Pantsed: A Story of Self-Possession and Sangfroid

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Think of all the amusing anecdotes you know about junior high football. I’m guessing 75% are set in that “magic hour” when the boys have arrived at the practice field but the coach hasn’t. Thirty junior high boys, no adult supervision. Something’s bound to happen.

In eighth grade, my cousin Brett got his pants pulled down at football practice. The coach was elsewhere–wrapping up bus duty or finishing one last cigarette in the teachers’ lounge before facing the barbarians. Frank, the starting fullback, snuck around behind and snatched Brett’s pants in front of God and everybody. It was a beautiful pantsing, not one of those awkward affairs where the victim clamps his knees together and goes into a squat, clutching at his britches and his dignity. No, this was clean and quick. Brett’s pants went right to the ground.

Frank whooped and cavorted in his triumph. It was easily the best pantsing of the season. The other boys howled and pointed at Brett.

Who just stood there.

The hooting mockery swirled around him, but Brett stood his ground–pants around his ankles, arms akimbo, a look of perfect serenity on his face. The howling became nervous laughter as the mockery gave way to confusion. The boys had never seen such a thing before: the one boy who maintained his dignity was the one whose pants were crumpled around his ankles.

Frank looked fitfully toward the school, whence the coach would soon be coming. “Hey, Brett,” he said, his voice broken by a nervous chuckle, “pull up your pants, man.”

Brett crossed his arms and stared off into the middle distance, as grave as a statue.

“Brett, man,” Frank repeated. “Pull up your pants. Coach gonna see.”

Brett shifted his weight but didn’t otherwise move. “I didn’t pull them down,” he said, with withering dignity, “and I’m not going to pull them up.”

Frank looked from Brett to the school building and back to Brett. The fascinated boys had gone silent. The door from the equipment room swung open, and the boys gasped in unison at the sight of the coach’s lanky form emerging. Frank hesitated. For an instant it appeared he would run away. He took one last look at the approaching coach, then circled around behind Brett. Sighing grimly and rolling his eyes, Frank pulled Brett’s pants back up where they belonged.

It was one of the great moments in the history of eighth graders.

Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we’ve ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.


25 Comments

  1. evie

    this little slice of your life needs to make it into a movie some day. You really live this stuff, don’t you? WOW. just awesome.

  2. LauraP

    My goodness, I do appreciate a good story to go with my morning cup of coffee. Thanks for that. I can see I’m going to have to add another blog to my regular reading list.

  3. Chris Yokel

    Wow….I thought that was going to be a hilarious story….but it turned out sort of profound. I wish I had that kind of self-possession and courage even now as a not-so-eight-grader.

  4. Pete

    Having been pantsed several time (and in high school yet), I find it almost inconceivable (sorry, I just watched Princess Bride, and I keep using that word) that an 8th grader would have the composure that Brett exhibited.

    I’m going to share this with my 9 year old daughter as an example of how one person can control a rowdy group by calm demeanor and determination.

    I also now have a new blog to add to my list.

  5. Jonathan Rogers

    I’ve been living with this story for nigh unto thirty years, and I’ve always told it for laughs. But as Chris Y pointed out, it actually is sort of profound. Stories–even funny ones–so often do turn out that way when we’re patient to let them give up their secrets. As you can imagine, Brett was something of a local hero at Warner Robins Junior High after that episode.

  6. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    That is one of the best things I’ve heard.

    As a ninth grader I did have some guys want to initiate me. I went along with it until they were going to put my head in the toilet. I told them they would end up with their heads in the toilet, and the game ended in a draw.

    I’ve been reading a couple chapters of The Charlatan’s Boy every night, loving it. Mark Twain meets C.S. Lewis is correct. A little of Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain series, too.

  7. Aaron Roughton

    Ron, I sure do second the love for the Charlatan’s Boy. I read most of it in 2 days, but I can’t seem to find the time to finish it. That’s driving me nuts. I read a chapter over breakfast this morning instead of reading the bible. So now there’s some responsibility for my eternal quiet-time-works-based damnation on Jonathan’s head. Sorry Jonathan. But thanks for the amazing book, not to mention the wonderful story on pantsing.

  8. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Aaron, every day I threaten to disown my 12 yr old son and throw him out of the house if he doesn’t spend some quiet time with me. I make sure he knows my love is conditional based on what he does or doesn’t do. That way he’s sure to have a good self-concept and do good.

  9. Tony Heringer

    Great story! It does sound like Favre the early years.

    Definitely reminds me of those days on the practice field. On our teams it was usually guys doing it when the girls were around — the presence of a coach was immaterial. For most of our pranksters any punishment the coach doled out was worth the laugh.

    Love the blog – even has references to fellow Rabbit Roomers: Sam ‘S.D.’ Smith and Thomas McKenzie. It is sure to be a success.

  10. Jonathan Rogers

    Hmm…thanks, Aaron, for your devotion to The Charlatan’s Boy. I hope it’s ok if I start referring to The Charlatan’s Boy as “The book that Ron Block likes.” Right-thinking people everywhere will want to read it.

  11. Aaron Roughton

    A stamp of approval from Ron Block is money in your pocket. But the opposite is also true. Just ask Ron’s son when he doesn’t spend quiet time with him. (Ron forgot to mention that his conditional works-based relationship with his son is also a relationship of prosperity.)

  12. Jonathan Rogers

    By the way, Ron, I never read The Great Brain–never really knew what it was, though I always knew I was supposed to know what it was. From the description on Amazon, it looks like it would be right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation. You may continue being my friend.

  13. Jonathan Rogers

    Curt, you asked what became of Brett. I am happy to report that he turned out as well as the story above would suggest. He’s a devoted family man and, by all accounts, a pillar of the community. He recently moved back to Minnesota. (Not really…that’s a different Brett).

  14. Tony Heringer

    Brett got all misty as he referred to this story today in his press conference. I think I saw Jason Gray in the press gallery. The cable’s been acting up, so it could have been Jeremy Schapp.

  15. Brett Minter

    Thanks Jonathon for teaching me a new word. I have been trying to find ways to use sangfroid in daily interactions.Curt I’m doing well I started the first organized nudist colony in the North Ga. Mountains. After 12 years of public education I joined the USMC . I then attended the Medical college of Ga. and became a physical therapist. I am married and have two children.

  16. Jonathan Rogers

    @jonathanrogers

    Wow! A celebrity appearance at the Rabbit Room. Relish this moment, Rabbit Roomers. I’m sure, Brett, that sangfroid is one quality that comes in handy at the nudist colony.

  17. Kimberly Cook

    “Something’s bound to happen.” That bit of foreshadowing is brilliant. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the journey to manhood. (I have never witnessed a pants-ing before, but am now satisfied.)

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