Giant Leap

By Greg Olear


Sometime around New Year’s Day, 1991, my girlfriend Polly, who I’ve been dating seriously for nine months, decides it’s time to take our relationship to the next level.

Here is an exact transcript of the conversation:

POLLY: I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I love you very much, and I think you and I are ready. We love each other like adults, so we should behave accordingly. It’s time to have sex, seems to me. What do you think?

ME: (gulp) OK?

Senior year of high school, both of uninitiated in the ways of love, this is a big deal. Contrary to popular news reports, which like to talk up the promiscuity of Kids These Days, the vast majority of my classmates are virgins. Reluctant virgins, but still. Even most of the cool kids have yet to go all the way, and I am not a cool kid. I cannot overstate the enormity of this development.

I’m going to a) lose my virginity, b) before I graduate from high school, c) with a smart, talented gal with whom I’m genuinely in love. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! That Polly bears an uncanny resemblance to Daphne from Scooby Doo is so much icing on the cake. Or the cherry pie, as it were.

Not that it’s all peaches and cream. Losing your virginity is like singing at a karaoke bar—sure, it’s thrilling when your number gets called, but once you get up there, you have to perform. What if I get stage fright?

And there are other concerns: birth control (research, procurement, implementation), the potential for cold feet, the need to shield the news from the veritable TMZ that is the high school grapevine, and, of course, the act itself, with its potential for embarrassment of the kind found in lesser Ben Stiller movies.

Then there’s the matter of venue. From which pier should our maiden voyage be launched?

Rather than utilize the back seat of my Skylark, or some deserted ballfield, we decide to wait until we can find a suitable location—a place where we are guaranteed to be undisturbed for a six hour period of time, to at least eliminate the nightmarish possibility of parents walking in on us.

Alas, such opportunities are rare at our respective homes. Godot might come and go and come back again before one of our suburban split-levels is sufficiently vacant.

Imagine my delight, then, when the starting tackle of the New York Giants, for whom I have occasionally but not recently house-sat, calls up, out of the blue, with a proposition that could well be the answer to our logistical problem:

“If we get to the Superbowl,” he tells me, “I’m going to need you to stay at the house.”

* * *

The job is easy enough. Feed the cats, scoop the poops, sleep at the house so would-be burglars steer clear. And $300 for the week is insanely good money for a high school kid who makes minimum wage working the McDonald’s drive-thru.

The cats are named Argus and Hopper. The former is the hundred-eyed sentinel of Greek myth; the latter, the artist who painted Boulevard of Broken Dreams. These are names you’d expect from a poet, a classics professor, a man of letters, and not a very large man whose lucrative job involves moving other very large men out of the way. But then, Daryl Reid is not your average football player.

He’s six-eight—he towered over my father, who at six feet tall is not a small guy, when I saw them standing side by side—and big, but unlike many offensive linemen, he’s not at all fat. He’s built more for the basketball court than the gridiron, like a fill-the-lane power forward with a nose for the glass. He’s also handsome, smart, and, oh yeah, wealthy. Our local paper, the Daily Record, reported that Reid earned a cool $300,000 for the 1990 season. Not too shabby.

He also has a killer collection of compact discs.

His wife Susan, a short, curvy, cute brunette—if I possessed the ability to see her as someone other than my mom’s chum from exercise class, which is how I happened upon the gig to begin with, I’d say she was hot—does most of the talking during my interactions with them.

“You can drive the Porsche if you want,” Susan told me, during the initial interview two years ago.

I am about as easy a teenager as can be hoped for. I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs, sniff glue, shoplift, break curfew, or cut class, and that C+ I got in AP calculus is the lone blemish on a superlative report card. Aside from two bathetic puffs on a Newport Light with my friend Mike Huening sophomore year, my most egregious act of rebellion in eighteen years involved eschewing evening mass at Youth Ministry for a slice of pizza at Romanelli’s. I’m the kind of kid Judd Nelson makes fun of in Breakfast Club. A goody-two-shoes geek. Ferris Bueller would take the Porsche; Greg Olear, not so much.

“Um, that’s OK. I have my own car.”

“Do you want me to buy you beer?”

Born in 1965, Daryl Reid is just six-and-a-half years older than me, a kid himself really, but because I’m still in high school, mired in the most narcissistic of the Eriksonian stages of development, I can’t discern the empire-vast difference between the Reids and my parents. I don’t realize that Susan Reid, closer to my age than my mom’s 43, wants to buy me beer because she would have liked someone to do that for her when she was a senior in high school, not that long ago.

“No, that’s OK.”

But she insists on buying something special for me, so I ask for Cocoa Pebbles.

* * *

The only circumstance under which I will openly disobey my parents’ orders is when the opportunity presents itself to make out. I will prevaricate, I will stretch the truth, I will omit key details, I will perjure myself in order to French kiss with impunity. Like, in eighth grade, I used to go to my girlfriend’s house after school, where we’d listen to Squeeze records and smooch. Afterward, when my mom would ask if we were alone, I’d say, “No. Her older sister was there.” This was true, but I would leave out the part about how her sister was downstairs with her boyfriend the entire length of my visit, doing things that would make Joe Francis blush.

The first time I watched the Reid house, I got into a heated argument with my mom. I wanted to have the girl I was seeing at the time, Sara, over the house to watch a movie. My mom said no. I maintained that if I was mature enough to live in a house for a week by myself, I was mature enough to have a friend over to watch TV. That’s when my father, who had been silent during the argument, asked me, “Do you have a prophylactic in your wallet?”

I had never heard the word spoken aloud before—I don’t know if I have since—but there was open-sesame-esque magic in those four syllables. My mother fell silent as if she’d been shot, her parental legs kicked out from underneath her, as I explained to my dad that I did not need a prophylactic because activities involving prophylactics were not on the agenda. Not with Sara, who was cute but kind of annoying.

“You’re not supposed to keep them in your wallet anyway,” I added sagely, “because they go bad.”

But I had held my ground, and by playing my parents against each other, had won both the battle and the war. Thus, if I land Reid’s housesitting gig this time, they won’t say boo about Polly being there unchaperoned.

“If we get to the Superbowl, I’m going to need you to stay at the house.”

A simple equation: If the Giants—a good team, but hardly the favorites—make it to the big game, I’m in like Flynn. The only obstacle to my happiness? Joe Montana and the mighty San Francisco 49ers.

* * *

After dispatching the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Giants fly to the Bay for an NFC Championship showdown with the Niners. The winner will advance to the Super Bowl. The loser will go home (which would be, in Reid’s case, the house at which I wouldn’t be losing my virginity).

The 49ers, owners of the top seed, are heavily favored. They are at home, where they beat the Giants by 7-3 a month before. Their starting quarterback, Joe Montana, is probably the best to ever play the position; New York, meanwhile, lost its starting QB, Phil Simms, in Week Ten, and heads to Candlestick Park with the backup, Jeff “Hoss” Hostetler, a Tarkentonian scrambler—and the owner of one of the worst mustaches in the history of professional sport—under center.


I’m watching the game with my parents and my brother, none of whom have any inkling of what’s at stake. I didn’t bring it up, of course, and how could they have guessed that my sex life was directly tied to the outcome of the contest? We are all fired up, even my footballphobic mother—it’s more fun to watch when you know someone on the team. We eat popcorn and drink Coke and cheer.

The first half is a grueling defensive battle, all hard hits and field position, not much scoring. At halftime the teams are knotted at six—two field goals apiece.

Five minutes into the third quarter, the 49ers’ vaunted offensive attack comes alive. Montana hits John Taylor (the wide receiver, not the bass player) on a slant pass that goes for 61 yards and a touchdown.

13-6 Niners, and my stomach begins to ache. If these fuckers score again, I think to myself, the game is over.

But the Giants strike back. On the next possession, Matt Bahr, the stout-hearted placekicker, kicks his third field goal of the game. 13-9, with fifteen minutes to play (fifteen football minutes, which is about an hour in realtime).

The fourth quarter begins. New York gets the ball, down four. San Francisco’s Jim Burt, a defensive lineman who looks like a tractor trailer with a red jersey draped over him, hits Hostetler low, sacking him, and causing Hoss’s knee to bend in ways that would snap a GI Joe action figure’s leg clean off.

