Brooklyn Boro

‘Gimme a M!’

November 12, 2021 William A. Gralnick
Head shot of writer William Gralnick
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Every kid in high school is looking for an edge unless you have one built-in. Captain of the football or basketball team had such an edge. I was co-captain of the riflery team; most of the school didn’t know we had one. I was the last man cut from basketball tryouts. I went from almost someone to oblivion. Oblivion could be the black hole of Calcutta. While not the largest high school in Brooklyn, Midwood was filled to capacity almost from day one, and as the years went by, it got to capacity plus. During the changing of classes, the halls were like the subway on the weekend headed to Brighton Beach, except people were moving. I think there were 1,200 students in my class. That’s a lot of oblivion.

If one is smart, one isn’t obviously looking for an edge. It made you look like a jerk. No edge there. I developed a friendship with a girl whose reputation was that she was “off-limits.” “Property of Football Team” would have read her jersey, which had inside of it things that would cause at my current edge a-fib. Then it caused something else. She was like the Israeli fruit called the Sabra. A Sabra is prickly like a cactus on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside. She was unhappy. She had her edge but…was it worth it? We’d talk for hours. Being friends with a girl who had an edge did not give me an edge. From the football team, I got warnings; from everyone else I got sneers. 

I had other openings. In one class, I sat next to the captain of the cheerleaders. She was sweet, friendly, and so wholesomely pretty it was hard not to stutter when you tried to talk to her. But she had a boyfriend, an upperclassman, and many in line if he didn’t work out. In another class, I was on a diagonal, one desk removed from the co-captain of the cheerleaders. She had an exotic look, an upperclassman for a boyfriend, and a Chick-fil-A length line waiting for their chance. A breakup gave me an opening. I asked her to Homecoming; I don’t know how I had the guts to do it. Her response? “Oh Bill, I’d love to go with you, but just earlier, I accepted an invitation from someone else.” 

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Half a win? This edge thing was definitely not working out until I attended a football home game.

The cheerleaders were doing their best — jumping, exhorting, shaking their pom-poms. The crowd wasn’t responding. I got a brainstorm. I stood up, and with my very good lungs, I turned to the crowd and shouted,  “Gimme a M!” I got a few. I shouted, “Gimme an I: the numbers and decibel level increased. By the time I got to D and W, I was performing  like my mother’s cousin, the famous big band leader Shep Fields. And I will admit, it was exhilarating; the adrenaline was coursing through my body. I started going to games regularly, and regularly, I polished my act. I now had an edge. Kids would be urging me to start the chant. The cheerleaders took it up, shouting each letter to the crowd through their megaphones. I’ll be damned, I thought. I really did have my edge. People stopped me in the halls. People said my Monday hoarse voice was earned in a good cause. I was almost something. I had my edge — until I didn’t.

Came the biggest game of the year, homecoming, the one I had lost out on in the dating lottery. It was a tight game against whom I don’t remember. Everyone was psyched; you could feel the tension in the stands. I stood; kids actually cheered for me. Like in the Seattle Seahawks stadium, famous for its screaming, I began. “Gimme a M!” Full-throated a wave of M’s descended on me. “Gimme an I,” I bellowed. They bellowed back. The D was just as encouraging. I was like a fully loaded freight train. I would not be denied. Gimme an “O!” Caught up in the frenzy, the O rose from hundreds of throats and filled the stands. Came another “O’ and then with every ounce of strength I possessed, and every bit of oxygen I could suck in, I roared my finale. “Gimme a D!” And they did, with the gusto of German’s in a beer hall.

Then someone next to me leaned in tight and said, “MIDOOD?”  

“What?” I said, still in the moment. He said, “You just spelled MIDOOD, not MIDWOOD.”

Getting an edge takes time. Losing it doesn’t.

I stopped going to football games.

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