I told my Sister & Scott that I’d write something.
Let’s think. Let me fuck-ing think...Los Angeles, writing, sadness, drinking, Lucinda Williams, Friday Night Lights, drinking, running, Felicity, detached intercourse, aloof, sadness, madness, Friday Night Lights, running, let downs, fuck everybody, movie, drinki....got it.
Okay. Let’s go back from whence we came, and if we’re gonna do that, let’s go sad because I don’t know about you, but I can’t laugh without the aftertaste of tears. So in 2009 my girlfriend at the time cheated on me with Moby. Fuck, that’s not sad it’s just funny and it’s not entirely true either. But it reads so well. So she cheated on me with Moby or split a lentil soup with him in Prague. Something about either - his lack of any discernible talent musically (don’t throw stones, Thompson) or the mealy texture of the old world soup – something made her realize that the Dude she was living with back across the pond (Me) was a bummer supreme. He was. I am/was. Was.
So, as an act of kindness, she provided me with a valid if vapid reason to go darrrrk. And dark I did go. Luckily, I was coaching a 7th and 8th grade Boys Lacrosse team at the time – a terrifyingly healthy combination. Having played lacrosse through College, I can say that no team in the history of lacrosse (be it high school or college) – or sports for that matter – has ever run as much as the 2009 Brentwood 7th & 8th grade boys lacrosse team. I had enough money to live on a steady diet of eggs and bananas and Bohemias and Seagrams 7. So I chose to run. And because I was fairly certain I was on the fast track to becoming a manic depressive sociopath, I ran every sprint with the team so as to make sure the human body could survive whatever it was my mind decided to test it with.
Kids were shitting tears and crying blood. But nothing can bring a group of people together like utter misery. And at that time, I needed friends who weren’t my friends, Man. I needed somebody to believe in me – to help me believe what I kept saying: that you have to sift through the darkness to absorb any kind of light. And I remember the morning I woke up from the night I got as sad as I’ll ever be. And that morning, I was bummed about it. I had reached the top of the bottom and I knew I’d never get that back. But I quickly shook that bummer – because you dip more than a toe into that black hole and Good Night, Irene –, bounced some stolen and soon-to- be lost script ideas off of Jerry, and went up to practice, knowing what needed to be done.
My love for Friday Night Lights is too vast and intense to try and explain in this medium. Well, maybe next week. What I will say is that I moved to Los Angeles to try and write because of that show. So fuck that show, actually. Anyway, after my last collegiate lacrosse game, I swore I’d never touch another lacrosse stick for as long as I lived. But Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) inspired me to be a Molder of Men. That and upon my arrival in Southern California, I immediately came to the harsh realization that my skillset – well the one that could stimulate income – was stunted: I could paint houses and teach lacrosse. And I suppose give a decent Jerk-Job, but coaching the sport that provided daily anxiety and dread in my late teens and early 20’s seemed preferable to handling another man’s penis.
So I was Coach Taylor meets Robert Shaw from Jaws meets Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson meets Charlize Theron in Monster meets Paul Giamatti in Sideways meets my Mom (I just shuddered). The kids even gave me a Dillon Panthers Hat (this was before seasons 4 & 5) and the school gave me a restraining order but we’ll get to that in a bit. I really like Friday Night Lights.
That day (the day I realized suicide was off the table because if I didn’t do it the night prior, sadly, I was in the clear), I went up to practice knowing what I needed to do for the fellas: I was gonna make the rest of their lives easier. I don’t even think we suited up. Running shoes. One of the kids pulled me aside and said “Coach...” - and we referred to our 30-45 minutes of daily conditioning as “going to the darkness” – “I don’t think we should...the guys aren’t...and we have a game in a few...maybe it’s too early...I just...do we have to go to the darkness?” I looked at the kid and said “Buddy. Where we’re going...well, we’re going to nothing.” He was wary, but hopeful. So I cut the Tim Leary laced act and said: “We’re going to a place where the Darkness is preferable. We’re going to a place where we get to laugh at the Darkness for the rest of our goddamned lives.” He started crying and we got on the line. I was in a Way.