This would be infuriating enough, but because Burt used to play for the Giants—he’s one of us, damn it!—the hit carries the additional sting of betrayal. At that moment, as ridiculous as it sounds, I hate Jim Burt more than I’ve ever hated another human being (this sports-hate will not be exceeded until Larry Brown begins coaching the Knicks). And I’m not alone. If Jim Burt were somehow teleported at that moment to some sports bar in, say, Bayonne, the beer-addled crowd would tear him limb from rhinosaurian limb.

Worse, the Giants don’t convert the third down. Facing fourth and long, Giants’ head coach Bill Parcells sends in the punting unit. But this is subterfuge. As the punter stands at the ready, the ball is snapped directly to the upback, linebacker Gary Reasons, who scampers eight yards for a first down. Three plays later, the unflappable Matt Bahr kicks his fourth field goal, pulling the Giants within one, 13-12.

More nervous cheering in my living room, but not much relief. The 49ers still have the lead, and the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year at quarterback.

They won’t have him for long.

As Montana rolls out right to pass, Giants’ defensive lineman Leonard Marshall, who had been pancake-blocked clear to the ground, recovers himself, rushes at Montana from the blind side, and smashes into his back with such ferocity that, as New York linebacker Carl Banks will later recall, “We thought he killed him.”

Marshall does not kill him. But he does break several ribs and his right hand. (Joe Montana will not return today. He will be sidelined for a season and a half. He will never start another game at quarterback for the 49ers).

In the living room, all four of us—even my mother—cheer as the future Hall of Fame quarterback writhes in agony. The Bad Boy crew weren’t this happy when 2Pac got dropped.

Cathartic as it is to watch San Francisco lose its best player, we’re by no means out of the woods. The 49ers’ second-stringer, Steve Young—a graduate of Brigham Young University and a descendent of its eponymous founder—is easily the best backup quarterback in the history of the National Football League, a fleet-of-foot lefty who will go on to win two MVP awards and a place in Canton. Plus, the Giants now face an enemy more imposing than even the great Montana: time. Two more first downs will run out clock, ending New York’s Superbowl dreams—and my even loftier ones.

Almost immediately, Young completes a long pass to tight end Brent Jones. First down, Niners. This feels like someone has just sucker-punched me in the kidney. All the 49ers need now is a single first down, ten more measly yards, and they can run out the clock. And even if the Giants force fourth down, the resulting punt will force us to go the length of the field, in very little time, with a quarterback on a bum knee, against a defense that has only allowed four field goals all day.

The game is over, I say to myself. I’m screwed—and not in the way that I was hoping for.

And then, something truly magical happens. Young hands the ball off to running back Roger Craig, who manages, during his burst through the line, to lose the handle. Giants’ outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor, arguably the best defensive player of all time, somehow comes up with the loose ball.

First down, Giants! In 49er territory!

(Across town, Polly’s parents, both academics, are wondering why their daughter, whose knowledge of and interest in football are cursory at best, is joyously jumping up and down in front of the TV.)

After a sick pass from Hostetler to tight end and Sly Stallone lookalike Mark Bavaro, eight seconds remain on the game clock. The ball is spotted on the 49ers’ 25-yard line. Matt Bahr, as tough a kicker as ever played the game, trots onto the field, his blood as cold as the ice in my Coke, to attempt a 37-yard field goal—what would be his fifth of the game.

Bahr does his stretches, follows through on several imaginary kicks, and steps into position. I resist the urge to close my eyes. My parents and my brother are riveted too, but no one—not my family, not Daryl Reid or any of the other players, not every degenerate gambler who took the Giants and the points—has as much riding on this kick as Yours Truly.

It’s come down to the wire. To one play. If Bahr makes the kick, the Giants go to the Superbowl, and I lose my virginity; if he misses, the Giants don’t go to the Superbowl—and I lose a whole lot more.

Before I can think about it too much, it’s over. The snap is good, the kick true. The ball sails cleanly through the uprights. The referees raise both arms above their heads—NFL sign language for “score”—and any vestigial Catholic qualm I might have about premarital sex evaporates along with the 49ers’ championship hopes.

This is an unequivocal go-ahead from the Almighty: just do it!

A week later, the Reids pay me five hundred bucks to watch their house, feed their cats, and eat their stash of Cocoa Pebbles; Polly and I gather rosebuds; and the Giants beat the Buffalo Bills (on a shanked Scott Norwood field goal that would inspire Vincent Gallo’s film Buffalo ’66) to win the Superbowl.

The next day, the Daily Record runs a huge photo of Daryl Reid, his arms outstretched, jubilant. I clip it and hang it on his refrigerator.



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GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

213 responses to “Giant Leap”

  1. Greg Olear says:

    I should add that “Polly” and “Daryl Reid” are not real names. But “Joe Montana” and “Lawrence Taylor” are.

    • Phat B says:

      I’m guessing “Daryl Reid” is Jumbo Elliot cuz that’s the only Giants lineman I can remember. But now that I think about it, Jumbo Elliott would have had at least 7 boxes of cocoa pebbles on hand.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Good guess, Phat, but wrong. Jumbo was the other tackle. So now you can find out who Reid really is if you want.

        I also housesat for the center, Brian Williams, for a long weekend. He had a keg-erator in his condo, so we did have a beer that time. But by then, I was in college.

  2. Richard Cox says:

    I was going to say, I didn’t remember any Daryl Reid from that team.

    I should also say, I have never understood how the Giants won that game. Not because I hate the Giants (which I do, much as you surely hate Dallas) but because the 49ers then were almost unstoppable. Now I realize the reason the Giants pulled off that upset was so that you could turn in your V-card. Twenty years of mystery have been solved with this post. Thanks, Greg!

    The Super Bowl that year must have been sublime for you. And funny how Scott Norwood’s shank (laces out, Dan!!) started four years of Bill’s futility to the NFC East. Poor Marv Levy.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I’ve told that story so many times over the years, distilling it to the key points — housesitting, Superbowl, field goal — that it wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized how ridiculous it was that the Giants won that day. That’s why I spent so much time on the football in the post…I mean, they had no business winning that game.

      On PTI one time, Wilbon was asking, “If a football game was being played, and your life was at stake, who would you want to be the coach?” Insert “sex” before “life,” and that has already played out with me. Parcells is God. (As you know, being a Dallas fan, although he seemed a bit worn down by the time he got to Texas).

      • Stefan Kiesbye says:

        Heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking. As a onetime Buffalo resident, everything that references that Super Bowl and that missed field goal (although it was a really long try), makes my heart ache.

  3. Matt says:

    Great story, Greg. I was certainly rooting for you and Polly.

    Did you ever tell “Daryl Reid” and his wife about this? Given that they offered to buy you beer, I’m curious as to what they would have thought of you using their house as the launch pad to your sex life.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Oh, God, no. Although, I mean, if they were offering to buy me beer (and she really was; it wasn’t a test or something), I’m sure they knew I would use the place for that purpose.

      Thanks, Matt.

      • Matt says:

        Kind of fun to imagine that conversation as they’re headed out of town: “Hey, you know that kid that’s watching the house?” He’s totally going to do it in our bed.”

        Oh, and thanks for the shout-out, too. Forgot to mention that earlier.

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    I have a very distinct memory of watching the Super Bowl that year. It’s funny to now contemplate your connection to it.

    Among the many delights of this post is your remark about the “Eriksonian stages of development.” I was thinking recently that Erik Erikson has fallen completely by the wayside. I’m glad that he hasn’t, not entirely.

    As for Daryl, he must be one of the few people so named ever to live so grandly. I’m inspired. And amused, of course.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Duke. According to Wikipedia, he’s now a math teacher and HS football coach.

      Erik Erikson’s grandson played guitar in Steph’s brother Lou’s high school band (which may or may not have been the one that had Meg Ryan’s sister, Lou’s then-girlfriend, as sometime lead singer). She had a huge crush on him, which may be the subject of a post by her at some future date. But apart from that, the Erikson stages of development always made sense to me.

      That was one of the rare Superbowls that was actually a battle of evenly-matched teams. And the ending…ouch. You never want a sporting event to end with someone fucking up, even if your team winds up winning. (Although Stefan is right…that was not an easy kick).

      • Richard Cox says:

        A Wikipedia entry for one missed field goal? Now, that’s just wrong.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I have, and had at the time, many friends from Buffalo, and their pain about that game has never left them. But they all cracked up about Buffalo 66, even though, in other respects, they wanted to kick Gallo’s ass. Having known the guy a little…but I’m going to shut up. He was decent the last time I met him.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I’m sorry to say I’ve never seen Buffalo 66. The only film reference I know to the Norwood debacle is Ace Ventura. Hahaha. After reading all these comments, I’ll have to put it on my Netflix queue.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It’s worth seeing, I think. But you’re not going to blame me if you hate it, are you?

