It was the waning moments of CBS's coverage of the championship game of the College World Series. The favored Georgia Tech Yellowjackets were just an out or two away from falling to the Oklahoma Sooners, 13-5. Soon enough, Brent Musberger would be waxing poetic about the victorious Sooners but it was now time to throw a commentator's bone to the vanquished nine.
You know the routine: "courageous effort...talented young athletes...no real losers in a game like this...they should hold their heads high." It's trite stuff but, no doubt, well intended. As this by-rote recitation unfolded, we, the viewers, were treated to a slow pan down the length of the Georgia Tech bench. One after the other, the dejected faces of the Yellowjackets, struggling to come to terms with their defeat, appeared on screen. This young man's face reveals sadness, this one defiance. Disappointment is reflected in this lad's countenance while stoic resolve is found in the set jaw of another.
But now the camera pauses on the face of an unnamed Yellowjacket. He neither weeps nor curses. His face is creased neither by smile nor frown. He, rather, seems almost detached, distracted, somehow, as he digs his finger deeper and deeper into his left nostril, in search of what we can only guess.
Such is the nature of live TV coverage, of course. Sports fans are accustomed to the occasional spit shot of a tobacco-chewing combatant, the odd on-field genital rearrangement, a lip-read profanity from time to time. These things happen and, every now and then, the camera will capture the action. Usually, though, an astute director calls for a quick switch to another camera, a new view, saving the offending gladiator further embarrassment and preserving the home viewers' sensibilities.
Not this day. Millions across the country watched as that young man picked his nose and the camera lingered. Five seconds passed, six, seven seconds...not long in the life of a man but an eternity on television...and still the young man kept his digit deeply imbedded in his nasal passage, digging, ever digging. Eight seconds, nine seconds...
When, finally, he removed his finger and took a good long look at what he'd extracted, the director lost his nerve. Even he, it seemed, had his limits. After all, for all he knew, this nasal prospector would next decide to ingest his bounty and who among us could take have taken that scene? Instead, thankfully, the Sooners at last made the final putout and the camera again focused on the field to capture the celebration.
I've thought of that young man since, though. How humiliated he must feel! You know full well that everyone he knows was watching that day and I'm certain that not a few of them have informed him, in deriding fashion, that they watched until the final out, that they didn't miss his moment of fame. Perhaps his moment in the spotlight received coverage in the Atlanta Constitution. There's little doubt his moment in the sun was discussed on the local sports talk radio shows. Hell, he even made the pages of this humble little rag. The agony of defeat, indeed!
Sunday, June 28, marked the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, during which the patrons of a gay bar in Greenwich Village finally fought back after years of harassment from the police. Stonewall is viewed by some as the very birth of the gay rights movement.
To commemorate the anniversary, a handful of parades were held, with and without the blessing of the government of the City of New York and at least one of these huge marches, unbeknownst to me, wound its way into and through Central Park.
I was rollerblading along the park drive, attempting a short cut to Summerstage, where King Sunny Ade, the juju king from Nigeria, was soon to be spreading his brand of magic in a free concert. Before I knew it, I was smack dab in the middle of one of the aforementioned marches, amidst gay men and women of every stripe, carrying banners, chanting and generally behaving in festive manner.
My first impulse was simply to ride it out. After all, I had only a few more blocks to travel before I would veer off this road anyway and make my way to Summerstage. But the march was moving at a crawl and I was finding it difficult to avoid skating into marchers so an alternate plan was needed.
I made my way to the edge of the crowd, where I encountered a couple, a man and a woman, walking hand in hand and holding a rather animated conversation. He seemed upset to have suddenly found himself surrounded by thousands of gay folks and his female companion was doing her best, it seemed, to assuage his dismay.
The only part of the conversation I could make out clearly enough to quote to you were his final words on the subject: "Well, okay, but none of'em better be hitting on me!.
I glanced at this man, in his late thirties, balding, with a protruding belly that suited perfectly the faded Budweiser tanktop he wore. Looking back, then, at the throng, I tried to imagine any one of the thousands of gay men, many of whom were buff bodies beautiful, thinking to himself, "Hmm, check that guy out!" I couldn't help muttering, "Pal, you've got nothing to worry about."
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