Friday Night Football

By Rock Lane Cooper

It's more horseplay than play-by-play when three bored college men take a Friday night newspaper job writing up high school football games.

OK, it's fall of my junior year in college, and three of us get this part-time job at the local newspaper in town.

I'm hardly a jock, but I covered high school sports for a small town weekly, and rode the team bus for two years with the Centralia Blue Devils as Coach Kennedy's statistician. Damn near pathetic at anything athletic—except running like hell—I can do the math. It counts for something.

Hickman is from Broken Bow or Alliance—some town even smaller than Centralia. He's actually played football, but is currently saving his hands for a career as a surgeon. Hickman and I live next door in the dorm; this is the only thing we have in common.

Gary is a townie. He wears a red and white letter jacket. We think it's for golf. Some non-contact sport that's not even swimming or tennis. Being from an actual town with several stoplights, a shopping center, and one working movie theater, Gary is too cool for us. I like him anyway. He annoys Hickman, totally.

Like I say, the three of us get this job for the local daily, writing up Friday night football for the Saturday edition. It works like this. We show up late in the evening, and the nightwatchman lets us into the newsroom. After a while the phones begin to ring. It's coaches calling in their scores, the highlights, the MVPs, you name it. Always the winning coaches; the losers don't bother.

The circulation area is mostly farmland and ranches, and there are dozens of little high schools all over the map playing hard under the Friday night lights in dirt, mud, sleet and snow. Every game a little drama with its own story of triumph and defeat that maybe gets 2-3 inches of space in the Saturday sports section.

We take the calls, type up the stories, and leave them for the sports editor to sort through the next morning and decide what's fit to print—while we are sleeping till noon in our various beds, with our morning hard-ons, having or not having, as the case may be, our various wet dreams. Blissful, anyway, now that Friday night football is behind us for another week.

Looking back, I have a faint memory of listening to excited voices of men, some little older than ourselves, calling in the scores, guys teaching shop and drivers education and health and phys ed nine months of the year, willing with each season a bunch of unwashed, unruly, cussing, drinking, cigarette-smoking boys into a winning team, boys who would be nobody in one of those big consolidated high schools, but there they are anyway out on the gridiron in supporter cups, pads, and jerseys scrambling for fame while five cheerleaders with knees and elbows turning blue scream their hearts out from the sidelines, a five-piece pep band bleats from the bleachers, and farmers in coveralls and lean cowboys lean against the fence to watch in silence, holding cans of beer in paper bags against their legs.

Like I say, there's enough drama there for Mamet, Miller, and Tennesse Williams all rolled into one (picture that combo, if you can).

We, of course, are bored by it all.

We, of course, should be ashamed.

We, of course, don't give a shit. We deserve whatever happens to us. To be ignored and sneered at by the next bunch of junior sports writers who drop their butts into the wooden swivel chairs where we sit waiting for the phones to ring, eager to get this all over with, so we can get the hell out the door before the bars close.

Bored, we can't of course just sit and wait. We make trouble.

I think this is the way it starts. Gary, in a superior tone, has told us that he doesn't wear underwear. Why would this come up? You'd have to know Gary.

I can tell from his open collar that he doesn't wear a tee-shirt. I decide to find out about the rest. Gary is standing at a desk, taking the first call. He likes to be first; it gives him a head start on me and Hickman.

Gary's wearing his letter jacket, and his jeans kind of hang loose on him. No belt, as is the fashion. He bends forward with pencil and pad, writing down notes. As I walk up behind him, I can hear the excited voice of the coach on the phone.

"What was the score at the half?" Gary is saying.

I look over at Hickman, who is watching me. In one swift move, I grab both of Gary's back pockets and yank them down. Gary's bare ass pops out, and I've got his jeans around his knees before he can move.

Hickman bursts into guffaws and falls out of his chair.

Gary spins around with a dirty look, and I'm dodging the heavy black receiver he's swinging at me.

"Could you repeat that?" he's saying as he gets the phone back to his ear and quickly sits down in the chair. He can't reach to pull up his jeans without putting down his pencil.

Hickman, of course, needs no encouragement. We are of one mind. As Gary hangs onto the phone, we roll the chair away from the desk, and while Hickman throws a hammer lock on him, I'm jerking Gary's jeans down to his penny loafers and pulling them all the way off.

