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VOL. 127 | NO. 151 | Friday, August 03, 2012

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Remembering The Decathlon

By Dan Conaway

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SHOOTING THE MOON FOR GOLD. My fellow decathlete, Jeff Chamblin, called. We remember the competition as if it were yesterday.

Surely we all remember the wedge on 18 at Galloway, dug from a heavy lie in a front yard on Walnut Grove, having arrived there after a 350-yard drive, 250 yards of that by virtue of bounces in the street. Even now, we can see the wedge rising over five lanes of traffic. We can hear the horns, the homeowner scream from his porch, as we watch that scarred, bruised warrior of a ball hit, bounce and bite to eight feet for birdie. Don’t tell me about the troublesome rules of golf. In this competition, if you could find it and hit it, it was in play, and that was a helluva shot.

We all gasped as one when top right English sent the three into the seven across the table to drop the money ball into the corner pocket. We couldn’t believe it when the backhand slam from somewhere out in the driveway cleared the net and sent the favorite diving into the corner of the carport, waving his paddle at air, as a ping pong ball and his medal chances whizzed by his ear.

In the middle of the London Olympics in 2012, the Memphis Olympics in the middle of 1970 come to mind.

You see, Jeff and I worked for The Commercial Appeal that summer and while we were supposed to be selling ads one afternoon, we were doing something more rewarding – drinking beer and coming up with a decathlon of the games we grew up playing – a sort of East Memphis upbringing Olympiad, if you will.

Horse was in, Around The World was out, because Horse is more creative since you don’t shoot from fixed positions. Another beer. Poker and Hearts were in, but Bridge was out since a partner is required. Monopoly was on board but Parcheesi was, well, too cheesy. Another beer. Leftfield ball and bowling would be the team sports. And so on. And another beer.

Ten competitors. Ten events over the weekend. Bowling, Leftfield Ball, Horse, 9-Ball, Golf, Tennis, Poker, Ping Pong, Monopoly, Hearts.

We remember as if it were yesterday. Except we can’t remember everybody who competed, or what we competed for – beer and money to be sure, but we’re not sure how much. Jeff claims he took the gold, but I know better.

In the last event – Hearts – I had the queen of spades, and the ace and queen of hearts, and when I took Jeff’s king with that ace, I shot the moon and used the 26 points to take him and the gold.

At least that’s what I remember. I think.

They were just games, but games can bring out the best and worst in us, show us some of our brightest and darkest moments, stir old memories, and cause 20 minutes of belly laughs between two old friends on the phone.

That’s pure gold.

I’m a Memphian, and I love the Olympics.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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