        • Greg Olear says:

          I didn’t like it all that much, although I’m one of maybe six people on earth who thought Brown Bunny was brilliant.

          That was a long field goal. It’s not Norwood’s fault. And it’s important to note that I did not require the Giants to win the Superbowl, just get there. Once they beat SF, though, I mean, they deserved the ring.

          Gallo is a big right-wing dude, right?

        • Richard Cox says:

          I won’t blame you. I’ll just write a scathing review on Netflix and tell everyone you recommended it and link to your Wikipedia page.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I may have to kill myself online again.

          And I don’t know about VG’s politics. We bonded over our mutual admiration for Camille Paglia (this was in advance of her Salon.com column), and I later heard that he was a Republican, but I don’t know that he still is.

        • Greg Olear says:

          He certainly seems like an interesting guy. Have you seen Brown Bunny? The infamous blowjob scene overshadows the overall impact of the film, I think.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I never saw it, though I was around for the shooting of one scene. I’m not sure if the scene ended up in the movie. It involved Chloe What’s Her Name and an ambulance.

        • Matt says:

          Oh, it’s in there. And it will pretty much sear itself into your frontal lobe when you see it.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I found the movie quite moving. But it’s not one I’d go so far as to recommend.

          Chloe Sevigny, or rather a 23-year-old version of her, is who I imaged Taylor to look like in TK, by the way.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, I can see that. And here’s Irina — or have I said this before?


        • Don Mitchell says:

          Buffalo 66 trivia — The strip club and the motel are still there. I drive by them regularly.

          Then the courtroom scene, remember? The Honorable Penny Wolfgang (she who signed off on my first divorce) played the judge. She was censured for that, or was it a reprimand? In any case she got her judicial self into trouble by appearing in the movie.

          I was also at the premiere in Buffalo, at our only art theater (The North Park). Before the film ran, a bunch of VG’s friends jumped up on the stage and loudly ranted about unfavorable reviews, how reviewers didn’t know shit, and how it was a great, great film. I thought that was pretty lame.

        • Greg Olear says:

          VG should comment on Richard’s piece, now at the top of the board.

          Part of the review dance, seems to me, is cultivating relationships with the reviewers — exactly like the players do with the officials in pro sports. Roger Ebert may have been less likely to completely shit on Brown Bunny had that incident not happened.

          RE trashed it, VG rebutted that he was fat, RE came back with the Churchillian: “But I can diet and be thin, while you will always be the direction of Brown Bunny.” Ironically, the vitriol of that review made me want to see it, and I wound up really liking it.

          How can Wolfgang get in trouble for being in a movie, and all these other judges can have their own TV shows? I don’t get it.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          I don’t know. It wasn’t as though she didn’t play her judge role straight. I don’t remember any clowning around or behavior that would have disrespected her office. And as I remember reading, she wasn’t even paid.

      • Lou’s band that Erik Erikson’s grandson was in (The Textones) was
        not the same band that he had with Meg Ryan’s sister (Annie and the Gumdrops).
        I did have a huge crush on Erik Erikson’s grandson and wrote him a very embarrassing
        love letter (I was 12 – he was 17 – doomed from the start) – but he was very gracious about it –
        perhaps because he knew I was taking an early leap to the Identity vs. Role Confusion stage.

  5. Tip Robin says:


    One helluva smooth read this one right here was, so much so that I believe I read it with a mixture of rooting and envy. (Sidenote: According to Wordweb, the seventh definition of “Root” is vulgar slang in Australia for having sexual intercourse – which, of course, is not my intended meaning). Rooting for obvious reasons — and it held the tension very tautly throughout, mixed with humor and perspicacity. Envy because I quite simply don’t watch sports, and more generally, have a pretty shitty memory. So the fact that you (and many other writers on this site) can conjure (faithfully or no) such long swaths of experience from adolescence or childhood is a feat at which I sit and read with a little bit of jealousy.

    At any rate, I did love the movie Buffalo 66, and most recently I have enjoyed watching the end-o-the-year bowl games with some degree of interest. I just can’t for the life of me bring myself to get enthused over regular season play or Sunday traditions or talking about games in the future or past. Not in my makeup. I kinda wish the average male conversation consisted of speaking about the last great book they read or some rather enlightening report on NPR that caused them to think a bit.

    Again, congrats on pulling this off with élan.



    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks so much, Kip.

      Even at the time, I remember my interest in football starting to fade…the violence is ultimately so offputting, especially now that there’s so much reseach on concussions. But that did re-ignite my love of the game.

      As I mentioned to Richard, what I failed to recall about that game was how many times the Giants should have lost. It really was like some divine power was on their (and my) side that day.

      I don’t watch sports nearly as much as I used to, or even pay attention that much. Just don’t have the time. And it occurred to me a few years ago that if I ever met any of the players I was rooting for (note: not the Australian meaning), they would be dicks and I’d hate them (see Greg Boose’s LeBron James post). So I tuned out.

      When I’m with my guy friends, we tend to argue about movies, not sports. If I were still in NYC, I’d have seen “Avatar” with them and spend four hours afterward picking it apart.

      Anyway, thanks again.

      • Matt says:

        Trust me, Avatar doesn’t take 4 hours to pick apart. If you’ve ever read a first-contact narrative in any science fiction novel, you know the story.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I figured…which is why I haven’t seen it yet. (I don’t really give a damn about special effects, which is why it is so highly tauted).

        • Matt says:

          The visuals are fantastic for sure, but for me the effect was blunted because some of them made absolutely no scientific sense whatsoever–unlike, say Moon, which created an extremely plausible science fiction reality.

          Time was, I could lose myself in something that was at least visually interesting, even if the narrative wasn’t particularly engaging, but that point seems to have passed. I’m not just some raccoon; dangling something shiny in front of me just doesn’t do the trick.

          That said, I have enjoyed the first two episodes of that 300-esque Spartacus series that’s now playing on Starz……maybe it’s all the nudity…

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I’m basically refusing to watch Avatar.

          If anyone else had directed it I wouldn’t care about it at all, and people keep going on about James Cameron coming back to sci-fi, but Aliens was what? 1986 or something? The last film he made was fucking Titanic, which is nauseating to say the least.

          And now people keep telling me I have to see it.

          Do I? Really?

          I went to go and see it at Christmas, but it was close to three hours, and I’m reluctant to watch any film that’s more than 2 hours long anyway. I saw Sherlock Holmes instead, and it was fucking awesome.

          There was a trailer for Avatar before the film, and the visuals didn’t look that exciting and the film looked positively dull.

        • Matt says:

          Yeah, I was far, far more entertained by Sherlock Holmes than I was by Avatar. It actually inspired me to go back revisit the Conan Doyle’s stories again.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          Me too. I’ve not read much else since actually, I’m pretty much addicted to them.

          RDJ was brilliant in the role. A lot of Brits kept bleating on about how it was a disgrace that an American was playing the role, but it’s not like they fucking made Holmes American. I’ve seen other adaptations, and Downey is the closest to the Holmes of the books by quite some way.

          The Holmes of the book is pretty fucking cool, and more than a little eccentric and flamboyant. Yet in almost every adaptation he’s this dour, ultra-serious character…

          Oh, and the humour as well. And the baritsu/boxing.

          Even the shooting ‘VR’ into the walls comes from the books…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Can’t wait to see it. Haven’t read much of the books, but from what little I have, they’re quite good. He’s a good writer, and the stories have more historical context than I thought they would.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I didn’t expect the books to be that good— although I expected a lot of historical context because he’s written a ton of historical novels. Even the first Holmes story has about 100 pages set in the early settlement of the mormons in Utah.

          The stories are pure entertainment, so well written.

        • Greg Olear says:

          That was the pre-television era, when even the pulp writers were really good writers. Put Dan Brown and his ilk in a time machine and they would never have made it.

    • Richard Cox says:


      When I watch football, intellectually I know there’s no good reason for me to care. Just because I used to live near Dallas, I should be invested in the success of twenty-two dudes I don’t know trying to run forward with a brown ball? Clearly, it makes no sense.

      But for whatever reason, having grown up watching the Dallas Cowboys every fall weekend, it’s one of those seasonal, repeatable pleasures that is a part of me. At least with a football game the outcome is unknown. How can I defend watching This is Spinal Tap seventy-three million times? The ending of that film never changes, but that won’t stop be from watching again sometime (tonight perhaps?)

