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The Night Sark Came To Town

This is Officer Lee Groinman.

It was in these parts, the coldest night of the year, colder than any night in recent memory, below zero it was, in fact, the only colder I’d ever seen was in Spokane, but we’re not gonna be talking about anything Spokane right now…But it was the wind that really grabbed your attention. A bone-chillin’, suck the lungs right out of your face type wind, you know the kind…This wind came down from the Northland with a vengeance, the night became unfit for neither man nor beast…

It was the night Sark came to town…

My phone rings at my duty station, twenty minutes to shift change. The read-out on the phone says “Sgts. Office”, never a good sign.

“Groinman, we’re short on staff tonight, I checked the mandate list and you’re it.”


 This meant I was to do a double shift and work over until morning.  I was “mandated” on the coldest night of decade. I called the wife Gloria and told her to keep the water running, and especially in my basement bunker, my Man-Cave where things are usually colder anyway. “And one more thing Gloria, keep them dogs in, Malamutes or not, I don’t care.” “Lee, those two haven’t left the wood stove all night. That wind is so cold, Elsie won’t even pee.”

Like I said, it was the coldest night of the century…

I’d like to say that at daybreak I was on my way home, but night-shift ends at 6:15 AM, it’s still darker than the insides of a cow and cold too. I think it’s even colder now. My truck, my truck! It’s been sitting in this arctic blast for 18 hours now. No big deal you say? It’s diesel, Oh please Lord, let it start. Start, hell, I can’t even unlock the door, it’s froze solid.

“Where the hell are we? SPOKANE?!”

With the help of a cigarette lighter I get the door unlocked. My Big Red Dodge diesel starts. Life is good….

It was the night Sark came to town…

I roll into the gravel drive up to my place just before 7 AM. Still dark, and still blowin’ bitter cold. The backside of my place faces due northeast, towards Spokane.  The backside of my house is taking the brunt of the wind. Finally, after nearly a day, I was home. I enter the kitchen to find my wife all busted up in huge sobs and tears.

“What’s wrong Gloria?”

“Oh Lee, oh Lee, I can’t flush the tootie!”

“Tootie” means toilet in Gloria lingo. No flush means froze pipes in Groinman lingo.

“No problem Glors, I used to live in Spokane, I’ll get these pipes thawed and we’ll be flush in no time.”

The culprit is in the basement, my Man-Cave, the bunker. I enter to find the exhaust pipe for the vacuum system hanging from the ceiling. The wind had blown it loose clear from the outside! This left a 2 inch hole running from my basement directly to the sub-zero arctic wind tunnel that was just outside my bunker walls. This PVC pipe running into my basement created a turbo-charger effect, why at the end of that pipe you could flash freeze beef or human flesh for that matter. Did wonders for my plumbing as well…

I fix the pipe and grab all my football tailgaitin’ gear, ya’ know the box with all the Coleman propane tanks, I think I’ve got about 10 or 19 of those buggers all in various levels, some full, some half, some empty… I get all my heaters going and proceed to ‘thaw’ things out. It’s a slow process, but never this slow. Along about 4 in the afternoon, I begin to drift into a coma. I’ve been awake for a day and a half. I think I’m on the sofa…

“BOOM ,crikkle, shissss”

“What in wonders! Is Gloria taking a shower?” I’m coming out of my coma. How long have I been out? Gloria’s not in the shower. I run towards the bathroom, steam is coming thru the bathroom door, I throw open the door to find water running thru the ceiling fan, water running thru the bathroom lights, water running thru the bathroom walls, water running over my ankles, water running thru my man cave...

Man cave destroyed…

It was the night Sark came to town…

Ya’ know, I gotta tell ya this, I’ve seen many ugly things in life, headless bodies, burned babies, but you really do get a special kind of feeling to see water pouring thru your fixtures…Then to grab a rusty old pick axe and slam a hole thru your perfectly good ceiling, just to see where the damage is, a ceiling that just moments before was performing as any normal ceiling should…My Man Cave bunker is destroyed. Ceiling, floors, fixtures, walls, photos, books, Christmas cards, the only thing left standing was the tub.  Of course, things come in threes. I’d get one section of pipe fixed, turn the water back on, and another section would burst. Repeat. I’m soaked every time. There wasn’t a dry towel in the entire house. The mess was mesmerizing, all creatures were stirring. Ho Ho Ho.

