The last couple of months of my senior year in high school were, in many ways, very common. I, like many other students, had front loaded so many classes throughout high school that the last semester consisted of just a couple of classes and lots of time fucking around with my friends on Senior Bench, a large bench that ran the length of the hall that contained senior lockers. Since I had been accepted to my university of choice, I could do almost anything I wanted to without fear of it having negative consequences. I can’t emphasize this enough: That kicked fucking ass. School is so much more fun when you aren’t weighed down by actually having to learn anything. The spring of 1987 seemed to roll by in slow motion, sunny skies, green lawns, and endless fun with my friends. Even then I knew it was something special, which is why, in an effort to spend even more time there, I volunteered to become the manager of the girls soccer team.
The idea came from my friend Dan. I was hanging out with my best friend Ike, a foreign exchange student from Finland, when Dan approached us in the hallway. “Hey, we should become managers of the girls soccer team,” he said. Now this isn’t as out of left field as it may sound. Dan and I had played soccer together since we were in grade school, and all three of us played in high school. I was the captain of the team, and Dan (a year younger) was captain the year after I left. Ike had, as most European boys do, a lot of experience playing soccer as well and helped anchor the defense. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but we were highly ranked and had a very good team. And so the idea of managing the girl’s team seemed natural to us. We volunteered and the coach gladly accepted our help.
In retrospect, he probably should’ve asked us why we wanted to manage the team. It certainly wasn’t because we wanted to lug equipment around, or keep stats, or fill water bottles, or chase down stray soccer balls, or anything else that would have been of some actual use to the team. We couldn’t even practice with them as there were rules covering who could and could not participate in practice. What we were interested in was hanging around school a little more each day, and if that happened to involve watching athletic girls run around in very skimpy uniforms, then so be it.
A typical after school practice went something like this:
2:50 – Final bell, school is over
3:15 – Practice begins
3:16 – Coach wonders aloud why there are no managers present
3:17 – Girls begin stretching
3:20 – Managers arrive
3:21 – Girls begin exercise in which they bend over and touch their toes
3:23 – Girls finish bending over exercise, managers high five, leave to go get high
3:24 – 4:59 – ???
5:00 – Practice ends
For all we knew the girls on the soccer team spent the majority of their practice time knitting. This caused some rather pointed comments from the coach (who was my teacher in one of the few classes I had). “You know, Greg, throughout your entire soccer career, the team manager always brought out the equipment and helped with the drills and stuff during practice.”
“I know! That was really nice of them, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Yes it was.”
“Hey, that reminds me. I won’t be at practice today. I’ve got to… Ummm… Be somewhere… Because…. Yeah.”
“See you, coach!”
Surprisingly, he didn’t give me too much grief over it, and our attendance remained spotty at best. Even when we did decide to attend, our effort was minimal. Sitting on the sideline of the first home game, the coach approached the three managers and said, “Guys, your job today is to take stats during the game. I want every shot, goal, assist, and save recorded, ok? No screwing around.”
“You got it, coach!” the three of us replied in unison. The next practice, as we were getting ready to leave after the bending over exercise, the coach asked us to stay for a few minutes longer.
“Ok, ladies, I’d like to read the stats from yesterday’s game as they were dutifully recorded by our managers.”
At this point I remember Ike leaning in close and whispering, “Uh-oh. Did we do any of that shit?”
“Ok, under the column heading of Shots on Goal, our managers have recorded ‘Led Zeppelin Rules!” The team broke out into laughter as the managers began exchanging high fives. “Goals: None. Assists: None. Saves: None. You know, I could have sworn that we won that game 4-1. Managers? What happened?”
By this point the girls on the team were all smiling and looking in our direction. “I’m not sure what game you were watching, coach, but it ended a scoreless tie,” offered Dan. “Yeah,” I added, “you really need to pay more attention next time.” And while everyone was laughing, we left.
One time, the managers were faced with a dilemma: A good friend had an empty house and some really, really good pot that he wanted to smoke, but we had an away game which meant that we had to be on a bus after school. Normally we’d blow it off, but for some odd reason the coach insisted that we attend, going as far as telling me during class that day that I had to be there. My friend said, “Look, the bus leaves at 3:30. We can go get stoned, I can drive you back to school and you can still make the game!” This, at the time, seemed to be a marvelous plan. At 3:30, however, we found ourselves still at the friend’s home and not feeling terribly motivated to go for a long bus ride.
