Friday, August 16, 2013

Anecdote II: Redeemed Wide Receiver

I've often said that in the next life I'd like to be either a jazz drummer or a wide receiver, especially the latter.  From a very young age I've loved throwing and catching a football.  I wanted to try out for my high school team but my dad didn't have the money to buy insurance so I signed up for band instead.  Probably a good thing; I was so skinny I'd have been broken in half.  I was disappointed but got over it.

So I just kept throwing and catching up until I lost my legs to the spinal cord injury.  For one golden moment though, I was a star wide receiver.  The quarterback was Larry Meredith, who is Don Meredith's cousin, so it runs in the families.  We were at a faculty picnic at UOP in the early fall of '75 not long before Megan was born (Marge was really pregnant).  I was in a bit of political trouble at the time because my Dean wanted me out and there had been a campus-wide uprising in support of me in a struggle that began in the fall of '73.

Anyway, the President had been sympathetic to the problem and I had been fully reinstated but my dean was making life miserable.  The President was there at the picnic, watching a few of the male faculty goofing off.  Larry and I had been playing pitch-and-catch.  We decided to do one more.  I went out on a deep fly pattern, Larry threw it long, hard and high.  Somehow I climbed high enough to make a gorgeous catch.  It garnered scattered applause and the President had seen it.  He came up to me and said, "Bill, Chester Caddas [the football coach at the time] is looking for you!"

That catch cemented my job; the Dean was gone by June of '76.  They just couldn't get rid of a musician who was a decent athlete, too.  Would you?  Anyway, I still love college football, most of all the passing game because many of the receivers are so shifty, smooth and quick.  It's artistry in motion, to use a clich√©.  It's beautiful to watch, and I love it, God help me, despite the moral morass in which college sports are mired.

As Larry said in the acknowledgements section of his book, Life Before Death: ". . .  William Dehning, whose neurons fire in harmonic convergence of music, sport, and ectomorphic id."


Larry is quite possibly the most intelligent man I know.  And he loves sports, too. He is the originator of the Turkey Bowl, a post-thanksgiving day event in which the old guys played the young guys and quite often won.  One year, a game played in the rain, I was declared Most Valuable Player after I caught two touchdowns from Larry, for the only scores of the game.  One of my proudest moments as a wide receiver.  And my career was over.

Until the next life.

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