Friday, June 7, 2013

FML Madness - Josh Berk!

It's Friday!  And to cap off the week, I have a hilarious story from Josh Berk, a man who definitely knows funny.  He's the author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator, and Strike Three: You're Dead, and the only guy I know who can pull off hair like that.

Ah, FML. I have plenty of stories about Fine Malt Liquor that I will be more than happy to share. Oh, wait: FML means what? I AM SHOCKED AND APPALLED. I AM CLUTCHING MY PEARLS. I am dumb.

So, weirdly enough, I was really into sports in high school. I did track and cross-country, but my main sport was basketball. Basketball was a pretty big deal at Freedom High School (actual name) and it wasn't easy to land a spot on the Patriots team (actual team name). We had something like 1,000 boys in that school. And, okay, not all of them wanted to be on the b-ball team (what I actually called it), but it was pretty competitive. And I was pretty good. In fact I was exactly the 12th best basketball player out of the 1,000 boys in that school during my junior year.

I know I was exactly the 12th best player because there were 12 players who made the team. And I was the worst. So again: pretty big honor to make the team, pretty sad accomplishment to be the worst dude on the team. I went to all the practices, travelled to all the games, put in a ton of time wearing spandex undershorts (see picture), but I NEVER GOT IN THE GAMES. I just sat there, riding the pine, hanging out with the cheerleaders. It could've been worse, but it could've been better. I wanted some quality PT! (What I actually called "playing time.")

So near the end of the year, there was one of those games where were just crushing the opposition. The Patriots had some quality players that year and as our lead got bigger and bigger, the end of the bench guys got more and more excited. There were only about nine guys that played on a regular basis, with two other schlubs like me. They got in slightly more than I did, make no mistake. I was THE ABSOLUTE WORST. But they spent a lot of time getting splinters in their butts as well.

So our lead grew and the coach started looking down towards the end of the bench. I remember fixing my hair, as if he was going to choose who to put in based on who was the most perfectly-coiffed. But instead he chose Rashan. Rashan was a cool guy. Like really cool. Everyone loved him. He had a cool nickname -- Boogie. Okay, maybe that's not a cool nickname, but he made it work. He had a way about him. He was way worse at basketball than at least ten guys on the team, and only better than one, but he was cool.

So the coach looked down the bench and yelled, "Boogie -- get in there." The crowd went nuts. Before he even got in, just when he took off his warm-up jersey and walked to the scorer's table, the crowd went nuts. "BOOGIE! BOOGIE! BOOGIE!" He probably winked. Girls probably fainted. So Boogie gets into the game and doesn't exactly distinguish himself with his play. He misses a shot, drops a pass, and fouls a guy -- which is one thing you're really not supposed to do late in a game with a big lead. The crowd didn't care. They kept chanting. "BOOGIE! BOOGIE! BOOGIE!" He kept grinning.

Coach looked down the bench. He realized there was one other scrub who never got into games. Or maybe he was just pissed at Boogie about that foul. "Berk," he said. My heart leapt. "They're probably going to kill me, but go get Rashan." By "they," he meant the crowd. The hundreds -- thousands -- of Boogie-fans stomping in the bleachers.

"It's cool, Coach," I said, taking off my warm-up jersey. "They love me too."

Was I delusional? A little. Not totally. I knew I wasn't as cool as Boogie. But I had some friends I thought would be happy to see me in the game. At least my dad maybe. And besides, everyone was in a good mood. We were winning by about 25 points. The whistle blew. The referee waved me in.

"Boogie," I said, pointing to him. This is all you have to do to tell a player you're in and they're out. You point at them and say their name. It took the crowd a moment to realize what was happening, but once they did, it was brutal. "Boo," I heard, and tried to convince myself they were just cheering for "Boogie," and not yet getting around to the second syllable.

But no. They were booing. "Booo! Boooo! BOOOOOOOOOOO!" This was the first --
the only! -- time I got into a game all year. And I got booed. At a home game. By my own fans. FML. I promptly dropped a pass, missed a shot, fouled a guy. FML x2.

So that's that, friends. The good thing about it all was that I ended up not playing basketball at all senior year. (Okay, I got cut.) I let my hair grow long, let my freak fly in the wind, and got a really cute girl to go to prom with me. (Actually she asked me, and still pretty much calls the shots around here; we've been married for 9 years.)
Oh, Josh, your wife is a very lucky tolerant woman. Thanks for sharing! Today I've got a copy of Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator to give away. To enter, leave a comment with your high school nickname! I'll choose the winner next week. And then don't forget to enter the other giveaways and check back on Monday when I'll announce some winners!

Josh Berk is the author of the teen novels The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews & and Guy Langman: Crime Scene Proscrastinator (2012). He has also written the "Lenny & The Mikes" series for younger readers, which debuted in 2013. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Find Josh at


  1. This cracked me up! But, slave to '80s movies that I am, I expected you to pull a Teen Wolf and win the game.

    1. Ha! Now all I can picture is Basketball Berk's hair slowly morphing into Prom-Berk's hair.

  2. LOL awesome! LOVE the hair :D

    High school nickname? Well I had a couple.

    1. Mitchell (which will be explained when my own FML moment is posted) ;) - used most often by a dear friend who recently passed away. As much grief as this name brought me when used by teachers, I'd give anything to hear Kendra use it again. I was Mitchell to her long after high school :)

    2. Tomate - French for tomato - bestowed because I was shy and when I had to get up in front of class for any sort of presentation, my face would go so beet red my teachers often feared for my health.

    3. Misha - not sure why I got this one. Someone started calling me Misha one day and it sort of stuck.

    4. Kermit - only one friend called me this - given because as a nerdy freshman on my very first spirit day I sprayed green coloring in my hair...but only in my bangs because I couldn't commit to a full-on green head. Brandon said I looked like Kermit the Frog and he called me Kermit until we graduated. He'd probably still call me Kermit if I were to ever see him again lol

    So, there you go - 4 years of high school, 4 nicknames. I'm sort of fond of them though :) And I still respond to them when used LOL

  3. LOL. My high school nickname was Ratt Mush (my real name is Matt Rush, MacNish is a pen name). I hated that nick name.

    This is an awesome story! I played basketball for three different high schools. I was pretty big as a teenager, so mostly I played power forward, and I was a good rebounder, but I couldn't shoot. Or dribble. Still, they give everybody six fouls.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.