One step away. We’ve made it to the big dance. Just one more week of practice and then we dip into the bowl of spaghetti. Rumor states that many years ago the Embassy of Italy was a special guest to one of the first Division Championship Games therefore the Spaghetti Bowl moniker was born. Practice on Monday and Tuesday went well. Except on Tuesday, my muscles were tighter than normal and they cramped a bit. I stretched some more when I arrived back home. Busy week at work as well. Gotta make sure I can be the best for the big game. Wednesday morning arrives and I am kaput. Big swollen head, high fever, everything in slow motion. Something isn’t right here. I have aches and pains all over and that only happens after a game, not during mid-week. I go to work. Japanese potential clients. I’m in pain. I never make the meeting. Just prepared the info for my boss who went on a solo flight. I barely am able to walk to the bus station to make it home. Must sleep.

And sleep I did. All Wednesday with the fever chills. Was it something I ate? Who knows. Half the office at work is out sick. The bug finally got to me. I lost 4 kilos in three days.

You know you have piss poor luck when you spend your 31st birthday unable to get out of bed and unable to eat the birthday meal your wife has made for you. Things can’t get any worse… unless for some reason I can’t play in the championship game. That would suck.

I drink plenty of liquids and continue my nocturnal chills and daylight naps. Trying to regain the strength. Kick the bug out of my body. I have 36 hours now to make it happen. Is there a chance?

I feel better by Friday afternoon. But the runs are still ripping right through me. Three days of rawness every time I visit the WC. Where is Charmin toilet paper when you need it? I begin to feel better. I can think with more clarity now. I can focus. My fever has subsided. But my intestines are still doing the merengue and spitting up their contents every two hours.

I prepare my equipment Friday night as if I will play. I receive text messages from the team that are showing concern. “You gonna play? We need you!” I call Coach Henri and tell him that I’m not 100% but I will be there.

A football player with diarrhea’s best friend is IMODIUM. Even the package has a no-translation-needed description of its contents. A large intestine with a faucet-type screw above it. I hope it works. I need the flow to stop in order to focus on the game.

ImodiumAd

I make it to the Velodrome in one piece in our old Saab. The damn car didn’t pass inspection, but I’m driving it anyway. I see familiar faces as I enter the grounds. Everyone asks how I’m doing. I reply that we’ll see. Damn ripuli.

I make it through warm-ups and I’m all pumped. Terrible gas emits, but luckily no stains on my gold pants yet. Hopefully never.

We all wait in line inside the under-the-bike-track tunnel. My name is called and I run through the fog machine and run to the center of the field. This is it. This could be the last game I ever play and all I’m worried about is shitting in the hands of my quarterback.

Spaghetti Bowl – Championship Game

Wolverines vs. Varkaus Steelers

Date: Saturday, September 2nd, 2000

Kickoff: 1800H

Location: Helsinki Velodrome, Käpylä, Helsinki, Finland

Weather: Sunny with a few clouds. 70F/21C.

Field Conditions: dry turf field.

Uniforms: The Wolverines wore Wolverine navy blue jerseys, maize pants, blue helmets with Wolverine wings & stripes. The Steelers had grey jerseys, white pants and white helmets.

Records: HKI Wolverines 10-1, Varkaus Steelers 10-1

FINAL: 41-3