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.