Chester and me...
The things they don't tell you about this wedding stuff.
There's a ton to be done before the big day and it all has to be finished by, oh, yesterday at the earliest. The devil is in the details.
One of the little things is the acquisition of old photos for montages and stuff. Delving into the family archives can be emotional, taking you back to times when your kids were small and long-passed relatives were still alive.
Then, there are discoveries such as this:
September 7, 1980. Lambeau Field. Two guys with helmets (one of hard plastic, the other dark hair) and bad glasses leave the gridiron: Chester Marcol, who has just scored the one and only touchdown of his career against the Bears in overtime, giving the Packers a 12-6 win and ever-vigilant cub reporter Gene Mueller of WSPT/Stevens Point is there to capture the moment with a his state-o'-the-art cassette recorder and dime-store microphone.
Even though I was technically in "news", the station would let me snag a media pass to occasional Packers games so I could get interviews for sports. The press box would be full, though, and non-beat media such as I were relegated to the stands. The team allowed us to come down to the field for the closing minutes and better post-game locker room access.
So it was that I was standing behind the uprights as Marcol lined up for what we figured was a sure-thing, game-clinching field goal. The crowd was roaring as we could see the ball snapped. My eyes looked to the skies were I expected to see the pigskin splitting the sticks. Instead came a flurry of activity to my right, Marcol sprinting into the end zone, ball under his arm. As any good (and old) fan knows, the Bears blocked the kick and the ball landed in Marcol's arms. He had the presence of mind to run it in for the score. Media and team members co-mingled amid the post-game celebration, then headed up the tunnel for interviews.
A few days letter, I received a brown envelope from the Stevens Point Daily Journal. Inside was a picture, taken by photographer Doug Woijik who I'd known from our college days together and from schlepping across Central Wisconsin doing the news. He, too, was on the field and just happened to capture the moment, figuring I'd want have a copy.
It traveled with me ever since, although it has been misplaced for years. I'd written Doug several times, asking if he had a copy in the paper's archives. No such luck. I'd hoped to get a copy when Marcol's book came out a few months ago, figuring I could have him autograph it any book signing he was doing in the area, but it didn't happen.
Then came Monday morning, with my wife in the basement desperately seeking photos for the wedding. She came upstairs and plopped this relic on the table. Wow. I won't let it out of my sight. Ever. I'm already thinking getting it blown up, framed, and matted for immediate man-cave display. A signature from my buddy Chet would be a nice touch, but I'm guessing his long-done doing book tours.
Whatever. In a week of brimming emotions and dusty family memories comes another reminder of who you are, where you came from, and what's happened since. The helmet hair is gone, and so are the horribly large glasses and that tragic, porn-star mustache. Man, why didn't you guys tell me how awful I looked? And that shirt? Jeeeez's.
The Journal/Sentinel calls it "Marcol's last hurrah" as a Packer. He'd have all manner of off-field issues, as he would go on to explain in his book, as his NFL career came apart amid drug use and other bad choices. His moment is on my personal highlight real of great sports memories, a reminder of how lucky I am to be able to have witnessed some of the things I have in my career.
Weddings provide chances to catch up with friends not seen for years, and family members who are far away. They also give us a chance to rummage through our histories, be they in photo albums in basements or grainy VHS tapes. And, it's amazing how those snapshots can take you right back to that place in time when hair was darker (and longer), waists were less "mature" and your life seemed so much simpler.
It's another unexpected benefit from a great family moment, already in progress.