Coach Sock… Joe… and the idea of God

home-of-the-combat-medic-corpsman-and-pararescue_mousepad_LOGO-MPAD-1_larger_1378527981_largeBy the time I darkened the doorway of my High School for the first time, I had changed groups of friends, entirely, well over five times. Today, as an adult, I understand friendship to be a life long relationship. As a teenager, my friends from grammar school, the brother and sister I had met when I first moved, the football team friends and a few other various groups I had met in Junior High School had all fallen to the wayside. I came into High School aware that I had no friendly shoulders to lean on. Either through distance, changing of schools or just not seeing eye to eye any longer, I had no friend I was talking to on a regular basis. This pattern would help shape the way I saw myself and the world around me. My thinking was already a bit askew, however when I started to smoke weed on a regular basis from age 14, now my thinking was becoming a tad bit twisted.

I played football my freshman year of High School. I couldn’t stand the freshman head coach, but the freshmen had two teams: an A team and a B team aka the Bombers. The A team coach, whom I affectionately referred to as Coach Jerk Off, picked his team. The rest of us went to the Bombers. The bombers were physically smaller than the A team… however, our head coach, Coach Sock, was my type of coach. He was a scrapper. He would stick up for us to Coach Jerk Off. I can’t remember Coach Sock’s real name. I believe that is because none of us called him his real name. In the 1980’s coaches wore 100% polyester shorts, aka coach shorts, during the summer and fall when the weather was warm. As hetrosexual males, we all just accepted this as fact. Mostly, we assumed, there was some “coach store” on the south side of Chicago or a surrounding suburb that all male coaches shopped at. It wasn’t until Coach Sock that we noticed how tight these shorts were on male coaches. Coach Sock either stuck a couple pairs of socks in his shorts… or Mrs. Sock was one happy lady waiting for him at home. Every time we lined up for practice, and Coach Sock approached the Bomber squad with his practice itinerary, some kid would inevitably say, “That cant be fucking real.” So, we called our coach … Coach Sock. Coach Sock loved us. We knew it and we returned the love to him by playing with all our heart. We were the toughest Bomber squad in the northern Illinois territory. However, only two or three other H.S.’s in the area had Bomber squads. I don’t remember our record. My size had caught up with me. This was the last year I played organized football.

My two older cousins were wrestlers. My father loved watching them wrestle. He referred to one of them as “the shark”. In Oak Forest, the junior high school system wrestling coach approached my dad during my 7th and 8th grade years asking him if I was interested in wrestling. Both times I told my dad no. As a senior in high school, my cousin “the shark” had placed 1st in the state wrestling tournament. He beat the kid in the state championship that he lost to in the sectional championship. It was a comeback story that impressed even me. He lived in Oak Forest too but went to Oak Forest High School. I lived on the boundary for H.S. so I went to a neighboring town for school. The attention my cousin got, more specifically, the attention my father gave to my cousin, is what drew me to high school wrestling. As a freshman my grades were decent enough to compete, however my skill left me sitting on the bench. By sophomore year I had wrestled in some summer tournaments and continued on lifting weights using my dads training system. My dad no longer worked out with me, which was fine, because we didn’t see eye to eye on too many things anymore. I liked wrestling. It was cultish. Wrestling is a sport that is geared towards individual warriors. You face one man, alone, on a mat using all the skills you have to physically dominate him. This sport isn’t for the weak minded. This was a challenge. I loved it. Sophomore year drew a kid from the neighboring town that all wrestlers in our area had heard of.. our coaches thought he would be scooped up by a Catholic high school. Instead, he came to us. I had never heard of him, he wasn’t from Oak Forest and when I first saw him I wasn’t truly impressed. He wore expensive clothes and was shorter than me. The thing I could not deny was how the upperclassmen treated him. He was their idol. The stranger thing about it was, this kid, I will call him Joe to save his anonymity, was the most humble kid I ever met. If Joe had my thinking, or if I had Joes gifts, this morphed TwistedMedic Joe would be doing life in the Illinois State Penitentiary system for murder… mass murder.

Joe was truly the most gifted athlete I have ever met. Even to this day. He had speed, an unexplainable strength, a fierce work ethic and a retention for learning wrestling moves that baffled everyone. Wrestling is a sport that you have to challenge the starter, beat him and keep your grades up to standard in order to be eligible to compete. Joe came in to our wrestling program as a freshman starter and won the state championship four times in a row. He was the first four time state champion in Illinois history. He lost only once in four years. I will share my opinion on that later. Friends of my parents, who had sons in wrestling programs and knew I was the same weight as Joe would ask me to explain his success. All I could tell them was what I saw. He was so much better than everyone on our team and in our state, that our coach had to bring in college wrestlers to wrestle him. When he took the mat, before he wrestled, he got on his knees and prayed in front of everyone. Then he would stand up, shake hands, and kick the living shit out of anyone and everyone… but one. Years later, as a homeless drug addict sitting in the VA hospital, I was face to face with therapists and doctors telling me I need Gods help.. so I thought of Joe. Joe isn’t God. God is perfect. Therefore, since Joe prayed, God showed Joe what a high school loss felt like.

This is where I would start my relationship with God, many years later. I still had a long time to get there…

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