The Interregnum

Today in the US we start The Interregnum – my name for that short three week period between the end of Thanksgiving weekend and the start of zero productivity as Christmas spins up. In corporations, this is the last chance to get anything done before everyone checks out for the year. At home, preparations are made for holiday celebrations and travel. Gifts are purchased, the house is decorated and everyone is in a high state of anticipation for the two weeks at the end of the year. At least that’s how it is in the middle class US.

I’m sad but thankful that The West Wing TV marathon is over. I spent every waking minute not otherwise occupied glued to the TV, reliving how that show always entertained and inspired me. It’s like a drug, I can’t not watch it if it’s playing. Those characters, that dialogue…it’s a masterpiece. But now I can get back to wasting time in other ways.

Big news from Hawaii – Mauna Loa erupted, first time in 40 years. The last time we stood close to the massive rim of Mauna Loa, we were busy buying a house in KY, sight unseen, doing the deal via iPhone atop the volcano. I still think that’s a cool story.

Speaking of cool stories, on Saturday I witnessed Chris Rodriguez breaking the all-time UK record for 100-yard games, passing Bennie Snell and Alfred (Sonny) Collins. That’s quite an accomplishment for Rodriguez, but the story revolves around Collins. I played against Sonny Collins when I was a sophomore. Boyd County played Madisonville in the Recreation Bowl to start the season, and Collins was a nationally-recognized talent – the best running back in the country.

I found an obscure article on the KY High School Athletic Association website, chronicling that game

— In 1971, UK Coach John Ray attended the Rec Bowl for the second year in a row to watch Madisonville running back Alfred “Sonny” Collins. In 1970, Collins rushed for 106 yards and a TD, but he also fumbled four times in a 28-14 loss to Highlands. He didn’t fumble in ’71, however, and rushed for 170 yards and three TDs in a 27-7 victory over Boyd County.

My part of the story is that I was starting my first varsity game as a sophomore – I played defensive back and on special teams. So I saw a lot of Collins – mostly as he ran past me. But one time in particular, early in the game, I got a clean shot at him. He was coming at me impossibly fast, but I kept him in my sights and ran at him, anxious to take him down. He hit me so hard I couldn’t believe it. I had never felt anyone with the power he delivered – he ran right through me. I was lucky I didn’t get knocked out. For the first time I realized that there was a whole different level of athlete, a level that turned good, strong players like me into also-rans. Collins went on to become an All-American college player at UK and had a good pro career.

Collins and Madisonville beat us handily, and I tackled Collins several times, but I’ll never forget that first one-on-one collision. It was an education.