I get a lot of football related questions each and every week due to my popular college football website….
(The CFB Wizard, thank you very much…)
But I received a question yesterday about Cleveland Browns quarterback, Oklahoma great and Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield that gave me a horrible flashback.
The reader simply asked “why” Baker Mayfield always wears a rag over his forehead under his football helmet and my very first thought as the once buried terrible memory came rushing to the surface of my mind was…..
Please be patient with me, as this is painful to recall and retell…..
It seems I spent all of my young life sweating, either on whatever farm I was working and living on, trying to sleep at night without air conditioning, in the classroom over grades or on the football field once that sport discovered me.
But through it all I have, not once ever had a pimple, not one time.
Maybe it was because I was sweating all the time and they never had a chance to take root, so to speak, but nonetheless I never (ever) had anything that resembled a pimple.
Along with never having acne or pimples or whatever I also hadn’t had a date by the time I turned fifteen or had a girlfriend either due in large part to my living circumstances as well as my financial situation and not to mention the fact I wore hand me down (as in “way damn down”) clothes to school.
Those clothes didn’t make me very attractive to the opposite sex, nor did the fact they often smelled like the (fill in the blank) farm I was working on before I went to school that morning.
Conversely I did learn, however that regardless of my wardrobe options I became extremely attractive depending on the number of touchdowns I scored that particular week for the home team.
And that year, I was Burt Reynolds, minus of course the cool mustache etc.
So this leads us to Wednesday afternoon before the “Big Game” on Friday night….
I was leaving the locker room after football practice and Jimmy who was a buddy of mine from the marching band came up beside me and asked me if I would like to double date with he and his girlfriend on Thursday night before the upcoming game.
I told Jimmy that sounded good, but I didn’t have a date, a girlfriend or anything of the sort. But Jimmy was cool; he looked like Ronnie Van Zandt from Lynyrd Skynyrd, had his own band that played local dances and he was one of the few kids I knew that smoked and probably smoked other things too, but I liked Jimmy and he liked me too.
Although I didn’t smoke, both of us were outcasts and rebels have a tendency to find one another.
Jimmy explained that he already had it all worked out and his girlfriend’s “friend” named Mandy really, really wanted to go out with me.
I was shocked to say the least…….
I had seen Mandy around the school, she dressed like a hippie in tie-die clothes, had wild hair and wore big hoop ear rings and although she didn’t smoke per se I did notice one day behind the gym that she knew how to roll a cigarette for the little group she was hanging out with there.
My guess was she probably learned that respective skill from watching her grandfather.
The wild hair, coupled with the hoop ear rings and wearing a tight sweater, tie dyed or not, I was smitten and there was no denying it.
But that aside, I quickly agreed to the arrangement and Jimmy would pick me up after football practice on Thursday afternoon which would give me a chance to shower and clean whatever clothes I had on that day to wear for the date later.
My first date And my first double date all in one day or night as it were.
I was excited to say the very least.
I could hardly sleep that night on my cot in the back of the barn where I lived with six other foster kids at the farm and for once I actually noticed which kids snored or talked in their sleep.
I washed my face and brushed my teeth behind the horse trough after my chores that morning before I caught the bus to school and what the hell was that?
I felt around above my nose and I had a bump right between my eyes on the bridge of my nose. I was sure it was because of my football helmet, and the way it got pushed down on my face after someone tackled me. It wasn’t bad, I could feel it though.
Everything is ok……
I got to the bus stop with the other foster kids from “the barn” and I didn’t dare ask them anything about my apparent facial bump and you want to know why? Because it was just a place my football helmet rubbed that’s all it was.
That is until I got on the bus and before I even took my seat some damn second grader with red hair and a lazy eye pointed at me and said….
“Look, it’s Zit Head!”
I didn’t say anything to the little tike of course because now I was concerned, deeply concerned about the “bump” between my eyes. I will say I was however making a mental note to torment him later until he cried about his lazy eye.