“You know what we should do,” said Dan. “We’ll show up twenty minutes late. The bus will be gone, we’ll act all frantic and say we waited in the wrong parking lot or something. Then we’ll come back and get stoned some more. We’ll have witnesses and everything, it’ll be perfect.” We smoked another bowl, and twenty minutes later casually strolled into the wrong parking lot, so confident that we weren’t going anywhere that we hadn’t even bothered to use Visine.
Naturally, the school bus came screaming up and screeched to halt right next to us. “Where have you been?” asked the coach. “We’re late! Get in!” Uh-oh.
I remember that the bus ride to the game seemed like it lasted four hours. Dan and I sat in the front seat behind the bus driver, while poor Ike sat next to the coach across the aisle. I remember freaking out on a list of codes the bus driver had taped to the dash next to him and spending a lot of time laughing and pretending to be a bus driver. “Uhhh, dispatch, this is bus seven-one-niner… We’ve got a code 33 in progress. Repeat, a code 33, kids slashing seats.” Dan rocked with silent laughter as the coach eyed us from across the aisle while Ike nodded off next to him. “Coach, if we can’t stop these code 33’s from happening, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for a code 911 – Police intervention.”
“You sure you want the police to show up, Greg?” asked the coach. That shut us up for the rest of the ride.
When we finally got there, the coach gave us our orders: We were to take the gear out to the field, set up the table, and take some useful stats for once in our lives. We took the gear out, amazingly, but recording shots on goal became an impossibility when we noticed that the concession stand was open for business. Twenty minutes later, we were sitting by ourselves on the top row of the visitor’s bleachers, barely watching the game as we scarfed down hot dogs, nachos, french fries, and any other kind of greasy food we could get our hands on and washed it all down with Coke. The game could have been 7,000 – 12 at that point, and we wouldn’t have noticed.
When we were done, we sat there, groggy and content. “That was fucking awesome,” I said. “But what should we do with the trash?” I felt bolted to my seat and sure as hell didn’t feel like walking down the bleachers in search of a trash can.
“Here,” said Ike, as he reached over and gathered our trash, piling it on top of his own. With a large, exaggerated motion, he flipped all of the trash over his head, intending for it to fall to the ground behind the bleachers. Instead, a large gust of wind carried it all directly onto the field. The game stopped as everyone looked at us, the three of us sitting on the top row and not another soul to be found. We reacted with nonchalant whistling, which fooled exactly no one to judge by our team’s doubled-over laughter.
The girls on the team were no fools. They were our friends, in fact. And several of them could be found on any given weekend, hanging out with us, doing the same things we were doing. So they knew what was going on. During the ride home, they improvised a verse of Hail to the Bus Driver:
Hail to the managers, managers, managers!
Hail to the managers, Greg, Dan, and Ike!
They puff and they laugh
And shower us with trash
Hail to the managers, Greg, Dan, and Ike!
Dan leaned over to me as we tried to ignore this verse with the coach staring daggers at us. “We may have passed the point of subtlety.” Indeed.
In fact, discretion being the better part of valor, we opted to make ourselves scarce during all future team events, something that I doubt you’d find in any sports management handbook. “Hey, shouldn’t you guys be at practice?” a friend might ask us. “Why the fuck would we want to do that?” we replied. I’d say that we were the worst managers of all time, but that title implies some level of management that we had tried and failed at. We didn’t so much fail as we did abdicate.
Finally, the season wound down, as did the school year. One Saturday night, I was at a party with Dan, Ike, and a few other friends when one of the starters on the team approached me. “Hey, asshole, we missed you at the team banquet tonight!”
“Hahaha, holy shit. There was a team banquet?” I responded, beer in hand.
“Yes. And it was dead silent when they called the managers to the front of the room to receive a soccer ball signed by the whole team, and no one fucking came forward.”
“Whoah, no fucking way!” I said, beginning to laugh.
“Yeah, it was pretty goddamn funny. You guys have any weed?” she asked.
“What do you think?”
To this day I don’t know the record of that girls soccer team. They could have won the state title, or they could have gotten beaten by a million in every game. What I do remember is… well, what you just read, and not much else. We were irresponsible, unreliable, and untrustworthy. We were teenagers, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.