I don’t know if many people are aware of it, but I played a season with the Atlantic City Poiuyts in the seventies. I don’t remember which year. It was when I was drinking. I was signed on as a reserve overblat and as a result, I was concerned that I wouldn’t get much time on the flutney. Of course, I needn’t have bothered myself, there is a saying in the sport “anything can happen to an overblat.” Oh, can it ever, I would learn!
It was my privilege to play on the same squad with the nigh mythic Draja Druvnik in the waning years of his career. Disappointingly, my conversation with this legendary player was limited as he spoke Esperanto as his first and only language. This was made an even greater annoyance because on any given day one of my team mates would solemnly enjoin me to “listen to Draja! He knows all the tricks!” Once, upon asking his advice, he replied “Via patrina armeo botoj estas plej moda.” A fat lot of help that was!
My best friend on the team was Carl Yoelin, one of the wicket-men, who was the hero of our game against the Evanston Echidnas. He was a Menonite from a county in Southern Wisconsin that nobody had ever heard of. “It makes Satan happy that you’re a Jew. Think about it.” He used to say. Carl knew the rules to hundreds of card games in spite of the fact that his religion forbade him from playing any of them. It just seemed so perverse, but perversity was the norm in this game.
That year, the house band was the Ventnor Heights Marching Gamelan and they were a rip-roaring first class outfit if ever there was one! After the fourth ogre of every home game, they came out and played “Look Out Little Ruth” while marching in formation in the shape of pancakes and bacon. It was a show stopper! You just don’t see stuff like that anymore.
Being a reserve man, I spent most of my time “guarding the dummy” if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, it was an honor just to be there and it was a weekly paycheck to boot. As I have previously noted, my time on the flutney was limited and much of it involved degradation and humiliation, but anyone can tell you that in this sport, degradation and humiliation is about as scarce as blondes in Stockholm, so I didn’t feel singled out.
It was in the seventh ogre of my final game, that my big moment came! We were facing the Allentown ‘Pataphysicians and I was called out to run guard whilst Druvnik carried the pritz! The crowd rose and hurled insults at the team and each other as the play commenced. What a moment! I raised my arms in triumph as I jogged beside the sport’s greatest player when a sharp pain caused me instantly to curl up like a cocktail shrimp and lie on the ground helplessly trying to draw breath! I looked up to discover that it was Druvnik himself who had jabbed the pointy end of his frulip into my testicles just for a lark. “Vi bonsorta knabo!” He shouted gleefully, “Mia fiŝo havas malvarman kaj lia familia nomo estas Coffsnowski!” At that point I was handed a penalty for “not taking it like a man” and was sent back to the bench.
The next week I quit the team and decided to run for congress, but that’s another story.