These high school athletes today. I tell you they have no idea how good they’ve got it. Back in my day, man, things were tough. Football practices longer and harder. Cold days colder and hot days hotter, but it didn’t matter because we never drank water during practice no matter the temperature. That’s how honery we were. Coaches? Let me tell you about mean.

Back in the worse old days, coaches weren’t allowed to practice their craft without first having demonstrated true viciousness. Biting the heads off live chickens in the presence of your players was encouraged.

“Yup,” you might hear some balding fella say, “we had it rough in the old days. Not like these mamby-pamby modern kids. The stairs we ran in the school hallways were steeper, the gyms more stifling and the locker room showers were always ice cold. That is when they worked at all.”

You know this guy don’t you? He’s the one at the game, any game – usually sporting a pot gut out to here – who shares his personal athletic exploits of long ago with everyone within range of his voice.

Over the passage of years our portly friend has convinced himself he once actually was all that he now claims to have been.

His problem as best I am able to discern it, is that he’s not the center of attention anymore. But boy would he like to be. Thus we hear about his 45-point basketball game and his 3-yard plunge to win his final high school football game which, if he hadn’t had four turnovers in his squad’s loss to a one-win cellar-dweller in the second game of the season, would surely have earned them the conference championship back in ‘65 or ‘75 or ‘85 or ‘95.

Never mind that it’s utterly obvious the boys and girls of today are bigger, faster, stronger, jump higher and are by all known measures more athletic than those of previous generations.

This knowledge does not, however, dissuade our braggadocios buddy in the slightest.

This syndrome is largely harmless I admit. Funny even, with an element of sadness. In its later stages it often deteriorates its hapless victim into becoming that most dreaded species; bleacher coach.

Now you know who I’m talking about for certain, don’t you?

He’s the guy blessed with the unfortunately-powerful voice who deploys its every decibel to broadcast his advice which positively reverberates.

If they’re in a zone he loudly demands a man-to-man. Prevent defense at the end of a football game while clinging to a lead? “Dear God, don’t go to the prevent,” he’ll bellow. “What are you thinking? Get up there and rush all 11. That’s how we did it. What in the h-e-double toothpicks are you thinking out there coach?”

So how do we help our friend? How do we keep him from being sucked into the black hole bleacher coachism?

My advice is, when he starts in about how wonderful he was back in the day, you counterpunch by regaling him with twice as many tales of your own derring-do. Might take a couple or three repetitions, but that will eventually do the trick I bet.

What’s that? You say you are beginning to harbor suspicions that I, myself, suffer from this same condition?

Are you kidding? We couldn’t beat anybody in a football game. Not a lot of manhood to be wrung out of a zero-for-two-years record ... not then and certainly not now, five decades hence. I recall once getting hammered 77-0. We sang on the bus ride home from that trouncing and discovered, almost fatally, that real coaches in that bygone era tended to glower in stern disfavor upon players who erupted in post-evisceration song.

You know what? Now that I think about it, I bet that’s one aspect of competitive athletics that hasn’t changed one iota since the beginning of time.

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