by Kyle Mann
It was 1992 when I got around to trying dimethyltryptamine. I smoked just one hit of the stuff, way out on the back end of Maui near Kipahulu, and the staggering intensity of the experience made me want to forgive everyone for everything. Even my childhood enemy, Pete Carroll.
DMT defies easy description. “Like a thousand acid trips at once” doesn’t come close. John Lennon famously said he didn’t trust anything that made you want more right away. For me, DMT was quite the opposite: by far the strongest single drug I have ever tried, and over 20 years later I’m still wondering when I’ll feel like doing a second attempt. Not this week, man.
Here’s what you need to be told before I launch into this blatant pile-on of Pete Carroll: I ain’t objective, not one damn bit. I have a great reason, however, in that he and I were in mutual childhood contempt of each other from the fourth grade, when I was the new kid, to the last year of High School, essentially the entire decade of the sixties.
I first saw Pete playing football with a broken arm in a cast, and using it to block. I was impressed, because his brand of insanity left me flummoxed. Even at age nine, he was focused on this one thing. That he subsequently turned into a successful coach shouldn’t be a surprise, in retrospect.
My three years at Marin County’s Greenbrae Elementary were disfigured by Pete and his clique of bullies, one of whom sucker punched me in the gut on my first week there. I never fought Pete, though I did have a couple fights, and won, against marginal characters. But Pete hated me throughout those first years at our grade school, now long ago torn down in the rush to cash in on condos.
Pete was also there at A.E. Kent School for my seventh and eighth grades, still a repellent presence sneering at me in contempt, but by then at least quasi-ignorable. The Beatles had burst onto the scene, and soon afterwards, thankfully, the brand-new hippie culture became a factor, as LSD and pot wiped everyone’s slate clean. I know it did for me, anyway. High school sports were not even remotely relevant to many of my classmates by 1966 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pete Carroll had become a member of an embittered minority of jocks amid a colorfully dressed crowd of turned on, tuned in boys and girls newly liberated and celebrating their freedom.
To participate in sports at Redwood High School in the 60’s, even cross country running, males had to have short hair that didn’t touch the ear. This had a crippling effect on the school programs, and the manly sports heroes and teased hair cheerleaders of 1965 looked decidedly uncool and even laughably irrelevant almost overnight. Somehow in just one year, everything changed.
Carroll and his ilk no longer mattered to most of my like-minded friends at the school. In fact, the school itself seemed meaningless, and I spent a lot of time off campus in San Francisco, among older hipsters I could learn from. At 15, I attended a Doors concert at the Avalon Ballroom. After that, I stopped caring about conventional reality. And there was the LSD, which had a fantastic effect on me at the time. I morphed from an angry punk to a young fellow open to anything. By 1967 I had shoulder-length hair, had grown a mustache, and Pete was an object of mild derision, if even thought of at all.
OK, now Pete is a coach that was just paid millions to get to the last two Super Bowls, an outstanding accomplishment by most standards. What have I done lately? Sure, you can ask that question of me, an unknown writer with a day job living quietly in the old hippie enclave of Topanga Canyon. But here’s the kicker, so to speak: I am not the currently the object of national derision that threatens to match the lasting and historic infamy of Wrong Way Riegels.
Of course Pete was trying to pull off a “smart” play to win the Super Bowl. Yes, the play was apparently sent in by the offensive coordinator. But Pete approved it. It was different. It was flashy. It showed contempt for the New England defense, and of course, it was dead wrong.
Pete’s always been arrogant, a trait noted by others, notably when he left LA under a cloud and the USC football program in shameful disgrace, a sanctioned mess. The Grantland Rice Award was rescinded but once in its history, an award in memory of the sportswriter who famously wrote “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Pete is a big reason the sporting award was yanked back from USC, as I see it. Remember, I ain’t objective, right?
Of course Pete should have run the damn ball in from a half yard away. This is the consensus view from Seattle to Cape Cod, and even Pete now tragically agrees with this judgement. Just google around if you want more. I have had some huge belly laughs at the extravagant rhetoric used to trash Carroll in the last couple days since Super Bowl 49. I’m not particularly proud of my chortles, but I do admit that the cowed nine year old in me finds it therapeutic. Is it spiritually worthy, however, to kick the dude when he’s down?
Back in 1992, blasted out of my habitual thought patterns by DMT, I wasn’t so sure that my negative feelings were acceptable. As the substance came on, time slowed, then stopped. Not only was it all happening at the same time, it was all happening in the same place. The beings that live in the sun were laughing, as all was one. The creature with a thousand eyes roared up from a point of infinity and asked me what I wanted. “A back rub,” I replied honestly.
Later, coming down, I decided the best thing I could do for myself and the universe was to forgive everyone who I felt had hurt me, especially as a child. One of those high up on the list was of course Pete, now defensive coordinator of the New York Jets. So I wrote him a letter wishing him well, and even wrote “From a Greenbrae Elementary School classmate” on the envelope.
There was no answer, and I shrugged. Hey, at least I tried. Then came a nationally televised football game featuring Pete’s Jets versus the Miami Dolphins. Kicker Pete Stoyanovitch came on to attempt a game tying extra point, but pushed it wide right. Ouch.
What happened next is the core concept I’m pushing, and to my mind thoroughly illustrative. Pete Carroll mocked the miss, hand at his throat. Choker. Choker. Choker.
I was stunned, instantly reverted back into a traumatized nine year old child. That same face, twisted with contempt. Pete had just confirmed on nationwide TV that he was an asshole. A Major Asshole. One of the biggest, widest assholes of all time. Classless beyond belief. You know, I thought, screw this compassion stuff. He’s an asshole for the ages. A colossal failure of human decency. Not a nice guy, at all. I was right at age nine, and I am right in 1992. Letters wishing well? Phooey. So went my thoughts at the time.
Which leaves me where in 2015, over two decades later still? To mangle and paraphrase an old saying, those whom the gods would destroy in America, they would first make rich and famous. We’ve all seen it over and over in this madhouse of a society we live in. Can I summon any compassion for Pete after reading dozens of hostile articles, after listening to and watching multiple broadcast attacks on the dude? Hell, I knew the poor sap over 50 years ago as a little kid. And despite all that money and fame, I wouldn’t want to be him, at least not for the next couple months, and perhaps not for the couple decades.
Pete stands a decent chance now of being infamous as the greatest choker in Super Bowl history, and perhaps even football history. Like Wrong Way Riegels, of whom people only remember one thing, when Pete is remembered, it may well be likely be for the Super Choke.
Pete Carroll is a visceral symbol of the greater sickness afflicting America. We have become the Roman Empire, and it seems likely to me that our society is in an accelerated decline, with bread and circuses aka “entertainment” leading us on into folly. Sadly, for many it has become bread and circuses without the bread.
What really scares me is this: we are all arrogant. Pete’s disease is in every American. Look how we exploit others just to inflate our standard of living, with cheap goods manufactured by hapless economic slaves in distant lands. Observe how we allow wars to be created by our leaders and no longer even look into them, much less object. See how we stupidly participate in the destruction of the environment of our planet for profit. I’m just as complicit as you.
American football is a remarkably violent game, both fascinating and abhorrent. After Vietnam, we no longer broadcast our wars in this country, and bone-snapping action on the gridiron is our substitute for it, complete with giant American flags and lengthy choreographed salutes to the military. We’re number one!
It’s a ghastly time in America, and we need to admit it: we are all Pete Carroll.