Sunday, January 31, 2010

Calling an Audible: Another First Nerve Literary Classic

In our send off to the recently departed J.D. Salinger, we waxed nostalgic about the classic audible-in-the-chapel scene from Catcher in the Rye. Responding in the comments, reader Ed C. pointed us to the 1972 football novel Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins which he suggested contained much cruder and funnier fart scenes.

Cruder AND funnier? You don’t have to call us twice for dinner. We checked out a stained and mildewed first edition from the town library and inhaled it in one sitting. Nothing better than a football novel on the empty Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. (OK, technically not empty, but we’re just not that into the Pro Bowl.)

Semi-Tough is the biography of New York Giants star running back Billy Clyde Puckett as spoken by him into a tape recorder off-and-on in the days leading up to a Super Bowl matchup with the “dog-ass New York Jets.” Puckett’s good ol’ boy story-telling style gives us professional football in the locker room, on the field, and on the road. Between the nonstop carousing and sexual hijinx Puckett manages to deliver a believable love story as well.

The book is, as Ed C. cautioned, profane and vulgar in the extreme with liberal use of racial epithets. It’s also funny as hell, with ongoing flatulent outbursts from a Giants player named T.J. Lambert. He’s introduced in an early scene where Puckett’s roommate and lifelong friend Marvin “Shake” Tiller makes a locker room speech.
“Shake stood up on a bench in the dressing room and said, “I think we got some shit we need to talk about, man to man.”

I recall that Puddin Patterson from Grambling, our best offensive guard, was flopped out on the floor picking at his toenails, and when Shake said that, Puddin belched real loud.

“Puddin’s with me,” Shake said. “Anybody else?”

Nobody said anything, but T.J. Lambert, our big old defensive end from Tennessee, hiked his leg and made a noise like a watermelon being dropped on concrete out of a four-story building.

When everybody stopped laughing, Shake got into his talk.
I wouldn’t say that T.J. Lambert’s talent for farting-on-demand is pivotal to the plot, but it does lend the novel a certain air of comic authority. (C’mon, ladies, it’s funny! . . . OK, OK, so it’s a guy thing.)

You could do worse than skip the pre-game show next Sunday and settle into the La-Z-Boy with Semi-Tough and a bowl of bean dip.


Unknown said...


I was betting you'd quote T.J.'s wedding night.

BTW, Dan Jenkins was (is?) a long time golf writer for Sports Illustrated and author of 3-4 other novels I've read. But none have the olfactory impact of Semi-Tough.

Avery Gilbert said...

Ed C:

The story of T.J.'s wedding night goes beyond flatulence, technically speaking . . .

But as a student of synaesthesia, I should have noted that he claimed to be able to fart in different colors.

ECaruthers said...

On a semi-related note, I just saw a Christmas episode of the TV series Bones that required Bones and Booth to smell the butts of a dozen Santas. It's only semi-related because they weren't smelling for farts. But I figure you want to know any time smell recognition becomes a key plot element.

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