I'm sure this node represents an individual that many, if not all of you, have never heard of. That will all change later this year. Like all half-way decent stories, the story of Radio's life will be made into a movie (Cuba Gooding Jr. will play the lead role), who's production I got to witness personally at least in part, and that is to be released this fall: I'm not sure exactly when, and I don't really care.
I do not care about the movie, because A) The less than exciting town I inhabit is making too big of a deal about it (actually nobody cares outside of my high school, because well, he's our mascot) and B) Movies never tell the whole story. He'll be able to add this movie to an impressive resume that includes a Sports Illustrated feature article in the December 16, 1996 issue, as well as a feature special on ESPN.
I do not know when he was born, or where, or much of his past with my high school, T.L Hanna High, and I'm sure both the movie, and future noders will solve that problem for you. My purpose here today, is to tell you that which I know about the man himself, and what he has become, not what he once was.
I think he was born sometime in the 1950's, under the name James Kennedy. He is mentally challenged, though I'm not sure whether as the result of an accident, or just bad luck at birth, and one day in 1964 he just started showing up to our high school's football practices. Befriended by Coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris), then the team's head coach, he became a kind of defacto mascot. At the time, he was never seen without a transistor radio, hence the nickname, which is now the name he answers to-and I've never seen him referred to as James.
He is most closely associated with the football team, which is justified because that is the one team who's games he never misses. As a matter of fact, after having to leave him behind during a crucial playoff game years ago (an act which caused him to cry), our football team was crushed, and has never played without him "coaching" on the sidelines again.
The movie's sports focus is almost entirely on his occupation with the football team, although until very recently when age and recurring injuries forced him out, he was a member of the track team. During races, he would cut across the track to get into the lead, and the old Hanna track coaches had an interesting time explaining why a cheating 30+ year old was running in their meets, but nobody ever protested.
Also, especially during playoff time, one will find that radio is closely tied to the Hanna soccer team, and being a member of said team, I know a lot about that. Radio often ends up helping with the concessions, which is funny, because we don't sell concessions at home soccer games, so he ends up "helping" people at other schools, who don't even know him. Last year, during one of our important region matches, Radio managed to get into the announcer's booth, and despite the other team's posession of the ball, he muttered "Hanna's got the ball, going to the goal," and I swear play just ground to a halt for a second as every player on the field turned and looked up at the booth-and then I stole the ball from the kid I was marking and won a throw-in.
This year, the few games Radio has been to, he has been involved as both a motivator, and a "coach." In spite of his inability to write his own name, and his trouble speaking coherently, his strategy is mind-numbingly simple. Put the ball in the net. He showed me a diagram he had drawn up while I was riding the pine last game, and it was actually pretty brilliant. Most of the little circles and lines were totally disorganized, but at the end of the page was a goal, and he showed a series of passes going out wide, and then crossing it in (to a stick-figure labelled "Radio") which headed in a goal. That is in fact, one of the staple offensive strategies of the game. I was quite impressed. His description unfortunately, boiled down to various mumblings and then "Put it in the goal" and then he gave me a high five. We humor him.
My favorite Radio experience was during a must-win region match earlier this year that would determine whether or not we made the playoffs. We got screwed by the ref, on a foul that actually was legal, and after much yelling, our head coach was thrown out of the game. Radio had been yelling a bit too over near those of us on the bench, (yelling to us, not the ref) and finally broke with the exclamation "I'll see you after the game Mr. Referee!"
The third athletic activity he participates in, that I almost forgot to mention, is cheerleading. When he's not leading our football team on to victory, he's on the track with the cheerleaders, who gladly lend him their pom poms so he can jump up and down and even do a few uncoordinated kicks. Everyone gets a laugh out of that and the girls eat it up.
His involvment with our school is not limited to just athletics though. Until recently, he was in fact, probably the hardest working non-teacher in the school, until (as is probably a portent for those of us in every career field) his job was replaced by a computer. Every day he boards a bus and arrives at school bright and early. He used to roam the halls every period and took up the attendence sheets, and to be honest, that was the best way to get to know the guy, because he and the teachers always had interesting exchanges. Now attendence is done on a computer program known as "Sassy" that (I kid you not) breaks down at least twice a day. Still though, he helps monitor the cafeteria, and helps to clean it up after we have finished eating.
A couple of interesting facts and anecdotes about radio:
Radio is always a junior. That is, he's the highest grade he can be, without ever having to graduate.
The two phrases said to him most are "Hey Radio" and "Shut the fuck up Radio." (This though, is never said to his face.) Standard protocol is just to agree with whatever he says, which you usually can't understand half the time anyways.
Radio is black. I just couldn't think of anywhere that fit in within the above paragraphs.
Radio is a perpetual member of the school's Naval Junior ROTC program, and takes part in the annual inspection each year, as well as having his picture in the year book dressed as a student officer.
Radio once pissed on my leg. That's right, don't ask me how it happened. It was lunch time one day, and I was the only person in there, so with 8 other free urinals, he chose the one next to me, and unleashed a power pee that managed to splatter quite liberally onto my calf. I wiped it off with some wet paper towels but wasn't really angry-after all, sweat contains urea too.
Radio has become quite a symbol around our school, and is a bit of a local legend. No faculty members can be around for more than a year or so without really liking him, and a lot of girls totally adore him, but most of the general student body hardly even gets to notice him with his much reduced duties, and take his presence for granted. While he's a nice guy, and well liked mostly, especially because he's fun to talk to for a good laugh, he is not the intrinsic part of Hanna life that he perhaps used to be, and that many of the staff consider him to be. Despite this, he will surely be around for quite a while longer, monitoring the lunchlines of future students for years to come. At least until the rest of the staff are replaced by computers.