*A specific portion of this column is satirical.*
The most important tool I’ve gained with age is perspective. While sometimes it may seem disheartening to constantly swim upstream while everyone seems to go with the flow, it has truly left me with an abundance of stories and experiences that for better or worse are my own.
In this offseason series, “Shortt Stories & Tall Tales” I will be telling multiple stories and leaving it up to you, the reader, to determine which is a tall tale and which have actually happened in my life.
Story No. 1: The Fake ID (1999)
When I was 13 my cousins were practically my siblings. My father had remarried and had two children with a stepmother 10-13 years younger than me. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the best environment for a teenager.
To my surprise one summer my aunt booked a cruise with their family and invited me along.
I was thrilled! To that point, I had never been outside the country. I was only 13 so to leave the country, my parents had to be present.
This wasn’t a problem for my family who never let a little legal issue stand in the way of a good time. My stepmother printed a birth certificate she altered in Microsoft Paint, put on her lowest cut shirt and we were off. Her first tactic was to avoid the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and target a smaller, state-approved business.
However, this guy was a true professional and was not going to be tricked by some lame printout of a birth certificate. What he didn’t anticipate was my stepmother being equally professional.
Using the same combination of flirting and crying she’s used time and time again to escape speeding tickets, she quickly misdirected and confused this man into handing me a freshly printed state I.D. and apologizing for questioning this birth certificate printed from the lowest end at-home printer that K-Mart had to offer.
Eventually, I celebrated my fake 18th birthday by walking to the gas station to buy my dad a pack of cigarettes at his request.
Story No. 2: The Cruise (1999)
With the cruise now underway and sharing a room separate from the adults, we were free to roam about and cause any mischief that we desired. My cousin and I spent most of our time chasing the same girl. Her father looked like a low-level drug-runner for the cartel.
What could go wrong?
Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico and the Mayan ruins. We split up from the parents to follow the cartel boss’s daughter and found ourselves on a tour of the ruins. Within minutes we were bored out of our minds and my cousin proceeded to pick up a dried-up coconut and look at me. With no words exchanged I knew exactly what to do. I began running routes between the tour group and creating separation from absolutely no one covering me and my cousin launched a beautiful pass just slightly too far.
I left the ground and adjusted to the ball making a beautiful leap over the line clearly marked “do not cross” and proceeded to make a catch that would make Odell Beckham Jr. (OBJ) proud. I came down on a sign that I’m sure held historical significance but held onto the ball to complete the catch. I immediately checked to see if she had witnessed this glorious catch only to make eye contact with her father giving me the stare of death.
The next stop was Jamaica and a bit tamer. We hiked along waterfalls and had dinner as a tour group. On the beach was a rock enclosure containing two tiger sharks but it was fairly accessible to the public. My cousin and I had to have dinner in that spot with our feet in the water. Tossing bread to the sharks like they were ducks in a pond and lifting our feet when they came near, pretending we weren’t both scared to death.
This time it was the adults acting up and a man from the tour group proceeded to stumble over and cuss at the sharks. His wife and friends were laughing and apologizing for his language but we were there for the show.
He began yelling at us, “that’s not how you feed a shark. This is how you feed a shark.” He walked into the enclosure, grabbing a dead fish the staff were feeding the sharks. The man then grabbed the shark by the tail and proceeded to hit the shark over the head while yelling “eat up fish”. His family quickly became mortified while the staff and I stared in disbelief.
Story No. 3: My Second Fake ID (2006)
Alcohol seems to play a part in most of my wildest stories and this is no exception. Fast forward a few years and I am now living on my own in Hawaii. It was my friend’s 21st birthday party and we were about to go all out. I was not 21 yet, but we began the night in a hotel room, so it didn’t matter much.
We proceeded to drink every drink listed in the Chunbawumba song and more before even leaving the hotel. Now we had to figure out the logistics of smuggling the underage ones on the rest of the journey. One of my friends had the idea to give me his state ID while he used his military ID. Somehow in our minds, no one would know the difference between his bright blue eyes and my dark green ones.
On our very first stop, our worst nightmare came to fruition. The Sergeant Major of our unit who is the highest-ranking member of the organization was right there on the dance floor. If his rank wasn’t enough to scare someone, the fact that his arms were too big for shirts might. This monster of a human being actually had to cut his sleeves to make his arms fit.
We made eye contact and after the initial wave of fear passed I quickly realized the two young women he was grinding on were not even close to 21 and certainly not his wife. We had a mutual understanding at that moment and both of us carried on. He bought us drinks before leaving.
Our next three stops were a blur and I decided it was time to find a spot to lay down. On a warm Hawaiian night, nothing feels better than the cool mist of a glowing fountain. I was rudely awakened by a security guard who informed me it was frowned upon to sleep there so I wandered towards the hotel.
Unfortunately for me, I did not write down the room number of our hotel so I had to make a trip to the front desk. “His name is Michael, look him up,” I slurred. The front desk just looked at me with a blank stare before breaking out in laughter. “His name is Michael. It’s on the computer!,” I shouted.
