I knew last Sunday would be full of emotion and reminiscence for all of us. But I didn't expect that my personal trip down Memory Lane would be more like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It started off on a somber and respectful note and ended in a men's locker room.
The TV ads asked, "What will you do (on the 10th anniversary of 9/11)?" I called my son, just to hear his voice. It was he who woke me at 5 o'clock on the morning of the attacks, calling from his home in Michigan.
"Mom, turn on the TV. We're at war."
I watched, horrified, for a couple of minutes before rousing my husband. I shook his shoulder, weeping, "Barry, wake up! We're under attack!" Not the smartest thing I could have said, but certainly effective. He literally leapt out of bed, wild-eyed and poised for defense.
"Who is it? Where is he?"
Sunday, after calling Jimmy and reading through The Maui News 9/11 commemorative section, I got to spend several hours reveling in happier memories. Sept. 11 has been a significant date for me since long before the 2001 attacks. It's my best friend Robbie's birthday. Sunday afternoon was spent at the beach, relaxing and talking story with a few good friends.
Then I learned that the New York Jets had opened the NFL season with a last-minute victory over the Dallas Cowboys, and that brought to mind an incident I rarely think about.
In February 1983, I was a reporter for KHVH Newsradio 99 in Honolulu. Pamela Young and I were delighted to be assigned to cover the Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. We would watch the game from the best seats in the house, and we only had to call in two-minute reports before the game and after each quarter, plus record post-game interviews. We flipped a coin to determine who would do which reports. Sitting in the press box, just a few feet away from Howard Cosell and Al Michaels, we were in hogskin heaven. To top it off, the game was an exciting back-and-forth contest won in the last 30 seconds by the NFC, 20-19.
Pamela called in the final score, and I headed down to the winning team's locker room with the herd of reporters. When the doors opened, I was immediately slammed with the stench of Pro Bowler perspiration. The odor was so thick, I could feel it oozing up my nose and into my head. Surrounded by sports writers, I couldn't see where I was going, and I stepped into a pile of sweat-soaked jerseys. At that moment, the reporters in front of me parted and I got my first up-close look at the NFC players. Naked, every one of them. My first terrified thought was, "Oh no! How am I going to know who's who without their numbers?" It had never occurred to me that they'd strip before doing the interviews. Fortunately, the players' names were posted above their lockers. I noticed this right away because, of course, I immediately averted my eyes high above waist level. Quarterback Danny White was first on my interview hit list, and it only took a moment for me to spot his, uh . . . name. Focusing my gaze on "#11 White," I heard one of the players shout, "Hey, we got a lady in the house!"
Full of 20-something sass and self-confidence, I turned to the guy on the bench and replied, "I ain't no lady!" before making my way to the gaggle of reporters around White. Seconds later, I felt a meaty hand on each of my shoulders and a couple of guys, even bigger than the footballers, quickly and quietly escorted me out, explaining that although my press pass entitled me to full access, the head coach had the final say. And the NFC coach was Dallas' Tom Landry, who never allowed women in his locker room, ladies or not.
At first I was embarrassed, then indignant. How dare they treat me like a peeping tom! I sulked alone in the corridor, until the famously surly Dan Fouts emerged from the AFC locker room. He was in no better mood than I, and he grunted one-word answers to my questions. Annoyed, I said, "I guess it doesn't matter, since everybody knows you guys don't take this game seriously." He proceeded to rant angrily at me for several minutes, and I got some great sound bites.
I later learned it was Tony Dorsett who called me out. A Maui News article credited an unidentified female reporter with "the best stop of the day," rendering the Dallas Cowboy speechless with her retort. I never liked the Cowboys anyway. America's Team? Hmph. Under those jerseys, they're the same as any average Joe. Believe me, I know.
*Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.