Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Special Secret Weapon

On a cold Saturday afternoon in January of 1977, Kenosha Tap’s basketball team took the court at Bullen Jr. High School. Led by player-coach Kurt Plaisted, the squad was warming up for their 1:00 City Rec League tilt with the Jubilee Lounge. As fans began to fill the bleachers, Plaisted nervously watched the locker room door as he tossed in a long practice shot. All of Kenosha Tap’s players were present and accounted for, except for the special secret weapon that Plaisted had coming. It was almost game time and he was beginning to become anxious.

Suddenly Plaisted’s tense anticipation disappeared.

With a thundering slam, the door from the locker room burst open and a loud cry of “Let’s kick some ass you sons-of-bitches” was heard throughout the Bullen gymnasium. Dressed in a torn t-shirt and dirty sweatpants, Plaisted’s special secret weapon had arrived.

With a mostly toothless grin, Arno Schubert clumsily dribbled a basketball as he took the court amid boisterous cheers that were mixed with a few chuckles from the astonished crowd. A relieved Plaisted tossed a Kenosha Tap jersey to Arno and said, “Here, get this on and put out that cigarette.”

Arno tossed the butt to the hardwood floor and ground it out with his well-worn Chuck Taylor sneakers. As he attempted to tug the jersey over his large head, it was obviously a size too small, causing it to fit the hung-over German like a glove.

With the game ready to begin, Plaisted gathered his team into a small huddle. “Okay guys, the starters are Cliff, Stan, Harry, Gino and Hall. The rest of you be ready!” No sooner had Plaisted stopped speaking, Arno blurted out, “What the (expletive deleted) Kurt! I ain’t starting?!?”

Plaisted smiled at his special secret weapon and said, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” Arno, cursing under his breath, sat down on the bench and shot a dirty look at Plaisted. If looks could have killed…

The referee tossed the ball into the air and the game between Kenosha Tap and Jubilee Lounge was under way. The contest was a typical City League basketball game and the score went back and forth. It was also a very physical game, with the players needing frequent rests.

Every time Plaisted would put in a substitute, Arno would jump up and beg to be put in the game. Each time, the response was the same, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” Arno would return to the bench and curse at his coach a bit louder.

At halftime, the game was tied and Plaisted told his crew to hang tough. He then, much to Arno’s chagrin, announced that the guys who started the game would start the second half as well. Knowing what was coming, he turned to the disgruntled German and said, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” This time Arno didn’t even bother cursing, he just waved his hand at his coach and went to the far end of the bench.

The second half was a different story, with Kenosha Tap pulling out to an early lead. Before long, the margin had grown so large that Plaisted knew what he had to do. With the game seemingly in hand, he stood up, winked at the crowd and shouted out, “Now Arno, now!”

The special secret weapon was about to be unleashed.

Arno sprang to his feet, almost falling as he pulled off his sweatpants. The crowd initially roared its’ approval and then broke into laughter when Arno finally succeeded in getting his sweatpants off, revealing shorts slightly larger than a pair of Speedos.

What ensued was not for the faint of heart. The special secret weapon went on a vicious rampage and nobody was going to stop him. His elbows were flying, knocking opponents out of the way. He threw up high-arching hook shots that came nowhere near the backboard, let alone the basket.

He dove for every loose ball and challenged for each rebound. At one point he leapt high for a rebound, curling both legs underneath himself. It was a thing of beauty. The only problem was that he forgot to straighten his legs out and crashed to the hard wooden court, landing on his boney knees. The fans gasped, shuddered and cringed before beginning to giggle.

It should be noted that this all took place in a span of about 5 minutes.

As the beer-guzzling, chain-smoking man from Germany attempted to get up, he looked to the bench and beckoned to Plaisted to take him out, he had had enough. Plaisted broke into a wide grin and replied, “Not yet Arno, not yet.”

For the next 10 minutes, the feisty Kraut struggled up and down the court, his weather-beaten face growing redder each step he took. Every time there was a stoppage of play he would plead to be taken out of the game. Each time, Plaisted’s response was the same, “Not yet Arno, not yet.”

Almost mercifully, with 2 minutes left in the game, Jubilee Lounge took a timeout and play finally stopped. A crimson-faced Arno hobbled over to the bench and glared at his coach. Plaisted, fighting back laughter, decided to give in and said, “Okay, Arno, you can sit down now.”

But Arno did not sit down. Instead he kept staggering down the sideline, wheezing and gasping for breath every shaky step of the way. There was a hush over the crowd; all eyes were now on Arno as he continued his unsteady journey toward the corner of the basketball court.

Ultimately he disappeared behind the bleachers in the southwest corner of Bullen Jr. High’s gymnasium. Fans, players and officials stared at each other, questioning what had become of Arno, the special secret weapon.

The powerful retching noise that was emitted quickly answered everyone’s question.

After he finished regurgitating, he finally came back toward the bench. With tears streaming down his face, he wiped the remnants from his mouth and said, “Thanks you dirty rotten (expletive deleted).” He then took a seat on the bench and quietly watched Kenosha Tap seal its’ victory over Jubilee Lounge.

That’s it until next time…from the booth.


Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,
Thanks for the Arno story today-my birthday!
I was totally there at the game watching him gasp and lunge on the court.
I always enjoy what you write and look forward to more.
Thanks again. Karen.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Happy Birthday Karen! I am so glad that you enjoyed the story. I am thinking that the next one will be on Thursday…something concerning Heroes and Villains!

Sue said...

Oh how I love hearing about Arno. I can just picture him !

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

He certainly was a character Sue! I have never known any one quite like him…