The next thing I remember, three Honolulu Police are kicking me and asking me for ID. I reach into my wallet to hand them an Indiana driver’s license that said I was 6’4” tall and had bright blue eyes. They looked at it and looked at me at least a dozen times before telling me to move along. I managed to stumble back to the beach where I saw two glorious golden arches accompanied by a sign that said open 24 hours. I stumbled in to find one of my other friends who also was not 21 years old. We both knew we were too far gone to drive still, so we ordered nearly everything on the menu and returned to the sand until sunrise. Around 10 am we both came to and decided I was good to drive.
We drove back to base where we were stopped at the gate by military police. The guard looked at my real ID and back at me several times. He continued to glance at the words “under 21” as the stench of liquor flowed from the car.
“I’m going to ask you a question and it’s going to determine whether or not you make it on base today,” he said. At this point, sweat is pouring from my forehead and my friend is snoring in the seat next to me offering no help.
“Who’s going to win the Super Bowl today? The Seahawks or Steelers?”
You would think this question would diffuse tension but I disliked the Seahawks more than most people at that time. I also knew the Steelers were one of the more hated teams in the league for any fan of a team who never wins Super Bowls. I quickly blurted out “Seahawks!” and braced for impact. “Good answer!” He shouted as he raised the gate. We were home-free.
Story No. 4: The Sacrifice
One of the long-standing traditions in my family was an annual family camping trip at Westmoreland State Park, Virginia. We rented some cabins and 20-30 people would go to drink, hike, fish and go on large, elaborate scavenger hunts.
Along with the family for the first time was my cousin’s friend who had no idea what he had gotten himself into. The festivities got off to a rough start when almost immediately someone was caught taking items from the park rangers’ office.
We spent the next hour trying to convince them that these illegal activities were vital to the success of our family traditions. After a stern warning, we were back at it. My team could not have functioned better if they were the 1992 “Dream Team.”
We were at least an hour ahead of every other team when we got to the last item – clay from the side of a restricted cliff. I also happened to be the best climber so I was up for the task.
I grabbed a flashlight and began traversing the cliff. With our shenanigans earlier in the night the rangers were on high alert. They were patrolling more than normal and pulled up to our car as I was on the cliff. This was a restricted area so they proceeded to convince the ranger that they were simply stargazing while one of them was on a walkie talkie telling me to stay where I was until he was gone and cut off my flashlight.
As it turns out, the ranger went to high school with my stepmother and couldn’t wait to catch up on old times. 45 minutes passed and I was starting to fall asleep while leaning on a shrub protruding from the cliff. I finally slipped and stumbled down at least 20 feet before hitting my head. My cousin shook me until I came to. “Did you get it?” I looked in my left hand and confirmed I did have a pile of clay. Check it off the list.
If this wasn’t enough to deter my cousin’s new friend maybe the fact that my stepmother and grandmother were witches would. As we moved on to scary stories and marshmallows they proceeded to tell him all about the last camper we brought with us that never returned. He seemed to shrug off the stories and laugh along until a few of the adults grabbed him by the arms and dragged him closer to the fire. Everyone proceeded to chant Wiccan sayings we had rehearsed before the prank and helped hold him down while my grandmother retrieved a knife.
This prank went horribly sideways when we didn’t take into account that my grandmother had been drinking since noon and grabbed a real knife instead of the fake one. Even with the fake plastic knife, she was supposed to miss him completely but in her inebriated state, she nicked his brachial artery. It was at this time the park ranger who knew my stepmother was pulling up to catch up some more and probably for the best, it was out of our hands.
My cousin’s friend was rushed to a nearby hospital but refused to press charges. In the end, he fit into our family more than we thought and found the prank hilarious. He didn’t miss a trip after that.
Fast forward to today and dysfunctional families are on full-display UFC 272, finally settling long-time beef between two of the best of the Welterweight Division.
UFC 272: Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal
The main event headlines two fighters who were once best friends and training partners, but now absolutely hate each other. Both sides have their story and their reasons, but it should make for an emotional fight.
This style should favor Colby Covington who is the more disciplined and calculated fighter. Both fighters are fairly inaccurate strikers with Jorge Masvidal landing 48 percent and Covington landing 38 percent of punches thrown. Masvidal has the power and will come out swinging, but Covington should have the cardio and discipline to outlast him. Covington will look to lean on Masvidal and wear him down. He is considered one of the best wrestlers currently in MMA.
While Masvidal has had moments of greatness and highlights, Covington has been the more consistent fighter in the division. Covington is currently the -320 favorite in this fight on DraftKings so it’s not exactly attractive betting odds.
The Co-Main Event between Rafael Dos Anjos and Rafael Fiziev has been canceled due to Fiziev testing positive for COVID-19.
The remaining fights on this card are filled with fighters on their last chance. Edson Barboza has lost six of his last eight. Charles Olivera has lost six of his last eight. Kevin Holland has lost three in a row, and Greg Hardy is coming off of two Knock Out (KO) losses. This card is a recipe for desperation finishes.
The first three stories are all true and story No. 4 is a tall tale, exaggerated from a real experience.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out to let me know any short stories you’d like to see used in a future edition of “Shortt Stories & Tall Tales.” For more of my content, find me on Twitter @3rdandShortt.