I am at the Notre Dame 29-yard line and Joe Theismann's errant pass is zeroing in on me. I intercept it and run it back to the 14. Tailback Joe Hudson takes a pitch from our quarterback, Dave Shelbourne, and we, huge underdog Northwestern, are up, 10-0. Yeah? Huh? How do you like that, you screaming, green-derbied, leprechaun lunatics? Now, all these years later, I'm the man in the middle.� And the middle is a swirling place. I am, to varying degrees, baffled, amused, overwhelmed, depressed, eager, angry, melancholy, innocent, guilty, cheerful, yearning, daffy. And I know this is a life condition.� Draw a circle and label the area outside the circumference DEATH and label the inside such things as mice in the cabinet where dog food is, bad knee, 401(k) uncertainty, bald spot, bad back, proms, oil changes, credit-card shock, boy who won't listen to Dad's sex talk, woodchuck under porch, finger that bends sideways, press boxes, family's five cellphones with incomprehensible bills, tuition, thousands of hot dogs, lingering affection for Jack Daniel's, unfinished projects from books to the door that won't close on the garage that has raccoons running rampant inside, Madonna (the children's author) nausea, dog nightly rummaging through home's waste cans, stained carpets, clogged gutters, fear of darkness, girls' hair dryers everywhere, girls' hair on floor, hair everywhere, endless MTV Real World crap, ridiculous auto insurance premiums, basement from hell, fear of nuclear war ('60s style), memories.
But most of all label the inside of the circle children.
And shade everything with sports.
"Did you wear a jock?" my 12-year-old son asks. His name is Zack, but he doesn't like being written about, so I will call him Z.
"Hell, yes. Absolutely." I'm in the kitchen, watching Sports-Center. "Boo-yah!" was the last word I heard.
"See," says my wife, Judy. Something was under discussion. As always I am, like the title of my daughters' favorite movie, clueless.
"You have to wear one," says Judy.
"But it's too hard!" Z whines. A set-to is coming. The conditions are right.
"For what?" I ask, involvement forced.
"Football, and I don't want to."