When I was in second grade, my best friend Lewis talked me into going out for football. Lewis made all-stars; I made it halfway through the first practice. I hadn't eaten lunch that day, and those guys kept hitting me. Nevertheless, ever since then, in the back of my mind there has been this nagging voice saying, "If only you had stuck with it...." This conviction persisted despite the fact that I didn't make the varsity in any sport.
Now I find out that I'm not the only self-deceiving never-was. Gordon Miller, a 27-year-old would-be pitcher from Birmingham, Mich. who got as far as a junior varsity tryout at Michigan State before reality set in, has formed a union, Washed-Up Jocks of America. For onetime dues of $9.92—the amount represents the number of tryout camps Miller has attended—the Washed-Up Jock gets a T shirt, a sticker and, through the monthly newsletter, a fresh supply of ears to fill with wouldas and couldas.
Miller, for instance, doesn't think the Spartan coaches accurately judged his skills. "What did they know about real talent, anyway?" he tells himself. After three years of semipro ball and those tryout camps, he came up with the idea of a non-players union. "So many people told me, 'I did this or that when I was 14 or 15, and if this or that had happened....' It seemed like there were a lot of folks out there who are just as deluded as I am.
"It's a club for dreamers," says Miller of his 150 members. "And, if nothing else, maybe I'll get one more tryout. I'm hoping Ted Turner will see this, call me and say, 'The Braves need someone down in Richmond,' and give me a shot. I mean, let's face it, I'm only 27."
October 21, 1984
O.K., so Miller has gone to all this trouble for a selfish reason: to get another chance. If you're willing to help him, and your friends are tired of hearing your story, the union's address is P.O. Box 1280, Hollywood, Fla. 33022. About my friend Lewis: He's a well-adjusted accountant, but every autumn his 59-year-old father, a diehard Alabama football fan, says, "I've still got four years of eligibility left." Over to you, Ray Perkins.