Coach's Corner

If you have aboarding pass with a number, you must be traveling on Southwest Airlines. If you have a boarding pass with the number 122, you're shit out of luck. I know otherwise bright people who think Southwest's the way to go. I'd sooner travel on a yak caravan than the Greyhound of the Sky. No food, a middle seat (where I sit now) flying backward. Free things have a price. So it was last weekend. Indeed, the flight's free, though my new bride sitting 10 rows back between a white-haired couple isn't too pleased with the cost.

Okay, look, I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about this. This is supposed to be a sports column. Now, for two weeks running, I've wandered. In the eight years this column has run, a style has developed which incorporated you into some kind of extended family. Though perhaps it's best we don't see each other, I do keep you informed with postcards of my life. You've seen a daughter go from a frenzied seven-year-old soccer star to a hard-working middle school basketball player to an impossible-to-understand teenager who is now pestering me to drive. You've seen a 10-year-old son toss no-hitters, get kicked out of middle school, wreck my truck, accumulate a dazzling array of traffic violations, and finally, just last September, we all went on a two-part, cross-country trip sending him off to college.

Longtime readers met a boxer puppy I called Roxy and a year later her lifelong friend, another boxer we called Floyd. You watched them destroy two backyards and cause nasty dogfight scenes -- all but banning us from public places. No longer puppies now, both their smushed-in boxer muzzles sport too much gray. So, if you're new to my column and feel lost this week, I apologize.

Did I mention a new bride? My "love life," for lack of a better word, has been a frequent topic in this space. The awkward travails of middle-aged dating, ghastly singles club outings, besotted evenings at Antone's, and pharmaceutically enhanced single guy vacations with Whipp and Ron Rico were chronicled here in some detail. Your unseen presence has seen me through a bad relationship ending in a broken heart, a promising one ending even worse, and a depression that almost killed me. For five years we sat together in the therapist's chair.

Kelly didn't know she was getting married until the layover in Phoenix. This much of a surprise, I thought, might be too much. It wasn't easy keeping this a secret. Even my closest friends were kept in the dark as complex plans were spun in faraway Lake Tahoe. Now, it's possible that The Wedding Chapel at Caesar's Tahoe wasn't the grist of her girlhood dreams for this day. Inside the bustling casino, bride and guests must walk down a long, narrow, garishly red carpeted hallway off the main casino. You pass the gift store, a book shop, a smoke shop, the Hot-Cha-Cha dress shop, and some fake Greek statues.

At the top of a flight of 18 stairs, a black sign says turn right. You pass the Cho-Cho Beauty Salon and enter a huge room reeking of chlorine, made to look like Carlsbad Caverns. As kids frolic and splash, be careful not to slip on the wet floor of the indoor pool. Romantically situated on the far side of the pool/cave complex is the chapel. There, waiting patiently, was our small party. The chapel itself is remarkable mostly for its non-denominational, but cheery, hopeful motif; the oblong ceiling is painted a heavenly hue of blue, with wispy clouds crossing the sky.

And so it was here, at The Wedding Chapel at Caesar's Tahoe, the unthinkable happened. The Coach got married. Our minister, or padre, or whatever he was, got quickly to business with a scary, fervent, evangelical fervor. As Kelly and I stood on the podium, his eyed rolled back in his head as he grinned the grin of the religiously insane while giving us his best wishes for a long and happy life together. His hands twitched and jerked (compulsively twisting a matchbook cover) as he read the vows. Though over the next few days I spotted him numerous times in the casino with a gin and tonic and a cigarette, he seemed like a pleasantly deranged man. In mid-ceremony the baby grand piano began playing "Here Comes the Bride." I caught Kelly and the rest of our party glancing apprehensively toward the piano that no one was playing. This is marriage Vegas style -- the piano was really a tape machine.

Afterward, the bride and I posed for a wedding photo shoot. Her mom beamed. My last-moment best man paid the padre ($55 + gratuity, cash only), since I'd used up all my cash on champagne at a cash-only liquor store. Alas, I'd declined the "rice option," so it was over.

I glance back in the plane for Kelly. She has done what I'd considered totally impossible. She somehow talked the old folks into moving over and giving her the aisle seat. A negotiated peace in the Middle East might be a similar accomplishment. But then, she got me to walk down that aisle and make me think it was my idea, so I guess anything's possible.


Talk to Coach on Sportsradio 1300AM, 3-4pm weekdays; or write to:Coach36@aol.com

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