It was the latest chapter in the dream, originating in a New England childhood wherein the Boston Red Sox were the heroes for whom I cheered. When they began spring training in February, New England was still dark and cold and snowy and bleak. One did not, as a child, think of it in those terms, of course; there was sledding and snowball fights and various possible winter amusements, but one, even a child, could not help but notice the reports from Florida where it was warm and sunny and green, where the players played catch and ran and threw and hit. I dreamed of being there to watch.
With adulthood, and then retirement, the dream expanded, grew larger. I made it to Florida and watched them practice, watched a spring training game. Tickets to games were affordable but in such demand that they were very difficult to obtain, requiring long waits in line or interminable time spent on the computer hoping for the chance to buy tickets for whatever games were not already unavailable. One day, my wife and I waited in a long line on game day knowing we would be quite satisfied with the chance to buy standing room tickets; we had made it, finally, to the front of the line and stepped to the ticket window when, as if in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the window slammed down displaying a sign. Sold Out.
We laughed at the absurdity of it, the improbable humor outweighing disappointment at being unable to buy tickets. The expanded dream required that I be able to buy season tickets for spring training. And so began my years on the waiting list for the privilege of buying a season's worth of tickets, non-refundable.
* * *
My college education had been at a university in New England, where happily I met both the girl who became my wife and a Midwesterner who became my lifelong best friend. The course of study upon which we had all embarked was difficult and required a great deal of effort but my friend and I found time for intramural football. The football of the first year was great fun and by the next year taken more seriously. That year my friend recruited a couple of members of the university's track team to play with us. They may not have been skilled football players but were very fast, including one who later went on to participate with success in the 1968 Olympics. They helped us to win our games and our team entered the playoffs for the university intramural football championship.
* * *
Nearly half a century after intramural football I had finally made it to the top of the spring training season ticket waiting list. My ascent to the top was occasioned by the construction of a new spring training field for my dear Red Sox; the field had more seats that the one it replaced. Tickets in hand, my wife and I drove to the first game at the new field.
Not unexpectedly for the first time in use, there was some confusion with parking at the new location. The Red Sox had put in place a number of local volunteers to assist. One was watching me back into a parking place when she noticed the college decal on my rear window. Our younger son had gone to the same university we had attended; the decal had been in place for years.
We parked, got out of our car and the volunteer, having noted the university's decal told me she loved that university. Anxious to get to our seats rather than have a conversation I simply said, "Well, all I can say is Larry Fudge."
"Larry Fudge! He is my husband's best friend and was the Best Man at our wedding!"
* * *
Larry Fudge had played a memorable role in our hopeful road, half a century earlier, to the university's intramural football championship. Our team was prepared for a big playoff game against a team with which circumstance had produced a serious rivalry. The game was expected to be close and hard fought. The day of the game we were told that it would be postponed; our opponents complained that some of their best players were unable to play that day.
We had no choice but to accept the postponement. The game was rescheduled for a couple of days later. That day arrived and conflicted with an obligation of our track team players. We requested a postponement on grounds similar to those which our opponents had successfully sued.
The intramural director refused. Thus we were forced to play the game without our speedy teammates. It was an intense game, the idea of touch football having little relevance to a rough and physical contest, with high levels of emotion and testosterone.
It seemed terribly unfair to us. We had lost without our full team while our opponent, faced with a similar situation been granted that postponement. My friend was particularly upset by this and at game's end asked the referee to give the intramural director a message which he wrote on a slip of paper.
"Larry. Eat shit. Carl."
The intramural director was Larry Fudge.
* * *
What bizarre coincidence had so many years later brought me face to face with a woman who had been married with Larry Fudge a member of the wedding party? And what do I say?
"Larry Fudge suspended my best friend from intramurals for a whole semester."
It was a story my friend and I had retold periodically over the years, amused by the memory. A funny story of college days. Yet the memory, amusing or not, remained whole. There he was, my friend standing there, sweat dripping, seemingly calm and under control, asking politely that a message be relayed. There he was, calmly writing his note as I watched and read over his shoulder.
"Uh, Carl, I don't think that's a good idea."
Too late. The note written, the die cast, his fate sealed. Too bad that Larry had not had a sense of humor about it. Too bad he could not shrug off a moment of frustration and understand its genesis had begun with his arbitrary decision.
I walked away from the pleasant parking volunteer who stood silent with a confused expression on her face.
I called my friend, thousands of miles away and related this unlikely meeting. We told each other the story again. And laughed.
Originally appeared in Central Texas Writers Society.