The swivel chair suddenly flies out from under Gary like a shot, and in a moment we are all on the floor. Hickman is laughing so hard he's peeing his pants. And I'm noticing Gary's dick flopping around under his shirt.

"Bad connection," he's saying into the receiver. "Can you call me back?"

But the guy is calling from a pay phone and doesn't have any more quarters.

Gary covers the mouthpiece with one hand. "I'm going to kill you fuckers!" he says between clenched teeth.

And that's how it all starts.

Predictably, there follows a round or two of depantsing. Always the same M.O. Two against one.

You don't worry much if the calls keep coming in and at least one of the other two is busy taking one. You begin to get on your guard when you're the only one on the phone.

Invariably, it will be a call from a pizza parlor where the winning team is generating a noise level that would deafen an airport worker, and you have to listen hard, lucky if you can hear every third word. Any word at all. And when you notice the room has gone dead silent, it's already too late.

There's suddenly stifled giggling behind you and hot breath on the back of your neck, and before you can flinch, there are hands, arms, and elbows all over you, pulling, twisting, jabbing, choking, and before you know it, your ass is on the cold floor or lifted up out of your chair and onto the desk, your jeans down as far as they'll go. At some point, getting a waste basket over your head becomes an added flourish.

I am basically easy, because I immediately go to save my glasses, and keeping their hands off my fly is a lost cause.

Hickman poses another challenge. He is small, but built like a tackle. He has, in fact, one of those body types that button-fly Levi's seem made for. I have often admired how snugly they fit over his butt and thighs. Above the knees there's not a trace of airspace between denim and skin. The seam up his backside actually disappears between his cheeks. He doesn't know this, but I just stare when he walks away from me. It's so unfair.

Getting him down takes a combination of surprise, leverage, and fearlessness. Getting the button undone on his waist band takes fingers of steel.

We can't get that far. He's fierce and will not be subdued. And not above inflicting injury to keep us at bay. Once he lunges and catapults me onto the corner of a desk. I have sore ribs for a week.

We settle for duct-taping his ankles to his chair, while he's on the phone, and squirting shaving cream down the back of his shirt.

Finally, in a mighty struggle that would win the praise of Hercules, we get him onto the floor and pinned. One of us sitting on his knees, the other on his face. His telephone receiver by this time hangs on its cord from the edge of the desk like the scene from "Dial M For Murder." Fortunately for us, Hickman does not think to grab a pair of scissors as we descend on him. In his outrage, he is fierce enough to use it.

He's twisting and cursing as we dive for his buttons, the steel fingers belonging to me. And then I do the honors, jerking down his Levi's, revealing the tightest pair of tighty-whiteys you'd like to find this side of white on rice.

I've seen Hickman in the showers at the dorm. He's got a dick that corresponds to his overall proportions; it's setting no records for size. But his balls would look about right on a Christmas tree. Which gives his crotch a noticeable magnitude. In his Levi's, he looks hung like a horse. And if you concern yourself with such things, you worry about the welfare of his offspring every time he bends over.

At any rate, his jockeys are chock full, and they kind of expand as they emerge. I can't imagine the effort it takes to stuff himself back into his jeans whenever he takes a pee. It must be like getting the genie back in the bottle.

Gary is shouting at me: "Do it! Do it!"

I grab the waist band and pull with all my might. They peel off him, like tearing bark from a tree. And then I'm on my feet and running, Hickman's jeans under my arm, dodging around desks already, because he has twisted free and is in hot pursuit. His sneakers gone, he slips and slides in his sweat socks.

"Here! Here!" Gary is yelling, his arms up. And just as Hickman grabs for them, I pitch his Levi's across the room to Gary. Who exercises a nifty lay-up, tossing them over a flourescent light fixture hanging from the high ceiling.

The nighwatchman comes in ten minutes later, discovering Gary and me on the phones and Hickman standing on a chair in his underpants, trying to knock his jeans down with a mop handle.

Naturally this escalates the level of hostility. Hickman falls silent, seething, in a fit of scheming. The following Friday, as Gary stands in the teletype room watching the news come in over the wires, Hickman pulls me aside, whispering, with a plan for pay-back. It's something cunning and, to give him credit, a minor stroke of genius.

