In Brian Burres' major league debut, he left the mound with a nose bleed. Sure, that's pretty embarrassing, but who among us hasn't had a few humiliating moments ourselves? Sure, ours may not have happened with 36,000 people in attendance, but at the end of the day it still makes a good story.
One of my favorite stories to tell involves a weekend trip to New York with my high school cross country team, the Archbishop Curley Friars. I was a sophomore at the time, and it was my first year with the team. We were running in the Foot Locker Invitational in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. I remember looking forward to these trips, mostly because we got out of classes for a day or two, but also because it was nice to travel a bit and see a new part of the country. This would be an especially interesting trip, as the girls from Catholic High's team (the sister school to our own all-boys' Catholic high school) would be following us up in their own school van.
Since the social pecking order of high school was still in full effect, the primary concern on the lengthy van ride from Baltimore to New York was hotel room assignments. There would be four boys to a room, and if you snoozed, you'd get stuck with the freshmen or the one or two especially weird upperclassmen. So at my first opportunity, I had a quick word with Steve (one of my closest acquaintances on the team) and made sure that I'd be in his room. It would be the two of us, another sophomore named Tim, and a junior named Paul. When we got to the hotel, Coach Hoffman asked for the room assignments. The last room to be announced was ours. Paul took the honors, saying the names of himself, Tim, Steve, and then...it seemed as if he froze for a split second. He stuttered, and the name that spilled out of his mouth was that of Adam, the aforementioned weird upperclassman. I was stunned. When I pressed him about it later, Paul claimed that he had blanked and said the first name that came to him. I took him at his word because...if you knew Adam, no one in their right mind would choose him as a roommate.
With that, Coach Hoffman turned around and said, "Now which one of you doesn't have any friends?" He glanced at me and grinned. "Kevin! Okay, you're with me."
I have to explain that one of my favorite things about track and cross country was the coach. Our teams in those years were mostly subpar, and he spent most of his time belittling us and talking about how good his teams were in the Eighties. It was inexplicably hilarious. The angrier he got, the more we were entertained. One of his more motivational speeches was: "There are six words to describe this team. Suck, suck, suck, suck, suck, and suck!" Sure, Coach Hoffman's dyspeptic, middle-aged ranting was a riot, but that didn't mean that I wanted to share a room with him.
But as my new roomie wisely said, "Screw them, you get your own bed."
Saturday night, I settled into bed and listened to my portable CD player (I believe it was Local H's As Good As Dead) while Coach Hoffman watched some cheesy action movie. I knew that we had to be out of the hotel by 8:00 the next morning before the race, but I didn't worry about setting an alarm. "I'm sharing a room with the coach; he'll wake me up." The next thing I heard was:
"We're leaving in FIVE MINUTES!"
Somehow, I scrambled out of bed, got dressed, and washed up in record time (no shower, of course). Still, I wasn't quite fast enough to satisfy Coach Hoffman. I'll let my friend Jessica, who was on the Catholic High team, tell the rest of the story:
"All of a sudden, we see the Curley van start moving and this one Curley guy comes running out of the hotel, jumps up, and grabs onto the door as it pulls away...everyone felt really sorry for you. They were like, 'Awww.'"
Awww indeed. That's why you don't leave your morning routine at the mercy of a grouchy balding man in a jogging suit.