This book is a work of fiction. Parts of the
story are reflections from my own childhood and some from my professional life.
Most of the games depicted are close reenactments of actual contests but are
not necessarily used in the actual time frame they occurred. All of the game action actually took
This is a book that delves into moral and social
issues as experienced by young teenage boys, many of which, in my opinion have
been ignored too long. The characters, I believe, reflect the real life world
of teenage boys. Their struggle
happens all the time in every town in America. I think the issues confronting the characters are real and
need to be written. Feel free to
I debated with myself about the content of
chapter one more than a few times.
In the end I decided that masturbation is part of life so I included the
chapter. I was simply attempting to be real and tell it like it is and thank
you Howard Cosell.
have to imagine that somewhere along the line I have coached a gay
athlete. I don’t care. If I were to have known it would have
made no difference. I would have
treated him just like all the rest.
I have a very simple rule, “Best Player Plays.” Understand this is not a book about gay
rights, just a book about people.
I come from a family of educators and writers.
My grandparents on my father’s side of the family were both English
teachers. My father’s sister’s son
is a published author of fiction and lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Fifty
years ago the family published a small work of fiction titled “Kernels From a
Cracked Nut” to which many of the family members contributed. It was a play on classic poems and you
won’t find it in any bookstore but it was humorous.
I think I got all my wit and humor from Dad’s
side of the family. My interest in sports certainly came from the athlete in
our family, my mother. I’m not sure where the rest of me came from but I was
born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1940. My blood is Cornhusker red and although I
confess to being liberal in some of my views, certainly in my coaching life, I
believe my acquaintances would agree I tend to fall mostly on the conservative
side of the fence regarding a majority of social issues.
The people I have been fortunate enough to
known and be touched by in my life inspired many of the characters in this
book. If anyone thinks they
recognize themselves or parts of themselves in any of the characters I hope
they will understand that none of the people in the work represent a single
person in real life.
Coach Davis is pretty much a reflection of my
high school basketball coach, one of my four high school coaches to whom this book is dedicated. He did die of cancer and he did come by
to say goodbye and I did cry a lot.
The three musketeers are composites of many
young teenage football players that I have had the pleasure to coach over a
forty plus year career. They are the representatives of over one thousand kids
I’ve had the pleasure to work with. D’Artagnan is a completely fictional
I enjoyed writing this book. I hope you will laugh at times. You might even cry at times but in the
end my hope is that you will understand that our imperfect world is made up of
all kinds of people and none of them deserve to be ostracized. And specifically to teen age boys I
offer the following advice; The role of a real man has nothing to do with
athletic ability, sexual conquest or social position because of your profession
or your inheritance. It’s ok to cry.
It’s ok to hug; honest emotion is good. A real man knows that by treating all people,
regardless of their sex, race, religion, economic position or social status,
with respect and dignity you will
eventually rest in peace.
This is a story about young teen-age boys
growing up in Seattle, Washington.
The story centers around four friends. Each one is searching in his own way to find out who he will
become. They are going through
that sometimes very difficult period between adolescence and manhood. Their friendship will help them through
the rough spots and each will in time become a crutch for the others. They are all athletes and their story
is about a football season and how the teenagers adjust and adapt to the
balancing act between sport, social and academic challenges.
The main character Ryan Jones is late to mature
although he is very athletic and his struggle with reaching puberty dominates
his beginning at his new school.
His family had moved from Oregon to Seattle during the summer before his
freshman year in high school. His
parents are supportive and understanding of his plight. He manages to make it to puberty just
in time to become a major factor as an athlete in the story.
best friend, Eric Rose, helps him through his pre-pubescent period with an
unconditional loyalty. Their
developing friendship is a large part of the story as they both meet the
challenges facing young athletes.
Eric is gifted both as an athlete and a student and has very high moral
standards. He lives with his
mostly absent father in a single parent family but handles the situation with a
determination that demands self-discipline, which is a trait of strength for
him. His dad is black and his mom
is Italian but being a product of a racially mixed marriage never becomes an
obstacle to him.
The third member of the group, Trevin Rice, is a
coaches son and is the most romantically active of the boys. He is a talented athlete, average
student and constantly on the lookout for sexual conquests. He plays the roll well and constantly
makes light of that fact. He reserves his best effort for the athletic arena
and the challenge of being a Romeo to the schools female population.
Scott Thomas, the fourth member, is gay. He keeps his secret from nearly
everyone but Ryan. He is very
smart and quite popular among the student’s of Roosevelt High. The eventual discovery of his sexual
preference is the underlying plot of the story and in the end ties the four
boys together in a close bond of friendship based on trust while at the same
time ignoring prejudice.
