TRAVEL BUG TALES: MY DAYS IN THE NFL
FYI, in my life, NFL stands for National Forensic League, not a sports league. They don’t call it that anymore, but it sounds so much more interesting the way I remember it, than the way they have improved it. Unfortunately, I find that to be true about more and more this day and time. A few days ago I blogged about a speech tournament I judged and it brought back memories of my days in the NFL. I thought I’d tell you about them.
Stairway Way to Paradise
I was unaware of it when I was in high school, (as far as I know the term hadn’t been coined) but I was a nerd. Chances are my mother realized it, with or without the appellation, and that’s why she encouraged me to participate in pretty much anything that would get my nose out of a book. One of my high school adventures was the Cothurnus Club, Bryan Adams’ drama club. According to Dictionary.com, “cothurnus” is “a grave and elevated style of acting.” I’m afraid there was nothing grave or elevated about our productions, but that was the name.
In my sophomore year, I had a couple of bit parts in a production called Stairway to Paradise. One part actually involved a few lines, but the other was more fun. I played an on-stage extra, portraying an on-screen extra. As such, I got the opportunity to spend most of my time dressed in the costume of a Southern Belle.
In spite of both parts, I spent most of the time hanging about backstage with the speech and drama students who recruited me into the NFL. They also talked me into signing up for speech in my junior year, because then I could join the gang on a phenomena called speech tournaments.
The Red Convertible
Fast forward to October of my Junior year. I was in speech 101 and I somehow convinced my parents attending a speech tournament was exactly the right thing for me to do at that point of my life. I’d talked them into sending me on a mission trip over the summer and I had come home in one piece, so I was on a roll.
What was even more amazing to me was Jimmy Jordan had invited me to ride to Houston with him. Jimmy was my favorite person in the speech department. Jimmy was not a football hero or my latest crush. He was just my friend, Jimmy Jordan, but he was very groovy.(Groovy was “sick” or “the bomb” back in the days before words became synonymous with their antonym.) He had a red Chevy convertible with white interior, which I thought was the coolest car I’d ever seen. (At least it was the coolest car I’d ever seen since that Jaguar XKE at the 1966 State Fair – but that’s another story for another day.)
On the day in question, I threw my suitcase in the trunk of Jimmy Jordan’s car, along with his other passengers’ belongings, and we took off with the sun shining and and our hair blowing in the wind. We got to the University of Houston early enough to drive around the campus and feel very groovy. The signature song of the trip was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and it seems the disc jockeys were playing it several times an hour. Or maybe it just seemed that way, because the other hit at the time was The Isley Brothers song, “Brother, Brother, Brother” and the word “brother” got a lot of play in in both songs. Serendipitously, Marvin Gaye was crooning as we cruised the campus – one of my all-time favorite memories.
My Life as a Compulsive Big Mouth
That’s not a confession of some sort. That’s the name of the speech-to-entertain I had prepared for the tournament. I recall a few moments of dread as I was called up to give the speech and the immense relief I felt when it was over. To my amazement, I made it to the next level of competition. Another of my all-time favorite memories. Pretty much everyone from our school made it to the semi-finals. I was thrilled to be among them.
And Then There Was Galveston…
After a fast food dinner at Prince’s Drive-in (which was supposed to be the “it” place), we returned to our Ramada Inn and got a pep talk from our speech coach. She was fresh out of college and proud to bursting that all her little fledglings were not only accounted for, but also in the semi-finals on the following day. Our teen-aged bodies were casually draped across the whimsical components of the motel’s playground, as we listened to her schpiel. I wish someone had taken a picture, but we didn’t do as much of that in the days before smartphones. Taking a picture back then entailed posing.
Her final words to us were, “and don’t any of you dare to go to Galveston.” Up until that very moment I sincerely believe not a single soul had even thought of the fact the beach was just a little bit down the road. We were completely enthralled with being away from home without our parents and hanging out on a college campus. We were also amazed that all our rehearsal time had paid off and we were all semi-finalists in the tournament.
However, the moment the word “Galveston” was out of her mouth, we had to go. I forget the logistics of the episode, but soon the red convertible was making it’s way to Galveston. By the time we got there, we’d all run out of adrenaline. Jimmy parked his car, we scampered on the beach for a few moments and then didn’t know what else to do. So we hopped back in the convertible and rode back to the Ramada Inn.
Hell Hath No Fury Like a Speech Coach Scorned
Today, there would have been a whole lot of texting going on. By the time we made it back, there would have been a gaggle of angry parents, ready to snatch their darlings back to Dallas – all the more angry at money spent on airfare. We might even have made the news or at least been included in an Amber Alert. In the glorious days before smartphones, all that waited for us was one very mad speech coach. Had our escapades become known, she would have probably lost her job, but thanks to the lack of smartphones, that didn’t happen either.
Come to find out, we probably hadn’t gotten all the way out of the parking lot before one of the girls went and ratted on us. For the record, she’d been invited on the spontaneous road trip, but she had decided she didn’t want to join us. When she turned us down, she’d claimed she needed to work on her presentation. After we returned there was a tearful episode where she testified of a sincere concern for our welfare, but we all knew she was just another brown-nosing snitch.
We were royally dressed down andwe regretted upsetting the coach, but we hadn’t intended any harm. We were just teenagers – teenagers who needed their sleep. Most of the presenters who are listed in the final paragraph of the article below were probably in on the escapade (I was Jane Cave in that phase of my life). Bryan Adams ended up fifth in the tournament, but with talent like we had and a little more sleep, we might have brought home the gold.
My Forensic Career Winds Down
I was not among the talented. Though I would end up talking for a living, I wasn’t so good at speech tournaments. The only other tournament I attended was something called a Mock Legislature. We went up to Denton and were supposed to be debating issues and operating committees like they do in Washington. I confess I didn’t really understand what was going on, so I spent most of my time flirting with the competition.
We did host a speech tournament at Bryan Adams and I remember thoroughly enjoying the experience. We had all been forgiven by then and showed our ability to handle responsibility by planning and executing a very successful tournament. I think my job was to man the concession stand – another career foreshadowing activity.