Dear Lord, please forgive my brother for stealing my collection of 50-cent pieces and 2 dollar bills even though I know it did not go to a worthy cause.
We moved to Anderson Camp just before my 8th grade school year. My mom and dad were spending all their available free time working on the house. Usually I would go with them out to the property to help where I could. But sometimes they would leave me alone at the camp. Someone had to periodically hold down the fort. It’s one thing to worry that your house might be robbed…
…It’s another thing to worry that your whole house could be hooked up to an F-150 and hauled away.
I had no friends, no driver’s license, and unimaginably no wireless Internet. Remember, this was 1994, an ancient time when people had to socialize in person. Needless to say, I had few entertainment options. Let’s count them all: watch daytime soap operas on over-the-air TV, throw rocks at the neighboring 5th wheel, play that dusty guitar in the closet. As it turns out, I filled a fair amount of time in front of a 13″ TV, playing Tecmo Bowl on the original Nintendo.
If you can recall, the original Tecmo Bowl had only 12 teams and only four plays per team. Chicago was a powerhouse with the combination of Walter Payton on offense and Mike Singletary on defense. If you were dumb enough to choose Minnesota, they had this ridiculous wide receiver reverse which usually resulted in a 10 yard loss, leaving you with only 3 real plays. Even according to wikipedia, “Minnesota is among the worst teams in the game with the unfortunate combination of average talent and a terrible playbook which includes an extremely ineffective wide receiver reverse run.”
After selecting a play, the following sequence is burned in the mind of every boy of my generation. “Down, set, hut, hut, hut, hut, hut…” Then came the classic Tecmo Bowl action music.
I remember hiking the ball to Joe Montana and dropping back in the pocket a solid 40 yards, all the way into my own end zone. Just as the computer player was about to perform a 40 yard safety sack, I would push the pass button and Joe would throw a Hail Mary the length of the entire football field. Waiting in the opposite end zone 100 yards away stood Jerry Rice alone, a result of blown artificial intelligence coverage. Of course he would catch the ball for an easy score. The touchdown celebration was also an iconic video game moment of my childhood. QB and receiver would approach each other and leap into an energetic high 5…
…These were the good old days before idiotic John Madden commentary.
One day as I was playing Tecmo Bowl in the travel trailer, Mooner came to visit. After he left our home at the age of 15, I never saw much of him. This was the first time he had been out to Anderson Camp. He stopped by, probably expecting to see the whole family, but realized I was the only one home, that is…
…if you can call the trailer a home.
I was always tense around my brother and a little suspicious. His presence was always sporadic and mostly unwelcome. This anxiety goes back to our early childhood when he would steal from my collection of two-dollar bills and fifty cent pieces. Back then I would invent the most elaborate hiding places for my treasures. As a kid I would have to guard anything valuable as if it were the Da Vinci Code. A cryptic path of clues and codes could eventually lead to my secret hiding places but would remain hidden to the average eye. As you might suspect, my brother did not have an average eye. He would devote himself to stealing my stuff and there was nothing I could do about it. Without fail I would open my box of treasure and it would be empty. My entire life savings gone, most likely used to buy something you could light up and smoke. So in my mind my brother had a long way to go before I would trust him again. I was confident he was here to steal something from me.
However, I was mistaken. He grabbed a football and said the three most beloved words in the English language to a boy: “Let’s play catch!”
As to not paint a picture of pure tragedy, Anderson Camp did have a wide open field directly behind our trailer. And if it weren’t for the Rock Chucks that created ankle-spraining holes in the grass, it would have been a perfect football field.
Both my brother and I have been, and still are, devoted fans of the Detroit Lions. The underlying phsychology behind our loyalty to such a poor team could be a book in and of itself. They weren’t even good enough to be included as a team in the original Tecmo Bowl. In fact, I read somewhere that Freud struggled with choosing his college major. “I could either study childhood behavior, or I could study Detroit Lions Fan Loyalty.”
Being afflicted with what Freud would have called “Irrational Sports Team Devotion”, whenever we would play catch, one of us had the privelege of being Barry Sanders. The other person had to pretend to be whoever else was on the Detroit Lions roster. Actually, pretend probably isn’t the right word, because whoever you were pretending to be didn’t have much more talent than a teenager in the backyard throwing a Nerf football. (I’m talking about you, Joey Herrington).
Even to this day, the one steady link between my brother and me is following the Detroit Lions during the NFL regular season. If you didn’t notice in the previous sentence, there were 2 subtle back handed comments about the Lions. First, I used the word “following”. I didn’t say “watch” because the Lions were in no position to deserve many televised games. The one rare occasion was Thanksgiving Day. I don’t know what the Lions did to land that contract, but I guarantee the NFL commissioner is kicking himself every Thanksgiving…
…right before eating a TurDucken with John Madden.
Also, I didn’t used the word “regular season” for obvious reasons. The Lions rarely made/make the playoffs. As of this writing, I’ve been a devoted fan for exactly 25 years. In 2 1/2 decades, the Lions have only won 1 playoff game.
So there we were, tossing around a Nerf football in the field when Mooner says, “I need a place to stay.”
Do you know what this means? In the 20 foot Prowler, me and my parents owned an average of 6.67 feet each. With 4 people inhabiting the travel trailer, we would each be allotted only 5 feet each. So now you know what it means, and I’ll be damned: he wasn’t here just to play Tecmo Bowl or toss around a football…
…he was here to steal 1.67 feet of living space from me.
Then he said something even crazier and even more thief-like, “And Anita needs a place to stay, too.”
What the hell was happening? If my 7th grade math class taught me correctly, this meant I was down to only 4 feet…
…Not cool, bro!