And Now For Something Completely Unrelated To Cancer

Like a lot of people, I’m not really into football of any kind but as a recovering American, I always check to see who’s playing in the Super Bowl. I also check the score from time to time while the game is in progress and on Monday morning, I check to see who won before I even look at my email. In honour of the winners of Super Bowl 2015, then, this minor story from my misspent youth.

The summer after my freshman year at UMass-Amherst, I worked in the dining commons serving food to the New England Patriots, who had their summer camp on campus. It was the same summer that the Mahesh Maharishi Yogi brought a Transcendental Meditation conference to campus. In fact, before I served food to the Pats, I worked at the conference registration desk, checking in meditators from all over the world. One of them was Mike Love of the Beach Boys; nice, friendly man, lovely manners. (That summer, I took to judging people by how they treated anyone they didn’t have to be nice to. I still do. I’m a bitch that way. But I digress.)

The two groups, the meditators and the football players, kept colliding, possibly because the university was using the same building as function space for both: the Pats took their meals on one side, the meditators took classes (or something) on the other. Some of the meditators, all of them guys, kept sneaking over to the Pats’ side to meditate.

At first, I thought they were just trying to meet the players. But they would wait till the team left, then sneak into the dining area, sit on a chair in a corner facing the wall, take off their shoes, and close their eyes for twenty minutes. Maybe it was a dare.

Sometimes I ran into some of the players at the campus centre after work and I’d have coffee with them. All the ones I talked to were well-educated and articulate, about a million miles away from the stereotype you see in movies or on TV of big, stupid man-boys named Tank or Bruiser. Nice people; the judge gave them all a thumbs-up. And, as the other student working with me learned to her dismay, they were also all married. She usually found out while she was on a date with one of them.

She said nothing ever happened and I had no doubt she was telling the truth. As near as I could tell, she was looking for someone good-looking, wealthy, with a bright future but fresh off the show-room floor, definitely not a pre-owned model.

This made me think that at least some of these guys just wanted a break from the unrelenting testosterone of football camp. I think they had a burning desire to sit at a table where they weren’t shoulder to shoulder with a whole lot of other guys, where they could look up and not see another guy pounding down protein and worrying about surviving the next round of cuts.

In fact, the only people I ever had to actively fend off that summer were a couple of reporters here and there, and not because they knew where I worked. They all seemed to be looking for hippie coeds on the Pill who had dope and knew how to roll a joint.

Summer of 1971. Crazy days.

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