Fear & Loathing: March of the Plaster Saints

Doc is about to do something remarkably stupid and foolish, and it oddly doesn't involve Vodka.

It could be worse.

Instead of Trent Dilfer or Charlie Frye, I could be quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Then fans really would have something about which to complain. The chorus of boos would be a long, lusty one.

This appalling and frightful scenario, of course, will never happen.

At least not for the Browns.

The nascent indoor football team in my town is a different story. Try-outs are scheduled for Dec. 3, and I'm seriously thinking of participating.

Many, many moons ago, I played a little quarterback. I won't say when, but I'll put it like this: The Browns were good back then.

The march of time has taken a harsh toll. Whatever speed, endurance and strength I may have had - and it wasn't much - is long gone. Instead, I have bum knees and a creaky throwing shoulder.

All that's left is a dwindling reservoir of football intellect. I can still read a defense. And this indoor league is only 7-on-7, so that eliminates many of the coverages and schemes. My plastic sports glasses might have to be bifocals, though.

It comes down to me being able to get the ball to the wide receivers without a) my arm falling off b) launch a wobbly duck c) getting killed or d) all of the above.

My co-workers think I'm kidding when I tell them I'm trying out. When they realize I'm not joking, they're alarmed and ask me about my health insurance coverage.

Sure, it's a disaster in the making. Yes, I'll make Mike Phipps look like a Hall of Famer. But I miss the game. I miss the physical act of throwing a football to someone in an actual game. I long for that feeling of executing a play and scoring, of having it all come together like it's drawn up.

When a play works like it should, there's no better feeling. In the scheme of the universe, it's meaningless, but to me it's a small victory in the battle against karma. All those times I can't find my car keys, or the lawn mower won't start, or the store is out of my size … I forget those frustrations and savor the moment when a play works.

This is likely my last chance to even try to suit up again. There's no reason to believe I'll even make the team, but I have to try. I'm mortified at the prospect of having to run through try-out drills with players almost half my age. The potential for embarrassment is through the roof.

But how can I not try? There's something absolutely magical about being the quarterback. It's ego. It's glamour. Even at the very bottom of the food chain in the world of football, the quarterback is something special. In an interview with NFL Films, Boomer Esiason once pointed out that no one's watching the nose tackle except for the nose tackle's wife and mother.

Everyone's watching the quarterback.

There is no position in all of team sports like it. Everything rests on the quarterback. His ability to get the ball to the right place at a precise moment, while huge beasts are trying to stuff him under the turf, that's what it's all about.

My biggest fear is making the team.

Then what? Can I still do it? Is there any gas left in the tank?

I'm not an 18-year old on top of the world, feeling invincible. I know better today. It's like Bob Seger said: I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

But with joy comes that price. The cost of walking on that small field and throwing a touchdown could be high. I'm one sack away from a hospital bed. I'm one scramble away from a blown knee or broken ankle.

Scrambling? Who are we kidding? They won't be timing me with a stopwatch. They'll need a calendar.

There's not going to be scrambling. There's going to be lots of throwing the ball into the stands. Bernie Kosar didn't have to scramble, so neither do I. My jersey number has always been a No. 19, though I suspect the similarities end there.

There's also going to be lots of Vicodin. I plan on skipping the amateur stuff, like aspirin, and going right for the big guns. Modern medicine has provided us with these powerful miracle drugs, and I intend to take full advantage of them. Morphine, that would be good, too. Before the game.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Making the team is the first obstacle.

And my ignominious efforts also will serve to remind me of the suffering players go through, so my criticism of the Dilfers and Fryes of the world will be a bit more tempered. I'll remember just how hard it is to play the toughest position in all of sports.

I've got less than a month to get in some semblance of shape, or at least better shape than I'm in now. I'm not sure who has the more daunting task, me or Romeo Crennel. Both efforts seem doomed. The Browns are dreadful and I'm a blind, drunken slob.

Ah, the hell with it. We've come this far, we might as well see how these hopeless experiments work out, right?

Pray for the Browns. But more importantly, pray for me.

Former Ohio newspaper editor and reporter writes the Doc Gonzo column each week for BerniesInsiders. Until he's killed trying to foolishly play a young man's game. He can be reached at docgonzo19@aol.com.


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