Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Your Money's Worth

When I was attending Eastern Illinois University in the early and mid 1980's, I took a job in a dorm food service. It was a nice source of income and I ended up making a bunch of new friends through it.

In the summer, there was plenty of work, even though the students were gone. The university got some use out of the dormant student housing by hosting a number of events, including the state high school track championships, Boy's State, summer training for the college football team and the summer training camp for the football Cardinals, who were based in St. Louis back then.

The summer of 1984, I was starting my grad work, attending summer school. I was rooming with my friends Larry and Dobie, who were also working with me in the dorm food services.

Occasionally, our boss lent us to the dorm that the Cardinals were staying in. This was always good news to us; these guys didn't eat the normal dorm fare. They ate prime rib, steaks, crab legs and such every day. When we got called over there to help out, we got to partake in those foods-- a real treat for a bunch of poor college students.

In the evenings, the Cardinal players were allowed to go out to the bars and have a cold one. It was a little surreal, seeing the players mingling with the students. Viewing these guys on a television screen does not convey how damned big these guys are.

Roommate Larry related a little incident he witnessed that summer. He saw a student unwisely start up with some Cardinal player in a bar we were hanging at. The Cardinal player calmly informed the student: "If I get in a fight, I get a $500 fine. If I get in a fight, I'm gonna make sure and get my money's worth."

Not surprisingly, the student backed off.


Tenacious S said...

Were you doing food service there in 1980? I was there with my team for the Girl's State Track Championships. I wasn't competing, but several of my teammates were. I remember it being a very small town, but kind of quaint. I think I remember going to a Dairy Queen or something like that. No drinking. I was 15. That's hilarious about the kid trying to pick a fight with a professional athlete. I wonder, does alcohol impair judgment?

Skylers Dad said...

I love the story about the football player, a lot of those guys are just too big to believe!

I had a friend who played at So. Cal as a tackle until he ruined his knee. Biggest guy I have ever stood next to, 6'7" and 275. He blotted out the sun!

cheer34 said...

Those guys are gigantic. I was in line at the phone store a few years ago and felt a presence behind me. When I turned around I was looking into the belt buckle of a Bills player, he was enormous. At least 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. When I finally looked at his face he was just smiling at me. I wonder if these giants get a kick out of knowing how massive they are compared to the rest of the world.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I once ran into Lou Ferrigno at a trade show at McCormick place. I mean I literally ran into him as I came around the corner of a booth too fast. Our collision did not budge him one millimeter, and I bounced harmlessly off his chest like a bug.

Bubs said...

Great story. The best description I've ever heard, to describe pro football players, is that they appear to be built on a totally different scale from normal humans. I used to wonder why so many of these guys have bodyguards, but I've learned that it's pretty common for drunken idiots to try and challenge them when they're out in bars and nightclubs.

The Elk said...

Good Post.
I tended bar down there for a Summer during Cardinals Camp. My fondest memory was a long conversation about Little Feat with a patron who turned out to be Bernie Miklasz noted St Louis sportswriter. Turns out Bernie was the last one to Interview Lowell before he checked out to rock and roll hell.....

Natalie said...

I am a small person. I can't even imagine being around such big people. I am afraid I would get stepped on or caught in the middle of a $500 fight. EEk

Big Orange (a.k.a. "Uncle Moonpie") said...

hee... With medical treatment what it is, $500 of damage by a football player would equal... what? 25k worth of med bills??

'Bubbles' said...

What a great remark! Money's worth! Love it.

Lots of retired NFL players around here. I picked Thing Two from a slumber party of a former NFL player's kid.... he was in his sports car moving it into the garage, and frankly... I pondered HOW he got in or out of it for days!! From my vantage point it was the windshield and his head. That's it!

Johnny Yen said...

I started working there in 1982 or 1983. The Dairy Queen was there for years, on Lincoln Avenue, the main street through town. It's closed now.

You know, I think you may be right on that alcohol/impairment connection.

Skyler's Dad-
I once waited on Tom Thayer, one of the Bears who played on the "Superbowl Shuffle" team. I was a skinny young guy then, and I realized that his thigh was about as big around as my waist. Very, very nice guy, though.

I think that they do. I've found, in dealing with them in my years of service as a waiter, that contrary to what you'd think, the football players are, in general, a very calm, polite group. Professional basketball players are another story. Around 1986 or 87, I waited on the entire Portland Trailblazers team-- just after they'd lost to the Bulls. I don't know if I've ever had a bigger group of assholes to deal with.

What trade show was that? I used to love when they had the restaurant show-- people from all over the country would be in whatever restaurant I worked at. Fun people and generally great tippers.

My best friend in high school's dad was a big wig with McCormick Place-- we got to go to all the shows. Got to meet Ernie Banks that way.

I can totally see that. An old friend of mine used to have a t-shirt that said "Instant Asshole: Just Add Beer."

I've read that fighters have the same problem.

Dobie got to interview Cardinals QB Neil Lomax for the Eastern Snooze. It was hilarous-- he did an interview straight out of Bull Durham-- "I'm just glad to be here using the talents God gave me..." When Dobie asked him what he did in his off time, Lomax told him that he spent his time reading the bible and talking on the phone to his fiance.

Dobie was surprised that night, then, to see Lomax out in the bars, hunting.

I'll blog another time where I was in a leg cast, unable to move, and got caught in the middle of a couple of knuckleheads fighting.

"Uncle Moonpie"
Yeah, I'd say that's about right, if it was limited to one overnight hospital stay for x-rays and observation.

My god, I'm only 6 feet and 190 pounds and I have trouble getting in and out of small cars. I can't imagine.

BTW, there's another person who lives in your neck of the woods-- I happened to read the other day that Dan Quayle lives in Scottsdale these days. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

vikkitikkitavi said...

It was one of the lesser shows, held in the bottom floor of a building I think they tore down after I moved to LA. I think it was a fitness and nutrition show, because Ferrigno was representing some product.

I hated working at McCormick place. It was one of the most dysfunctional workplaces, ever. I worked in the department that did customer service to the show attendees, and the department was filled with lazy sniping bitches. It paid for shit. And most of the union guys who built the show were ignorant prejudiced cigar-chomping assholes.

I was so happy the day I left, I felt about 10 years younger as soon as I walked out the door.

Johnny Yen said...

Oh yeah, the place is a notorious bulwark or ignorance, patronage and old-school prejudiced Chicago "ethnics."

My friend's father was a raging, dysfunctional alcholic, and kept his job for over 30 years.

My college roommate Jim's dad owned a company that made machines that made pie crusts. They displayed every year at the Food Show. One year, they got tired of waiting for the crew, that included an electrician (the sign was not electric) to come and put up their sign. Union rules. They put the sign up themselves. The next day they came in to find the sign smashed to bits.

I was working as a law clerk during the time Harold Washington was mayor, and the hostility toward the blacks who were finally able to get jobs in the city (let alone an ethnic white like me who'd dared to get an education) was palpable. It was funny-- they had the stereotype that the black folks coming into the city and county government were ignorant and lazy. I had to laugh, because I simply could not imagine anyone or anything more lazy and ignorant than the average white Chicago city worker.

There was an old joke in Chicago: What's blue, got six wheels, and sleeps four? A Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department truck.

Splotchy said...

Dammit, Mr. Yen, there's four or five stories in your comments alone that cry to be expanded into longer posts.