Bits and pieces through the years, Part I

Bits and Pieces Through the Years, Part I

Like it or not, we’ve all been guilty of miscommunication blunders at one time or another during our lifetimes. The following scenarios involving verbal miscues and acts of misunderstanding did indeed occur. However, because of each story’s short duration, none made the cut for a lengthy narrative standing on its own.

I’ll start out with a true story from the third grade. The subject of the flub was my good friend, Tom Myers. (May he rest in peace.) During a spelling bee, Tom actually tried to spell shirt, but left out the “r”. And he did not do it on purpose. Back then, the punishment was way too severe for a student to try to pull that one off.

Later on, in high school, poor Tom fell during gym class and hit his head on the hardwood floor. When the teacher asked him if he was okay, he replied, “I think I may have a ‘percussion.’”

From the football field
As a coach, I’ve heard (and contributed to) my share of verbal miscommunications – way more often than one might think.

During an after school practice session, I commanded a junior high player to “throw that scrimmage vest over your head and get in there on defense.” He just stared at me. I had to repeat it over and over again a number of times. The dialogue, back and forth lasted over a full minute in length. Finally, he did exactly as he was told – he tossed the vest over his shoulder, ran onto the playing field, and sprinted into the huddle.

Another time, I was in the practice huddle explaining our next play. I heard all kinds of coughing, hacking, and gagging emitting from one of our large, first-string tackles. I asked him if he was okay, and he replied, “Sorry Coach, I have a head cold in my chest.”

Taking the reins as the practice team quarterback many years ago, I instructed one of my players to “roll out to the left when I drop back to pass.” He promptly did a somersault to his left as soon as I took the snap from the center. I almost wet myself, laughing as I dropped back with the football.

A player once took a pretty hard hit as he caught a pass during junior high practice one evening. I told him to “shake it off” and he immediately did just that, vigorously shaking his head from side to side like a horse. Honestly, I was surprised that he didn’t whinny, too.

In a varsity practice, a player jumped the count during wind sprint conditioning close to the end of the session. When this happened, the whole team had to back up five yards (like they would have had to do in a game situation) and re-run the sprint. When I told them of the infraction, the guilty player replied, “Sorry Coach, I was hearing mirages.”

During a particularly hot and humid August football camp, a fellow assistant coach hinted to a player about the new pool the player’s family had just installed in their back yard. The coach was hoping to get an invitation for the staff to go swimming after practice. He tried complimenting the player by saying, “That is a nice pool you have.” The player responded by rubbing his thigh and saying, “Yeah, but it’s been feeling better today.”

Coaches do it, too.
Once we were practicing punt returns during a very windy day on the field. Our punt returner watched as the punt sailed far over his head and he had to sprint back to recover the ball. The head coach promptly announced to the staff, “He don’t know wind.”

During away games, we normally got off the bus right away, as a team, after the driver parked in the designated area. On this day, it was raining cats and dogs, and the head coach was talking to the driver and trying to find out if we could get closer to the visitors’ locker room. I stood up and announced, “When we get off the bus, we’re going to stay seated on the bus.”

It also happens on paper.
A coaches’ practice schedule was posted in the locker room before the afternoon session one year during football camp. It read, “We need ‘impovement’ in all ‘fazes’ of the game this afternoon.”

Another schedule was posted years later, saying the coach expected everyone to be on the field promptly at 2:00pm, but added, “‘Specialities’ players are to be ready 15 minutes earlier.”

Additional bits unfit for local papers
During an emotional pregame speech, our Head Football Coach got his words mixed up a tad. We were playing Altoona’s Bishop Guilfoyle High School and their colors are purple and gold. Apparently, in the back of his mind, he was thinking of “the purple people eaters.” With his hands flailing and voice booming, he yelled, “Let’s attack those purple pussy eaters.”

When I taught 8th grade science, it was customary to have my students enter the county poster contest, where themes varied from topic to topic. One entry had a perfectly drawn rodent, gnawing on a piece of wood along a stream bank. The caption read, “Eat a beaver, save a tree.” After checking with his parents, I became convinced that the student heard the saying before, but had no idea what it meant.

After deciding that his career wore on his nerves long enough, a colleague decided to announce his retirement before the beginning of his last year as a teacher. He stormed out the classroom one day with his teeth grimacing and his jaw protruding, as he declared, “Worst God damned bunch of ignorance I’ve ever seen.” He was then reminded that it was only homeroom and the first day of school.

Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon. 

Author’s Note: My attempts at writing old stories will come to an end with this calendar year. It has been a pleasure reminiscing those good old days with my readers.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA