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Alan Alda Paper Lion essay

merica Limencd "Nothing I have read, experienced, tasted or believed is of any use in today's world!" THE SATURDAY EVENING POST PAPER LION Continued from page 73 got there. At the same moment I saw the best athlete on Millar's team, a serious, muscular man with powerful legs, heading for the same spot. But then he suddenly slowed down. A moment later I was under the ball and took it into my arms like a baby. Millar called to the cameraman, "Did you get that last play?" He said yes, he had. They all seemed relieved. And then I realized that the other man had decided not to catch the ball. For all I knew, in the huddle they'd said, "Let's see if we can get a shot of Alda catching something, for God's sake. It's our last chance." Anyway, it was over. About three days later I got a call from Marty. He said Millar felt I was "not that bad," and if I were willing to take a little training program before the picture started, I'd probably get the part. I was to report to Tom Kennedy, who was then a reserve quarterback with the New York Giants. A few minutes later I had Kennedy on the phone, and we made a date to meet after the Giants' practice session on Saturday. I showed up at Yankee Stadium a few minutes early. The guard at the players' entrance looked blankly at me. "I'm here to see Tom Kennedy," I said. His eyes dropped down to the oldfashioned high-topped football shoes I was carrying. "Tom Kennedy, the quarterback with the Giants," I said. "I'm working out with him today." His eyes were riveted to my shoes. "I don't think they'll let you in down there," he said. "I have an appointment. . . ." "Go ahead," he said, never taking his eyes off the shoes. As I was dressing, three players came in and started changing into their street clothes. They looked me over for a minute or two, trying to figure out my function. Finally one of them said, "Are you a kicker ?" "No . . ." 1 said. I couldn't think of anything else to say, so I gave them a big, dumb friendly grin. Pause. "What position do you play?" "Quarterback," I said. I actually said it. The word just came out of my mouth. "Oh yeah?" His eyebrows went up. "Where'd you play before this?" "Well, nowhere." He looked blank. "It's a special thing," I said. "I'm trying to learn how to do it." "Oh," he said, nodding. I dressed as quickly as I could and got out of there. As I swung my leg over the railing and climbed out onto the field, Tom Kennedy looked me over. "Well, I see you've got your Y.A. Tittle shoes on," he said. I decided to burn them as soon as I got home. We began to work on dropping back for a pass. You have to run a few yards very fast in this, and he watched me with interest. "You run in a squat," he said. "Why do you run in a squat ?" I couldn't think of a reason. He struggled for a minute to think of something constructive to say. "Actually," he said, "there was a very great star who used to run like that. You look just like him." "I do? Who?" "Groucho Marx," he said. We tried some more. And the more I tried to remember everything he told me, the more tied up I got. "Look," he said, "you're trying too hard. I notice when you kid it a little, you look fine. Just give it a little la-ti-da like that. That's when you look OK." I gave it a little la-ti-da, just as if I ivere a quarterback. Why not? I couldn't look any more foolish than I already did. Off on the side a groundskeeper was watching us. Finally he called out, "What's the matter, Tom? They punishing you for something?" We met on four or five cold December afternoons during the next two weeks, and I got so I could throw the ball, but I was still running like a frog. With that worry in the back of my head, I went to Detroit with Stuart Millar, the producer, to watch the Lions play. After the game we went back to the dressing room, and, as I met the players, I began to take on other little worries. Alex Karras: Stone. I tapped him on the arm to get his attention, and it was like tapping stone. He carries this thing around with him shaped like an arm, but it's made of stone. Jim Gibbons: "Sorry I can't shake your hand properly," he said, "but I broke my wrist last week. They took the cast off for the game." He had been playing football with a broken wrist. John Gordy: "Hey, Alan, you think you can get them to let me shoot my scenes with my teeth in?" I stared at the vast gap in the front of his mouth and wondered what that afternoon must have been like when he lost them. And then Darris McCord: Tall, graceful, tapering athlete. He came over to me slowly, a slight grin on his face. He began to feel the muscle in my arm. "Hey," he said very quietly. "We're going to have to put a couple of pounds on you, so a few of us can have a shot at you." I had an extra Scotch on the plane home that night. Finally the football season ended, and we went down to Boca Raton, Florida, to begin shooting. Plimpton visited us on the set for a couple of days, and I saw immediately that, while he might have felt like an outsider at first, there had obviously grown between him and the team a good deal of affection. He seemed to expect that the same thing had happened to me. "Where do you all go after the shooting is over?" he asked me. "Well, I don't usually go anywhere much," I said. "Home, I guess . . ." "Don't you all go out together afterward?" "No," I said. "I go to sleep." "Oh," Plimpton said. Then he shrugged and walked away. I suddenly realized what I had to do. I had to get them to accept me in the same way they had accepted him. Only if we could get some of the warmth between us that had existed between them could we have a really good film. The one thing they did constantly was play games, so I began looking for games I could join. Even the wordgames were dangerous. For instance, they would pass time in the locker room by putting each other on. You won the game if you got the other person mad enough to punch you in the face. It would start as a casual put-down, like, "God, Karras, don't you ever change your underwear?" And then the trombone voice of Alex Karras would waft out among the lockers toward tackle Roger Shoals. "Nobody likes you, Turtle. I've taken a poll among your co-workers, and the consensus is that you are a social spider. Nobody likes you." "Yeah, well, I've taken a poll over at your house, Karras, and your Mama likes me." "Turtle, doesn't it pain you to know that your co-workers, who know you and love you best, find you disgusting ?" "Your Mama likes me." "That's right, Turtle, dazzle us with the infinite variety of your wit." "Your Mama likes me, Hog." Alex, who cannot bear to be called Hog or Porky Pig, drops his bantering tone. "When are you going to start playing football, Turtle? You've been around here six years and every time you start to play, you break something. How much ball have you actually played—thirty minutes?" There is silence in the room. "Your Mama . . ." Roger says, and the tension is broken. I was always quiet during the puton games, but I kept looking for others. Finally I found one. You stood in front of somebody like Darris Mc- Cord (250 pounds) and tried to knock him off-balance by slapping at his palms. The worst you could get was rosy palms. Unfortunately I actually got him off-balance, and he fell on top of me. I decided to concentrate on football. With all the coaching I was getting, my passing was actually improving. The players, seeing how hard I was working, urged me on. In my eagerness to please, I never had the nerve to refuse anyone who would run up and say, "Come on, George, throw me the bomb!" I'd haul back and let it go and then I'd feel a grinding ache in my elbow for the rest of the day. It paid off, though. They began to 77


Alan Alda Paper Lion essay
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