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Last December, 22 high school boys were named to the Associated Press's All-Pennsylvania Scholastic football team. Here is the authentic account of how one young warrior from Bishop Egan High School made the grade:
My younger brother Mark was born with a protruding lower lip. For the first 10 years of his life he bore a strong resemblance to Baby Huey, that blubbering cartoon duck, because he appeared to be incessantly pouting. My two other brothers, Chris and Matt, joined me in beating him regularly for this. Nobody likes a crybaby.
Mark learned to wield a fist before too long, and, gradually, our buffetings tapered off. But the abuse already administered had taken root, affecting Mark's character the same way it might have affected an attack dog abused in its formative years: Mark grew into an All-Pennsylvania defensive end. Now that he is a senior in high school, he has a fat handful of scholarship offers. And do you think he has thanked us, his brothers, his trainers, even once?
Still, we are happy for the ingrate, and secretly proud of the role we each played in molding his football temperament. Our father is another matter. In direct contrast to our calm and dignified celebration at Mark's All-State selection. Dad indulged in an orgy of self-congratulation when Mark made the grade. At long last, Dad's knowledge of the superiority of the Murphy seed had been corroborated—by nothing less than the Associated Press!
Someone kill the fatted calf.
While religion is the opiate of some people, Dad—Mr. Murphy—is among the many Americans for whom football is truly locoweed. Indeed, he is in their vanguard. Every August his nostrils dilate, and each whiff of the approaching NFL season churns his blood. Out come the trappings of his passion—the hip flask, the Empire Model 214 lightweight binoculars and the Styrofoam boosters cushion that keeps his patriarchal backside comfortable during long afternoons at the gridiron.
In the stands, Mr. Murphy is vocal even for a rabid football father, but he is only moderately profane. As football mothers go, Mrs. Murphy is far too easily embarrassed. Shortly after each coin toss, she suggests that her spouse affix a muzzle to his head. She has plain, direct words for his bleacher antics: "He acts like a child."
For his part, when the game is over, when the froth is wiped from the corners of his mouth and his eyes have once again rolled back down into their sockets, Mr. Murphy can seldom recall how he behaved.
This is certainly the only chink in his otherwise wholesome, temperate character. In his office especially, where he issues important directives and drinks very hot coffee without spilling or slurping, he is the perfect picture of the well-groomed manager.