This time, the way it works, we get Gary bent over his desk, which is fairly easy, because he decides to go limp. Thinking no doubt, in his usual superior manner, if he doesnít put up a fight, we'll get tired of our little game.

He underestimates Hickmanís desire for revenge.

Iím holding Gary down on the desk, pulling his white oxford cloth shirt and letter jacket up over his head, while Hickman spread-eagles him from behind, like a cop making an arrest. Heís got Garyís jeans down in back, and Iím noticing Gary is pale, smooth, and pristine from stem to stern. Not so much as a pimple.

Hickman whips out a red magic marker, and in three swift strokes draws an arrow pointing all the way down to Gary's butt. I feel Garyís shoulders tighten under my hands. The air quickly fills with the gasoline-strong smell of the marker fluid. Then Hickman is writing something across both cheeks of Garyís ass. And Garyís now struggling to pull away.

"Explain THAT to your girlfriends!" Hickman says and jumps back.

I let go of Gary, and he wheels around long enough for me to see what Hickman has written. Itís a phone number.

Iím curious, you know, but I donít ask whose number it is. Some failed romantic conquest of Hickmanís? a number from the wall of a public john? The dean of students, about whom there are rumors of all kinds?

Even a made-up number. Itíll keep Garyís pants up in close company until several layers of skin wear off. Cramp his style in just the after-hours extra-curricular activities he likes to brag about.

I feel a little sorry for him. But not all that much.

Now Iím waiting for the other shoe to drop. I figure Iím due for some pay-back, too. But Hickman and Gary are now so thoroughly steamed at each other, theyíre not talking. So they can't gang up on me.

Next Friday Gary says, "That was Hickmanís idea, wasnít it?"

"Yes," I say, keeping my remarks to a minimum.

"Dumb fuck," Gary says and walks off.

Later, when the nightwatchman comes through on his rounds, he finds us each at our desks, taking phone calls or typing away at our humming IBM Selectrics. No antics in progress. Dedicated to our work.

For a while, Iím thinking, thatís the end of it.

The season grinds on, and finally it's almost over. Weíve got two more Friday nights to go (thereís a reason why I remember this detail). It's a big night for sports fans. Two unbeaten teams, McCook and Holdredge, are going head to head tonight. There's interest you wouldn't believe in this game, so we're told. There'll be a bonus for whoever takes the call and writes up the story. We, of course, could care less.

When I walk in, Gary beckons me over to his desk.

He pulls open a drawer. "See this?" he says. Among the pencils, paper clips, and rubber bands, thereís a full tube of Ben-Gay. "Tonight weíre gonna balm his balls."

"You and me and what army?" I say, always ready with a snappy comeback.

Turns out heís hatched a plan. Hickman, it seems, has a habit of standing at the urinal in the menís john with his Levi's wide open and the front of his jockeys pulled down.

I donít ask how Gary knows this. But I see how it gives us an advantage. And it begins to answer my question about the genie and the bottle.

Weíll jump him when he goes for a pee, which he does regularly, because thereís a coke machine down the hall, and he helps himself freely. Literally freely. He knows how to reach up inside and trip the release.

And taking him during one of his piss breaks will be a surprise tactic, because the three of us never leave the news room together, in case a call comes in.

Time comes, and everything goes like clockwork. As soon as Hickman heads for the can, Gary follows him. I give it 30 seconds and then slip in after them, where I find Hickman at the urinal and Gary waiting in the stall.

Steeling myself, I make my move, grabbing Hickman by his shirt collar, pulling him backward and off balance. At the same instant, Gary leaps from the stall, the door banging open, and claps a handful of Ben-Gay on Hickman's Christmas balls.

"What the fuck?" Hickman grunts.

I hear the snap of his jockeys as Gary pulls his hand away. Then we run like hell.

Not that we need to. Hickman will waste no time scrambling to wipe himself off, swabbing away with paper towels, sudsing up with liquid hand soap from the wall-dispenser, while the red-hot burning between his legs brings tears to his eyes.

