Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and since every Christmas deserves a good story with a happy ending, allow me to tell my 2021 version of such a tale.
The adventure begins back in 1974, when in the first five minutes after I had moved into Pritchard Hall on the Virginia Tech campus, I met Doug. He was in the room next to mine, and after meeting each other, we became instant and lifelong friends.
We were both competitive sorts who enjoyed trash talking each other, but our skills were widely different, making competitions between us a bit interesting. When it came to sports, I was a 6-foot-4 white guy who couldn’t jump and had the quickness of a pregnant rhinoceros, but if left open, I could consistently hit an outside shot. This came in handy when Doug and I played either H-O-R-S-E or one-on-one, as I’d toy with him and let him get ahead, then drill three straight long jumpers to crush him.
Doug, conversely, was a table game wizard. On a foosball table, he could snap his wrists with no effort and score goals at will. I later in life bought a foosball table for my basement, trying to learn to be good enough to give him a run for his money. But every time he visited, he toyed with me in foosball the way I taunted him in basketball.
The rivalry went up a notch during my sophomore year at Virginia Tech, where I received at Christmas a gift that became the focal point of our competitions for years to come: It was an NHL Hockey game (the one where the players were connected to long thin rods that you’d push or pull to move your player, and twist the knobs connected to those rods to make the players shoot). After the holidays, I bought it back to the dorm, and Doug and I ended up playing this game all the time (this was before video games, cell phones, the internet, and a bunch of other stuff my daughter can’t believe we did without).
We knew nothing about hockey, but it provided everything we needed: a game you could play that allowed for constant trash talking, required no electricity or special equipment, was portable, and could be set up just about anywhere.
The game came with a miniature Stanley Cup, and whoever won that day’s game took it back to their room, as the trophy’s presence in your living area afforded you bragging and trash-talking rights until the next game. It went back and forth between us until for some reason, momentum shifted squarely to my side.