And we ran. Hills, stairs, track, field, water, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. We cried. All of Us. One kid went blind for twenty minutes. This husky Black kid, Kamaal (I think), stripped down to his Rudds (compression shorts), just crying and running and trying to get close to the earth and clutching and giggling at me between sprints like I was his goddamned ayahuasca Shaman.
But we got through it. And I guarantee you that every day after that afternoon we learned to laugh at the darkness, physically, for those twenty-some-odd 11-13 year- olds, every day became easier.
From the beginning of the season, I knew that these kids weren’t gonna put in the work outside of practice to be able to hang, skill-wise, with the best team in our division. And if we weren’t gonna beat them with lacrosse dexterity and acumen, well, goddamnit, I would turn these little fuckers into misfit Machine Monkeys and we would run through over or around even ourselves until the final buzzer. Three times we played the best team in the league – Harvard Westlake. First time they mopped us. Second time, they beat us by three. Final time, by a last second goal. And fuck-my-buttcheeks, whatta you know but a few weeks later we find ourselves staring down a week of Championship Game preparation to square off against those rich, entitled pieces of...wait. I coached at Brentwood. My guys were grubby rich. Good kids, though.
Championship Week. And let me back track by making clear that I wasn’t our Athletic Director’s favorite coach. Sturdy limb and I’ll say I ended up being her least favorite person in Los Angeles or the greater Los Angeles area. She was (is...hopefully she’s not dead) a lesbian. Not that that has anything to do with her disliking me – I was an insubordinate shithead – but it’s just a fact that Lesbians, as a people, are angrier than regular people. (Thank God only Scott and Mare read this shit.)
I was in a hot bath on wafer thin ice with said Athletic Director because I had a running dialogue going with all the parents from the team, in electric form. An email chain, if you will. And, it was no secret that I was another sad sack trying to make a living writing for the screen in this dipshit town, and there were some heavy industry hitters (I just flicked myself in the balls for writing that) in this community of parents. So, like a green ass-rabbit, I tried to flex my prose in the thread, and in my defense, I more often than not, kinda killed. But, obviously, I got cocky and there’s always gonna be that one parent who forwards the email to the powers that be. I think the parent was Asian. Lost in comedic translation. Or I was actually a sociopath. Tomato, jizz.
Wafer thin bath-time and five days removed from the Championship game, I’m down at my day job, trapped in a spray booth spraying a black staircase to nowhere, crying and sing-screaming “Visions of Johanna” or “Sooner or Later (One of Us Must Know)” and my phone buzzes. The coach of the Brentwood High School Varsity team sends me a text. COCKS. Back story here: this guy who is now coaching the Varsity team, him and I were co-coaches the previous year on the 7th & 8th grade team. He had lofty goals to take over the program – which was fine by me: At any moment I was about to sell a dark, highly unmarketable script for a big bag of money and my fuckin’ worries were over – take over the program, you two-bit Jizz Clown, because this time next year My Man (me...I’ve been My Man for a while now) would be living on mushroom tea and cocaine hush puppies, shitting out million dollar scripts four times a year from up in Topanga Canyon while you’re setting up cones probably stealing my cheer which I stole from Friday Night Lights. Way Back story: when we were coaching together, on the first meet and greet night with the parents, he introduced himself, saying “My name is Cock Jockey Frederickson and I played at such-and-such Prep School and then played four years at University of Delaware.” (Only the bolds should be in quotes, but I’m no journalist.) His name is Brian. I hope he gets raped tonight. As a human who suffered through four years of Division I athletics (albeit on a mediocre team in a sub-par Conference...which makes it even harder because an unsuccessful college coach will make you eat pecker stew if he thinks you’ll shit out a W), it was my responsibility to say something. Because Brian, that cunt weasel, played Club Lacrosse. So I introduced myself and “...well, before we go any further, I just want to be clear: Brian played club.” So that made for a healthy coaching atmosphere.
