Flying back to the airfield after a morning’s training flight is a little like a high school football coach riding the bus back home after a Saturday away game – Only without the team. You sit, often more than a little spent, playing back in your mind’s eye every moment of the flight as the ground rolls out from beneath, almost unnoticed.
Meanwhile, the ebb and flow of the inner conversation plays on in the background growing ever louder like some post game press conference, eventually blocking out even the roar of the engine.
REPORTER: So how’d it go, Coach? No really! Cut the crap! What do you really think?
THE COACH: Well, the team did a good job out there this morning and the kids played their hearts out. That’s the kind of effort that makes the coaching staff proud. Their fundamentals were strong – good takeoff, nice climb out, outstanding focus at altitude while giving 100% on every flap. That’s what we like to see at this point in the season.
REPORTER: What about #5 dropping out early and sitting out the rest of the game on the bench. Is there anything to the rumors that he’s been violating curfew, texting young Sandhill cheerleaders, and staying out late partying at the local pond? And is it true that his sister, #7, is trying to talk him into going into rehab?
THE COACH: Rehab, Shmeehab! Now you listen here. I don’t like the way this conversation is going. Another question like that and this press conference is over! #5 is big and dominant and just the kind of player we need up front to anchor our line. Once he figures out the wing, learns a little finesse, and shakes this dumb habit of his of dropping down below the trike part way through the flight into the area of the field where it’s all work and no play and tires himself out so fast that his butt starts dragging so badly he has to fly back to the bench for a breather, he’ll be fine. He didn’t exactly major in Rocket Science in college now did he! Got a D in Basket Weaving if I remember correctly.
Just remember #10. Remember the eye thing, when all you guys were saying she’ll never make it cause she had that watery thing going on in her right eye and would never be able to catch a frog on that side? Now look at her. She flies like a home-struck angel and surfs the wing like it was her own personal surf board. Try watching one of those “Gidget” movies sometime and you’ll get the picture. And as for drugs? Don’t even go there my friend. There is absolutely no doping or steroid use going on. Sure, a little gape worm mojo every couple of weeks, a shot of minencin in the crane chow for good luck, and a couple of needle pricks for West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis at the beginning of the season, but that’s it. If any of you guys want to subject the flock to surprise urine tests, bring it on… and you can take a poop sample while you’re at it…on the house.
REPORTER: Are you satisfied with #6’s progress? I mean, after all that trouble at Patuxent and all?
THE COACH: Glad you asked. #6 is this season’s turnaround player. Sure, there were times she was mean and refused to socialize with the other birds at Patuxent, but that was then and this is now. And buddy, now’s the only thing showing on my radar screen. She gets better every day and this morning she blew right past the rest of the players off the right wing to take the lead, then looked over at me as if to say, “Gimme what ya got!” Now that’s character and the kind of grit we’re looking for, especially in the fourth quarter.
And how about our not so little anymore #11. There’s a story for ya. She came into training camp an undersized little runt afraid of her own shadow and now look at her. It’s like she got bit by a hummingbird then injected with a lawn dart! She bobs and weaves all over the sky and now has the size to make her presence felt. You want to talk about attitude? She’s got it in spades!
REPORTER: But aren’t you a little concerned about her occasional wheeze in the pen and all that opened mouth breathing her big brother, #4 has been doing in the air?
THE COACH: What? You never had a sniffle? Trust me, pal, we’re on top of the situation. And if you would happen to take the time to notice, #4 has been flying really well lately, opened mouthed breathing and all. So if you want to do any of your bug friends a big favor, warn them not to go up flying anywhere near his opened mouth, at least not until they pay you back any money they might owe you. The bottom line is he’s really got some serious heart and in the end, that’s what separates the cranes from the herons.
Hey. You guys know the drill. As the season progresses and the morning temperatures cool and the air dries out to the point where your favorite coach is no longer sweating his deodorant into submission while wearing only a T Shirt under his costume up there, #4’s breathing should improve big time. Just remember, we’re a young team with no veterans back from last year, and our coaching staff is so old that the only thing we have to look forward to is senility. But don’t you sweat it ‘cause it’s like we say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get migrating.” We’ll be ready for the Big One come the end of the month – don’t you worry your little laptops about that.
Now fellas, I see the airfield just ahead, so if you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got to bring this press conference to a close so I can land this darn trike.
POST INTERVIEW NOTE
Minutes later, the trike landed and securely hangared, I was driving back to camp when I noticed an old man standing alone in the back of the conference room. He held up something in his hand, gave me a quick wave with it, then placed it carefully on the table before disappearing through the door.
Curious, I walked over to find a game program upon which he had written something. Holding it closer, I read his words he’d printed in big block letters, “THEY MAY BE NUMBERS 4,5,6,7 10 AND 11 IN THIS PROGRAM, BUT THEY’LL ALWAYS BE NUMBER ONE IN THE HEARTS OF THE FANS. GO WHOOPERS!”
Editor’s note… if you enjoyed this press interview with OM pilot Brooke Pennypacker AKA ‘The Coach,’ tell the world by Giving a WHOOP!, and if, like the old man in his story, the Class of 2012 is #1 in your heart – help them out by sponsoring a 1/4/ 1/2 or mile of their soon to launch fall migration.