“Go! Go! Go!” shouts the guy at the bar.
“Run! Run! Run!” screams another.
“Touchdown!” says the rowdy behind me.
“Aw [bad word]!” shouts the bartender, throwing a wet rag across the room.
The people in this joint are going nuts. Even my wife is part of the pandemonium. Half the patrons in the room are wearing Clemson University orange, the other half wears Louisiana State University purple-and-gold.
I glance out the window. I scan the parking lot to make sure my truck is still there. This is an old habit of mine.
Tonight is the National Championship college football game. And in our part of the world this is the height of our year.
In other nations, the most important calendar days are religious holidays. But in the sleepy hamlets and electric burrows of the USA, football is religion. And the National Championship is high mass.
My wife and I are in a typical bar. It’s dark. Ugly wood paneling. Long ago, I remember when they still allowed smoking here. This room used to be nothing but fog from unfiltered Camels. Now it just smells like French fries and stale beer.
Everyone leans on the bar and watching the television. During crucial plays many scream. Some cheer. Some boo. Some pound chests and make Tarzan calls. It’s great.
I walk to the window again to make sure my truck is still there.
Several years ago, I watched a National Championship in a crowded big-city bar with friends. The University of Alabama was playing the Texas Longhorns. Three of my pals were Alabama fans, the other two were Texas sympathizers. I will never forget it.
That night, I was the designated driver—which is why I still remember the night with clarity.
At halftime, two of my friends (the Texans) snuck outside. They told me they were going to make a phone call. This seemed odd since nobody in these parts—not even Satan worshippers or depraved telemarketers—makes calls during a championship game.
When my friends came back they were giggling. I asked what was so funny, but they just exchanged looks and exploded with laughter. I let it go. Alabama successfully deflated the Texans, 37-21. And soon it was time to go home.
But before we could pay our tab, I learned something about Texans; they are nice guys when they’re winning, but when they lose they will burn down your house.
A small fistfight broke out among a few Texans and Alabamians. At first this seemed like no big thing. This happens at important games. You never know how these fights start. Sometimes all it takes is one comment. Maybe one guy said something about the other guy’s mother. Or worse, his hunting dog.
So these men were going at it. Hands around each other’s necks, glasses shattering.
One thing about males, they cannot watch a fistfight without attempting to intervene. My friends believed this was their civic duty, even though in their condition you could have blindfolded them with a strand of dental floss.
Well, anyone who has ever seen an episode of “Gunsmoke” knows what happened next. The place came unglued. Soon, Texans and Alabamians were brawling. The cops were called. The officers went through the whole routine, asking questions, carting troublemakers away. And somehow, in all the confusion, my friends disappeared.
I was alone in an empty bar. And my cellphone was dead. So I went outside to my vehicle, but…
I COULDN’T FIND MY TRUCK.
That night, I walked the streets until I was an emotional basket case. No friends, no truck, no phone, no clue where I was, and it was late. I passed a man in a trench coat pushing a shopping cart and carrying a baseball bat. I used an public payphone to call 911.
The operator said, “Just try to relax sir. And whatever you do, don’t go outside.”
They sent a police cruiser to pick me up. When I arrived back at the bar, my friends were all smiling like gut eating possums.
My buddy erupted with laughter and said, “GOTCHA! During halftime we stole your keys and moved your truck!”
Everyone had a good chuckle, including the law enforcement officials. One of the policemen asked my friends, “So where DID you park his truck?”
Such a geographical question really stumped my friends in their current state. They both stared at each other. “Where DID we park it?”
Two hours. For two long hours we searched every doghouse, henhouse, hothouse, and outhouse. And when we found my truck it was three in the morning.
That morning when I dropped my friends off at home it took a lot of groveling on their parts for me to agree not to seek the death penalty.
But getting back to tonight’s game. People are going nuts. Howling. Laughing. Occasional burping. Some are covering their eyes.
“Go! Go! Go!” a guy is shouting.
“No! No! No!” the woman beside me screams.
And suddenly the game is over. It has ended in a marvelous display of sportsmanship and valor. The fans wearing orange are crestfallen. The others are rejoicing.
Me? I’m just glad my truck is sitting where I parked it.