As soon as I got off the bus at school I went directly to the Boy’s Restroom and looked in the mirror…..
You know what, that’s not too bad, I was sure it was still just a “bump” from the football helmet, and I will tell you something else, that helmet never did fit quite right, I was sure that’s what it was, no need to worry.
By the end of my first class in Mrs. Crowder’s English class, that damn “bump” had taken on a life of it’s own and appeared (after a close examination in the Boy’s Room for the second time of the day) to be a tumor, perhaps from my brain after the last collision I had on the football field.
I made a mental note to ask the Football Coach later if I could see the team doctor.
When the bell rang after my third class with Miss Stephens in Biology I felt like a unicorn as this growth was now red and swollen and was now blocking the vision in my left eye.
Before the lunch bell rang I was in full panic mode……
This “thing” growing from my forehead was red and swollen and could have easily won “The Blue Ribbon” at the annual County 4H Tomato Festival.
I didn’t know what to do, I was panicking so I went to see the only person I knew I could trust at school that was an adult, and that was my position coach and biology teacher at the school.
I found his classroom before lunch and rather breathless I ran up to him and said, “Coach I have got to talk to you right now, I have a problem”.
He looked a bit panicky himself, because as I learned later “my” performance on the football field was contingent on his future head coaching position at another school in the state and he couldn’t have me with a “problem.”
Looking back on it I can only imagine the thoughts running through his mind about my “problem”; teenage pregnancy, I had killed somebody, or I was shooting heroin to get up for the games.
When I told him, or asked him as I pointed at the growth protruding from my forehead blocking my vision the coach simply said, “Is that all it is? It’s just a pimple; everybody gets them at your age, don’t worry about it”
Clearly he didn’t understand the gravity of my situation or the potential disaster that could transpire with the marvelous opportunity that awaited me later that evening with Mandy.
I think it’s important to note here that I recognize that I am quite naïve when it comes to the opposite sex and in a lot of other things for that matter.
A few years ago a friend of mine asked me to accompany him to some counseling group thing for support, because he and his wife were having some sort of problems.
I took my seat in the circle and when my turn came for introductions I said “I am here for my friend” but that didn’t keep the counselor from slinging a question or two my way anyway. I thought later she just did that to make everybody else in the group feel better about themselves.
Dr. Female Counselor: “Mike, what do you do when your partner says, we need to talk?”
Me: “I turn up the volume on the football game”
Dr. Female Counselor: “Do you reassure your partner that you always have protection?”
Me: “Of course, I tell her the handgun is underneath my seat and the extra magazines are in the glove box”
Dr. Female Counselor: “Do you ever cry and feel the need to just be held?”
Me: “Only after Alabama losses the Iron Bowl”
And yet we all wonder why Doc the Black Lab and I live alone in the woods…..
But I digress
There was only one other person I could take this ever growing problem too
The trainer on the football team
Ted was going to the local Junior College and was studying to be a trainer and was using our team as practical experience to hone his craft and most of us, as well as coaches referred to him as “Doctor Ted.”
I skipped lunch and ran over to the football facility and found Ted……
When Ted saw me he more or less shouted “Damn, what the hell is that thing on your face? That’s like the biggest zit I’ve ever seen!”
At another time I would have to talk with Ted about his “Bedside Manners” but for now I needed to “fix” this bulbous growth that was protruding from my head and I mean fix it right now.
After explaining my plight Ted calmly described the various methods that could be used to alleviate the pressure of this pimple that was now big enough to have its own zip code or zit code if you prefer.
Although Doctor Ted cautioned against “squeezing” it, as it would make it even more swollen, like it could have gotten any bigger, he suggested taking a sterilized needle to the growth to release the contents and the pressure of the pimple.
While I was trying to make a decision that was certainly to effect the rest of my life, Ted reached into his trainers bag and retrieved a bottle of something that should have been called “Scrub and Scream”.