"Bastards!" he shouts from the doorway, a good half hour later, when he's able to walk back into the news room. He eases gingerly into his chair and then sits in stony silence, staring at his phone. Gary and I are beside ourselves. Gleeful would be the word.

Nothing happens for a while. I keep an eye on Hickman. He is subdued, but not behaving suspiciously. The phones start ringing, and soon we're busy again being part-time sports writers.

For once, it looks like we might finish up early, but the McCook-Holdredge game is taking forever to come in. I drift into the supply room, looking for stuff to pilfer. I'm reaching over some boxes for the ballpoint pens, and Gary comes in behind me, goosing me in the butt.

I throw an arm around his neck, and in the time it takes to do it, we are on the floor, wrestling, thrashing around, kicking, grabbing, my glasses flying, each trying to get on top of the other. We pause for a moment, laughing, then as the other relaxes a grip, lurch to get a better hold.

The room is warm and we're soon breaking into a sweat. Finally, I think I've got him, twisting one arm behind his back. We stop again, breathing hard.

"I'm kinda curious," I say from behind his ear. "Did you ever call that number on your ass?"

He flings himself around but can't slip out of my grasp. I press down harder onto his arm, stretched full out under me, and then it's too late. He's grabbed me hard by the balls. And holds on till I let go.

He gets leverage from somewhere, and there I am on my back, my head jammed against the edge of a metal shelf. So now I'm reaching with both hands, grabbing for his crotch. I squeeze and discover that I've got his dick. And it's hard as a hammer handle. He's squirrming and pulling my hand away.

"Packin' a gun?" I laugh and grab at him again.

Up comes a leg and somehow he's got my head between his thighs. My face is pressed into his crotch, and I'm smothering in the smell of warm, damp denim, waves of it washing over me.

Now I realize I'm getting hard, too. Not just hard, but ready to come.

Then he rolls over onto me, his hips getting into a rocking motion inside his jeans, and I'm starting to get the picture. He presses down once or twice, then freezes, and there is a bloom of rich, gluey smell, and a surge of wet and hot, soaking through to me from the other side of Gary's fly.

Which does the trick for me. Big time. I come in quarts, of course, as I do back then, my shorts filling with Jello vanilla pudding.

"I canít breathe," I'm saying. Gary's grip around my ears loosens, and he flips over onto his back. I am spent. About all I can do is let gravity take me and whatever is not already on the floor fall in that direction.

This moment lasts for maybe two seconds, and I hear the door to the supply room slam shut.

"See how you like that!" Hickman is shouting from the other side.

Gary sits up. "He can't lock us in," he says. "Can he?"

We try the door, and Hickman has propped something against it from the other side. Probably a chair braced under the door knob.

We shout every threat we can think of, but of course we're kidding ourselves. Hickman really has the upper hand.

I'm standing there with cum leaking down the inside of my pants. Gary isn't looking at me. We aren't looking at each other. Just shouting epithets at Hoffman because we can't think what else to do.

Finally Gary looks down at himself. "Shit. Look at us."

I laugh. He laughs. We get down on the floor to hunt for my glasses. Then we hear the phones start ringing in the news room.

"That would be the McCook-Holdredge game," Gary says. "Looks like Hickman gets himself the bonus."

The phones ring again. They keep ringing.

"Come on, Hickman, you dumb fuck," Gary says. "Pick up the phone."

But the phones keep ringing, and we realize that Hickman isn't out there. He's gone. Finally the ringing stops. After two minutes it starts up again. Ten times; fifteen; I stop counting after twenty. We just stand there in the supply room, looking stupid, with big wet spots in our pants, and the room filling with the rich, funky smell of cum.

Which is exactly how the nightwatchman finds us two hours later.

The next day, of course, we are all fired. Not just for missing the game. Turns out that Holdredge beats McCook—and the Holdredge coach is the sports editor's brother-in-law.

No bonus. No paycheck, either.

The last night of football season, I'm at the bar early. Gary comes in later, but besides a little nod from across the room, he's back to his superior attitude. We don't talk.

He stands at the bar, back pockets showing under his red and white letter jacket. I'm smiling to myself because I know what he's got written across his butt.

A bud of mine, sitting at the table, says "What's got you grinnin'?"

"Aw, nothing," I say.