      Now ask me why I waste hours and hours trying to get a little white ball to fall into a 4.25-inch hole 450 yards away…

      • Greg Olear says:

        What I like about watching sports is that I have no illusions that I could do better myself. Whereas when I read a novel, particularly a bad one, I can find myself getting competitive. Sports is purely for spectacle, and it’s one time I can turn my brain off and relax. (Unless Joe Buck and Tom McCarver are involved, in which case I’m aware of how much I hate what I’m doing).

      • Tip Robin says:

        Richard and Greg,

        In no way do I list my nose upward when people talk about sports. I used to play them a lot, and one thing I do absolutely enjoy in a way that no other thing can replace it is a great game of ball (be it foot/base/basket-ball and soccer). It is the essence of tension and excitement that is real and almost palpable unlike any fictionalized type of entertainment on the screen that is meant to be suspenseful. When I do play them, there is no better form of exercise in terms of enjoyment and aerobic bang for your buck.

        And there is a growing trend of intelligent sports fans (for lack of a better term) that is coming around, as seen by quite a few of the writers on here.

        I definitely have my own forms of turning off my increasingly distracted map as well, which tend to lie in making mixes, listening to howstuffworks.com/NPR and watching movies. To each their own. I hope to one day take up some form of watching a sport with some regularity.



        • Greg Olear says:


          I didn’t get the impression that you were thumbing noses at sports fans, nor, for that matter, do you strike me as much of a nose-thumber to begin with.

          Good writers have always written about sports, from the days of Greece, to Hemingway and bullfighting, to DeLillo and baseball. There’s something about the contests that speaks to the way we are, or something.

          That said, watching sports with regularity can be addictive. Football, at least, is sixteen games a year plus playoffs. But baseball, a good third of the year is shot.


        • Richard Cox says:

          That Kip. What a nose-thumber. I mean, honestly.

        • Tip Robin says:

          That’s me the ole sumbitch nose-thumper. (I think I wrote that just to be clear on it, though I’m certain I don’t come off that way.) I really think that I wish could find it more interesting so that I could get into it and then be able to interface with guys in general when changing in the locker room at the gym or caught in some elevator or bar with some dudes just going to town on stats and likelihoods and holy-shit-did-you-see-thatS, etc.

          Delillo’s football-centered EndZone from the early 70s was pretty good, too, though nothing like the first 50 pages of Underworld regarding baseball.

          I think that, at least on a subconscious level, sports connects us very strongly to our warlike or aggressive tendencies without having to actually kill people. It is kind of a war substitute when there is no war for the general populace to either get behind or serve in, or at the least a way for us to participate in an organized, formal game where there is a clear winner and loser, a tension release and vicarious adrenaline rush where we can hoot and holler and high-five and feel like part of a team (country). It probably keeps up morale.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Totally agree about the war stuff. I wrote a bit about that in my book, in fact…the context was that the men who are the most valued in our society are athletes, who play simulated games of war, and actors, who portray killers.

          My favorite DeLillo is Great Jones Street. Love love love it. Written in 1969, its narrator is nevertheless uncannily Kurt Cobainish.

        • Tip Robin says:

          Not to turn this into a Delillo discussion, but I will. From what I’ve read of his stuff (White Noise, Underworld, Endzone, Megalopolis, Falling Down – in that order), I love his style, though I would only say one of those books was great and the rest had their moments. Underworld was simply too long, in spite of its having one of the best opening 50 pages of any book I’ve ever read. I thought it was Infinite Jest light, and could’ve been 500 pages fewer.

          I will definitely get around to reading Great Jones Street, a novel of which I was unaware. The others in there that I hear worth reading are: Americana, Libra, Mao II and Ratner’s Dog. He will be one of those authors that I savor over time, picking up a book every two years or so.

          I will also get around to reading your book this year.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I’m all for having one.

          I don’t care for White Noise. I don’t like the subject matter, and I think the writing, for him, is sloppy. I don’t really understand the hype.

          Libra is gorgeously composed, some really beautiful passages, but his take on the JFK stuff is…well, it ain’t Ellroy’s (who figured it out, far as I’m concerned, in American Tabloid). But well worth reading.

          Great Jones Street is about a rock star, and he totally gets it. Good story, fabulous writing…a book I’ve read three of four times and will continue to re-read. But not one you ever hear about, for some reason.

          Thanks in advance for reading my book, but worries. GJS is better.

        • Tip Robin says:

          Interesting. You’re the first to dislike it, though I’ve only known a few people to have read it. It was my first book by Delillo, and I really did like the subject matter, thought the characters were well-constructed, the theme of being obsessed with death was quite poignant, the Airborne Toxic Event part brilliant and prescient and in general the plot moved along quite smoothly. I did not, however, really like the ending, but it didn’t take away from my overall positive regarding of the book.

          I do wonder if I read it a second time if I would side more with you on this or not (as I read it about five years ago). It’s too bad one can’t ingest a book like one can a movie in about 2 hours, as I would reread a lot of books just to see if they stand up to second readings.

          Will definitely check out GJS and TK.

          You’re welcome even more in advance.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Hmm. Maybe I should read it again. I remember the opening passage was on the AP English exam in May of 1991. Also, there’s a line from that book that is used in The Portable Curmudgeon:

          “Californians invented the concept of lifestyle. This alone warrants their doom.”

          “Warrants their doom” is brilliant.

        • Heh.

          Kip said ‘root’.

  6. Reno J. Romero says:

    oh, lord. i SO remember that giant/ sf game. AND the SB that my roommate from buffalo never got over. i don’t blame him. still don’t. i’m sure he still suffers from depression and ugly football nightmares.

    this was great, greg. i love stories like this. your language is great, the pace is all rock and roll, and the tone is a keeper. i was there. you had me. and then this line: “it’s time to have sex, seems to me.”

    ha! i was laughing so hard it took me another five minutes to pick the story back up. i was late picking up my pants from the cleaners. the owner is a brutal chinese woman who has no problem taking my cash and giving me dirty looks. what the hell did i do to her?


    anyhow, thanks, sir. great tale of youth. you nailed it.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. It’s Superbowl media week, so we may as well cash in our pigskin tales.

      Yeah, the game was really something. I’d forgotten just how great it was (and it’s hard to feel bad for SF, who had won so many times).

      I’m sorry about your dry cleaner. Maybe something you did in a past life? But that’s a discussion for Simon’s comment board…

  7. Lenore says:

    the lesser ben stiller movies, the Eriksonian stages of development, breakfast club, sex, Newports, kitties, and fast cars.

    Olear, i don’t know how you did it, but you covered just about everything that i’d say is important in life. well done. well well well done.

    but i should tell you, as i told reno: football is for sluts.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Lenore.

      They were Newports, but at first my friend bought Camels, unfiltered. I sent him back in the store to exchange them, even though we were, what 15 at the time, and who the hell doesn’t know what kind of cigs they smoke?

      I think we should make a FOOTBALL IS FOR SLUTS t-shirt.

  8. Tawni says:

    This was a great story, Greg. Really fun to read. And I was going to be so disappointed on your behalf if Daryl Reid’s team didn’t make it to the Superbowl.

    I can’t believe you asked for Cocoa Pebbles. High School Me would have been all over the beer. Shocking, I know. 🙂

    • Richard Cox says:

      Cocoa Pebbles is the best cereal ever invented by humans.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Humans did not invent Cocoa Pebbles, Richard. They are the cereal of the gods.

      • Tawni says:

        Carbs and chocolate… drooooool. I can’t even allow it in the house or I will quickly double the size of my ass, one evening bowl at a time.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Cereal of the gods, Greg? Such a perfect comment today.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I have eaten more bowls of Cocoa Pebbles than anyone on earth. Or I did from age, say, 13 to 30. I wish I could get all my nutrition and fiber and vitamins from CP…I’d never need anything else.

        • Tip Robin says:

          Nowadays I’m pretty happy with some muesli with fresh fruit chopped on it with soy/almond/rice milk, but when I was kid I thought Lucky Charms was the superlative breakfast cereal, probably because I was never really that into chocolate.

          (Just wanted to give some props to a non-chocolate based sugarfest cereal here.)

        • Erika Rae says:

          How does Cocoa Pebbles size up to Count Chocula? I’m more of a muesli person, myself, so I don’t know these things. Actually, living in Vienna a couple years ago, I fell in love with a cereal called choco-muesli. It had little chunks of chocolate in it. It was the complete package.

