road.

And so it was the following afternoon that I sat amid 90-degree sunshine at Yankee Stadium, watching Roger Clemens plunk Barry Bonds in the ribs. My friend Frank got us great tickets virtually behind home plate. At one point, with the Yankees struggling to score, New York had runners at first and second with no one out. With the Giants 3rd-baseman playing practically in shallow left field, I suggested aloud that Bernie Williams bunt.

Oh, the humanity.

My friend from New York erupted, "This guy isn't being paid $15 Million to lay down %#%#% bunts. Derek that is the #%@# dumbest thing I have ever heard."

"That is what Piniella would do", I retorted.

"Well the world is full of good ideas that will never happen. I'd like to drop a bomb on Baghdad, but neither that nor Bernie Williams bunting is ever gonna happen!"

OK, swing away Bernie.

A few minutes later, he asked me how I thought my Huskies looked for this year.

Big mistake, that one. I gave a breakdown and review of the whole team, and I don't know if he was truly interested after the first two minutes, but he at least feigned interest.

It did prove that yet another Hemingway quote holds true. Though he spoke of Paris, we can still paraphrase about football:

"If you are lucky enough to have attended Husky games as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Husky football is a moveable feast."
Derek Johnson can be reached at djohnson@dawgman.com.

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