So the phone buzzes. Brian – who is quite close with the Athletic Director, mind you (obvi – that’s what all manic depressive sociopaths think: the Dykes and the Dicks are all conspiring against me) - he says something to the effect of:
No more conditioning. I had a deep fried Laosian pecker sandwich for lunch today and all I’ve done for 30 years is give my Old Man ample reason to regret. And something about formations that we should be running.
I wrote back: Thanks, Bro. If you wanna come help at practice, cool. But don’t tell me how to coach my team, you spineless faggot.
Back to sob-singing: “Little Boy lost / takes himself so ser-ious-ly / He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously...”
Buzz. Seriously. The guys are in good enough shape. I have a dull mind and became a bad person somewhere back there but I’ll never know when so this isn’t even really me thinking that? Stop writing my texts. And stop running the kids. I had semen vinagrette on my salad today.
***side note – the Varsity team didn’t make the playoffs, so their season was over, hence his sudden interest in my misfit Monkey Machines.
Me: Dude. Just a thought: maybe if your team had been in better shape, you’d still be playing. Now bugger off. I can’t imagine you have a friend, because it would bum me out that two people could come together to create somebody that would like you. Your parents are an anomaly. You were created, and that’s a drag, but for somebody to be made and eventually like you, that would be heartbreak for a Man, heartbreaking for Mankind.
My phone rings a few minutes later – the AD: “Colin. This is _______________ - yes, that one: if Rugby and The Bride of Chucky conceived and gave birth at bizarro Lilith Fair where Slipknot headlined. Yesterday was your last day at Brentwood. Don’t come or you’ll be arrested.”
“Well, this is fucked up,” my Brain said. Soon thereafter, mayhem ensues. Parents calling me, calling the AD. Kids marching into the AD’s office demanding answers. Next day I have kids calling me in tears wondering what the fuck’s going on and the only answers they got from the AD or ShitLips McGee is “Coach Thompson lied. That’s all you need to know.” And the shitty thing about that answer was that it wasn’t wrong: I lie like a motherfucker and have for the better part of 27 years or whatthefuckever but that’s none of their business, because it certainly didn’t pertain to this situation. I was a great coach and a terrible employee, so everybody can jump in the fucking lake: We’re in the motherfucking Championship Game. Well, turns out there’s a lot of red tape when it comes to the 1% and their private school waitlist. So as cool as the parents and I were – we were friends, Man! I was 27 and single and had a dog and strife and VT plates! – rich people love Dudes like me (then Me). But that didn’t mean they were gonna ruffle any feathers or draw any attention when they were so close to their kids attending one of the more prestigious high schools in ...who cares. In short: I was alone and I was fucked.
My Guys continue to call me. Making me promise that I’ll be at the game. Telling me that they asked Coach Club if they could get some conditioning in at the end of practice and he snapped at them, saying they were in fine shape. If I saw that gutless gut maggot right now I would tear that fucker’s Johnson off and make a Johnson Salad sandwich with it – on Russian Rye – and make him eat every goddamned bite. The AD and Dick Brisket promised me that there would be security there to escort me off campus (the game was away, at Harvard Westlake). When life gives you pickles, though, you smoke a Parliament light and think on it. I decided to go to the game.
The Fellas were ecstatic. Jerry and I camped out on the opposite sideline, holding a Duke, only there to support. At half-time, it was all tied up. And with each team gathered at their respective ends of the field, I see a gaggle of Fathers marching directly across the midfield toward me. I immediately thought “I think I might have thought I was a different person this whole time. My whole life.” But it was all Bro- Hugs and “Dude – my hands were tied...it’s fucked up”’s. Fred Durst of the Indigo Girls loved seeing that from across the field.