Yup, life as I’d known it, was now over…

Ah but time do march on. It is now spring, where hope is eternal and spring football is merely days away. But we still haven’t seen the insurance check for the Man Cave Bunker destruction. But in the end, when all is said and done, with all the repair work I’d done myself, I should just have some extra coin for a special little surprise for the wife…Spring, where hope springs eternal…

The Man Cave Bunker is now put back together, it was a long ugly winter down there, but the place has never looked better. I let the wife go to the paint store to pick out the colors, she comes back with green. A kinda puke green. Don’t know if Groinman can do green during the fall, time will tell. Yup the place looks great, you could damn near live down there now.  I added some mirrored cabinets along two walls of the bathroom. The first day stepping out of the shower, I got that wondrous kind of feelin’ of being naked in somebody else’s house. Much improvement indeed, kinda’ like the football program, it’s spring, remember?

So I get this phone call, it’s from my nephew Aaron, a wild-assed kid if there ever was one, Aaron has a newborn named Jakob Ole, I figure Aaron needs to get out of the house so he calls on his old Uncle Lee.

“Hey Uncle Lee, Coach Sark is coming to our Church to give a mentoring speech to our men’s group, I’ve got you a ticket and it’s on Tuesday, your day off!”

Perfect, I’m thinking to myself, I’m remembering the last time Sark came to town, now he’s coming to this Church, Presbyterian's no less to give a talk on mentoring.

I’m wondering if Sark knows anything about plumbing, fixtures, or drywall…

“Well, let’s see Aaron, things are kinda tight right now, we still haven’t got the damages check cleared yet from the insurance. How much are the tickets?” “No worries, Uncle Lee, I gotcha’ covered! It’s on me! Actually Uncle Lee, I figure you’ll go, cause a spectacle of yourself, embarrass the snot out of me, then you’ll write a story. I’ll have something to show Jakob when he’s older.

Well, at least the kid’s honest. So Aaron’s doing this men’s group deal, can’t be bad, he’s bought four tickets to this deal, so it’s my bro-in-law, my dad, Aaron and me.  Aaron’s church is in Yakima, so we decided to meet at his house. We get to Yakima and the rain is pouring sideways. Now it never rains in Yakima! This rain brought back memories of my bathroom ceiling… We were plenty wet by the time we entered that Presbyterian church. I couldn’t help but wonder about the last time Sark came to town and if this place had an open bar, nope, and this Church was also full of Presbyterians…

So we make our way up towards the front, the place is packed. We’re wearing Purple so these three old Codgers see us and assume we’re from the UW Staff or something, they invite us to sit with them, well, I’d hate to disappoint so we joined them. When in Rome…

No sooner had we sat down, I swear, that these huge plates of Prime Rib started to appear. They were being served from the slender arms of these beautiful women, all of them!

“You gals all Presbyterians!” I stammer in udder astonishment. Who would have thunk it... “Hey Dad! Look at the plates on that one!”

So now Sark enters the gym, saved by the Sark I suppose. Did I mention that this dinner was taking place in the gym? Yup, the basketball gym down in the basement. We had to walk down this staircase to get to it. Kinda’ reminded me of that scene from “The Exorcist.” Speakin’ of Basketball, how ‘bout them Dawgs!

Well, maybe ET can teach them to shoot…

So after about an hour and a half of us entertaining the three old codgers, it’s finally Sark’s turn to talk. He’s dressed in a greenish business suit, kinda’ reminds me of my bathroom wall, but anyway, he cleans up real good, and this is Yakima where everybody else was in Georgia Boots and John Deere caps,  well there was those one two  geeks dressed in coug gear. I was in the process of escorting those two fools out, turns out they were the preacher's sons or some such rot, full growed ones too…pre-paid dinners my arse…

I noticed Sark didn’t eat, maybe he’s veggietarian, or he’s on the UW O-line diet, he mentioned how the O-line now averages 305 pounds. “What about Morgan Rosborough?” I asked from my seat. “There’s one in every crowd, isn’t there.” Replied the Sark.

“But only one Morgan!”  I yell. “One Morgan is more than enough.” said Sark.

