Do you believe in miracles?
I sure do.
I suppose we could call them coincidences, but that’s just dull. I’m convinced some things are just fate’s way of keeping us entertained. There is a God in Heaven, and He’s a showboater and a smart-ass.
But I wanted to talk about football here. And decks.
I don’t talk about football much because I don’t know or care much about it. I never played it. I think I was 22 before I finally threw and caught a football. I was in college at the time. A guy one class above me whom I never got to like very much realized I had no experience throwing that peculiar device. After lunch one day, he insisted on meeting up with me on the campus quad/parking lot and taught me how to throw it, kinda. I think he was reveling in his absolute superiority over me in all things futbol Norteamericano.
Why is that ball so weird? Why do we play our national game with this bizarre, blimp-like, wobbly ellipse? I don’t know. Maybe someone who knows or cares about football can fill me in.
Anyway, growing up I never learned much about football because it fell into that vast category of things people like us just didn’t value. We were aristocrats fallen upon hard times, you know. Football was the sort of thing tow truck drivers from Lubbock, Texas cared about. That wasn’t us, said Dad. Instead, Dad watched boxing. I never understood boxing, either. It seemed in most cases both guys were still alive at the end. They’d dance around and jab at each other for an hour or so, then the umpire or whatever-he’s-called lifted one fighter’s hand. Crowd goes wild. What a thing to get excited about!
Still I always granted there was something about football that rightly captivated people. In the back of my mind, I considered the possibility football’s appeal didn’t rest entirely on the backs (or fronts) of the cheerleaders. Cheerleaders were the only thing I found remotely interesting about the average game.
We didn’t have cable when I was growing up. We had bunny ears on the top of the old Zenith TV set Dad had bought at a yard sale — just like what all aristocrats had. This limited our viewing options. One night after dinner we despaired of finding anything on TV that wasn’t a rerun of Three’s Company or a PBS documentary about gypsum mining. In a highly unusual move, Dad had me flick it over to watch a football game (we didn’t have remote control, either).
The game ended in a tie after the placekicker for the Detroit Lions missed an easy field goal. After the tie was declared, the kicker was fired on the spot. It was his first — and as I later found out — only game in professional play. I think there have been something like five ties in the history of the NFL. We saw one of them that night, one of the only occasions we chose to watch football as a family.
Suspicions confirmed: Football was dumb. I switched the TV over to the documentary on gypsum.
* * * * * *
Fast forward about 22 years or so later.
A lot had happened in the meantime. I found my lack of interest in our national sport hadn’t held me back in life very much — if at all. In fact, it had likely saved me from investing more money than necessary in TV’s or cable or tickets to games. Sometimes, just not giving a shit bears fruit. It constitutes a power in itself. Thus, this part of my story begins in my mountain lair: A mid-century modern four-bedroom home on a circle driveway cut into two-and-a-half acres or so in the mountains outside of Denver. I had made it. I had achieved my dream home.
But the dream home had a problem: It needed a new deck.
Decks are a very important part of life in that part of Colorado. I wanted my deck to jut out provocatively from the back of the house, affording visitors a commanding view of Pike’s Peak in the distance. I wanted to admire that purple mountain’s majesty from the end of my big, massive, protruding deck while I swirled some scotch on the rocks and thought of the envious plebes below me.
I made a few calls. The real estate agent recommended a guy. She said he was interesting.
He came out to my house. Guy in his early 40’s or so. Seemed fairly together. He had a lot of references for his work on decks. He was the deck-man. DeckGuy. He was a specialist who had made a career building decks people loved there in that mountain community. He offered a variety of materials and designs. He acknowledged synthetic wood was the cost-effective low-maintenance solution, but also suggested a discerning gentleman like myself would prefer the native Brazilian redwood. I cringed to think that some trees in an endangered rainforest in Brazil were to be cut up and shipped all the way to another hemisphere so that quasi-rich consumerist dorks like myself could have a stylish surface to let the dog poop on in winter. But he didn’t know that. I looked like any of this other customers, I guess.
He provided some initial quote that turned out to be outrageously expensive — by a factor of three or four. He was the first to bid. I was glad I got other bids.
A week or so later he called to tell me he needed to come back out to make more measurements. He told me that the cost was likely to be even more than he had quoted, due to some unforeseen permitting requirements. But maybe we could make a deal.
This time, he brought out a three-ring binder. It was a collection of photos — glossy 8X10’s in plastic protectors. He casually laid it out on the kitchen counter, and with a false modesty said “Yeah, I used to play some pro football.” In the photos was a much-younger DeckGuy in uniform. They had been taken in some park during tryouts, one supposed. In the background were some cars from the early-80’s.
This was his clincher: his distinction. Of course I’d buy an overpriced deck from the DeckGuy. He’d played pro football, for God’s sake. He was a true American! Thank you for your service, Mr. Former Pro Football Player!
“That’s cool. What position did you play?” I asked. His eyes moved. He seemed suddenly, strangely shy.
“Oh, I was a kicker. Yeah. Played with the Lions. For a while. Yeah. . . .”
So, see — the title of this article wouldn’t be accurate at all if DeckGuy had turned out to be anyone other than . . .