Okay, the Jets didn’t win today so much as they, um, lost. But it was an exciting run and it was the culmination of some sports activity this weekend. Obviously I am including lying on a couch, somewhat ignoring my kids, and shouting at a team that can’t hear me as a new sport.
Actually, yesterday we went out to NJ to see my nephew play basketball (his team had a similar experience to the Jets) and watching all these game 12-year olds playing so earnestly, got me thinking about a future where I get to troll the sidelines of my twins’ various t-ball, soccer and/or little league games. I’m not a “yeller” really, so I might not have much of a future in the world of tween athletics, but I have nothing but good memories of all the various leagues I was in when I was a kid. As a side note – and excuse the braggin’ – my mom was the first female little league coach in our town (circa 1973) and won the championship. The health benefits of playing sports from a young age are pretty obvious, but the lessons I learned about teamwork, perseverance and sportsmanship have certainly helped shape my character to this day. Plus playing sports got me a nickname. More on that later.
Recently, the coach of my high school soccer team back in the aforementioned 70s passed away. His name was Al Butler and to this day, he feels like the classic image of a high school coach. A sparkplug of a guy, he yelled at you, cajoled you into doing better, and slapped your ass when you did well (back in a time when a coach could do that). He was also an incredibly warm individual who took great pride in his job and the mentoring aspect especially. I’m sorry to say I lost touch with Coach Butler over the years, but I was so pleased to hear that he was coaching soccer long after I left. He left a long wake of lucky kids. Although I didn’t achieve my then-goal of becoming the chubby Jewish re-incarnation of Pele’, I consider myself very lucky to have had the learning experiences I did both playing on that soccer field and sitting on the sidelines.
Coach Butler also gave me that first nickname – Rudy. He later gave it to my younger brother and now its been passed on to his son, my basketball-loving nephew. I heard a lot of yelling yesterday on the court; “Rudy” this and “Rudy” that. It brought me back.
Some nicknames are inevitable – and since I’m a big guy, I’m pleased to have avoided “Tiny” as an ironic nickname – but I’ve always been able to trace “Rudy” back and say it started with Al Butler.
The Jets loss was just in my head at the beginning. I guess today I really wanted to tell you a little bit about Coach Butler. I bet you would have really liked him too.