How I Know I’m Getting Old, Gregg Williams & The Very Real Possiblity Of Puking Onstage…
My break for the holidays somehow extended into April. My bad.
To get the ball rolling again on this little vanity project, I think a little catching up is in order. So, let’s see, what has happened since my neighbors almost burned down my house last year?
I started playing guitar in one of the bands at church. It’s been going well, despite the fact I’ve almost thrown up from nerves on several occasions. You see, “play” is kind of a strong word to describe what I do, since I don’t really “grasp” musical theory. I’m a little short on what the experts would call “talent.” So imagine my delight when I show up to play in a band for THE FIRST TIME EVER and the drummer doesn’t show. Wondering how this affects me? Glad you asked. You see, the plan was for me to be the second guitar (read: stand in the back, hit some chords, act like I’m doing something really important). Now, with the drummer M.I.A., the singer/really good guitar player had to lead from the drums, Don Henley-style. Guess who that left flying solo on guitar? That’s right, THIS GUY!! And this happened in church. Where I couldn’t curse or throw things. Fantastic.
Now, I don’t get that nervous talking in front of people, but it’s a whole different story when it comes to guitar. My palms get sweaty, my muscles tighten and I totally blank on chord changes. It’s all the makings of a slow death. And to top off the fact that I just learned these songs a couple days earlier, the band leader, Ronnie, looks over from the drum kit during sound check and informs me that I’ll be starting off the third song unaccompanied and the band will come in after a little while. WHAT?!! WE’RE TRUSTING ME TO PLAY IN TIME NOW?!! At that point, I thought about suggesting a name change from “Worship Band 2” to “The Hindenburg.” Either way, we’d be on fire for Jesus.
Fast forward through the rest of rehearsal/soundcheck to standing on stage, moments before the set. There were two options at this point: 1.) Play well, or 2.) Play like crap, and since it’s a Celebrate Recovery meeting, tell everyone the drugs haven’t worn off yet and that I actually sounded fantastic. That’s right, I have no shame. Thankfully, though, it didn’t come to that. God had mercy. My hands loosened up, my focus was sharp-ish and the few glitches weren’t momentum breaking. Also, my bandmates are much more talented than I am, which helps.
I like to think that I walked away with a little “stepped out in faith” badge that night. If nothing else, it was great preparation for when, later down the road, Ronnie would turn to me during rehearsal, half an hour before the performance, while the band was rehearsing a song I hadn’t had a chance to learn, show me a scale and tell me to “play whatever I feel.” I feel like puking, Ronnie. How is that best expressed with an E major pentatonic? Thankfully, God was merciful then, as well. And, in all seriousness, I am getting much better and my bandmates are great and encouraging and just all around wonderful people. I’m honored to get to play and learn with them. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience……that sometimes I feel I need to bring a bucket to. Just in case.
While we’re on the subject of music, I took my wife to a Better Than Ezra concert around New Years, where it became readily apparent that I am getting old. Not so old that I’m ready to start yelling at kids to get off my lawn, but if I’m going to a concert, I definitely want a chair. Seriously. I wanted to just enjoy the show, but all I could really think about was how hot I was, how much my feet hurt and what I was going to do if the drunk four, who thought she was a nine, elbowed me in the side one more time.
Consequently, what is it about a few drinks and little rock ‘n’ roll that makes girls lose their &#%$ing minds? Because while I was busy plotting out that chick’s fall down a flight of stairs, my wife and brother-in-law were enduring lashings from a girl, hammered out of her mind, swinging her long hair around like a windmill. Hey, honey, we’re at a BTE show, not Metallica. Nothing here is that heavy. And with the way she was stumbling, you would think her girlfriends would be watching her carefully. And you would be wrong. After falling into my wife and brother-in-law a few times, she eventually found the floor. Thank you, gravity.
