Instead, the field house was usually a pretty lighthearted place. Jokes about how bad we were flowed freely in the locker room. Someone would usually give an imitation of the opposing coach talking to his team before going out to play the Trojans, trying to get his guys psyched up with phrases like "I know this is Central we're playing, but anything could happen out there" and "We don't want to be their first victim, do we?" It could be pretty amusing.
It was perfectly acceptable and funny for someone on the team to make jokes about our pitiful performances. But when one of your classmates made a joke about it. it wasn't so funny. Not funny at all, actually. Of course, you had to laugh it off. There was no sense being defensive about it, saying something like "At least I'm out there trying," although we all said that to someone at sometime or another.
Coach Lewis was not always a popular person last year. I guess that's because, when it comes to discussing your faults, Lewis always tells it like it is and sometimes more than it is. In his view, a healthy, physically fit male who doesn't participate in some sport has no right to be in high school. The coach also refers to the crowd that regularly congregates in the smoking area at school as the scum bunch, although last year he went through a pack and a half of cigarettes every day himself.
He is a cynic, and he was at his cynical best last fall while the team was watching game films. "Hold it! Run that back again! I want you to see this. This is Clark blocking. Notice how he has his head to the inside, how he's pumping those feet. Now notice who he's blocking. It's our own Jay Brown! Can't wait till you test that out on the opposition, Clark.
"O.K., run this in slow motion. Here we are covering the punt. Here the punt-coverage team has moved into the picture. Except James! Let's see how long it will be before James gets down there! One, two, three, four. Aha! Now we see him come into the picture." The films provided endless examples of this type. But to his and the other coaches' credit they never stopped trying to win. Lewis came up with new formations and trick plays designed to get us on the scoreboard in one quick strike. The object was always to go out and win, not to go out and merely score or to go out and avoid humiliation.
The guys who stuck it out last year were a pretty good bunch. It takes a lot to go to practice all week, get killed, and sometimes overkilled, on Friday night, go to practice the next week and keep this up for 10 weeks. And there sure wasn't a lot of glory for us. Some of the seniors who graduated last year played four years and won one lousy game—a J.V. game.
This year things could be different. Coach Lewis thinks—he knows—we've turned the corner. Heck, by the time we were 0-3 we'd already scored four touchdowns—two against Wake Forest-Rolesville, which needed an overtime to beat us.
We just can't get that excited about a touchdown anymore. We seek new thrills. With apologies to tradition, this really could be the season we chalk one up in the win column.