Second half starts, and I get a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and this schlubby Security Guard is literally trembling – and Fuck!, for all he knows, Jerry’s a fucking registered sex offender and I’m wearing woman skins on my back like fucking Buffalo Bill. “Dude,” I say, “I’m leaving. But please don’t look so nervous. You’re a 45-year-old Man. If this is about the Juice I stole from Whole Foods...”. The Fathers protested (a little late, fellas), and I went on my way. And let it be known, once I was outta sight from the field, in the parking lot with my dog and my Subaru, I heard the game go to shit and as I pulled out, we were a quick three goals in the hole. And they ended up losing by 7. Listen...I’m not saying I’m a great Coach (which I actually am). I’m just saying: That was my fucking Team.
Flash Forward three years. I’m coaching a High School team in the Valley. And we suck. Frankly, I didn’t like the kids as much. So maybe I’m not a great coach. Or maybe the drive to the Valley sucked the remainder of my swiss cheese soul or I just wasn’t sad enough. Whatever it was, we go to Brentwood to play my Moldings. We get off the bus and we’re walking onto the field and I’m swarmed by my Monkeys who have become Young Men and they’re telling tales of the darkness and it felt great. On the playing field is a Middle School game between my new school and Brentwood. And, whatta you know, Cunt-Wrap Supreme got demoted back to the middle school level. So I’m watching him be terrible at everything and I rack the focus on my eyes because it’s still early and these Ray-Bans are dirty because that’s not who I think it is coaching along side him – my Brain is so weird to me sometimes. So I pull aside one of my Moldings, but I already knew the answer. “What’s Peter Berg doing on the sideline?” The kid looks down at his feet, because he knows exactly what’s going on. “He, ummm...his kid’s on the team and he helps out when he can.” I nod. “Coach, you okay?” I nod. And I laugh. And I keep laughing. Because you know why? Peter Berg created Friday Night Lights.
Don’t say anything, Thompson. But you’re going to. Aren’t you. “Yup.”
So the middle school game ends and I get our guys going and jog over to Berg, who’s walking off the field.
“Hey, Man. How you doin’?”
“Good, good. What’s up?” Super wary.
“Oh, nothin’. Hey, I actually used to Coach your team.”
“Yeah. And Fuck Nuggets got me fired.”
“Brian? I think I heard about you. Dude...I’m sorry. I don’t—“
“No, no – it’s fine. It’s just funny: I moved to Los Angeles because of Friday Night Lights. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m trying. And I coached the team that your son is now on that you’re helping out with, so you and I...see: I shook the played “the world is fucking me” shoulder chipped mantra. But now I see. Now I finally see: it’s not fucking me. It’s just trying to get rid of me. But it doesn’t understand that I’ve seen nothing. And I laugh at the darkness. I gotta coach a Lacrosse game.”
And that was it.
And It was that moment that the seed sprouted and I didn’t even know it yet, but there was a change in the tide, and that’s what led us to making a movie (the first one which led to the second one). Because if you harvest enough darkness and spite and strip away the self-pity – go a la carte with that shit - you can turn it into a feature film that not a lot of people are gonna see and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to scare the shit outta Peter Berg in broad daylight.
All fuckery aside, I got a call from one of my Moldings the other night, which is why I told this story. I ignored the call, obviously, but the kid left a message and it was from a group of them, now Freshmen in College on Winter Break – they were probably drunk on their parents ’89 Silver Oak – but they were reminiscing about those days, about that day, about Jerry and the Subaru and Clear Eyes and Full Hearts and I sat back and fucking wept because I don’t know what I’m doing or what’s gonna happen and it’s still as terrifying as ever but if part of the goal is to leave a mark, to affect some lives for the better, to make a story and a smile even if it’s borne out of heartache...if you can teach a kid to laugh at the Darkness...well, then you did good.