Thursday, March 11, 2021

Up the Lake- Sports Part 2

Football games were different from baseball as instead of minimizing the personal interaction, motions and impacts, (base running for the former, smashing into each other like demented bumper cars for the latter) they were maximized.
The most basic football "game" involved someone standing on the beach throwing passes to a group of kids in the water.  Those of us in the Lake would batter and submerge our associates in what resembled a free for all game of aquatic whack-a-mole in efforts to make the most spectacular diving catches.
Luckily, for my sister, nearly the entire Frissora clan has extremely well developed sports genes.  I think the only two it skipped were Antonia (who focused on the performing arts) and myself (who focused on Pop Cultural modern mythology and useless trivia.)
Since there was nothing of value I could pass on, Cousin Michael, from the other cabin on our lot, took pity on her and taught Kim to throw a perfect spiral at a very young age.  When NICK was tossing the passes into the swimming area, we all managed to smash into each other and come up nowhere near the ball, as per usual.  My sister picked it up and NICK mockingly asked if the “little girl” could throw it back.  Kim fired a rifle pass directly into NICK’s chest, backing him up a few feet and releasing yet another in a generations long string of expletives on the beach.
There were times we played actual football in the water, but the methods we used on land and in the Lake were similar.  
Somewhat like baseball, rules were modified due to having less than a full roster:
There was a five Mississippi count before blitzing. 
Technically there was a five Mis’ippi count, 
sometimes reducing the state name to a single syllable.)

Two completions earned a first down.

Stoppage of the play required the ball carrier to be almost completely beaten into submission, and display an inability of any visible motion.

On land, the touchdown lines were random and marginally visible natural markers.
In the water, we always used the rope. 
Note- This proved problematic for the shorter players who spent most goal line stances in a fish like environment, and in greater danger of drowning than the considerable amount already incurred by playing at all. 
One of the most impressive players was Big Billy from down in the field.  Even before my Uncle Billy and others with that name started coming Up the Lake, he was known as “Big Billy.”  
The man was gigantic.  
He was kind of like a hairy, Italian, musclebound mountain with a mustache, and a ridiculous number of tattoos.  He'd reached the level of skin art where he had some just for winning bets, using cheesy pick up lines, or some combination of the two.  Billy definitely served in the Navy, possibly the SEALs. Considering everyone knew everyone else their entire lives up there, detailed personal information about what happened when we weren't Up the Lake somehow remained a mystery in many cases.  The most likely reason didn't matter.
In one water-based game when I was in high school (and taking up far more mass and space than I had any right to) I tried to stop him from throwing the ball. I heaved the considerable largeness of my entire body onto  his passing arm.  This had as much effect as if I'd heaved the largeness of my entire body at a passing passenger jet aircraft.  He threw the football using said arm with no impact to speed or force. Then dunked me sixteen times before tossing me the same distance as the football into the weeds.
Land games were played with similar gusto and intensity. Fortunately, the small size of our teams usually prevented massive injuries.  This is not counting an “over the year” get together at Linda’s house for Richie’s communion, confirmation, or some other religious ceremony that we probably should not have been celebrating with group bloodshed.

Or maybe we should have. It was a hallmark of the Up the Laker's.  Nick's grandmother's wake was held on the day of a Giant's playoff game.  A group of us were in the downstairs waiting area with the game on someone's tiny transistor radio.  Linda found us, and Nick pointed out, "Gram would understand."  Linda replied, "Gram would have kicked all your asses."  
Linda was absolutely correct and I have no doubt that "Gram" could have easily done this to the entire group of us.  Them Up the Lake old ladies were a tough breed.
Once again, Nick’s brother Joe used the same creativity that led to playing “Gauntlet” to arrange the teams.  He and his brother-in-law (also unsurprisingly a Joe) were both married with kids at that point. They pulled me on their team as I was at full size by then, and was around their height and weight. The other team was Nick, Skip  (who our team of three were all  easily taller than and outweighed by a significant percentage at that age) accompanied by the vast sea of every young child there. 
Most of our plays involved one of our large three acting as a one man offensive line and plowing their entire team down like least years wheat crop.  This was followed by a quick pass between the remaining two.  Then the one with the ball would try to make as much headway before the knocked half-senseless smaller, but faster mob of kids would swarm onto them.  It ended up feeling like wading through a swamp of children, usually carrying several on each limb as we plodded across Linda’s back yard. 
Unfortunately, for us, they finally figured out an effectively damaging tactic for everyone involved to stop us.  Richie’s cousin John, (a skilled grade school wrestler then, who grew up to be a coach) positioned himself as a human battering ram. Up to seventy-five other children would hold our limbs as far apart as they could without playing “the wishbone game.” At this point John would charge, full speed and head first, directly into our stomachs. This  knocked the wind (and several other items) out of us completely and allowed the rest of the gang to pull off a tackle, once they were sure we were not going to empty any contents of our Heimlich noggined innards on anyone but John.

