Every Super Bowl I think of Bert
That’s a nickname. Bert’s currently serving in Afghanistan.
From an early age, Bert was interested in the military…planes, hardware, air shows. He never walked past the shooting gallery at the State Fair without dropping several bucks to display his prowess. He became a Marine Sharpshooter.
Bert’s family lived across the street from me and from the time he was a toddler, he was a fixture in our home, a friend of both my sons. A pack of boys used to hang out at our house a good bit. I made fart jokes and my wife made treats, a combo that along with the friendship of my sons seemed to keep them coming back for more. We all went places together. We talked a lot. It was a good time. Later, at times I’d feel almost like his auxiliary dad.
Every Super Bowl, certain of the crew showed up way early. We’d shop for assorted “man food” to enjoy while we watched the games, which early on usually weren’t that good, so by the second half, the kids ran through the house with abandon, playing laser-tag or whatever. We enforced few rules on Super Bowl Sunday.
The repast varied but was mostly shades of brown…a heavy meat emphasis: jerky/Slim Jim/Summer Sausage, fried food, cocktail weenies, pulled pork BBQ, meatballs in gravy, hot dogs, cheese, chips, dips, salsa, candy–absolutely no veggies and precious little nutrition.
The tradition included picking up a bunch of chicken wings at Hooter’s. The wings weren’t noteworthy but there was certain charm to the place not lost on young boys, even if they couldn’t really articulate it. When given other options, Hooter’s was predictably their first pick.
In the early days, they seemed more interested in the festive environment, the loud music and video games than the servers but by the time they were 11, both their focus and their demeanors had changed.
They became subdued. It was almost like they were in church, until a waitress walked by. Then, it became a synchronized routine as their collective fixed gazes locked on the nearest subject and all heads turned in unison. Speech was muted or absent. Since they truly were just kids at the time, their less than covert nudges, faint whispers and finger pointing amused rather than offended the ladies. Some servers hammed it up to provoke a reaction. They never failed.
Bert stood out from the pack. But in his 12th year, he became a legend. An extrovert, Bert was totally impressed with the Hooters girls. And unlike the others, he was a man of action.
As the others watched, Bert casually approached a beautiful, petite but well-endowed young blond. Hard to miss but oblivious to the determined young man flanking her, she stood waiting for on an order. Bert boldly walked up and one elbow on a handrail, leaned toward the lovely lady, who while reasonably compact by adult standards, was still easily a head taller than he. There was some sort of salutation. Bert made eye contact and they exchanged smiles.
“So, how you doin’?,”asked Bert. “Super,” she replied. “Super Bowl night, huh?,” he added. Still smiling, she said, “yep”. He continued, “So, then…,” “I guess you must get pretty busy in here, right?” The ice broken, they continued to make small talk as Bert’s body language became less guarded. He introduced himself and got her name. She laughed, obviously charmed by the gregarious, socially precocious adolescent.
It’s no exaggeration to note that she was one of the most attractive young ladies there. If she had flaws, none was evident. I pretended I wasn’t eavesdropping. The rest of the boys, clustered, wide-eyed, slack-jawed and silent. Eventually, her order appeared. Bert thanked her for her time told her how much he had enjoyed talking with her and bid her farewell, saying that maybe he’d bump into her next time, to which, she said, (laughing) “Sure…sure. All-right, then. You guys enjoy the game.” Our take out order came up and we split.
Suffice to say, Bert’s impressive, brazen attempt to woo a dazzling albeit scantily-clad, full-grown woman dominated our drive home as we enthusiastically re-enacted the event, play-by-play. We repeated the spectacle of how this self-confident, 12-year old had the chutzpah to approach, let alone actually charm the beauty, who after all, was old enough to be his…well, older sister. It was a spectacular display of budding alpha male, testosterone-driven social engagement, one that grew ever more impressive in the retelling. On that day, Bert went from boy to man right in front of us. I could tell by their reactions that even bystanders were impressed.
Although Bert’s family moved away and he attended High School in a nearby town, we keep in touch to this day.
Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Marines. After two Iraqi tours and one in Afghanistan, he re-enlisted. He’s being smart with his money and has a beautiful girl waiting for his return.
I often think of Bert, always fondly. He’s an impressive adult. I pray that he stays out of harm’s way. When he gets home, I look forward to seeing him. We compare notes, talk about our lives, have a few beers and revel in old stories.
So, since it’s Super Bowl Sunday, I’m thinking about contests past, which mean much more to me than the one I’ll watch tonight.
Until I see you next, buddy, may God be with you. No matter where you bunk tonight, I hope you enjoy the game.
For an update on Brett “Bert” Sanders, who’s now a Corporal, who will see his next Super Bowl from Afghanistan, click here.
Bert comes home here.