It’s funny how we compete to be named the best at something and then as soon as we get the trophy, the award we’ve worked so hard for becomes just another dust collector in the garage.
Hey, not to brag, but I’ve won plenty of awards over the years in athletics, music, writing, and even public service.
However, you would have a hard time seeing any of them. I have a whole bunch of press awards in the office that I haven’t even unpacked – and I’ve been here for over two years.
I think we are all like that. Once the sweat has dried and the applause has died down, we accept our accolades and cast them aside as we prepare to chase the next windmill.
That being said, there is a trophy that I helped win that I know where I’m talking about as I speak.
However, he is not named after Duane Sherrill. Instead, it simply says “First Place” and is a harmless trophy, standing about 2 feet tall with a large musical note on top.
It goes way back before ‘America’s Got Talent’ was even thought of and the talent show’s most popular TV episode was when Peter Brady did his solo when his voice changed in a very special episode of ‘The Brady Bunch” where they showcased their talent and the show simultaneously jumped the shark.
“We can win everything,” smiles Jimmy. “We can practice a few times and we’ll be a shoo-in.”
So we got the band together: me on trumpet, Jimmy on ivories, Eugene on sax, Billy on clarinet and, to confirm that we’d be the biggest nerds in the contest, we even had a guy playing the tuba and we called ourselves The Dreamliners for no good reason.
We chose a jazzy version of “When the Saints go Marching In” as our track and showed up on contest night with high hopes, until we realized we had shown up for a heavy metal gig.
Unbeknownst to us, our town’s resident rock band – Black Pearl – had entered the talent contest. While they looked like what I imagine four acid-free monkeys with no taste for music would sound like they were in a band, they had a rabid following and really great hair.
“Never mind. Guess we’re gonna win,” Jimmy said, looking out into the sea of metal fans wearing black t-shirts. “We don’t stand a chance.”
As expected, this was a big on-court advantage for the metal heads as they booed most acts off stage.
There was a poor guy who sang “Still” by Lionel Richie. Bless his heart, for he couldn’t carry a melody in the bucket. It was like going to a drunken karaoke night where cats get skinned.
Finally, he came to the last note. The room fell silent until he blurted out the last word – “Always”. The room burst out laughing. The poor guy was then booed off the stage.
“These guys are jerks,” I told Jimmy as we walked to the stage. However, we knocked it out of the park as we were all good musicians.
And in the end, instead of being booed, we received respectful applause, bowed and walked off stage left as Black Pearl prepared to rock the arena – well, that was actually the high school auditorium.
As expected, the metalheads danced around the room as the band shrieked incoherently. I swear, I didn’t understand a word the whole time. Such anger.
So, after our ears were done ringing, the assistant manager took to the stage to present the talent show award. “Black Pearl, Black Pearl, Black Pearl” started the vocals as the principal asked for silence.
“Let’s go,” Jimmy said, dejected that we weren’t going to win.
I shook my head. “Let’s just see where this leads,” I replied as the principal revealed that second place went to Chris Adcock, who was a very good singer.
“See, we didn’t even come second,” Jimmy said as the principal named the winner.
“And, in the first place – The Dreamliners.”
You could have heard a pin drop. It was a stunned silence. Jimmy and I looked at each other in amazement.
However, we were quickly dragged out of there when the crowd, in unison – which Black Pearl couldn’t do – started chanting “You suck! You suck!”
“I won’t get the trophy,” Jimmy’s eyes widened. “You go get it.”
“Me? Why me? You’re the one who wanted to get into this in the first place and came up with that stupid name,” I replied as the director waited on stage even as the chants grew louder.
He just stood there, watching me expectantly. It was then that a thought crept into my head, as if a little devil had suddenly jumped on my shoulder and whispered something stupid in my ear.
By the way, at the time, I had a tendency to do stupid things.
I took my keys out of my pocket. “Go start my car and run it,” I said pushing my keys against his chest.
“Do you want me to get the trophy or not?” I replied as he took the keys. “Do it.”
As Jimmy trotted off to do as I said, I made my way down the aisle through the angry barbs of disgruntled Black Pearl fans. I took the stage and accepted the trophy from the director, who I could tell was embarrassed, if not downright scared, by the rowdy audience. At that exact moment, I was able to ignore the devil in my ear and started to walk off stage.
“You’re a slush head, Sherrill,” a redneck metalhead in a black T-shirt shouted from the front row, except he didn’t say the word “slush.” He said one of the words that I cannot repeat here.
It was then that something broke. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, and walked back to the mic where the manager was still applauding me politely even as the “You suck” chants continued.
Then, hoisting the trophy as high as I could, I brought the microphone to my lips and shouted, “I’m not bad. You suck, and so does your shitty group!”
I paused for a moment to enjoy the quietest sound of silence I had ever heard. I looked at the headmaster and he stood in mid applause, stunned as if frozen in time.
I turned to exit left. The room was so quiet that I could hear the floorboards creak under my feet on the old auditorium floor as I made my way to the side door. I had taken about five steps when, out of the sea of metal heads, I heard “WAIT FOR IT!”
I may be crazy but I’m not stupid. I screamed like a little girl running for the door.
“Be there. Be there. Be there, please,” I begged under my breath as I ran through the dark parking lot. To my delight, my red Z28 was sitting there running.
I jumped into the passenger seat. “GO. GO. GO!” I shouted as the side door swung open into the auditorium and a crowd of redneck metal heads burst like the villagers taking after Frankenstein’s monster.
They were just missing torches and pitchforks as we fled the parking lot like we’d just robbed 7-11.
“Or?” Jimmy asked, inflating the wide rear tires of the raised Camaro.
“I don’t care,” I replied. “Go somewhere that’s not there and do it fast!”
Thanks to a pumped up 350 under the hood of my Z we were able to outrun the Black Pearl crowd that night, although I must admit I spent the next two school days to let things calm down a bit . Again, crazy, not stupid.
So yes, I am proud of this trophy. It reminds me of the night I stood up to a rude and angry mob, even though it ended with me running for my life. And yes, Black Pearl still sucks.
Duane Sherrill is the editor of the Tullahoma News.