The Night We Never Met
When I was a senior in high school I played football but also had a part time job as a bagger at a local supermarket. As it turns out the combination of these two things was the way that I ended up meeting ole Mt. Cat who ends up turning out to be one of my best lifelong friends. This is the story of how we met and how we sort of met before we ever met. It will make more sense as I tell it.
Friday night football is a huge tradition at our high school (West Charlotte Senior High) and back when we were there we were really good. My senior year we were undefeated conference champs. One thing you need to know about West Charlotte high is that although the school was very racially diverse historically it was known as an African American high school. It's located in a very prominent "black" part of town and has always been a source of pride in the black community. Especially the athletic teams and the marching band. No offense to the rest of ya'll bands but our band could JAM!
I tell you all this to set the stage for the picture of me on the football team. There were multiple white players on the team but we were in the minority. Certainly no problem there...may the best athlete play. However lets just say that I was one of very few white players on defense. There were actually like 2 of us. I was also not a starter, as a safety I played when the defense needed additional coverage for receivers and on special teams. My group of friends and classmates always used to sit together at games and sometimes they would call out things from the stands to show their support and encouragement for the team and my playing status. It was not at all unusual to hear things yelled from behind me during games such as "Hey Coach, Put the white boy in!" or "White boy....48 white boy 48" (my number) I prefer to think of them as just having a lot of school spirit and support for the team and not that they were making fun of me.
Enter Vince. (Mt. Cat) Now what you have to know about Vin at this point is that he is not from Charlotte, NC. Vin is from Brooklyn New York City and moved to Charlotte NC during the summer before his senior year of high school. I can't even imagine the culture shock he went through not just in terms of the difference in city but it was a big transition in school and just before his senior year. I guess that he didn't know very many people. He and I hadn't met. Heck there were probably 3000 students at our school. The only people that he knew were kids that he had met at his new job as a cashier at a grocery store. Yep you guessed it, the same grocery store that I worked at on the weekends.
OK, back to the football game. One Friday night early in that fall of 1989 Vince decides to check out the school football team and go to the game. I am sure that we were demolishing some poor opponent and so the mood in the stands was pretty good. As fate would have it Vince happens to find a large group of students to sit with that just happen to be acting as my own personal cheering section that night. So as he is sitting there hanging out watching the game apparently people are cheering things like "GO SHANE!!" " Way to go 48" and other very encouraging things just trying to keep up the school spirit. So curiosity gets the better of him and he asks the guy sitting next to him. "Who are they yelling for? Who is this Shane?" and the response that he gets is something along the lines of a drunken slurr "He'sssss numberrrr forty-eight. He'ssss the best playerrrrr" Vince then searches the field looking for this hero. This team leader who is helping the Lions crush their opponent. Is he scoring Touchdowns? Is he sacking the quarterback? Suddenly he spots the elusive 48. The one who makes the other students chant special things. And Vin then asks the million dollar question.... "Hey, If he's the best player then what is he doing on the bench?"
Fast forward to the weekend. I am going to my job at the grocery store where I usually clean up the back room and mop the floor... 25 times just to make sure it's clean. (and to get out of the real work) and I notice there is a new guy up front as a cashier. I ask Carol in the office who this new guy is and am told. "His name is Vinny. He is from New Yaak" OK fair enough. I go about my duties. Later when Vin goes to take his break I come in to introduce myself. The conversation went a little something like this:
"Hey, I'm Shane, I hear you are from New York. Cool. Hey where do you go to school?"
"I just started at West Charlotte."
"Cool I go there too... I play......football"
"Oh, so you're Shane!!??"
At this point I think that my reputation has exceeded me so I smile and get ready to enjoy my adoration as a football hero when Vin follows it up with, "So hey, why do you ride the bench?"
I guess my reputation did proceed me... Too well in fact.
I am still not sure how we got to be such good friends after the night we never met.
-Doc & The Mountain Cat