Their story is at times full of laughter and at
time tears. It is an account of
four young boys coming together during a life period that is challenging and
demanding. The up’s and down’s of a
teenager’s life have need of friendships that endure those periods of trial and
tribulation. This story of the
musketeers is a typical teenage roller coaster ride through the life of young
I was sitting in the back yard watching my three
boys play in the wading pool. Eric
the oldest was five. He had the
long legs of his dad and the sweet smile of his mother. Light hair and blue eyes his Nordic
features favored his mothers side of the family. Trevin was three and looked like a miniature Eric except
that his hair was curlier than Eric’s ever was as a three year old. Scott, the baby was just nine months
old and took after his dad. His
head was filled with straight light brown hair. His brown eyes were alive and never languid.
Eric was the only one with anything on. He was
wearing his favorite baseball cap.
Well sort of wearing. The
Yankee cap was worn backward, like the older kids did in an attempt to look
cool. God I hope that wasn’t
already beginning. His skin was
well tanned and their was no swim suit line because the kid almost never wore
one while playing either in the wading pool or swimming in daddy’s pool, as
Trevin called the kidney shaped pool that dominated our back yard. The little
guy could be a poster boy for Coppertone.
Their mother, my energetic wife was insistent
that we teach all the boys how to swim. Her idea was ok with me but I thought
we should wait until after they proved they could breath. She was the one though with enough time
to take them all to the club even before they could walk. She was probably right, she was about
most things. I had been a pretty fair swimmer at an early age, so I certainly wasn’t about to hide
the fact I thought lessons were a pretty damned good idea.
Three kids frolicking naked oblivious of the
crowd of people who had gathered in our back yard. There were about twenty people with more to come I’m sure,
who had dropped by after the reunion of our 2002 State Championship football
team. No one seemed to take notice
of the kids. Everyone was pretty
busy getting reacquainted after being on separate life paths for the past two
This had been a pretty special day for a lot of
reasons. Of course it was nice to
see old friends again and listen to how bad our memories were. I’d been told the older you get the
better you were and to listen to some of my teammates talk that was certainly
true. But no one really
cared. We had lived through a
special season and all grown considerably because of both the good times and
those not so good.
The other reason it was such a special day was
coach Davis’ wife and son were there to present us with copies of a scrapbook
that he had compiled during that eventful season. Coach had died two years ago of cancer and his loss was felt
by all of us who knew him so well.
He had come to see me about a month before he passed and mentioned
nothing of his illness. In fact he
looked great, certainly older but still trim and distinguished. His hair was only tinted with grey and
his eyes were clear and warm.
We had a great day together sharing stories and
getting to know each other again after a long time going in separate
directions. Coach went into a deserved retirement in Arizona the year after I
graduated from Roosevelt. I entered college and then after teaching for two
years left education and went into my father’s business.
I asked him why he had retired?
“Ryan Patrick Jones, the time was just right.”
“But your health was good and you were still the
best football coach in the entire state.
And I would include college and pro coaches in that arena.
“When I began my teaching career the
administrators and the teachers were on the same team. We belonged to the same
union, we believed in the same things.
We worked together to try to make things better. In my opinion the day the
administrators left the union and formed an alliance with school boards was the
day education began to fail.
The truth is I was disgusted at the direction
education was heading and I would have been miserable watching it fall
apart. For example, the support
groups only supported themselves. Administrators let them do it because they
were too afraid to take a stance. The rally showed up when they felt like it and
then only did their little required state routine, acting bored as they ignored
the actual game action. The band wanted equal billing and demanded to sit on
the fifty-yard line, do their half time piece and then leave. They were so brazen and weren’t accountable
to any one. It was like they were
Everyone wanted to be the show. It made me sick
to see what had happened to programs when everyone demanded an equal piece of
the pie. No one was satisfied being Ed Mc Mahan, they all wanted to be Johnny
Kids could pretty much do what they wanted and
there was little or no accountability for them either. It just seemed to me the inmates
were running the asylum.
Most administrators had never been in the
classroom. The worst of them saw themselves
as management and the teachers and coaches where nothing more than labor in
He didn’t sound bitter just disappointed in the
direction the place where he spent over forty years of his life was headed. He
sighed, took a long drink of water and continued. “They told me the kids had a ‘right to fail’. Ok maybe so, but the problem with that
was the jerks then made life miserable, with their shenanigans, for the
teachers and those kids who wanted to get an education. I didn’t think their ‘rights’ included
that but unfortunately I was in the minority.
I certainly agreed with him. “I guess I know what you mean coach,
that’s probably why I only lasted two years in education. I had the ‘right to fail’ in business
as well I guess, but I love the competition too much to give up. Besides I sure didn’t want to end up in
the welfare line asking for food stamps, while working people paid my way with
their tax dollars.”
He took another drink of water and paused to
gather his thoughts before continuing, “My boy, I’ll tell you one more thing. I
may have been disgusted with where education had gone but I never lost my
passion for the game and the infatuation never left me. Now, son I didn’t come to your home to
lament about past history. Let’s
change the subject. “Who do you
think will win the Super Bowl?”
The rest of the day we visited about sports,
family and mutual friends and when he had to go I thought to myself, God I miss
that man and the sad truth was that young kids in our educational system missed
him and people like him and they didn’t even know it.
