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Joe Jares
October 28, 1968
The author, a journalistic interloper wearing a buckle in the back, was a quiet member of the raucous USC fraternity that was packed with everybody's All-Americas
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October 28, 1968

Life In A Jock House

The author, a journalistic interloper wearing a buckle in the back, was a quiet member of the raucous USC fraternity that was packed with everybody's All-Americas

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A taquito is a sliver of beef wrapped in a tortilla, fried and dipped in an avocado-chili sauce. Two for a quarter plus whatever your favorite heartburn remedy costs. We knew about "Burn, baby, burn!" years before the Watts riots.

Two of the biggest KA gluttons were a couple of junior varsity football players named Fischel and Brenner, and one warm California night they skipped dinner at the house and staged a taquito-eating contest. They started like sprinters, putting away eight apiece with no trouble at all, then they relaxed slightly on their stools and settled into a steady routine of chewing, swallowing and putting out the flames with Pepsi-Cola. Fischel slowed up noticeably at 15 and by the time they reached the 20 plateau he was a bit pale. At 22 he vowed to have Mexico banned from the United Nations and after 23 he gave up and threw in the napkin.

Brenner not only consumed his 24th and 25th taquitos but, as the coup de gr�ce, he finished up by drinking an entire cup of sauce! His eyeballs were chili-pepper green the next morning, but he lived. Never did make varsity, though.

There was always some sort of contest going on. A pledge named John McLane, a varsity outfielder who later played minor league ball, once bragged to Al Geiberger that he had shot an 81 on his first round of golf. Despite McLane's proved prowess as a javelin thrower, high school quarterback and baseball whiz, Al didn't believe him and the ensuing discussion led to a putting contest on the living-room rug with a water glass serving as the cup. McLane won, but Al—now one of the leading money winners on the pro golf tour—still didn't believe him, so they went out to a driving range. McLane hit a nine-iron shot 175 yards. Al believed.

Geiberger was so skinny, 6'2�" and less than 160 pounds, that he was nicknamed The Human One-Iron. Practically everybody in the house had a nickname—Mandrake, The Count, The Great White Whale, Tweetybird—and Geiberger didn't resent his at all. He was the most shy, gentle, amiable guy who ever ambled around 18 holes. It was a wonder to me that Geiberger ever made it through Hell Week, the last and worst ordeal of pledging, a nasty five or six days and nights of having to eat onions like apples and undergoing 3 a.m. exercise sessions conducted by USC's most muscular man, Varsity Fullback Gordon Duvall. Today Al has peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to bolster him during a long round; then he had to keep going on onion power. But he made it. And while he was the ace of the USC golf team he won 34 out of 36 matches.

Other jocks didn't pay too much attention to the golfing contingent until they got to be seniors, When they realized they would probably soon have to give up their collegiate sports. Al taught 20 or 30 of his fraternity brothers to play the game, including the McKeever twins.

Several years later, in 1966, when Al won his first major tournament, the PGA at Akron, he went on television right after his victory, and declared: "I won this one for my good friend, Mike McKeever. I wish he could have been here to see it."

Mike was in a coma then from an automobile accident, and later he died.

At SC, where they were both All-Americas, the McKeevers were usually together. After graduation they even had a double-wedding ceremony. I always thought that the McKeevers were actually fraternal twins rather than identical, but it really didn't matter because only their very closest friends could tell who was who. They even had nearly identical scars on their chins, so the easy way out was to call them both McKeever and forget the first names. When Mike started dating a pretty blonde Kappa, Judy Primrose, later to be Homecoming Queen and still later to be his wife, she was puzzled at his behavior. She passed him on campus several times and he ignored her, so she resolved not to go out with him again. Of course, it was Marlin who was ignoring her, not poor Mike.

The twins were intensely competitive, even against each other, but when either was threatened by anything, they stood together, tough, defiant and unyielding. I remember joining with a friend to challenge them in a bar shuffleboard game at the Trojan Barrel. Even in such an insignificant thing as that they ceased all friendly kidding and went at the game with a glint of fierce combat in their eyes. We did not win a game against them; in fact, we didn't even come close. And they did not smile when we paid off.

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