Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Urban Legend?

Mark, the Galvans and I were inseparable for that short span, which lasted little over a year though proving one of the most eventful times in our adolescence. The Butler Street Jets made quite a name for themselves in the ‘hood as kings of the gridiron, and they established a vital link between the Butler Street Wrestling Club of the Reyes-Yodice era and the BSWC of the 21st century. We had also secured our position as the dominant force on the block, prevailing against the Yodels for the Butler Aces’ legacy and holding our place intact until the rise of the Spoiler a couple of years later. Though we’ve lost contact over the years, it’s one of my fondest memories and I’ll never forget them.      

I was about fourteen years old in the Summer of ’69 when I decided I had to create an enduring image for myself that would hold fast throughout the turbulence of my teen years, and hopefully beyond. The other hockey players at Loughlin and on the Stars were calling me Turk (after my Derek Sanderson Bruins #16 jersey), so that seemed a plausible option. I was still referring to myself as Broadway Joe on the asphalt field playing football with Mark and the Galvans. So, I decided, why not Broadway Turk? It had a magic ring but needed a finishing touch, and the inspiration came from my favorite rock opera of all time, the new sensation “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Begging the Lord’s forgiveness, Broadway Turk Superstar was born, and I immediately stenciled it onto my hockey stick where it somehow lasted for over twenty years. The name and the character, as you can see, did endure.

The Yodels moved to Long Island that summer after a couple of skirmishes that indicated Ginny may have avoided a blood feud should they have lingered much longer. One time they staged a ride-by on their road bikes and fired paper clips at me, Mark and the Galvans. We responded with a barrage of empty soda bottles that ran off the Yodelss and left the street covered with broken glass. Another time Paulie came around and got in an argument with Ismael, who punched him in the face. There was a sitdown between our cliques but nothing came of it. Finally, John came by one time and trapped Israel’s arms in a rear waistlock. They tussled briefly and I think Israel’s strength made an impression. Then, one day, poof, they were gone. I wouldn’t hear from them until Spoiler VI at Los Panchos about seven years later.

The winter of ’69 was when I established myself as the greatest hockey player of the decade in South Brooklyn. Even though my best weight was 147 (as listed on my draft card), I was like greased lightning on wheels. I had an instinct for the game matched only by my hockey skills. I also loved to hit and could give and take better than the rest. I made contact with the Wilkies and ended up joining their team, which we soon began calling the Stars. I played center on their second-string line as a matter of choice, selecting Steven Duffy and Julio Gary, a black kid, as my linemates. In a short time we were outplaying their first line which featured Anthony and Peter Vega, another of their best players who was also one of their football mainstays. I scored countless goals and leveled just about every player on the team that first year, establishing a reign of terror patterned after the Big Bad Bruins.

It was on that fifteenth birthday when my Mom consented as I embarked on a lifelong pattern of substance abuse. I pulled all the strings and pushed all the buttons to get her to agree that I should be allowed to have some liquor at the party. To be fair, one’s fifteenth birthday is often considered a rite of passage in many cultures. Only she should have realized that, coming from an alcoholic Mom and a borderline alkie Dad, and having an Irish-Spanish bloodline and a willful spirit to boot, she exposed me to far greater risk than a responsible parent should have. 

Taking sole ownership of Butler Street resulted in a testosterone explosion amongst the Butler Street Jets, as we now called ourselves. Israel grudgingly butted heads with me like a couple of rams at every opportunity, as did Ismael and Mark. We went from touch football to British Bulldog, and after we tore almost a whole wardrobe of T-shirts from each others’ back, we decided our best option would be to take it up to Memorial Park and the football field. It was there that we came into our own and truly set out on our individual paths to manhood. 

(To be continued...)

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