A true tale from the North Woods ...
Coffee hour between services at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Virginia, (quite northern) Minnesota was a highlight of the week. Four or five of us couples in our early 30s would sit together. The talk usually ran from kids to careers and back.
Men of that age are still slightly insane. There are plenty of ballplayers your age and older, so why shouldn't you stay ready in case some major league team calls up and says they need centerfielder tonight? Oh, how much precious brain processing time is wasted on such idle thoughts?
In 1992, the Winter Olympics – the cool Olympics, mind you – were in France. There was the usual hullabaloo and hype.
Not far from dear Virginia, Minnesota, was a ski resort. The resort decided to get in on the hullabaloo and announced a day of Winter Olympics events, open to those who wished to try their hand.
Including the luge.
This, the early 30s men decided, was our chance. I might have been a ringleader here, but for legal reasons I admit nothing.
Let's talk about the luge. First of all, it requires a specific structure that takes a lot of space, has to be engineered to be wicked fast but not quite deadly, and costs quite a bit. This ain't soccer.
Second, leave aside memories of your 11-year-old self going 200 yards downhill on a Western Flyer. In the Olympics, these folks can hit 85 mph, with no safety gear other than a helmet. Remember that ski-jumper that “Wide World of Sports” would show when the narrator said “the agony of defeat”? Yeah, that could happen.
Actually, the early 30s men sort of knew this didn't all add up. The ski resort was building a luge track for a one-day event? And letting any adult willing to sign a waiver just slip/slide into eternity? Hmm.
But that's what they said, man. We have to do this! Once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Yes, it was righteously and truly agreed to. We had to do this.
Our wives were now in an interesting position.
You're not serious? Oh, you are serious.
If we tell them no, they knew, that just backfires. It won't sound as if it's coming from a place of love. It'll sound as if it's coming from a place of “you're insane,” and they don't want to hear that.
Being wiser, our wives said ... O-kayeeee. We're not going to cheer or drive anyone to the morgue. You boys have fun.
The day came. Phone calls were made. We're still up for this? You betcha. (Minnesotans say that a lot.) Any peering into the pit of fear one did on one's own, and did not share. This thing was on.
Imagine being the ski resort employee standing there when four guys – not four college kids, not four elite athletes, just four random dudes – walk up and say, We're here for the luge.
Oh, that, he said.
So here's the deal. They kind of didn't build the luge run. Lot of money.
Really, we said?
So what we figured we would do, if anyone showed up, was let you take a run down the bunny hill. Go for it, gentlemen.
In that moment lay our opportunity.
The bunny hill? Seriously? No, no, we were hoping for The Luge. Anything less is a disappointment, an insult to our years of training and sacrifice. We appreciate the offer, but we're good here.
So the macho imperative was satisfied with no actual risk to life or limb. Our wives didn't laugh too loudly or too long. We never spoke of the luge again.
– Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Jeff_Fox