Back in the 80s, I coached the Johnston HS soccer team. Let me brag a little here. Each year I coached, the team got better. The year before I arrived they didn’t win a game. My first year we only won 2, but it was a step up. After that it was 5-6 and then 7-5. So sure, we didn’t blaze the league but we were moving up.
However, I really want to mention something that more relates to what the Thurber Brigade is about. Women and men. Such as how women can pretty much get us men to do anything, even when we know it may be wrong. Also, how we men can become obsessed with women.
As for the latter, well, okay, I admit, I was obsessed with Pat Benatar. What single, straight man in the 80s wasn’t?
(cover photo from her memoir)
She came onto the scene as a Janis Joplin-style singer (rock, not pop) but with Katharine Hepburn looks. As she wailed her angst-driven rock songs on the stage in tight spandex pants , we guys were drooling and swooning in the stands.
Yes, I was obsessed.
So when her tour announced it would make it to Austin, I became driven to see the show, no matter the cost. Sure, we teachers/coaches were paid peanuts, often working second jobs to put rice and bolgna on the dinner table. It would be worth it to see this rock goddess prance across the stage. Unfortunately, shortly after learning about the show, I also learned about my soccer team’s upcoming schedule. Yes, a game on the same night.
I was depressed, but I was also a typical coach and driven by my passion for the sport (oh, and my job). So I resigned myself that I would just have to give up on the woman of my dreams for this season.
As for my first point, that would be in relations to one of my top wingers. He would do anything for his girlfriend, who admittedly, was quite attractive. It didn’t hurt in my book that she was one of those who dressed like and used the hair style of Pat Benetar (as seen in Fast Times at Ridgemont High). In high schools across America at that time this was a quite prevalent look. In her case, she carried it off very well.
So the day of the game arrived and my star player was nowhere to be found. I discovered that he was out sick. Missed all of his classes, and apparently, it was even excused by the school assistant principal. So I and my team accepted the absence and still managed to go out and win our game.
However, it was the next day that I learned from my student manager—yes, we coaches do have our own spy network (we didn't have Facebook back then)—that the winger actually had not been sick, but acted so in order to take his girlfriend out that night.
Out to see the Pat Benatar concert!
As you have probably guessed by now, my obsession took over and in a rage, I not only screamed at him at practice that day, I kicked him off the team. Oh sure, I may have been obsessed with Pat Benatar, but that wasn’t the reason I kicked him off. Trust me. No coach could allow such a deception to stand and expect his team to respect him and to follow his instructions. So there really was no choice. And quit thinking to yourself, "no Jay, it really was your obsession."
Anyway, I kicked him off and so we played the next game without him too. It was a tie. So we managed to not lose a game without this guy who betrayed the team all to try to get in better with his girlfriend—who, like me, really was obsessed with Pat Benatar. As a side note, I think they broke up during the summer.
Several of the winger’s teammates and friends finally approached me and convinced me that the punishment was too severe. They admitted he had broken the rules, but as a senior, this was his last year to shine, he also was contrite (they assured me) and that he would accept some other punishment. Such as running a lot of extra laps around the field, my usual punishment when I got mad, er, when some player performed poorly.
Yes, I got over my disappointment at missing the show, at being stabbed in the back, at being lied to. I let him back on the team. I think we split the final few games and celebrated at least having a winning season. It was my final season and probably the most memorable because of this incident.
To this day, I still think Pat Benatar is hot. I still like her singing. However, every time I hear her, for at least a few seconds during the song, I drift back to that soccer season. I think about the games, the crowds and all the hoopla that surrounds playing high school sports. I also think about how women can make us guys do the strangest things.
The 1983 Johnston High School soccer team