Footy offseason: my Summer of shame pt1
Player misbehaviour? Scandals? We’re used to reading about our heroes letting themselves down when they’re off duty – in fact you’re wise to stay at home and lock the doors if there’s a chance an NRL player could be in the general area.
Was it always like this? I’m not sure, but I want to tell you about my own Summer of Shame.
A blazing sun, a warm breeze. Cold Paddlepops, hot concrete, a dropped Paddlepop melting thereon. A burned tongue and the horror of passers-by.
Just some of the images I have leftover in my mind from those heady, halcyon days when I first made first grade.
But there are other images that live with me, like proverbial flies clinging to the piece of excrement that is my mind.
I was not always so wise and, for the first time, I can reveal to you exclusively a bunch of stuff that someone else would have made up anyway.
Back in the late 70s and early 80s, I was a fresh faced youth who’d been picked out of obscurity to trial in first grade and made the cut.
Keen to make a good impression on the old hard heads I’d idolised as a youngster, I rode my Malvern Star to my first training session.
On a busy street, I saw another young bloke fall off his bike and hit the pavement hard. There were no helmets in those days and he was pretty groggy.
However I’d noticed when he fell, a crisp $10 note had slipped from his pocket. Lightning fast I dismounted and retrieved the note before the wind carried it to buggery.
I was about to help the idiot who’d stacked it when I noticed it was now a few seconds nearer to the time I was required at training. If I stayed to help any more than I already had, I’d be late and that would impress no one.
It was a close call but I made it to training on time and got stuck in. Karma rewarded my efforts when mum washed my shorts and found my bonus $10.
As I celebrated my good fortune, I watched the local news on TV. Although the hopeless pushbike rider died of a massive injury-induced stroke while I was at training, he taught me the value of punctuality.
I’ll never forget whoever he was, and one day I’d like to thank him publicly.
It’s hard to avoid the honey trap of females with their strange powers and lumpy bodies when you’re a handsome, fit young footballer who’s made the grade.
At nightclubs, girls who would’ve simply laughed in your face the year before now waited until you spoke before deciding to laugh.
The old ego can get a bit engorged.
But like so many other firsts in this magical summer of shame, for the first time I fell in love.
One night at the club, an intoxicated young lady wandered up to my table, where I’d happened to be drinking alone for the past six hours.
She had long, blonde hair that framed her pretty face with its soft lips, cute button nose and dimpled cheeks.
A revealing top and small, denim shorts suggested this girl was not shy. She smelled of cinnamon and her twinkling blue eyes danced with playful mischief.
She spotted me and stopped. Swaying slightly, she asked me if she knew me. “Definitely not!” I replied firmly and told her to be about her business.
Confused, she moved outside and jumped in a cab. I feared for her safety so I jumped in my Kingswood and followed her home.
That night I stayed outside her house in some bushes and I watched as she got undressed and went to bed. Only when I was sure she was safe did I climb down and return home.
Every night from then on until I was threatened with a shotgun by her paranoid father, I would watch my love through her window as she showered or used the toilet.
I still carry a flame for whoever she was to this day. She taught me the value of curtains.
That’s enough confession for now. Suffice to say that football players’ misbehaviour is merely a reflection of society.
None of us can claim we’ve never stolen money from a dying cyclist. None of us can claim we’ve never stalked a woman. If we could all own up to these truths about ourselves, we’d all be famous sports journalists.
Next week I will reveal some of the lighter moments from my Summer of Shame; practical jokes with the lads, hanging out on kids and all sorts of other mischief.
The best of times, the worst of times. My Summer of Shame, to be continued…
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