Mirth. Playfulness. Friendship.

The notion of afterglow comes to mind, in the wake of this ridiculous tailgate party we had the other afternoon, in the slanting light of late October. There was happenstance. There were kegs.

Old friends jostled for position at the bar as Miller fed them glass after glass of lime juice and tequila, a form of plasma in towns like these.

Look, when it comes to friendship, I’m a long-term investor. And a loyal and determined sports fan.

I’m still bummed about the recent death of legendary linebacker Dick Butkus, and when I read the paid obit in The Times last Sunday, I texted his son Matt, congratulating him on this tribute that saluted the devoted dad as much as the sports legend.

Matt wrote back that he was buying up every copy in Malibu, his dad’s haunt for the last few decades.

Dick Butkus and Malibu were an odd couple, to be sure. He liked it because they mostly left him alone up there. That’s a very male trait, you know. Sometimes, we just want to be left alone.

Anyway, the tailgate was the opposite of that — a call to arms, a pep rally for autumn, a love letter to the Rose Bowl itself.

Time and again, the demise of the Pac-12 came up in conversation. What will be lost is a sense of regional pride. It’s as if we’ve franchised a beloved family restaurant, and now the corporate goons will ruin it somehow, bring in their efficiencies, steal its soul.

Joining the Big Ten is like marrying off your first born to a crackpot Prussian king.

Rest in peace, Pac-12. Rest in peace, Dick Butkus. Why can’t we love some things (and people) to immortality?

Well, I suppose the Rose Bowl represents forever.

There it sits, in a stream bed in western Pasadena. The devil is in the trees, but there’s a softness to the grass. As we are setting up, we find someone’s ancient tee shot embedded deep in the Brookside dirt — probably mine — just the noggin’ shining through. I played it with a 9-iron.

How many things do we do just for fun at our age? Well, this tailgate, for one. Know what it reminds me of? Unpacking for college. We drag kegs and sound systems out of the car. The cutest girls show up, some of them in their 90s.

I think that’s what tailgates represent. Eternal life. Mirth. Playfulness. Friendship.

“Remember that one bar up near church camp…” goes one conversation.

OK, so maybe I’m getting carried away here with the concepts of death and redemption and long-term investments.

As I tell my buddy Bittner, this day reminds me of a boys’ trip to Vegas “when I get to hang out all day with you idiots mostly doing nothing.”

It also reminds me of a failed fishing trip, with nothing in the boat to bring home.

But is there really such a thing as a failed fishing trip? Isn’t a fishing trip a success any way it goes?

So it is with tailgates.

Look, I’ve been around a little. I’m not about to wallow in self-help aphorisms.

I also know the difference between an underdog and an anti-hero. Trust me, never get the two confused, as do Raider fans sometimes, or these droll and joyless Millennials (amazing as they are).

We now live in a hero-free society. Once, there were movies, where flawed men and women who didn’t spook easily fought for the common good. Those were actual heroes.

Now, we honor the anti-heroes, like Miller and Bittner. And this Colorado coach, Deion Sanders.

Or is Deion a flawed underdog representing redemption for these kids who bombed out at other schools, and now come to him – like players once did to Al Davis – looking for one last chance at football… at life?

That’s why Coach Prime favors a black cowboy hat, perhaps. He’s the anti-hero (and the hero) all in one.

Don’t like him much, but I can see the appeal.

In the end, I hope Deion Sanders is good for college football. He sure has added some improv, some jazz, to the tight-tushed, shallow-breathing coaching ranks that often exploit these kids left and right.

Ah, football. May it be the candle we light forever. May a harvest moon always high-beam the stadium in the second quarter, as it did on Saturday. May the marching band bellow, may the fans laugh a little too much.

May we all live loud on autumn afternoons.

Ah, football indeed.

Our best-selling book, “What the Bears Know,” is now available in top-end bookstores such as {Pages}, Vroman’s and Barnes & Noble. On Amazon, 94% of readers are giving the wilderness memoir five stars. We are thrilled and grateful for your response. To order online, please click here. Cheers

9 thoughts on “Mirth. Playfulness. Friendship.

  1. Lovely, poignant, thoughtful post. The picture of the stadium full of happy fans, lit by a gorgeous moon next to our country’s flag at half staff kind of says it all about where we are as a society right now. There is a lot wrong in our world, but still a lot that’s right and a tailgate party with good friends is certainly one of the good things about us. Thank you.

  2. I think this is as close as we’ll get to you these days. Its an ode to the indescribably sweet exactness of pleasure. The “ tight tush shallow breathing” coaches have also always disgusted me a little. The grimness with which they pursue every meticulous detail of winning through the manipulation of flesh is often mistaken for excellence, as if football were life itself, rather than a flawed metaphor for it. The pure joy of playing it, the euphoric coincident joy of hauling in a soaring pass and watching it happen one of many peak experiences in the sport. The unexpected last second play that turns everything on the thinnest dime imaginable and wins the game. Just wow! Explosive joy is still in the game, but the relentlessly recruiting and platooning multi-million dollar salaried coaches grinding their playbooks away are like some very big businesses: they’ve forgotten what the game—and life—are really about. Tailgates help you remember.

  3. Love everything to do with college football, especially the marching bands! I’m a Big Ten fan (Ohio State – especially TBDBITL) all the way!!!) but have the same questions about Pac12/Big10 merge. $$$$, for sure. (Let me know if you need an explanation of TBDBITL!!

    Love your What the Bears Know book and have been recommending it to everyone here in Tahoe!

    Your columns make me smile every time! Thank you!

  4. Champaign air; the sycamores rusting in the golden sheets of slanting light, the distant roar of crowds in the uproariously exuberant stadiums of mind and eye. Ah, Fall. But at night, the first poignant breath of cold is in the shadows as Winter prepares to unfold its giant wings…

    Love Is A Four Letter Word

    I swear that I am not given
    To flights of fancy except where you
    Are concerned, and thus the usual
    Lies of the mind—much like chlorophyll
    That greens much of what you see—
    Will not color my lyric discourse;
    So I will not seek to enliven
    Rainbows of vision or avenues
    Of vivid amazement, or be cool
    When heat is the only livid thrill
    Impossibly called for, my degree
    Of passion the only possible force;

    This is to say that my entreaty
    Is more blue than red, but crimson
    Can not be ruled out, for nature
    Is the soul of imagination;
    So if there is the slightest tint
    In my reason’s plume, she put it there;
    Of course, now that you’re my sweety
    All bets are off, the real things are on
    Thinking that makes it so the imprimatur
    Of every decision under the sun
    For who could know the blinding hint
    Of paradise would shimmer in your hair?

    Or that your lips would flavor mine
    With licorice? Its anise by design
    A deep black night—like no other;
    Or that your skin would have this scent
    Of fresh water whose flow’s intent
    Was to make me lie within
    The realm of fantasy, the thin
    Line between color and the dafk
    Where constant dreams of you embark
    Upon the wildest, lovliest, absurd
    Love ever written, known, or heard
    That is why love is a four letter word.

  5. I recently canceled by LA Times subscription partially because of the nearly $250 monthly cost , but also to the demise of great columnists like Jim Murray, Jack Smith , Chris Dufrense and of course Chris Erskine , who fortunately still with us , and can be found in the cyber world . Always enjoy your work Chris

    1. Thank you. It’s a terrible paper now. Don’t blame you a bit. And they didn’t treat me very well the last couple of years so I don’t have much sympathy for the place. Onward!

Leave a Reply