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Alan Alda Paper Lion essay

Hazel BYTED THE SATURDAY EVENING POST PAPER LION notice me. Once, as I was lying on the grass with an ice bag on my elbow, Bill Cottrell, who played center, came over and wanted to stand on my stomach. "Go on, make your stomach muscles tight and I'll stand on you. See if you can do it." This man weighed 265 pounds, and he wanted to step on me with his cleats on. "OK," I said. At that moment I was called for the next scene, and as I jogged over to the camera, I realized that I actually had been ready to let Cottrell step on my stomach. Something funny was happening to me. We got out on the field, and Alex March, the director, set up the shot. "Alan takes the snap and Lucci comes in after him and we cut. We'll pick up a shot later of George Wilson actually getting hit." "Wilson !" I said. "What about me ?" "We can't have you hit by Mike Lucci," Alex said. "How would we finish the picture?" "Look," I said, "if I know exactly how he's going to hit me—if we rehearse it—nothing will go wrong." "Alan, we've got two million dollars riding on you. . . ." "What are we doing, some Bulldog Drummond movie? Let them see what it looks like when an ordinary guy actually gets it. You're cheating them otherwise." "Stuart," he said to the producer, "Alan wants to get hit." "Great," Millar said. "If Alan wants to get hit, let him get hit." I took Lucci aside and went through the tackle in slow motion. I tried to simulate the moment of contact, so I would know what to expect. Lucci took my arm. "Look, you want the real thing ?" "Well," I said, "can we get very close to the real thing?" We took our places. The camera rolled and I called the signals. "Four, set . . ." The linemen shifted into position. "Six, twenty-three ..." Lucci and his squad started hopping back and forth in front of me. "Hut-huthut." The ball was in my hands and I was dropping back, and there was Mike Lucci coming at me like a train at the end of a tunnel. First there was the moment of crunch, when I heard the plastic shoulder pads smash together. Then I seemed to go numb and everything shifted into slow motion. Slowly we rose into the air together, then drifted to the ground. Then we rolled lazily over on my neck, and it was over. "How are you?" Alex asked. "Fine," I said. "OK. We have to do it again. There was a hair in the gate." A hair in the gate is a speck of lint in the camera that ruins the shot. We did it again. Then we did it from a different angle, once with a hair in the gate and once without. There was a lump in my hip the size of a small cabbage, but I was exhilarated by the feeling that I was living through it all. Alex seemed to be getting used to the idea, too. "OK, next shot. Alex Karras, Roger Brown, John Mc- Cambridge and Dards McCord. I want you to chase Alan, and when you catch him, pile on him." I looked over at my co-workers— four of the biggest men I had ever seen. I wondered if this was the sanest thing to be doing. Of course it is, I thought. The crazy thing would be to try to rehearse it. They loomed up in front of me as I got set to take the snap. I called the signals and ran backward as fast as my stringy little legs could take me. I had a moment or two when I thought that I might make it all the way to the locker room, but then Karras reached out for me. Ploom. We drift to the ground. Ploom. Roger Brown lands on my rib cage. Fwook. There is no more air in my lungs. Ploom, ploom. McCord and McCambridge arrive. Schonng. Karras drills his cleats into my ankle. One by one they get up slapping me on the butt and laughing. When I rise, I find that my foot is numb where Karras has kicked me. Then they tell me to do it again—there is a hair in the gate. I run slower on my numb foot, and the second shot is over in no time. Ploom, fwook, ploom, ploom, schonng. As the days went on, I began to rehearse the tackling less and less. We finally reached the last day of contact. It was a scene on the training field where the team, playing a joke on George, lets him think he's really good. I was supposed to dash through the center of the line, sidestep Lem Barney, straight-arm Mike Weger and make a touchdown. When Weger came at me, I pushed on his helmet as hard as I could, but instead of diving into the ground, he smashed into my thighs. My legs flew out from under me and I did a complete flip in the air, coming down on my coccyx. As I waddled back to the huddle, Lem Barney grabbed my arm. "Can't you run any faster than that? I'm going all the way around the line and back up the middle, and you're still there. I look like an idiot." I saw Chuck Walton and Lucci whispering together, as if cooking up something for me. Pat Studstill came over, real friendly like. "Uh, listen there, George. You better try to run a little faster this time. I believe Lucci is going to try to take you out." "That's right," Walton said, as he came over. His innocent face was all compassion. "He's going to knock your ass off, too." I took the snap and started through the hole. I saw Walton step aside and there came Lucci. Whomp. Five minutes of laughter, John Gordy rolling on the ground, doing his high-pitched cackle, stopping every once in a while just long enough to show me the look on my face as I saw Lucci coming. We took our places again. Hut ! I get the ball. Miraculously I get through the line. I shake Barney, I push Weger away, there's the goal line—I make it! Perfect. Now the team will congratulate me and the scene will be over. Gordy comes up to slap me on the back. But no, it isn't a slap, it's more like a hug. No, it's more than a hug— his feet are off the ground. He's jumping on top of me. Then come Walton and Studstill and Charley Bradshaw. All 11 of them ! I try to roll into a ball, but my arms are pinned and my helmet is twisted around a good 180 degrees. One ton of football players. On me. It certainly was swell to be accepted. When the time came for me to see a rough cut of the film, I entered the screening room nervously. Screening rooms are designed to intimidate you. The walls absorb sound so that a honeyed silence hangs in the air, and you can hear your heart beat. The seats are deep and wide so that you slide down into them, almost as if you were cringing. And there's something about armrests that seems to force you to clutch them. But after a few minutes of pounding, cringing and clutching, the screen lit up and there were the Lions. They were charming. They were genuinely themselves. There were Joe Schmidt's irony and strength, Karras's audacity, Gordy's sincerity, Coach McPeak',, gentleness. They had worked hard at it, and they had become actors. But the one who had tried to become an athlete, the one who had kept falling down back there in Central Park, how had he turned out? He was wonderful. Here was this magnificent athlete pitching to the All-Stars, boxing with Sugar Ray Robinson, passing a ball like a bullet. Ah, the passing . . . Look how he pivots with the sharp snap of a weather vane in a windstorm. Look at him drop back, his legs pumping like an engine. And yet the grace with which he gathers himself is like the eddying of doves as they settle gently on a piazza. His arm high, he lets the ball go out from him, and it wafts. It really wafts. As I drove home that evening, the plays kept running through my head. Suddenly the voice on the radio broke through. "Joe Namath's knees . . ." the announcer was saying. "The Jets are considering trading Namath. The team doctor says. . . ." They're thinking of trading Namath? As I drove, I saw the yellow paper of a telegraph pad before me. "To the coach and manager of the Jets," it read. "Dear Mr. Ewbank : Sorry to hear about Namath. But the game must go on. The key to moving a team down the field is good, solid passing. If you are interested in interviewing an experienced passer (who won't charge you an arm and a leg, either), I would be happy to discuss it with you. Sincerely yours, Alan Alda" 0 78


Alan Alda Paper Lion essay
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