I was taken totally by surprise when I learned
of his death. It dawned on me that he had come to say goodbye. I was overpowered with the emotion of
that realization and I cried for a long time that day. Next to my dad coach Davis was the most
influential man in my life and I was going to miss him terribly. Education would miss him more.
Maybe no one noticed our naked kids because they
didn’t want to chance getting close to Joey. That would be our three-year-old Doberman. He was brown to me and officially Red
Maple in color as my wife often took pains to point out. He came from purebred stock and his
parents were champion show dogs.
We had found him at a breeder in southern Oregon where I spent the first
fifteen years of my youth. Joey’s
real name was Franz Joseph after the last emperor of Austria. That part’s a long story and I’ll tell
you all about it in good time.
Joey was actually a coward but his physical
presence and the reputation of the breed usually caused even the most active
dog lover to take heed. We had
gotten him after Trevin was born and he immediately became both kids’
protector. Now his charge was
increased by one but I don’t think he cared. He followed them everywhere and stood close by the pool
whenever they were playing in or out of the water. He was also great with other kids and other dogs. I always had the feeling that he just
took others for granted and always with great patience simply ignored the pests
in his life.
The two other musketeers were there. I was the third. Had it really been twenty years? It seemed like yesterday when the three
of us were innocent, well not so innocent, high school kids just trying to find
our place in life. And what a great time it was for all three. Of course the fourth member of our
little group was who brought everything together.
It all began when my family moved to the
Seattle area from the beautiful Rogue Valley in southern Oregon just before my
freshmen year in high school. The
first friend I made was that good looking young man sitting over there with his
blonde wife looking like they both had just graduated from college. How could an almost forty-year-old
couple look so young and vibrant?
Oh well, Eric is one of those guys who will always keep his youthful
countenance. He’ll never look as
old as the rest of us. And of
course he picked, or did she pick him, a bride who was his equal in nearly
everything. Certainly in looking
about ten years younger than her actual age. Maybe it was the smooth skin. Mine already had way to many blotches and wrinkles.
The second member of our troupe was standing by
the mini-bar, of course he was, carrying on a conversation with a lady, someone
I didn’t immediately recognize.
Trevin was always on the move, so he didn’t last long making small talk
with whomever he met. He flashed
his easy smile and moved on toward a nice looking lady who was standing
momentarily by herself under the shade of the awning protruding from the side
of the house. She greeted him like a long lost sole and maybe he was. Trevin went through so many girl
friends in high school he must have know every girl in the entire city. I think Trev always had the words of
Julio Iglesias’ duet with Willie Nelson, “To all the girls I’ve Loved
Before” on his lips. Looks like things haven’t changed
much. Except he did look his
age. Two divorces before the age
of forty will do that to a man I suppose.
But I adored the guy.
“Daddy, daddy here comes Uncle Scotty.” Eric was waving towards the patio where
the fourth musketeer, D’Artagnan stood. Scott waved back and began slowly
making his way towards us. He
looked great, although maybe a little thin. I think he had lost weight since the last time I saw
him. But he was tanned and moved
with the same easy grace he did when I first met him twenty years ago. He wore his hair in the same short
style of his youth although I noticed a little white at the temples crowding its
way into his still light auburn locks.
He nodded or smiled at everyone as he made his way toward where young
Eric and me stood. God I loved
him. My only hope is he will be
able to reach the contentment in his life that he seemed always to be searching
“Hey Eric how’s my little toe headed buddy
doing? Looks like you’ve grown a
foot. Are you in Junior high
“Quit teasing me uncle Scotty. You know I’m only getting ready for
“Well you could have fooled me. How about showing uncle Scott if you
can get a ten from the Russian judge off that spring board.” At that Eric raced off toward the big
pool, leaving his Yankee hat tumbling to the ground behind him. Joey the guardian chased right
along. I hope he didn’t
scare anyone with his exposed butt and tiny dick. Oh well that would just prove to everyone he was a chip off
the old block.
I gave Scott a big hug and kissed him on both
cheeks with my best European greeting.
“You look good my friend, really good.”
“Thanks, you know I always try my best when I
show up at your little hacienda. Give me another one of those Vienna greetings,
I really miss that.” He grinned
and we embraced again. He
whispered to me, “I love you but you know that.”
His was a great story. Let me tell it to you.
It’s really the story of a bunch of guys growing up together in a
northwest city. Four teenagers.
Three Caucasian’s, one black.
Three heterosexual’s, one gay.
We were learning all about life and trying to come to grips with our own
sexuality at the same time. We of
course thought we were grown up but we weren’t. Like teenagers everywhere we
would have a bunch of ups and downs before we would realize that fact. And we all had our little secrets.
The story reminded me of the Randy Travis song
that went something like…”Never sell your saddle and never lose your
pride. Never sell your saddle
cause life’s a long, long ride.” Fortunately I hadn’t sold mine or lost
my pride. Neither had my three
Eric, Trevin, Scott and me. Seems like yesterday but to tell it
right I’ll have to begin…well, hell to tell it right, pardon me but I’ll have
to begin where it all began, in my bedroom.
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