What Could Be Worse Than the Max Curse?

By Tom Alexander

Nothing But Net. Unless Max was around.

DAVIE, FL (Special to TSD) I was reminded this morning of an unusual stretch of my life by an old friend. It has to do with another old friend. This first friend is a public figure, a writer for a daily newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so I could use his name – Dave Konopki. He’s the sports editor for the Times Leader. Dave and I go back to 7th or 8th grade. We were ushers in each other’s weddings. We still talk quite frequently. Whenever I need to find out anything going on in my old hometown, Dave is the “go to” guy.

The other old friend is not a public figure, and quite frankly, we haven’t even seen each other in probably twenty-five years, so I’ll give him an alias and respect his privacy.

We’ll call him Max.

On a Facebook entry Dave reminded me of the Max Curse, which I’ll attempt to explain with detail.

First off, why was I reminded of the Max Curse? Because the high school Dave and I attended, is being torn down, for a new, more modern facility. Dave questioned whether this demolition would reverse the Max Curse – that it would forever be broken – that I would be free of this “enchantment” that has haunted me lo these many years; Although I’ll admit, I haven’t thought about it recently.

Anyway, at Dallas (Pennsylvania) Senior High School, like every high school in America, is a gym. And in that gym during the lunch hour, we’d play intramural basketball. Not very organized games – pick up games. These intramural games were often reserved for the less physically gifted – like myself. I was not an athlete. I did/do three things well in sports. I could hit a fastball, if I know it’s coming. I could hit a fairway every time – as Judge Smails said in Caddyshack “I never slice” – and I don’t. Ten year old girls can outdrive me, but I never slice. And finally, left unguarded, I’ll always hit a twelve foot jumper from the corner – take it to the bank. Other than that, my sports skills are better left tucked away deep in the sports pages next to the ads for hernia repair and athlete’s foot cream.

So there I was, playing in these pick up games. I’d find my spot in the corner and drill the jumper, unless someone was in my face, that’s when I’d go into a mild panic. In one particular game, as Dave likes to point out, I was unconscious – nailing jumpers at will. Even a small crowd gathered to see the class comedian with the big hair and geeky glasses sinking shots from the corner. That’s when Max walked in. He yelled out, “Shoot Tom.” The next shot I tossed up was a brick.

“No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll hit the next one.”

Brick again. It was a flurry of bricks and air balls the rest of the day. My scoring streak was over.

Now keep in mind, Max was nice guy and a fine athlete himself. In fact, he started on the basketball team, and was an all-star in baseball. We’d always gotten along fine. But for whatever reason, I’d go into an unprecedented choke whenever he was near. It was uncanny. It was Dave Konopki who first identified this phenomenon and dubbed it the Max Curse. It went on throughout the entire intramural season. One day I was walking through the hall, carrying a bag of materials for a science project when Max said “hi.” A second later, the bag split open and the contents spilled onto the floor as I hurriedly attempted to gather them up, red faced with humiliation. The Max Curse had now transcended sports and permeated my life. I can’t imagine what would have happened had he walked in on me when I was with a girl.

There was never any explanation as to why the Max Curse was so utterly and completely crippling. Of course Dave Konopki delighted in not only reminding me of the paranormal hex, but calling other’s attention to it. To his credit, he approached Max about attempting to reverse it. Max, didn’t even know it existed – he just thought I genuinely sucked. But, he agreed to lift the clouds from around me.

It didn’t work.

In Max’s presence, I swung and missed, sliced golfballs into the woods, and never made a layup, let alone a shot from the corner.

So, thirty years later, our high school is being torn down. I wonder if this will actually, once and for all, lift the Max Curse forever.

I really don’t know. But I can tell you that as I post this article, strange things are going on with my computer.  Rod Serling must be around somewhere.

Or maybe it’s Max.

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