And then there was the portion where the band invited girls from the audience to dance on the stage. Almost a good idea. Twenty jump on stage; one can actually dance. Granted, I consider “the running man” dancing, but this girl had obviously done her homework on the subtle nuances of MC Hammer. And, for that, she is to be applauded. The rest just awkwardly wiggled in place and tried to take pictures with the band….while they were trying to play and sing. And I’m not even going to get into the dude repeatedly yelling “shut up and sing” whenever the singer paused to talk for a minute. Stay classy, dude. God forbid a performer actually tries to connect with the audience. Now, granted, I don’t really like crowds, but I can’t be the only one who gets annoyed by peoples’ general lack of awareness and respect for others. A friend of mine puts it this way: People suck everywhere. I find that a hard notion to refute at times. But I know, I know, I’m no fun. I’m going to go yell at some kittens now….
Speaking of cuddly creatures, I ran into Gregg Williams at the airport the weekend after the San Francisco game, in which I hear the unthinkable happened. Something about the defensive coordinator electing to leave the 49’ers only decent receiving option in single coverage repeatedly. That’s what I’m told, anyway. I’ve blocked all those memories out. Days spent curled up in the fetal position crying can have that effect. But I digress.
Anyway, he was on the same flight to Dallas as my family and me. I happened to finish checking in first and was standing by the luggage drop-off area, waiting for the rest of my party to catch up. Williams finished checking in and started to head toward the terminal. As he approached me, I knew I had three options: A) Ignore him, B) Tackle him or C) Take the high road and thank him for his service. Now, despite the fact that it was very early in the morning, my conscience seemed to be awake, so I went with Option C. Plus, in my mind, helping us win a Super Bowl far outweighed the tragic decision to not double cover Vernon Davis. So, as he passed, I simply said, “Thanks, Gregg.” He paused, thanked me and said it meant a lot. He was very gracious and came across as genuine. It was a cool moment. He even signed a visor for my brother-in-law, the eBay value of which has since plummeted.
And I have to say, it has been somewhat bizarre to watch the news since the bounty story broke and have these descriptions of him as some kind of monster juxtaposed against the memory of this smiling, seemingly affable, guy. And as overblown as I think this whole thing has been, I’m glad that the G Dub chapter in New Orleans has come to a close and that we are moving on as an organization. Whether or not this scandal ever happened, it was time. I’m really looking forward to what SpagNOLA is going to bring to the table, especially with the defensive moves we’ve made this offseason. And despite Sean Payton’s suspension, I truly believe we are still in position to make a serious run at this thing. If any team is built to weather this kind of storm, it’s us. It all hinges on one thing: #9. Make it happen, Loomis. *[Hindsight is 20/20 note: The second half of this paragraph might just be the most wrong I’ve ever been about anything.]
So let’s recap. I’m enjoying playing guitar, despite the very real possibility of puking onstage from nerves. If I’m going to watch other people play guitar, I want a chair. Preferably, a comfortable chair. You know, for my old, feeble bones and whatnot. People still suck. And I’ve met exactly one member of the Saints organization in my life: arguably the most radioactive member in the franchise’s history. And, believe it or not, he actually seemed to be a nice guy.
Now, oddly enough, all of this kind of ties together. You see, it was our band’s turn in the rotation the weekend of the San Francisco game. The setlist for that week happened to be very upbeat and celebratory. The Saturday gathering before the game was energetic and a lot of fun. We all left in great spirits, ready to watch the Saints move one step closer to another Super Bowl. And then Vernon Davis in single coverage happened….and happened….and happened….and happened. And as soul-crushing as that was, it didn’t change the fact that we still had to get up and play the same upbeat set on Sunday, although considerable consideration was given to changing the set to the slowest, saddest-sounding songs we could find.
There was even a brief discussion about just throwing down our instruments and walking off stage if it became too much to bear, as well as the real possibility of breaking down into tears and starting a chorus of “WHY, GOD, WHY?!!” in the middle of the set. But, in the end, we put on brave faces, prayed for God’s presence, and soldiered on. Because, really, that’s all you can do. And that’s exactly what the Saints and the Who Dat Nation will do now. I mean, if we can put the worst natural disaster in U.S. history behind us, I don’t foresee this being a problem. So, until next time: Peace, love….and, as always, WHO DAT!!!