It’s been a long time since I’ve run.
Not jog. I try to jog every now and then at the park. I had a friend once tell me the healthiest way for a body to jog is barefoot through the grass. I tried it.
I looked like the Bruce Willis character in Die Hard when he tried to jog across the broken glass. There was, of course, no broken glass. Just subtle imperfections in the soil beneath the grass.
I have the soft feet of a newly born infant.
But I did not, at any time at the park, run.
The last time I ran I had good reason.
Allow me to elaborate.
This was a decade ago. A friend (which I misspelled as fiend originally and then realized adding the r might have actually been the misspelling) asked me if I were interested in a pick-up game of football one Sunday morning. Being the fine athlete I am I jumped at the opportunity to showcase my football skills. I awoke early, had a big bowl of oatmeal and a tall glass of orange juice. It would not be understating it to say I was feeling at the height of my powers.
We drove over together and he told me about some of my teammates. Most of them were fellow designers and engineers he worked with. Seemed like a swell group of fellows. After reviewing their various strengths and weaknesses I felt confident they had found the quarterback that they so obviously needed.
I emerged from the car and quickly stretched before the short walk to the field. It laid behind a tall group of shrubs which completely obscured what lay behind it.
I turned the corner and saw the other team.
Each man larger and angrier than the next.
I would later learn that they were the New Jersey Prison Guards Association. They were tuning up before their big game against a similarly named group of firemen.
My fiend (no misspelling) announced the game would be tackle.
My team looked like every man you’ve ever seen running the clock at a child’s athletic event, working the concession stand at a child’s athletic event or towel boy who’s ever longed to run the clock or work at the concession stand at a child’s athletic event.
I needed to pee.
Instead I was told I would be on the defensive line. I am tall. A lot of people mistake that for being big. I am not big. I am tall.
I cannot overstate that I am not big. A fact that was quickly apparent on the first play of the game. Where a lot of quarterbacks like to mix up the snap count with a lot of “hutt hutt”s and a few “Omaha”s or “Set”s sprinkled in, their quarterback always went on one “hutt.” Like he couldn’t wait to get the play started. He would approach the line, say the word “hutt” and then the onslaught would begin.
Their playbook consisted of two plays; sweep left and sweep right. If I were appearing on their chalkboard I would be the X with a giant red line running over it.
Repeat one hundred times. For the day I went tackleless, although I do remember being tripped over on a number of occasions.
I think at the end of the first quarter it was 84-0 and I was coughing up blood. I was actually afraid to pee for fear it would just come out as a river of red.
In the second half the other team, having stretched their lead to triple figures decided to attempt a pass. Assuming I would immediately assume my fetal position at their blocker’s feet the quarterback launched a pass and I, in a moment of unparalleled stupidity, stepped forward and intercepted it.
It was like a cartoon where a group of dogs suddenly notice that there is a cat in their midst. As one they turned and looked at me.
So I ran.
I ran like the wind.
Or gentle breeze. Yeah, more like a gentle breeze being chased by eleven hurricanes.
I’m not sure the last time you were chased in earnest but I don’t recommend it at all.
Terrifying when you realize that you are not as fast as someone who means to harm you. You see them closing and you’re doing the math in your head (if Lance is going seven miles an hour and Rocky, Knuckles and ‘Big’ Ed are all going fifteen miles an hour and they are four feet away from Lance, how long will it be until Lance needs medical attention?) and you’re suddenly aware of the gaps in your insurance coverage and all the people who might miss you if you were unexpectedly taken from them and yet your feet don’t seem to be moving any faster.
But then…. glorious adrenaline!
I became the antelope being chased by the lion. Long beautiful strides, the whole time screaming like a little girl. Full throated and high pitched. Not ironically. Seriously.
The next thing I knew I was about to cross the goal line. It was at that moment I saw the gentleman who had been giving chase from across the field at an angle that would have us arriving at the aforementioned goal line at precisely the same moment.
Another man might have flinched or ran out of bounds but this Manion is made of sterner stuff let me assure you.
I leapt. I leapt in a way that had onlookers gaping and sucking in their breath and making the sign of the cross. Women sighed. For a moment I blotted out the sun… if you were a cricket directly underneath me.
And then I crossed the goal line.
My legs were jelly and my lungs felt as though they were filled with molten lava and I couldn’t actually regain my feet let alone spike the ball but I had scored. It was like an Afternoon Special on TV. “The Special Boy Scores.”
But fuck those prison guards and their hundred point lead! I had scored.
That’s it. I just felt you should know exactly who you read from time to time. A full-on, dyed in the wool bad-ass. How is that for a Monday morning, ‘get you going’ tale?!
Lance Manion’s lifetime stat line; 1 interception. 1 TD.
Fuck yo’ kitty!