        • jmblaine says:

          Count Chocula has marshmallows which are OK
          but there’s something about the dark bite of Cocoa Pebbles
          – it’s crisper and has less aftertaste.

          Cocoa Pebbles taste better right out of the box as well.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Erika: JMB explains it perfectly. Pebbles melt retain their flavor/melt away more slowly that the other Cocoa cereals. And there’s something about the consistency.

          Kip: Lucky Charms are also fine, although I become distracted by not eating the marshmellows first, and being left with a bowl of Alpha-Bits with alternative shapes.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Tawni.

      Yeah, I think even she was surprised I didn’t bite on the beer. I mean, it’s beer. Has anyone ever died from drinking too much beer? I don’t know what I was afraid of — especially since eight months later I was in college, drinking to excess almost every night.

      When someone permissive like that opens her house to a high school kid, there’s some sort of weird law — a Smithsonian law, one might say — that she winds up with a straight arrow like me.

  9. Zara Potts says:

    Fantastic story, Greg. I know nothing about football but you had me there with you the whole way.
    (Do you know how difficult it is for me not to make quips about rooting? I have held myself back admirably I think…!)

  10. James D. Irwin says:

    I was on the edge of my seat reading this… even though I knew that the Giants/you would win (I watched an episode of ‘America’s Game’ that centred around that Giants team).

    Great stuff.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. That’s the one narrated by Baldwin, right? (Alec, I think, not Matt).

      Football is boring much of the time, but there is nothing in sport better than a good football game.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        Yeah. I think I watched it because I recognised his voice.

        I’m an incredibly casual football fan. I haven’t been able to watch more than three games of this season so I’ve not paid much attention. I’m going home at the weekend to watch the superbowl though.

        I think the same is true of most sports. My favourite sports are soccer, cricket and american football, although I also have a passing interest in rugby union and tennis.

        cricket is especially liable to be dull, but a good game is full of twists, turns and incredible excitement. There is little in sport more thrilling than seeing England get bowled out for next to nothing in a series deciding game, only four them to then bowl out Australia for even less.

        A game of soccer that goes down to the wire is amazing, although there are some teams that are just a joy to watch. When soccer is played well it really is quite beautiful.

        As for american football… it’s exactly the same. The tension is incredible.

        I would say though that the best thing in sport is watching an in-form bowling attack. that or female beach volleyball…

      • Matt says:

        Me narrating football might get interesting, mostly because I don’t really know that much about the game, and would probably end up getting lively drunk hallway through and just mocking the footage.

  11. Do I dare to utter: Touchdown, Olear?

    Sorry, sorry, that sports metaphor was too strong (and too cheesy) to ignore……

    I always enjoy your pieces, Greg, you have a way with words, that’s for sure.


    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Robin.

      I had a lot of trouble thinking of a title for this…was contemplating “First Down” and “The Kicker.” “Touchdown” was also in the running. Except, of course, that the Giants did not score a single TD that day.

      I thought you were going to beat me to the Virginity Story punch, Robin…you alluded to writing a post on that topic in a comment a few days ago. I say, do it. It’s Virginity Week on TNB.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        You should have gone with ‘The Time a New York Giants Starting Tackle Caused Me to Fumble in the Pocket’…

      • I’m feeling like a Virgin of a different sort these days… First Book Virgin to be specific… I feel like I’ve been stripped naked in a book store…. under the glare of an unforgiving light source… soon to be a TNB post me thinks….

        • Greg Olear says:

          Have you done a B&N where three people show up yet, and you’re tucked in a corner of the store, and there’s a million people in there, and no one even looks in your direction? Because wow are those fun.

        • Or how about when even the employees refuse eye contact… gotta love that!

        • Greg Olear says:

          The key thing is to do it, though. I did one in Poughkeepsie that was poorly attended, as I knew it would be even when I booked it. But I met someone who’d been following me on Twitter, which was cool, and the guy from the radio station up here saw the poster and books out and was impressed. Every little bit helps. Or so I’ve been told…

        • Matt says:

          I worked in a B&N for a while, and I can tell you, a lot of the employees often feel bad when the turnout sucks for readings like that. I bought more than a few books out of sympathy in those days.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I should add, for the record, that B&N has treated me wonderfully. Very easy to deal with overall, and you know what you’re going to get, which is nice. Plus, free coffee. It’s not their fault I was a crappy draw that lazy Sunday afternoon.

        • You are so right, Greg. Every little bit does indeed count. I’ve met so many people who have led me to others… you never know when you strike up a convo with the only person willing to talk to the lonely author behind the table!

          And bless you book buying Matt… a sympathy book buy is better than a sympathy, well you know.

          In a totally different vein… did I miss the TNB sex-week memo?? 😉 The posts have been crazy, crazy good this week and it’s only Monday!! How am I ever going to write when I can’t stop reading and commenting at TNB?? I may have to exile myself….

        • Greg Olear says:

          I must have forgot to copy you in…

          There do tend to be themes that run through pieces…I’m going to try to figure out what they are, make note of them, and find appropriate fine art to insert Balloon Boy into.

  12. I’ve heard this story before, many times.
    But I’ve never read it before – well done, Olear!

    But what made me laugh the most was this – that you and Polly needed
    “a place where we are guaranteed to be undisturbed for a six hour period of time”

    Ah, youth.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Olear.

      Six hours. Yeah. I’m a worrywart. As you know. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.

      There are even more dorky details that you know that I don’t discuss here…

  13. Brad Listi says:

    Talk about having money on a ballgame. This makes me want to somehow make a bet with my wife involving sexual favors and the Super Bowl. Just to keep it interesting.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      you should make a bet based on obscure statistics that you’d have to spend the whole game keeping a detailed count of— of course that in itself would be anal…

    • Greg Olear says:

      In college, we devised a great drinking game for football games…I forget the exact rules, because I blacked out, but it went like this:

      You pick a team. When your team is scored upon, you drink that many times (6 for TD, 3 for FG, etc). You drink every time your team fumbles or is penalized.

      Everyone drinks at the start of the quarters and the half, plus both two minute warnings.

      Whenever the ball is kicked, everyone drinks for the entire time the ball is aloft.

      Same thing when a pass is thrown.

      You get the idea.

      Not as fun as a sexual favor bet, but then, what is?

  14. Greg, I believe the term here is… ‘Score.’

    “That’s when my father, who had been silent during the argument, asked me, “Do you have a prophylactic in your wallet?”

    That’s so incredibly perfect. I can see it. The only other time I’ve ever heard the word spoken out loud is Frank Oz in The Blues Brothers when Jake is getting out of Joliet.

    I’m so happy this story happened, and that you told it. In so many ways.

    Kudos, sir.

  15. Irene Zion says:


    This is really a sweet story.
    I would never have pegged you as a “good” boy senior year in High School.
    Never would have.
    Surprised, am I.

    • Greg is a funny guy.
      Noone can ever believe he’s into astrology either.
      When people take a gander at our bookshelves they assume
      all of the many astrology books are mine – which is annoys me to no end – since
      I’m not really into it at all.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Irene – Oh, good. That means the air of cool I’ve been trying to cultivate since I left high school has worked, at least in this case.

      Steph – yes, astrology. And I’m a Scorpio. Everything hush hush. Behind the scenes. Cigars in smoky back rooms and etc.

  16. Darian Arky says:

    As a life-long — and I mean all the shit before “The Catch” in ’81 and what came after — fan of the 9ers, I really hated reliving that awful game with the Giants. Thanks. You do know that God will punish you severely for cheering when Montana was hit? (Btw, I’ve done three videos and they all suck…)

    • Greg Olear says:

      I remember watching The Catch on TV, live. Pretty amazing stuff. When your team is that good, and has that many rings, I don’t feel bad gloating a bit.

      Every single person in the NY tri-state area cheered when Montana went down. Not just me.

      (The video doesn’t need to be good…it’s the number of videos that will make it good).

      • Darian Arky says:

        Hey, no sweat: I’m just busting your (foot)balls. (Unfortunately, however, there is little I can do to prevent the entire NY tri-state area from going to hell…) 😉

        Meanwhile, there are already too many suck-ass videos of me on the Internet these days…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Sorry, I meant the previous comment more snarkily…I knew you were bustin’ me.

          As to your tri-state area dilemma, since this is a football piece, here:

          “…they can send me to hell or to New York City, cuz it’d be about the same to me.” – Hank Williams Jr.

