Jul

3

 To succeed in any field – business, sports, relationships, politics, war – good enough never is. You set your standards so high that after diligent practice even the flaws are excellent. At that point, you build a competitive edge that no other owns to reach the top, and remain. There, success breeds success, until someone else with a keener edge laughs you down.

Wrestling is my favorite spectator sport and coach Grady Penninger of the National Champion Michigan team demanded excellence. But one wrestler was an edge above that. George Radman, my paddleball partner, was a long-limbed 167 pounder who trimmed trees in our Lansing, Michigan during summer, swinging like an orangutan from stout oaks with the left while holding a power saw in the right. This became his edge on the mat called a cross-ankle pickup where he reached and snatched the opponent’s foot out from under him, and no leg was stronger than an oak. Coach Penninger acknowledged Radman was the cleverest wrestler he ever coached, and the most nerve-wracking. I would watch George take national champions to the mat with a cross-ankle pickup, let them up, so he could trim them again and again. Coach would scream from the side of the mat until his watch stopped, but George just put his hands on his hips and laughed and laughed. He had the overpowering tree-trimming move. He battled weight constantly and saw no reason to hunger all week to make his weight limit when he could run in place in the sauna, spitting, for an hour to drop seven pounds before stepping on the scale, laughing.

Radman and I had a thing in common where I also fell asleep in the industrial laundry hamper before big matches in paddleball and racquetball, so they would know where to find me. I was to paddleball what George was to wrestling in having an edge. I had practiced for hours per day for years to develop a spin of the ball to make it rise like a top on an ascending string as it neared the front wall. Because air is cooler and more dense closer to the floor, my kill shots never touched the floor, skipping along like a stone on water on an air cushion. I suppose this is the first time I’ve revealed the physics principle. My The Complete Book of Racquetball would be laying around tournaments clubs across the country, and I’d sit in the bleachers watching other pros, including one named Rich Wagner, a handsome young player on the book cover with me, appearing a bit goofy in dual colored Converse shoes, so everyone assumed Wagner was me. The girls would squirm on the bleachers plotting how to lay Steve Keeley after the match, when after all it was Wagner. I would laugh and laugh because Wagner would be my next opponent whom I had taught every nuance except my edge.

The gigolo of Slab City is not the most handsome, masculine, best dressed, or smartest. But he has slats like popsicle sticks inserted under the epidermis of his penis providing a perpetual erection. The girls share his secret only with their best friends, and the men complain that he gets more ’seat’ than the Rhino Room outhouse at the Music Range. Understanding how monopolies work, I asked him how, looking for an edge. He replied, ‘To succeed in this business, you have to move in a new direction of adding value to the relationship.’ He laughed and laughed so hard his crotch began to clap.


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