Sark went on to talk about how tough things were for him growing up. He gave much credit to his JC Coach John Featherstone. Sark had no major offers coming out of High School and had to settle for a baseball scholie to El Camino JC. I’d never heard of El Camino JC, but I loved the car. Well Coach Featherstone bet Sark that if he could quit chewing tobacco by Friday, he could stay on the baseball team, if not, Sark would have to come out for the football team. Sark promptly lost the bet and turns out for football.

Sark becomes the starter for El Camino. They go 2-8, the worst season ever for El Camino, but Sark gets noticed. He gets a scholie to BYU. Sark now tells the crowd that he went to BYU not because he’s Mormon, at this point the Presbyterians erupt into a standing ovation. Actually says Sark “I was raised Catholic.” At this point the Presbyterians sit down…

So Sark becomes the starter and leads BYU to their first non-bowl season in modern memory.  Sark has a better season his senior year, gets hammered in Husky Stadium for their only loss. Sark waits for the NFL draft, waits thru day one, then waits thru day two, no phone calls.

Sark opts for the CFL and signs with Saskatchewan, the “Arm pit of North America!” Where the wind just doesn’t blow, it sucks. Sark plays in the CFL for three years where he leads the league in TD passes.  Sark also leads the league in interceptions…Oh that Sark…

Sark takes a job selling dot. coms after his CFL stint. Sark is not real sure of what a “dot.com” is, but he sold a lot of them. Coach Featherstone hears that Sark is back in town, I don’t think Featherstone’s bathroom blew up, but Sark was definitely back in town and Coach Featherstone gets Sark to come out and coach his QB’s.

Sark had found his passion. He could coach better than his physical skills would allow him to play. Sark had to rely on his superior mental skills. After all, it was his mental aspects of the game that had allowed him success, not his somewhat average physical skills.

The stage was set. Norm Chow from BYU got the Offensive Coordinator job at USC. Sark begs Chow for an interview. Chow gets him 5 minutes with Pete Carroll. Five minutes is a big deal at this time, it’s almost Letter of Intent Day. Two and a half hours later, Sark is the QB coach for SC.

Sark went on to say that it was eight years ago on a Wednesday night at 10:30 when Carroll asked him to do the game plan for Saturday’s game with Notre Dame. He wanted it by 8 the next morning! Sark worked thru the night and got it done. He handed it to Carroll at 8 am the next day. “Where’s your 15?”  Asks Carroll, Sark had left off his first 15 plays of the game. He got a one hour extension…

Sark talked to Carroll about the UW job. Carroll pushed him to go for it with everything he had. Sark also talked to Pete after his hire. Carroll said “Sark, you remember that time I had you do the Notre Dame game plan on a Wednesday night?” “Oh yeah, sure Pete.” “Well ya’ see Sark, even 8 years ago I knew that someday you’d be a head coach. And Sark, one more thing before you leave, I’ll need that game plan back on my desk NOW! And Leave my Coaches ALONE! Find your own COACHES, You ungrateful little CUSS! I’ll rip that job recommendation in half! You HEAR ME! And don’t let the door slap you in your ARSE HANDLES!”

Pete, he may recover…

Well Sark went on to close his talk, it was about mentoring and helpin’ each other out and whatnot. He mentioned Coach Cozzetto, who is nearly 20 years older than Sark himself.  Sark says that Coach Cozzetto calls him “sir.” “Dan, ‘Sark’ is fine when addressing me.” “Okay Coach, but dammit, I feel like I’ve been reborn here!”

Yes sir, folks, Coach Cozzetto feels “reborn” here at the UW. Makes you wonder about the goings on at ASU? You see, you’re never too old to be mentored per Cozzetto and Sark.

And how about our Dawgs, and the return to glory?

Coach Sark says: “It won’t take long. I didn’t come here to lose! This is WASHINGTON! Every year is a BOWL YEAR.  We are about CHAMPIONSHIPS! The guys are transforming their bodies. I can see this TRANSFORMATION happening right before my EYES!”

Yup, kinda’ just like my Basement Man-Cave Bunker…

After Sark’s talk I caught up with him just as he was about to exit the stairs and disappear into the rainy and dark Yakima night. “Hey Sark! You ever do any drywall?”

He looks back at me, smiles and says “Nope, never did the drywall thing. But Rosborough has, I’ll have Morgan give ya’ a call.”



Lee Groinman can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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