  17. Angela Tung says:

    awesome! i don’t even like football and enjoyed this, greg.

  18. Tip Robin says:

    It just occurred to me that you should have probably written Bahr a thank you letter, as he was the sole reason you lost the big V.

    • Greg Olear says:

      It was also Lawrence Taylor. He came through the drive-thru at the McDonald’s I worked at once, late at night, and wanted apple pies. There were none left. The manager, this real character named Joe Brown, had to tell LT that. I wish I’d been there to witness it, but no, alas.

  19. Marni Grossman says:

    So it all worked out! Sex AND $300/week. For a rule-following sort, that seems better than a shot at the Super Bowl…

    • Greg Olear says:

      I sure thought so.

      For the record, I was paid $300 the first time, but $500 for Superbowl week. Which is enough money that, if they offered it today, I’d still do it.

  20. jmblaine says:

    Hey I love the sweet side too.
    And Cocoa Pebbles indeed
    Inside the gates of heaven
    rivers of milk
    Cocoa Pebble beaches.

    In hell, AP Calculus.

    Hands up, everybody on TNB who was an honor student.

    Hands up, now.


    • Richard Cox says:

      AP student who loved Cocoa Pebbles but hated calculus. A function F whose derivative blah blah blah.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Cocoa Pebbles beaches…nice image, JMB!

      Does anyone NOT hate calculus?

      Speaking of, a math professor on Colbert the other night said that the single most accurate indicator for future earning potential is number of math courses taken at the college level. Stunning that it isn’t poetry courses…

  21. Sex and sports… This post has it all!

    And yes, to reference an earlier comment, “First Down” would have been a way better title…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, David.

      Like I said, I was torn about the title (and I’m usually not). In the end, “Giant Leap” had an allusive quality “First Down” lacked.

      • Titling a piece isn’t as easy as it sounds. It seems unfair when you write a whole essay and finish and still have to create a title that captures it all.

        As we discussed in an older post, it might have been best to use an expletive in the title.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I hate having to come up with a title after I’ve written something. In fact, I rarely undertake a project unless I know the title going in. Or at least a title.

        • Ducky Wilson says:

          Greg – you can use my previous title, if you’d like.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          I can’t write TNB posts without a title in mind.

          I didn’t feel comfoprtable writing CCB until I had a title I was happy with— a fact I probably mentioned on the boards of ‘Eponymous.’

          No such trouble with my second novel though, which is as ludicrous as the story itself…

        • Greg Olear says:

          CCB is very funny so far, BTW. Not that far into it — iPhone reading is not optimal — but made me laugh out loud a few times.

  22. Gloria says:

    Oh how this story would have been so much different if Montana had hit John Taylor the bass player, rather than John Taylor the wide receiver.

    I’m delighted to hear that everybody scored in this story.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Gloria.

      Had Montana hit the bass player, for one thing, my allegiances would have been divided. I don’t think I could have rooted against John Taylor the bass player, even in this instance. I love the Durans (don’t tell Duke).

      • D.R. Haney says:

        It wasn’t a very well-kept secret.

        But “Ordinary World” is a guilty pleasure, okay? There, I said it. Are you happy now?!

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yes. But not as happy as I’d be if Peewee had been listening to something else on the radio that fateful night. Journey, perhaps. Depeche Mode. “Shiny Happy People.” Or even Van Halen. Would Peewee have approved of “Hot For Teacher”? I think not.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Or Madonna. Madonna would work, too. Sammy Hagar Van Halen would be best, but I can’t remember if that would be anachronistic. “Right Now.” Ugh.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Actually, I think Sammy Hagar would have been in Van Halen by then, because I think David Lee Roth left them when he started his solo career in the mid-eighties. I could be wrong; I don’t know my Van Halen history that well.

          “Hot for Teacher” is trash but it’s at least good, old-fashioned rock & roll fun. Would Peewee have approved? Probably not.

          I’m with you on Journey, but Depeche Mode of the Violater period is pretty good, I think. As for Madonna, I’d already slagged her once in the book, so twice seemed beyond the pale. (Incidentally, she improved significantly as she went along.) “Shiny Happy People,” according to Wikipedia didn’t appear until three years after Peewee died, but that would certainly have been a contender for the song that caused his death and two others (though, mind you, Jason never knew for sure that changing radio stations was the cause of anything).

          But, come on, “The Reflex” is a horrible, horrible song. Randy on American Idol would’ve had a field day with Simon’s Le Bon’s “pitchy” singing, and the basic riff is like something produced by a fourteen-year-old who’s just taken his first songwriting class. Duran Duran was always about looks first and music second. They’ve even said that, when they were forming the band, they were like, “Um, do we really have to play instruments and stuff?” But, as I’m a sucker for sad, dreamy songs, “Ordinary World” is a guilty pleasure, like I said.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Well, we were bound to disagree about something at some point. “The Reflex” is not my favorite, but it’s probably their best dance song (I DJ’d a lot of parties in college, and that one ever failed to get people up and moving), and the chorus is strong. DD’s second-tier hits, in general, are better than the few that are always on the radio.

          But not good musicians? That may have been how they started, but that’s true of a lot of bands, including many (most?) of the genre you’ve written about. Joy Division, to name one act, literally could not play when they started, and those guys got good, real good, real quick, especially the drummer. John Taylor is an amazing bass player (although not one Peewee would like), and Nick Rhodes, the mastermind behind the band, is as good in his own way as the dude from The Doors. And I love Simon’s voice: the inflections, the Elvis-style lifts, the rising to notes, the unbridled energy. It’s all good. Listen to “Girls on Film,” on record if you can find it, really loud, with your eyes closed, and tell me they can’t play. (That’s from their first album, before the production started getting too slick for its own good).

          As for songwriting, look at the musical contest — the James Bond theme. All these bands over the years have been asked to contribute one, and what the assignment involves is making a song that incorporates the 007 theme and sounds spy-like. “A View to a Kill,” however you feel about the quality of the song on its own, nails the assignment. The only Bond song that touches it is “Live and Let Die,” and that’s by Paul McCartney, which almost doesn’t count. (I like these sort of “assignments.” The film “Four Rooms” is a screenwriting one, in which Tarantino shows off his chops).

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Hey, I never said they were bad musicians; I said that music took a backseat with DD to image, and that when they starting out, they were (apparently) reluctant to learn how to play at all (though whichever Duran who said as much in the interview I read may have been joking, or half-joking). It’s true that many punk bands couldn’t play at the outset, but their desire to play was never at issue, except maybe in a few instances, where the emphasis was more on being pranksters or troublemakers, as with the Vandals in the former case and TSOL in the latter.

          I’ll agree that “A View to a Kill” is one of the better Bond songs (though you left out “Nobody Does It Better,” which also isn’t bad and is something of a pop classic). And “Girls on Film” at least doesn’t make me want to pull a Charles Whitman, as does “The Reflex.” If you say it never failed to get people up and moving, I won’t doubt you, but “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” probably did the same in discos in the deranged late seventies, and besides, people like all sorts of horrible things. Most, given a choice between Thomas Kincaid and Picasso, would go for the first in a shot. Fantasy cottages devoid of humans or human feeling will win out every time, as will almost anything that smacks of fantasy in the current age.

          But I already regret referring to “The Reflex” as “horrible,” because that’s obviously a personal bias, and it’s not my business to dissuade people from liking what they do, though I used to think it was. What can I say? I never warmed to Simon Le Bon’s voice, and I’m not a fan of pop music (true pop music, as opposed to rock & roll, which I suppose is technically pop) overall. There are exceptions, of course. Hey, I even like a couple of songs by INXS. But I have pretty narrow taste musically, as I don’t think I do so much with books and movies.

  23. Coming back and reading this again, I was caught by this:

    “If these fuckers score again, I think to myself, the game is over.”

    There is something that is always going to be so profoundly funny to me about the term ‘these fuckers’. I don’t know what it is. I’ve started laughing helplessly and I can’t stop now that I’m re-reading it.

    Fuck. I had more to write but I’m laughing too hard.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Simon.

      Yes, I agree, and I know what you mean. At night, when we feed the cats (back when there were still two), I’d lock them in their basement redoubt and invent some expletive to call them. “Here’s your food, douche-heads,” or, “Good night, shit-mouths.” (Said with affection, of course). This never really got old.

      It’s also silly that “fuckers” is something bad to call someone. Don’t we all want to be fuckers? Maybe that should have been my title: “Fuckers.”

