Once I went a little too far with the running and began to have horrible weakness and nausea and felt myself disappearing. I don't know what was going on with me, but I decided that the best thing for me to do was to follow the example of a wounded dog and find a private place to die. In this case, a bench in the locker room was the best place. I lay down, hoping that someone would find me and bring me to the hospital. I tried to call out for help, but no one was there, and I didn't have the strength. Then in about five minutes, I found that I could get up again and walk out of the gym, acting like nothing had happened.
Maybe if I had a trainer like Dwayne Gordon #54, I would know what I was doing. But then male trainers at gyms tend to flirt with beautiful women while they're supposed to be counseling you about how to perform an exercise on the machine without ripping your muscles out of your shoulder. I don't blame them. What else are they supposed to do? They advise people about working out. It sounds a little dull, frankly. They try to communicate essential information about working out correctly with people who, for the most part, have unrealistic expectations about why they are there. And there you are, strapped to a Pec Dec machine that you're supposed to be using to turn your distressingly flabby pectoral muscles into something resembling a man's, and your trainer is pretending to talk shop with an inquiring blond who is pretending to be talking shop with him, and no one's noticing that you're letting your arms go way beyond your line of peripheral vision. Ah, what the hell, you say. This must be the right way to do it. Two months later, an equally disinterested orthopedist informs you of your partially torn supraspinitis. You hope the trainer got lucky.
Maybe Dwayne Gordon is different. He is described as the Fitness Trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in the Bronx, and that is where you'll find him. He played linebacker for the Jets in the late 1990's, ending his career in football and beginning his career in fitness in the vicinity of where his life began, in White Plains, NY. I'm sure he does a good job.
Olrick Johnson does a good job singing the National Anthem at professional football games. He too has found an avocation after football. In this video, he sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" quite briskly before a Vikings game in his old Vikings uniform. The announcer has to clarify at the end of his performance that "Olrick played for the Vikings in the 1999-2000 season" because you sense that the crowd at the Metrodome asked, in their various clanging Northwestern, Scandanavian-American tones, "Ol-what-who Johnson? Sure doesn't ring a bell with me." The speed with which he gets through the song is advisable for television, but it's also the secret of singing our National Anthem in public.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" has tonal changes that seem ridiculous. The lyrics are a series of run-on sentences and its overall structure is that of a wandering, searching, appositive-filled question. "Is it still there?" it basically asks. "With all the shit that's happening, do you still see it?" That's it. If you stop to think about what's being with each digression of thought, about when and how often we hailed the flag, amid rockets and bombs, how it inspires you in the midst of terror, you find yourself wandering with these parenthetical ideas, and this, I believe, is where people get off track, forgetting lyrics, repeating verses, going off-key. Don't think about it, move quickly before you realize what's happening, add embellishments to the ending notes of the late verses, and get the hell out of there. Like life.
Johnson was listed at the Jets All-Time Database as a #54 but on the Pro Football Reference Database, he wore #52 for the Jets. If we missed him earlier, then we're making up for it now. As a pro, he suited up for the Vikings, the Jets and the Patriots for what appear to be no more than 28 games over two seasons. He also has what appears to be a gospel/R&B album called Bless My Soul. There are categories we have in Infinite Jets for pros who went artistic after football, though it's rare. George Nock #37: sculptor; Al Woodall #18: artist and gallery owner of a sort (to my delight, I found that Nock advertises on his old teammate's website); John Riggins #44: actor, radio personality, alien abductee. Bless my soul, indeed.
After playing football in the AFL for the Oilers, the Jets, the Dolphins and Broncos, Edward "Wahoo" McDaniel #54 became one of the country's most popular professional wrestlers in the late 60's and early 70's. Professional wrestling today is filled with cartoonishly huge, steroid-addled monsters who bellow and preen the way wrestlers always have. Their stunts are less humorous than they were long, long ago, and certainly the WWE wrestlers today are more athletic than I remember them in the past. My brother recently took his son to a WWE bill at the Westchester County Center, where back in 1983, he, my cousin Will, Dad and I once saw Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka square off against his nemesis, the Magnificent Muraco.
Back then, wrestling was somewhere between worlds. Many wrestlers still looked like bar bouncers, with whatever they lacked in muscle matched by just their sheer size. Snuka, though, looked like the buff trainer who unselfconsciously who flirts with the blond at the gym. Muraco looked like the guy whom the gas station manager forces to come over to explain to you the work that's been done on your car. Snuka is considered by many to be a pioneer of the modern WWE look.
|The Tomahawk Chop vs. the Figure Four Leg Lock|
In this way, he was also in the right place for Jets' owner Sonny Werblin in the early 1960's, a man who preferred his marquee players to be independent-minded attention-seekers. At the University of Oklahoma, McDaniel chafed under the disciplined style of Bud Wilkinson much as Joe Namath sometimes did under Bear Bryant. At OU, he was as large as a Native American legend. According to Neri, he ran 36 miles on a bet for $100. On a dare, he ate a pile of jalapeno peppers and washed it down with - and I am quoting directly here - "a can of motor oil." Phantom reader, like professional wrestling itself, the point here is not whether or not any of this is true. Werblin understood the power of myth in the circus show, and so he brought the large person of Wahoo McDaniel over to the Jets from Denver in 1964.
Wahoo McDaniel is the ur-Jet. Where the New York Titans had merely tried in vain to replicate the success of the Giants, the Jets were different from the corporate style of the Big Blue. They had pom-pom cheerleaders, a go-kart Jet car, fan giveaways, halftime spectacles and, for a time, a man named Wahoo. Because there was no Super Bowl, the goal was to put otherwise unsuspecting circus fans in the seats, and give them a show. Apparently Wahoo did. As a former Jets season tickets holder, my father has distinct memories of watching McDaniel play. It didn't matter if he played well or not; his name was "Wahoo," which is fun to say in unison with tens of thousands of other people.
|Sept. 12 1964 - NY Jets 30 Denver 6|
Dad remembers that at some point during the game, as McDaniel was in on one play after another, the Jets announcer began to join in on the carnival atmosphere of Shea. I wonder if Werblin gave the announcer $50 to do it. Neri writes:
When Wahoo became unstoppable, the announcer got the crowd going by shouting “Who made that last tackle?” The crowd would chant back, “Waaa-hooo!”
Dad remembers that this went on for a couple of games, and the announcer then went on to say, "Tackle by you-know-who...," and the crowd would respond in kind. To my knowledge, Wahoo McDaniel never had a game like that again, but you never have quite another game quite like the game of your life. They put his name on the back of his jersey, which was doubly profane by the standards of the corporate NFL Giants who never allowed anyone that distinction until long after it had become standard practice elsewhere.
He passed away in 2002. But Wahoo McDaniel lives in each and every one of us who love the Jets. Perhaps we forget the greasepaint and slapstick our forefathers embraced when they decided to stop waiting in line for Giants tickets and started going to Jets games at Shea. If you are sometimes fatigued by the absurd, outsized circus barker personality of Rex Ryan and his traveling show of troubled overachievers, just remember where we all first came from. We are not Titans pretending to be Giants. We are Jets fans, born to live and die lying on the bench near the precipice of insanity, torn between the world of sport and the world of entertainment. We are all Wahoo McDaniel.