This is the story about the time I convinced my mom to buy me a pair of parachute pants and then I decided to wear them while playing basketball. It’s a timeless story, and the lessons contained within could be applied to many modern day problems. But most importantly, it’s a cautionary tale about wearing parachute pants while playing basketball.
A few things you should know about me before I get started. First and foremost, I’m not a very stylish guy. It’s not that I have no style; I just have no logical understanding of what style is.
For example, I had a period in college where I wore a lot of mock turtle necks. My friend Snoop often referred to me as Gin Blossom. Being an idiot, I was unable to grasp the insult.
I had another phase where I wore vests, some of which had odd Native American-inspired drawings on them. Instead of looking cool, I looked like an inexperienced narc trying to score peyote at a Hall & Oates concert.
Recently, I have taken to wearing sweaters over collared shirts, then pushing the sweater sleeves into the rolled up cuffs of my shirt. I decided to do this because I saw a character on the TV show 30 Rock do it and I thought it looked comfortable. So yes – I consciously made a fashion decision based on an aging, schlubby looking actor whose character has essentially given up on life, from a television show that is watched by fourteen people.
At various stages of my life, I have tight rolled my jeans, fastened friendship beads on a blue jean jacket, grown a mullet, and owned at least one sleeveless t-shirt featuring that Japanese rising sun thing. Unfortunately, all of that occurred between 1998 and 2003. And for one glorious night in 1984, I wore a pair of parachute pants.
The other thing you should know about me is that I’m a sh*tty athlete. I have no business playing basketball with other human beings.
To my credit, I had a streak in the mid-1980s where I hit something like ten shots in a row from the free throw line, unguarded in my drive way. The only witness was my girlfriend who lived in Canada and who just so happened to visit me that one awesome afternoon. She was only in town for a few hours so no one else got to meet her, but she was totally real. Just like my free throw streak.
So why was I wearing parachute pants and playing basketball?
Like many kids in the 80s, I needed parachute pants. Supposedly they were very cool. Why? Beats the hell out of me. Seriously, they were ill-fitting and covered with zippers. Why did an 11 year-old need so many pockets? I always imagined putting an individual stick of gum in each one so as not to be weighted down by those cumbersome and unruly packets they normally come in.
But I knew they were cool because I was the only dude at Crosby Middle School not wearing them. And that’s a serious offense.
In the 1980s, Crosby Middle School was the fashion center of the country. These kids chose life years before George Michael did. Our mascot was a pair of Ray-Ban wearing leg warmers. Duran Duran’s “Rio” video was actually a student made film about our sixth grade field day.
So everyone at Crosby wore parachute pants, and, full disclosure, most of them sort of looked like idiots. Once again – they are really stupid looking pants. But as a transplanted Fern Creekian, I needed to establish my street cred.
After much ass kissing, I convinced my mom to buy me a pair. We had to drive all the way to the Galleria to get them because Jefferson Mall couldn’t keep them in stock and Bashford Manor just sold sweatpants with zippers drawn on them in silver Sharpie.
I found a glorious pair of black ones at Merry-Go-Round for the low price of $50, which if my understanding of economics is as solid as I believe it is, translates to something like $7 million dollars today.
For the record, those are the most expensive pants ever purchased by or for me. As someone who has already admitted to a total lack of fashion awareness, I don’t really know if that last statement is as outrageous as I think it is.
Once we got home, I greased my way into my new status symbols and headed over to my friend Branton’s house, where I’d be spending the night.
Branton was a good dude who loved INXS but was still grounded enough to once buy me a Dokken tape for my birthday. I loved sleeping over at Branton’s because A) his parents had the board game Passout, which we would play late at night pretending we were drunk, B) he had this older sister who was the most mysterious woman in all of J-Town and who I was totally infatuated with, and C) they had a pet rabbit named April Bunny, which to this day is the cutest f**king thing I’ve ever seen or heard.
After several hours of trying – and failing - to get Branton’s sister to notice how rad my ass looked in my new pants (we’re talking Loverboy album cover rad), we decided to go outside and “play” basketball. To this day, that seems like such a curious decision, as I have no memory of us playing basketball before or after that night. I can only think that I wasn’t getting enough blood to the brain due to the blood clots forming in my legs.
I’m standing back on the perimeter, air-balling three pointers like it’s my job, when Branton encourages me to go for a lay-up. Because I’m stupid, I take his advice.
It’s important to note that Branton’s basketball goal was mounted on top of a concrete wall, so any layup attempted could potentially result in great physical tragedy.
Branton passes me the ball, which of course, slips through my fingers and ends up in the middle of the road. After retrieving the ball, I charge back toward the goal, prepared to deliver one of the most ill-fated layups in the history of bad decisions.
As I get closer to the hoop, I hear the voice of my mother echoing in my empty skull.
“Patrick – these pants were very expensive, please take good care of them and don’t do anything wild while you have them on.”
The ball leaves my right hand, clanging hard against the bottom of the rim. For the first time all night, I remembered there was a concrete wall directly behind the basketball goal. My hands went up and I deftly pushed myself back and to the left. My body took a wild spin and I crashed violently into a group of garbage cans before landing hard on the driveway.
The rip stretched across the entire right knee. If I lived in Middletown, I could have probably pulled this look off, creating an entirely new trend of torn and frayed parachute pants. But being just another Fern Creek dirtbag, I realized that in one less than glorious moment, I had completely ruined any chance of ingratiating myself into the Crosby Middle School Illuminati.
Courtesy of a pair of borrowed sweatpants, I got home undetected. I made a vain attempt at sewing up the rip myself, but that ended in failure. I briefly considered tying a bandana around that knee, but decided against it out of fear that wearing one around the right leg might be akin to wearing an earring in the right ear. So I stuffed them into the back of my closet and avoided ever discussing their whereabouts with my mom.
For less than six hours one night in 1984, I rose above my station only to have it all come crashing down due to my own stupidity and hubris. Seriously, parachute pants and basketball? Who did I think I was – Tony Kimbro?
The lessons here are simple. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t let others judge you for what you wear. If you live in Jeffersontown or Fern Creek and you have a child that goes to Crosby Middle School, be prepared to spend a ridiculous amount of money on stupid clothes that your kid will only end up ruining doing something totally idiotic. And most importantly, never wear parachute pants while playing basketball.
photo courtesy of www.parachute-pants.com