      • There’s a line from The Beach where the narrator is talking about two friends who are playing Streetfighter 2. It just drops perfectly into place, like a Tetris block: ‘He knows he’s fucked.’

  24. Ducky Wilson says:

    Loved this, Greg. Not a fan of sports, but you had me at the edge of my seat. So well written. Perhaps I can relate to the stakes, too.

    Fab ending.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Ducky.

      I was hesitant to have the football section run as long as it did, knowing many people don’t care for the sport, or know anything about it, but in the end, the game was just too dramatic not to expound on.

      Relate to the stakes? Do tell.

      Also: in real life, Polly looks a bit like the main character in a film I watched this week, the title of which escapes me.

      • Polly says:

        So this reference to Polly in-real-life made me feel that I just had to chime in. First of all, I can vouch for Greg’s description of how things went down, including (more or less) the opening transcript. (I’d certainly like to think my pillow talk has improved over the last 20 years!) The only (slight) inaccuracy is the description of Polly’s interest in football as “cursory at best.” Somehow that phrase doesn’t convey the active dislike of football I recall having back then (until the BIG GAME, that is). And as for the other “dorky details” Greg refers to in one of his earlier comments, they are story-worthy in and of themselves…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Welcome to the comment board, Polly!

          If memory serves (and it might not until 2012, when it turns 21), said discussion took place in some decidedly unromantic setting. Your doorstep, I think, with the dog barking at me, or possibly even in the hall between classes.

          Thanks for chiming in.

        • Gloria says:

          Check it out! It’s Polly-in-real-life.

          This cyber world is a fun, interesting place.

        • Ducky Wilson says:

          You two still KNOW each other? Wow. That’s amazing.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this either. You people are all crazy.

        • He really does still know her – they’re friends!
          And we’re friends too. I actually wrote a song about her.
          Greg’s funny like that – he’s still friends with people from pre-school.
          I get jealous sometimes because I didn’t even go to pre-school
          let alone stay friends with my first love, who I think kind of hates me.

        • Greg Olear says:

          It’s true.

          We’ve always been in touch, but I had not seen her in years…until a few years ago, when chance brought her to New Paltz. She and Stephie, who had never met, sat in our dining room and talked about their respective pregnancies/birth experiences as if I wasn’t even there.

          (Steph, you need to record that song; it’s really funny).

  25. Rachel Pollon says:

    I love that the loss of your virginity was all tied up in this. My God! I mean most people have to navigate the situation, but to feel like it was all riding on a whole group of others, the tension! Great story. I was riveted. Without even understanding football. And I loved how you ended it. Such a gentleman.

    Fave passage:

    “Then there’s the matter of venue. From which pier should our maiden voyage be launched?”

    Are you quoting someone or is that yours? “From which pier should our maiden voyage be launched?” — too great.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Rachel.

      I suppose if the Giants had lost, we would have found a different place. But it wouldn’t have been as cool, nor would it have carried the obvious blessing of the Universe.

      I made up that quote, although I doubt I’m the first person to have written something like that. I had fun with all the various euphemisms, “gathering rosebuds” being my favorite, and I almost cut the “cherry pie” line as too crude.

      And I appreciate the gentleman comment!

  26. Erika Rae says:

    I confess I skimmed the football parts to get to the good part. I’m such a voyeur.

    I love the picture of your gf jumping up and down in front of the game. Hilarious. Also, thanks for giving us the exact conversation the two of you had. I’ll bet it was just like that.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Erika. Ah, but the football part is also good!

      She notes in a previous comment (that’s really her) that I did, in fact, get the conversation just right. I know I got my part down, as all I said, after much idiotic muttering, was “OK?”

  27. […] GREG OLEAR: Sex & football […]

  28. Matthew Morse says:

    “Personal Statement” by The Social Bedders just played on shuffle on my iPod. The songs relevance to this post is obvious.

    • Greg Olear says:

      You’re very right…I wrote that song at right around that time.

      And I am flattered that my feeble attempt at angst song wound up on your iPod.

      Thanks for chiming in!


      • Matthew Morse says:

        Last Licks may not be one of the great unappreciated albums of all time, but I enjoy it. “Pushing Up Daisy” pretty much justifies the existence of the album, as far as I’m concerned.

  29. Slade Ham says:

    I remember very well the Leonard Marshall hit on Montana but I clicked the link anyway. I didn’t stop my iTunes to watch it though, and Beethoven’s 9th continued to play in the background (2nd Movement around the 3:30 mark – I’m still on a Classical kick), so it seemed even more dramatic. Timpani drums and slow motion make that tackle so much more beautiful than I remembered it.

    Wonderful read, Greg.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Slade.

      Were you pro-Giants, pro-Niners, or casual observer/heartbroken Oilers fan?

      Also: if you want good classical, Leonard Bernstein’s double-CD of Bach’s Mass in B Minor is amazing, as is this:


      • Don Mitchell says:

        My god. Tabula Rasa? That was my introduction to Part. It popped up on the radio early one morning in 1986 as I was driving to time a race, and I was so blown away that I went to buy the LP as soon as I got back to Buffalo. I do believe that I have about 95% of all Part recordings ever made. And this from an atheist.

        Slade and Greg, believer or no believer, if you want a Mass, try this:


        I have 5 or 6 versions of this, and this I think is the best. The Gloria is amazing and the Agnus Dei will make you weep.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I was turned on to his work via an article in The New Yorker a few years ago…the gyst of the piece was that people who were in hospice care, dying of full-blown AIDS, were soothed by that piece of music in particular. They called it “the angels singing.”

          I am a believer, but not in Mass, although I tend to like masses. It’s all so confusing…

          Thanks for the link, Don.

        • Ben Loory says:

          i wrote my entire book to arvo part’s alina on repeat. it’s the only piece of music i’ve ever been able to write to. that guy rules.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I love that the board on a piece about football and virginity has segued into a discussion on Arvo Part. The wonders of the comment board in action!

        • Ducky Wilson says:

          I’m a huge Arvo Part fan. I tried to use Alina in a film but couldn’t get it cleared. Very hard to track. I also have a character in another movie modeled on him. He’s a great composer and you are right – he rules. Far too underrated for my tastes. He’s every bit the genius of others.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          The wonders of cyberspace, as somebody commented earlier. This makes me happy. I always try to turn people on to Part, and they always like his music, but before this thread I’d only met one other person who knew who he was.

          And the film bit, Ducky. I sketched out a little film based on about 7 minutes of video I took on Bougainville, and the music that worked was Spiegel im Spiegel, because I had it in my head when I was planning the shot (in Buffalo) and when I was making it. It was a Steadicam sequence of my best woman friend hoeing in her garden. That probably sounds strange, but I’m sure it can work. It worked for me when I was making it. I’ve never gotten far enough along on it to start thinking about permissions, but someday I will, and probably long before the Bills get back to the Super Bowl.

          And Ben .. sometime one of us should write a little thing about the uses of music while writing. From what I can tell, talking to other people, it’s used in a lot of ways.

          Finally . . . I’ll offer another Mass that’s very interesting. Jan Jiracek, “Missa Propria,” which is a capella men and boys. The Kyrie is astonishing. I think the only recording is on an out-of-print CD called “Renaissance of Humanity,” but used copies are available via Amazon.com. There’s a nice Part piano piece on it, too.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Again, Don, thanks for the rec. Always in the market for good classical stuff, which is so hard to research.

          We TNBers are Arvonauts. Who knew?

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Also, Greg, a book recommendation.

          About a year ago, Ruth gave me John Adams’ autobiography, “Hallelujah Junction.” It was fascinating, especially the ways he moved between genres.

          I like most of his music, but especially “Shaker Loops,” and “Christian Zeal and Activity.”

        • Matthew Morse says:

          I just finished reading that a couple of weeks ago. It’s a really great book, both for the insights into his own music and also for his comments on much of the music of the 20th century.

        • Matthew Morse says:

          While I’m here, I should also recommend another book, The Rest Is Noise, by Alex Ross. It’s basically 20th century music history as world history, and it’s very well written.

          Another contemporary composer I’ve been into lately is Osvaldo Golijov. Two pieces I recommend are La Pasion segun San Marcos, which is inspired by Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions but reflects Golijov’s background as a Argentinian Jew, and Ayre, a song cycle performed by the wonderful Dawn Upshaw.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          So. Damn. Cool. I’m also fond of Golijov, especially Ayre. Before Ayre, I thought that Dawn Upshaw had a beautiful, pure, but small voice. Nope. So wrong.

