Excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. If you are reading this blog for the first time scroll down to read previous chapters beginning with March 13 or click to read about Dave Linane.
In the early 70s San Bernardino had at least four public high schools within close proximity to each other. It was not uncommon for students to get themselves to local “away” games when they were playing a crosstown rival. Brian had his license earlier than everyone else and on this occasion, he drove Dave to a game at Cajon High School in the north end of town less than five miles away.
Their team, (San Bernardino High School) beat the pants off Cajon. It was clean. It was fair. They won. Someone had to, this time they won.
After the game, when Brian and Dave headed to the parking lot to Brian’s car they were blocked by a large group of pissed off football players from the other team. The group quickly had them surrounded. Dave and Brian stood uncomfortably surprised in the middle of the circle of what felt like a certain beat down.
Dave started talking, acknowledging that he could obviously tell they were pissed about the game. He asked if there was a particular moment in the game that they felt San Bernardino had cheated? No one responded because they could not say. They had simply been outplayed. He basically got them to agree that it was a fair game by way of not having a direct complaint about any specific act of unfairness. He again conveyed that he understood that they were pissed. Brian stood there next to Dave, all in, ready for whatever was coming.
Dave conveyed that he was resigned to fight them, that he was tired from the game, but was happy to fight with them if that is what they REALLY wanted under one condition, in order to be FAIR, everyone had to line up and fight him one at a time. Again, if they wanted to fight fair. Brian was not happy as he was hearing the terms of what was to come without having pre-negotiated anything about a fight. He stood there though, holding his breath, waiting.
Dave continued tiredly with a wave: “Come on, get in line.” He dropped his bag of sports equipment and pointed to the place where he wanted them to start the line. “There is no honor in more than a dozen of you beating up the two of us. Let’s do this the right way. Come on, (waves again), line up.”
He was met by silence from the crowd of pissed off players whose energy was changing as they absorbed his words. A moment of silence was broken by someone saying. “Fuck it, let’s go.” And they all split.
Dave never told this story. I heard it for the first time when I was probably a teenager. Brian talked about it while Dave listened with a modest smirk on his face as Brian set the scene, revealed his inner dialogue thinking that Dave was leading them to certain doom, delivered in his hilarious story telling manner. “I was freaked out at all the dudes surrounding us and then incredulous the entire time that Dave was talking, thinking in the mental equivalent of slow motion, ‘Oh shiiiiiit, what in the HELL is this guy saying? Fight? Line up?’” (Dave was laughing his barking seal of a laugh at this point) “And then, (pause for dramatic effect) they all just left. They were GONE. Just like that. It worked. Dave and his cool rationale had managed to get the bloodthirsty badass dudes thinking and shifting away from the insanity of a brawl. We got into the car and shouted a relieved simultaneous, ‘Holyyyyy Shiiiiiiiiiit!’ as we shut the doors and got the hell out of enemy territory.”