18 and Life.


Not every book is ballsy enough to have a chapter titled after a Skid Row song, but this one is. While Sebastian Bach wouldn't exactly be the first choice to sing the soundtrack of my life, there's something about his screeching that really speaks to me.

And for at least one week in the summer of my 18th year, long-haired rock, and not the good kind, was blaring whenever Jane's Addiction wasn't. I remember it well. Well, most of it. Okay, some of it.

After we threw our graduation caps in the air, and before we headed off to our respective universities, 12 of us traveled to Ocean City, Maryland for Senior Week. We had big hair, low tolerances and all of the enthusiasm in the world.

Free to drink our faces off, talk to strangers and play our music too loud, I must tell you: it was awesome.

We stayed in one large room in an absolute dump called the Spindrift Efficiencies. Somebody had a kick-a** fake ID and we had all of the sh*tty beer, Mad Dog 20/20, wine coolers and ZIMA we could drink. Had we known at the time that ZIMA would have a relatively short shelf life, some of us probably would have savored it more. I was a beer drinker myself. I might still be in Ocean City if someone hadn’t had the presence of mind to instruct me to get my a** into the damn car at week’s end. Left to my own devices, I had been on a tear similar to Nic Cage’s in Leaving Las Vegas.

Most of my calories had been liquid, most of my sleep, interrupted, and if memory serves, most of the people I met seemed like colorful caricatures. Hey, blackouts are like that.

I knew that as soon as I returned from that week of sh*t-canned degeneracy that “it was on.” I had an agenda: work out, play tennis hardcore and prepare to make my escape to the blissful confines of Happy Valley to set the Big 10 tennis world on fire.

Though I should have been grateful to be on my way to State College to attend school and play tennis, what I really felt was a sense of entitlement. I believed that if I had to take on this tennis player persona, the least the universe could do was reward me with a scholarship.

Somehow I saw being a gifted athlete as my cross to bear.

And because heavy is the head that wears the imaginary crown, and because I was hungover as f*ck, taking the SATs early one Saturday morning was rough—but not nearly as rough as it would have been if my scores were actually going to matter. I had pretty much been told that I simply had to take the test—I didn’t have to do well. Test day found me bleary-eyed. I had drunk myself silly the night before mostly because I could, but also so that if I did end up doing sh*tty, I could say, “I was so hungover when I took that test.” It was a self-fulfilling prophesy fueled by Sam Adams, more likely it was stolen Stroh’s.

But, fear not: things like GPAs and SATs were never going to stand in the way of my State College adventure. I was accepted before I even finished the application. Several of my friends, who had way better academic credentials, had been required to attend summer session in order to gain acceptance that fall. Obviously it’s not a policy unique to Penn State to grant athletes special treatment. Rules are bent and broken for quarterbacks, shooting guards, goalies and girls with backhands like mine nearly everywhere. Plus, I was no dummy.

Academically lazy, you bet, but also well aware that Penn State and the other programs that had been recruiting me didn't much care about my classroom prowess—so why the hell should I?  

Anyway, when people say, “We Are…Penn State,” I always think: I Most Certainly Was Not. Though I waltzed into Happy Valley in August of 1991 like God’s gift to Joe Paterno, I should have shouted: get a load of me while you can … this could be brief.