He told me to wash my face with this to remove any excessive oil I had on my face to prevent any other infections, pimples, zits, what have you.
I am sure some enterprising guy in South Alabama came up with this “miracle” formula that was sold to teenagers, doctors and adults with children all across the United States.
I am sure he made a gazillion dollars off this “invention”, but what it really was, was this, a hand full of Gulf Coast sand thrown into a liquid soap container with the premise that scrubbing your face with what amounted to number three sandpaper with a little bit of liquid soap would cure your problems.
What that stuff did was take off the first three layers of your skin, leaving your face looking like you had worked all day in a Birmingham blasting furnace.
Wouldn’t you know it…….
As I was scrapping off the layers of skin off my face with the “Scrub and Scream” I accidently knocked the top off of Mount McKinley that had taken residence between my eyes and forehead and that’s when the screaming began.
Doctor Ted, like so many of us says the dumbest things during a crisis when he so eloquently stated the obvious, “Why did you knock that thing open?”
There was nothing I could do, my face was redder than a beet and that thing on my head now looked like I had been shot with a bazooka between the eyes.
I opted for the only available recourse I had…….
I took a large strip of white athletic tape and taped it to my forehead, covering the aforementioned growth.
Now I had an alibi, I would simply say to the lovely Miss Mandy that I had a raw place on my forehead, (between my eyes) from the football helmet I wore and then I would regale her with my dashing and daring deeds on the football field and she wouldn’t even notice “it”.
This seemed to work throughout the remainder of the school day and throughout the “walk through” football practice we had that afternoon. The fact that nobody said anything about my taped head, gave me the confidence I needed to pull this off, even with my face still flaming red from the “Scrub and Scream”.
After I got cleaned up after football practice I made a tactical error in replacing the white athletic tape, I got it stuck across my forehead and covered the growth alright, but I used too big a piece of tape and now it was across both eyebrows and it was firmly attached.
I admit it; I really didn’t want to pull that tape off and start over.
It was stuck.
I told myself that Mandy wouldn’t even notice
I exited the locker room and there was Jimmy standing next to his car waving at me and both his girlfriend and the delectable Miss Mandy was also there, and ready for our “big” date.
I strolled across the parking lot (no need to look too egger here) and when I smiled and waved as I got closer I couldn’t help but notice that all three of them had stopped talking and were staring at me.
Mandy was the first to say something……
“What’s wrong with your head?”
I went through my well rehearsed excuse about how the football helmet had rubbed a raw spot on my head and I had covered it with tape to help it “heal.”
As I turned to look at Jimmy to see if I would receive some sort of facial recognition from him that my excuse was believable I felt a hand on the corner of the tape that was firmly attached to my eyebrows and Mount Pompeii.
I heard Mandy say before I felt my eyebrows and the skin underneath it give way…
“Let’s see how bad it is…..”
I don’t know if was my screaming or the blood streaming from the crater between my eyes or if it was the fact I didn’t have any eyebrows to speak of that caused the vomiting and shrieking from both Mandy and Jimmy’s girlfriend.
But suffice to say the date was over before it even started when she ripped the tape off.
My first date, first double date, and my first zit……Over just like that.
As Jimmy pulled out of the parking lot while trying to console the two distraught females in his car all he could say was, “Sorry man, take care of yourself, talk at you later.”
Let me tell you that was a long walk back to were I was living and if you think someone would give me a ride looking like a stunt double in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then you would be incorrect in that assumption.
My eyebrows eventually grew back and I moved on to another school (Thank God) to another town where people didn’t know me or had heard of the “Volcano Face Incident”.
So with that horrible tale being told I want to say this about the original question a reader poised to me about Cleveland Brown’s quarterback Baker Mayfield.
I don’t know why Baker Mayfield wears a rag over his forehead underneath his football helmet, but I will tell you this, whatever you do, don’t pull on it.
Just don’t do it