June 22, 2017

That Wrong Way Roy Kind of Feeling

Ever feel like you’re going the wrong way, like Wrong Way Roy Riegels in the 1929 Rose Bowl?¬†University of California center Roy Riegels recovered a fumble and ran the wrong way for 65 yards before a teammate stopped him at their own one yard line. Georgia Tech defeated Cal 8-7, thanks to a safety from Wrong Way Roy’s run. Legendary radio broadcaster Graham McNamee said, “What’s the matter with me? Am I crazy?” ¬†He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Here’s this offensive lineman running possessed to the goal line, thinking he’s about to do the unthinkable for a center and score a touchdown. Wrong goal line.

The Rose Bowl was played on January 1, 1929. On October 29 of the same year, the stock market went the wrong way for investors, crashing on Black Tuesday. Roy Riegels’s famous run began a long wrong way run for the nation and the world with the Great Depression and World War Two.

In 1964, the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution granting President Lyndon Johnson full authority “to take all necessary steps” to aid countries in southeast Asia in defense against communist aggression. A couple of months later Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings picked up a fumble in a game against San Francisco and ran 60 yards the wrong way. Instead of scoring a touchdown, his wrong way run cost the Vikings a safety. The fumble and wrong way run in the Gulf of Tonkin incident cost the nation more than a decade of war.

A few years ago sheriffs from Texas came to metro Detroit for a convention and stopped in a Speedway for directions to their hotel. Displaying some local hospitality, a man offered to direct them to the hotel. They followed him the wrong way and drove into an empty field. He got out with a gun and robbed the sheriffs. There has to be a paragraph somewhere in the Texas Sheriff Handbook that guns are considered to be aimed the wrong way if pointed at the sheriff instead of the criminal. The reputation of Texans took a hit that night. Detroit’s was magnified.

That Wrong Way Roy kind of feeling is in the air again. As an expert on getting lost, I get the Graham McNamee What’s the matter with me am I crazy thoughts in my head like others use their sinuses to warn them of bad weather. Google is doing its best to ruin my driving experience by forcing me to become more efficient like the FedEx driver. I’m doing my best to remain primitive and make friends with Arab gas station owners as I throw the GPS in the backseat and pull in for verbal help from a real human, even if the accent is thick as Turkish coffee. They insult Canada or me, I’m not sure which, when they ask if I’m from Canada. Maybe Canada has a problem with confused white guys and I’m being profiled. The CIA might have a problem with too many guys looking like they came from Canada. Their CIA officers drove the wrong way on a busy Pakistan boulevard, striking and killing a man on a bike. They were on a frantic rush to rescue Raymond Davis and continued the wrong way with the dead man and his bike stuck to the front of their vehicle. I haven’t become that frantic-yet. My work is hardly life and death. But in reading the account of the Raymond Davis story, Wrong Way Roy warnings flash before me. In fiction, all the operators are superhuman and hyper deadly. They never get lost and make their way around every dark corner of the globe like it’s a turnstile at the ballgame. In the real world, getting lost is a natural part of life. Christopher Columbus went the wrong way much farther than Roy Riegels and Jim Marshall (and me, so far). But when we become lost, we need help from a teammate shouting to us that we’re going the wrong way, or from an Arab gas station owner politely providing directions to a confused driver he thinks is a foreigner from Canada.

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