Chapter 3, Blog 2
By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang
Perhaps, one Olympic quest takes the baton from the other.
Ralphie was the true athlete. He earned half a track scholarship from a downstate university before the ball-less athletic director took it back. He said my friend was a bad influence on the other “student-athletes” because of his penchant for nonstop carousing. Before that unfortunate decision, Ralphie loved track and field.
In his two years there, he rarely failed to place in the top two at each meet.
On Saturday, when I felt better, we walked over to the Valparaiso High School track where Ralphie put several icy divots into the shot area before we were chased by the kiddie security. The big ox could still throw the metal ball. Combined with his deft footwork, it was putting poetry. A beasty ballet. Baryshnikov on steroids. Stunning. The 30-odd years had been kinder to Ralphie. His best attempts in college tickled 70 feet. I estimated his throws on that Saturday between 60 and 65 feet. Really, he was the contender. I felt more like a pretender.
Afterward, he recited the basics as we trudged home through the February twilight.
“First, and foremost, is da force of da toss, second da speed, and dird da angle of release,” said the lumbering professor. “All dree must come together if da effort is to be good.”
Sounded textbook to me.
“You remember all of that nonsense from college?’
“Naw,” Ralphie said sheepishly. “I googled it.”
“I wish we had that when we were in high school. It’s a game-changer, all right.”
“Yup, would have made a big difference, dat’s for sure,” he said.
“You run through that checklist each time you throw it?”
“Hell no. Jist throw.”
It sounded like a chant.
“Hell no. Jist throw. Hell no. Jist throw. Hell no. Jist throw,” I repeated.
Then I took the deepest breath my lungs could hold of the piercing cold and gambled.
“Ralphie, you gotta go for it.”
“Huh? Go for whut?”
“You know, the damned Olympics.”
I said “damned” to make it seem less threatening, maybe more attractive to Ralphie. It didn’t work. The big ox stopped and hoisted me by the neck.
“Are ya freakin’ nuts?”
I flailed like a ragdoll in the wind.
“NOOOOO!” I squealed.
“Dis is whut I dink of da Olympics.”
With one hand, Ralphie launched me headfirst into a snow bank.
“Stop screwin’ with me!”
Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang