- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"I can think and talk about football; it's O.K., it doesn't get me down. It gives me something to look forward to. What if they bring in somebody great at my position? I've thought of that. Maybe I'm cocky, but I think that's my position. I'll have more desire."
Peterson let his exhausted mind roam. It knew right where to go: Sept. 20, 1986 at Washington, the first big game of his first season back. "There are 60,000 drunk Washington fans doing the wave, and suddenly I make an interception. I silence them...."
At 2:30 Peterson fell asleep. In four hours he would have to rise and brush the plaster chips from his bed.
At 2:30 a.m. in Rio de Janeiro, the samba drums on Rua General Espirito Santo Cordoso were pounding out an ultimatum to the flesh. The people drank wine and let the music take their hips, their thighs, their torsos—their minds. Some masqueraded as clowns, some as wizards, some as devils, some as gods. Men were dressed as women; women were barely dressed at all.
Ten floors above the most carnal carnival on earth, Don Busenbark, a 6'4", blue-eyed, baby-faced offensive tackle from BYU, slumbered in his apartment. Each day since the start of Carnaval, he had been behind doors at 7 p.m., as ordered by the mission president. On this night he studied Answers to Gospel Questions and Doctrine and Covenants while the street parties started. He then moved the little stuffed rabbit his girl friend had sent him off his bed and went to sleep.
In Busenbark's new city, women commonly strolled the sidewalks in microchip bikinis, the carriage of their bodies saying, "Take me, take me" and the nonstop pounding of the samba drums during Carnaval saying, "Why not, why not?" Naked females smiled from posters lining the walls of cafes where sweat ran down the beer bottles and the bare chests of men sitting upon the stools, and prostitutes on the streets put their arms around the shoulders of stammering Mormon missionaries. Busenbark had to do more blocking out than he had done in all his football career.
"It's a sinful city during Carnaval," he was saying as he stood in front of his church, smiling and soul-shaking with children as they entered. "A lot of things go on that are not uplifting. Yeah, the big problem here is girls. They don't wear nothing, and they like Americans."
A woman approached him to plant the two traditional kisses of greeting or departing, one on each cheek. He jerked back his head as if a fastball were coming at it. "Control of their eyes and their thoughts is the biggest problem our missionaries have here," says mission president Cory Bangerter. "We advise them to sing a song or recite something that will lift their minds to a higher plane. And to look only at the women's faces and think, 'That's one of our heavenly Father's daughters.' "
To be a Mormon missionary in a foreign country is to be cut off from your old home and never integrated into your new one. The mission assigns you a 24-hour-a-day companion, someone you've never met, and it forbids you to be alone. But you're always alone. The mission outlaws the beach. It forbids being in any room alone with any member of the opposite sex, or boarding in the home of a single or widowed woman of marrying age. With few exceptions, it disallows musical instruments, TVs, radios, movies, swimming, mustaches, beards and hair touching the ears. If you can overcome such hardships in Rio—the 6:30 alarm, the 110� heat, the 90% humidity, the 24-hour summons to sensuality—you'll surely return to America steeled for any discipline football can demand.
With seven months left on his mission, Busenbark was mentally stronger than ever. Physically, he was disappearing. Ten pounds...15...25...30...35...40...45...50...55! Day after day he walked through the steamy Brazilian heat, appetite dwindling, dysentery raging, necktie pinching, white shirt sweat-plastered to his body, pants slinking down his diminishing waist. In Nova Friburgo, a town he worked in before being transferred to Rio, he had to climb 320 steps nearly every day. For six days he was so weak from a virus that he couldn't even walk or eat. In his sport coat he looked like a little boy playing dress-up in his daddy's closet, until he became too embarrassed to wear it. He stabbed his belt to make a new hole, and then another and another, until his weight stabilized on the 12th homemade hole.