"That was one of the riffraff," says Atkinson. He drops the Seville into gear and drives off.
It's a rugged life up at Anneliese von Oettingen's ballet camp in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State. Her students rise with the roosters, bend and stretch and point their toes for a minimum of three hours a day at the bane and bed down again, dead beat, shortly after sunset. No booze, no smokes, no sugar. Why, it's almost as tough as a pro football training camp. And at least one of Anneliese's students is in a position to make the comparison. Brad Cousino (pronounced Kooz-no) is not only a dancer but also a reserve middle linebacker and special teams member of the New York Giants.
While the other dancers imagine themselves twirling as magnificently as Makarova or Baryshnikov, the 24-year-old Cousino's reveries have him slamming down backs and blocking passes with the verve of a Nick Buoniconti or Lee Roy Jordan. Small for a linebacker (6 feet, 200 pounds in his leotard), Cousino was a Football Writers' All-America at Miami of Ohio but was passed over in the 1975 draft. A free agent with Cincinnati and Chicago, he was released by the Bears last July for self-admitted prima donna tendencies. "They wanted me on special teams and I thought I was too good. I acted like a baby." He found his way to the Giants when John McVay took over as coach, and began to find himself as well. In one game he had four unassisted tackles, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt on the four-yard line that led to a New York touchdown.
"Anything you keep telling yourself has to come about," says Cousino. But he also knows that it takes more than positive thinking to recover from football injuries. Scar tissue from a torn hamstring, which reduced his flexibility, sent Cousino to the Von Oettingen School of Ballet in Cincinnati, where former Bengal Linebacker Ken Avery (now with the Kansas City Chiefs) had gone for repairs of his own. Anneliese developed a special program of intense stretching exercises for her football-playing students, and even installed a second barre for Cousino when he was unable to balance with only one hand. "You should have seen him when he started," says Anneliese. "Six months ago he could scarcely bend enough to touch his knees. And he gave up when the stretching hurt too much. Now he can touch his toes easily."
He is also able to complete full pli�s with something approaching grace and looks almost delicate as he accompanies a budding ballerina in a sous-sous pench� or an arabesque. The newfound balance should help him with his lateral movement along the line of scrimmage, and already he claims he is running faster than ever. "If I ever have a son," says Brad Cousino, "he's going to start ballet at a very early age."
Deer Creek, in the mother-lode country of northern California, is a clear stream full of boulders, brown trout and hope. The last is based on a fact that became evident to many men in 1849 and has drawn human beings ever since to the mountains of that region: every mile of riverbed in the mother-lode country contains a million dollars worth of gold. The trick lies in locating it.
Elmer Collett, the burly right guard of the Baltimore Colts, yanks a clump of squaw grass from a crevice in the rocks beside Deer Creek and drops it in his pan. Then, squatting beside a riffle, he lets the force of the water go to work. "It all comes down to panning in the end," he says, swirling the big black dish around and around as the dirt washes clear. "Just the same way the forty-niners and the sourdoughs did it. You have to let the water clean out the lighter stuff—first the soil, then the rocks and sand. Now look here."
After a few minutes of work, all that is left in the bottom of the pan is an ounce or so of dark grit. "The black sand is heavy, so it stays," Collett says. "There's a lot of platinum and other heavy metals in there. You look for minute specks of gold—there, like those!" As he sloshes the mix of black sand and water, pinpoints of yellow flicker and disappear, almost like stars on a moonless night. "That's 'color.' Not much, maybe, just tiny, tiny nuggets. But it shows that this section of the creek hasn't been worked in a long time." He looks up from the pan and grins under his dark mustache. "Sort of gets you fired up."
Collett's partners on this prospecting expedition are Tinsley Stetson, a 32-year-old mailman and ex-Marine from nearby Grass Valley, and Richard (Kiki) Polo, 28, a friend of Elmer's from Stinson Beach, Calif., where Collett lives during the off-season.
"I've had the bug for a long, long time," Collett says. "It got into me back in the eighth grade, when a prospector came to our school and gave a little talk on gold mining. Playing football and all, I've never had the chance to give it the time it deserves, so I've never found enough gold to do more than defray some of the expenses of the hunt. But for me it's the best recreation in the world—sunlight, running water, beautiful country, hard physical labor. And there's always the chance of finding a big nugget, anywhere from five pounds to as much as 40. The rivers are constantly replenished with gold as erosion and rockslides work on the mountains."