As for Up the Lake locations, there was a volleyball net permanently set in up in the second field, which we used only about once a summer for volleyball. Instead, it was a key element in two other physical activities:

The first was being the completely out in the open (and much harder to guard than the rock in the pines) Base Location for Capture the Flag

The second was as an Ultimate Warrior level self-inflicted clothesline from running into it at full speed when playing “how long can we keep the owner looking for who’s sneaking around in the fields tonight without getting caught.”  

Aside- My minor contact with another sport, tennis, came via a volleyball game, but not in that field.   
The tennis lesson came when Nick’s sister Janine set up a volleyball net in front of their cabin one summer. She then organized a large number of us into a game using tennis rules.  Since she (and her kids) were the only ones who knew those rules at the time, how they worked did not appear immediately clear to anyone without PhD level mathematical degrees.  Somehow, after playing for a spell, our side was down 30 points despite our missing the ball only twice and them missing it repeatedly.  I think it was based on who served, the word “love” and the current angle between the two largest clouds in the sky at that moment.

Though I existed directly next to useless for most athletic related activities, I was responsible for bringing one sport home from the E-Dorms into the Second Field. 

The “sport” I brought in, I had heard about from a stoner, Mainer college friend, Lucas. It sounded like the perfect activity for our insane summers.  The way to bring it in was easy, I described the chaotic and violent sounding activity of "Buffalo" to Joe, and waited for him to get excited about how he could position himself to inflict maximum bludgeoning on the rest of us.
The short form of the rules of “Buffalo” is “Full Contact Red Rover.” 
There’s no calling out colors however, or wasting valulable body crunching time waiting for anyone to “come over.”
One person, who gets more enjoyment out of mayhem than self preservation, starts in the middle of the field as “It.” 
Then with no warning, other than screaming like lunatics, (which may be optional, but not for us Up the Lake folks in virtually any activity) everyone else tries to cross the field at full speed.
If “It” can immobilize someone, using the same absolute definition of that as we did in football, that person then transfers to “It”’s team and tries to stop the others on the next screaming, charging pass. 
Since everyone else there was younger and smaller, Joe naturally grabbed the “It” role and started power bombing youngsters into the turf to add to his squad. 
On an early pass, Geoff- using the same reckless abandon for his own physical well being that he’d displayed in leaping fifteen feet out of a tree during a Manhunt game- decided he was going to stop me.  With about a quarter of my body weight at his disposal, he set himself against my charge. I ran in, leaning down like a nerdly rhino, raised my shoulder on impact, and bodily lifted him up and back about the same distance he cleared from his tree jumping activity.
A couple of passes later, Little Rich set himself to try the same thing, with a larger weight disadvantage.  Rich is cousins with Nick and Skip however. Therefore, via nature or nuture, had a slab of deviousness in his genetic makeup and / or training.
I ran in, leaning down like a nerdly rhino, preparing to raise my shoulder on impact. At the last minute before said impact launched him skyward, he dropped and rolled into a “duck and cover position” bowling into my ankles. I flew about as far as Geoff did as I was launched skyward.  Once I laid prone in the grass for a while to assure all my limbs were still attached and functioning, I joined the “It” team.
By the end of the evening, we had once again completed yet another night where everyone was rolling around in the field moaning and groaning, but laughing with a mixture of happiness and insanity.
Up the Lake Index 


Midnight run said...

Hey Jeff. I read your up the lake sports. Funny story. Even funnier is yesterday I was trying to remember what your shirt used to say that you wore up the lake. I remembered it was like a baby blue shirt with dog and chair on it. Than today I came to my sister Daune’s house to celebrate her birthday and she mentioned you had something on Facebook about the lake. I don’t do any of those web site things or social media types so I typed in what I could remember what your shirt used to say and I found your blog. Small world. Within 24 hours I found the answer to what I tried remembering what your shirt used to say. Great fond memories Jeff. It’s easy to forget that the lake has that ability to leave such impactful memories for all the campers that were blessed to say they had a cabin up there. Our grandparents gave us such a treasure. Thanks for the walk down memory lane..... Geoff.

Jeff McGinley said...

Hey Geoff, glad you found it. Up the Lake magic still exists. We certainly all were blessed having the Lake to share for all those years.

If you click the index link at the bottom it goes to a post with links to all the other Up the Lake stories I've written. You figure heavily in a few of them.

Thanx for sharing the times.