          But I confess I haven’t been crazy about Golijov’s Oceania.

          I agree about The Rest is Noise.

          I’m just back from hearing the Tokyo, in little Hilo, and for $20 too. They played something new to me – Lera Auerbach’s “Primera Luz” (2006). Very interesting piece.

        • Matthew Morse says:

          I just picked up the recording of Oceania a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to really listen to it. Are you familiar with Ainadamar, also with Upshaw? Or Adams’ El Niño, again with Upshaw? (And with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Her death was such a loss.)

        • Slade Ham says:

          I was just ducking back in to make sure I said thanks to Don (and Greg) for the Arvo Part recommendation. I wasn’t expecting the conversation to have totally turned that direction though, haha. I feel like I got a late Christmas gift. Thanks again.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          No, I don’t know those Upshaw performances. I’ll look for them.

          I was trying to remember why I thought Upshaw had a small voice. It was because I liked her “Knoxville, Summer of 1915,” and I didn’t like her version of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. My first recording of the Gorecki piece (got to stick a “first” of something in here, to honor Greg’s posting) was by Stefania Woytowicz, who has an older and richer voice that seemed more appropriate to the piece than Upshaw’s younger voice.

          I mention Gorecki. I’m fond of his string quartets and also his Lerchenmusik (how loud can a piano be played? a clarinet?)

          And yes, Hunt Lieberson was a wonderful singer. I know some people who knew her, and they said that she was also an exceptional human being.

          Finally, I misspelled one Golijov piece — it’s “Oceana,” not “Oceania.” Must be the Oceanist in me that did this.

          Sorry, Greg. We’re veering off here. Maybe this is a topic for the Forum.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          I forgot. I mentioned Auerbach’s “Primera Luz.” My girl Ruth found that it can be streamed from Auerbach’s own site.


        • Matthew Morse says:

          I was fortunate to see Hunt Lieberson perform Bach Cantatas #199 and #82 at what must have been one of her last performances. The person I went with knew her, so we went backstage after the performance and I briefly met both Hunt Lieberson and Peter Sellars. She was friendly and polite. He was a bit of a maniac.

          I don’t really know Gorecki. Too many composers, too little time.

        • Greg Olear says:

          This is all fascinating. And no apology necessary, Don — that’s the beauty of these boards, that they drift in interesting — and in this case, beautiful — ways.

          Matt — A mathematics professor from Harvey Mudd was on Colbert the other night. Really interesting guy. Naturally I thought of you.

        • Matthew Morse says:

          Prof. Benjamin’s classes were very popular when I was at Mudd. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to take one of his classes.

      • Slade Ham says:

        A heartbroken Oilers fan, most definitely. We were soundly trounced by the Bengals that year.

        I appreciate the musical nudge as well. I am relatively new to the genre and I have fallen in love. It is staggering how little I know about it. The Bernstein I have actually, the other I do not. Bach makes me feel all motivated, and I am a fan of Bernstein’s in general. Arvo Part is on my “go and research” list now.

        But back to football… God, do I miss the Warren Moon Oilers.

        • Greg Olear says:

          It’s impossible not to like the Part.

          I think the Holst I have is Bernstein, too. You have The Planets, I’m assuming? That’s a nice recording, too.

          The Oilers were fun. Cool name, cool uniform, pretty successful unit, until the Frank Reich Game. Only in the NFL does it make good business sense to move from a much larger market (LA, Houston) to a much smaller one (St Louis, Nashville).

          I like that Moon could throw with either hand.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Despite not being an Oilers fan, I was devastated by the Frank Reich game. If the Oilers go on to the Super Bowl, we have the first all-Texas, I-45 NFL title game. Biggest comeback in NFL history. That’s The Guy for you.

          Interestingly, I’ve become a bigger fan of the Oilers/Titans since they moved to Tennessee. Maybe because of Vince Young.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Jeff Fisher, too. Great coach, been there forever, and when they don’t fire him after they lose by 60 or whatever it was, he has them win 8 in a row and almost sneak into the playoffs.

          And hey, Buffalo people? You don’t have a championship, but you do have the best comeback in a playoff game of all time ever. (And one I turned off at halftime and had to hear about the next day during my shift at McDonald’s). That’s nothing to sneeze at.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          And you may know that in Buffalo it was blacked out. I caught the last half on my car radio.

          Richard brought up the Titans, so I have to write about a truly great Buffalo billboard.

          So, we have Norwood wide right. Then, I forget exactly when, the hockey Sabres lose to Dallas in the Stanley Cup, where a Dallas goal shouldn’t have been allowed, but was. This was known as “No Goal.” And then, in Nashville, the Music City Miracle a/k/a Homerun Throwback, where the Titans knocked us out of the playbacks with that perfect rugby-style kickoff return. OK.

          A few years after that, the powers-that-be in Buffalo were behind a plan to “twin” a useful but very ugly bridge that runs across the Niagara River into Canada. The opposition wanted a “signature bridge,” but it wasn’t making much headway. It looked as though twinning the ugly one was going to win, unless there was enough public pressure.

          Thus the billboard:

          Wide Right!
          No Goal!
          Homerun Throwback!
          Twin Span!
          Which one can you do something about?

          Heh. I loved it.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Uh, “playoffs,” not “playbacks.”

        • Greg Olear says:

          It was blacked out? For real?

          OK, I take it back. Buffalo really is a cursed sports town. I mean, the Sabres…that was ridiculous. And like anyone in Dallas gives a rat’s ass about hockey.

          That sign is great, though.

        • Slade Ham says:

          I love The PLanets. The Houston Symphony just collaborated with NASA actually for an incredible performance in January:


          As for the Oilers, us Houston fans were all fragmented after the move. Some became Dallas fans, some Saints fan, and some followed the team to Tennessee. I ended up with the Cowboys, being that I was already somewhat of a fan. The “Houston OR Dallas, pick one” argument holds very little water with me.

          Lately though, it’s been difficult not to dig the Titans. Vince Young is a badass. He was awesome when he played high school ball here in Houston and he’s really found his groove lately with the Titans. I still can’t take them over the Texans when they match up together though.

          I’ll still pull for the Texans no matter how many disappointing seasons they throw at me.

      • Matthew Morse says:

        I recently picked up Part’s album In Principio, which I like a lot even though it turned out to be much more Catholic than I expected. (That’s totally my fault. I should have expected it.)

        Also, I’m singing the Bach Mass in B Minor this spring. We’ve started looking at the music and I’m very excited. Also scared. It’s hard.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Ten years or so ago, when I had what was, in retrospect, a minor nervous breakdown (the title is realized!), the only thing that made me feel better was listening to that Bach mass over and over again. Incredibly gorgeous and soothing.

          (When I saw it live in a theater in NYC, some guy next to me, way up at the top, was on his cell phone for half the show. I wanted to throw him over the side, but I felt like that would have been somehow not in the spirit of the music).

        • Matthew Morse says:

          The worst thing about live performances is the audience. Of course, one of the great things about live performances is also the audience.

  30. Polly says:

    ooooh… Now I’m curious. Steph, will you send me (or sing for me!) your song one day? In truth, nothing made me happier than knowing – in my first and only time in the same room with her – that Greg had married such an amazing woman.

    • Greg Olear says:

      : )

      Steph, this is a clarion call…record the song! It’s funny! It’s a crowd-pleaser!

    • You are so sweet – that was a very lovely thing to say.
      And of course – I could have talked to you all night – maybe one day we’ll get that chance.

      I have to record the song – it’s a funny song. And when it’s done I will definitely send it to you!
      Greg’s always getting on me to record it – so now maybe I will.

  31. Thomas Wood says:

    I was really impressed that you didn’t write at all about the sex. That’s where I thought this piece was going. In fact, it reminded me a lot of another story I read on one of my “private” websites I like to visit. Then you mentioned your having a Skylark, and I was certain.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. Yes, the desired effect is to have you think that, and then, at the end, forget that I neglected to mention the salacious details.

      The Skylark had a large and roomy back seat, and, as cars go, was about as good as you can get for such things, should we have had to resort to an automobile, like children of the 1950s.

  32. […] Joe Montana’s career as a 49er would be effectively ended by a tackle from Leonard Marshall in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. As Montana faded so did the British love affair with American football. Coverage would continue […]

  33. cash says:


    […]Greg Olear | Giant Leap | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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    […]Greg Olear | Giant Leap | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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