The Last Word – The Viking Magazine

The Last Word

Michael Cullen

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I had to do it. They said I could relinquish the reins after last issue, and give up my spot on the last page, but I wanted the chance to pull out me ol’ quill and ink for the Viking one last time. And when I say that, “after this I’m done”, I mean it in the literal sense, and not the way Brett Favre means it. So after some deep meditation, a bowl of Easy Mac, and some Sportscenter, I was ready to write. Here at the Viking we stay with Tradition, so I called up my boy Coop and had him slap my head on a Thor action figure just for the hell of it. This, ladies and gentleman, is the last Last Word.
Let’s start it off with a little reminiscence on my freshman year. Before I had a letterman, a car or any semblance of facial hair, I trotted out onto the grass (yes, grass) of Hod Ray field for my first taste of high school football. Soaking wet I weighed about 145 lbs, and I was dwarfed by the likes of Donnie Salas (’07) and Mike Scott(’07). As a freshman on JV I lived through the era of “punk nasty”, even having the privilege of seeing a fellow teammate get his backpack punknasty’d and (for the younger readers out there) “soiled in. I sustained a fractured hand in the second game of the season but played the next week with a pad around my cast. 2 weeks later, I was back in the hospital with another broken wrist, this time my right hand. Despite bring on the butt end of many immature jokes and T-rex impressions from my teammates, I stuck it out with two casts, and got one of my mega man hands removed in time for the Gunn game. Football was a great way to get to met new people and accustomed to the school, but I was still unfamiliar with the seemingly odd traditions and customs that I would come to see around Paly, like spirit week, or the masked naked folk who dashed through the quad with a week of school left. My first year at Paly introduced me to a culture I would come to know and love.
Sophomore year arrived with high expectations. It’s definitely a lot easier to play football with both arms, and after working out all summer with my teammates I was ready to go. After every football game won, we would blast techno music from the janky locker room speakers and rage. And this was way before Bryan Wilson showed everyone how. We went undefeated (foreshadowing anyone…?) and started a post game tradition that followed us all the way to Carson, CA for a state title (and subsequent hotel raging). Nobody would have believed that when me and Will Glazier(’11) talked as sophomores about raging on the plane home from states as seniors that it was anything but a pipe dream.  Junior year seemed to fly by with all the intellectual and scholarly things that were asked of us. After my first full season of varsity football and the first season of dudes’ lacrosse at Paly, I had two league championships under my belt.
Coming into this year, the mystique of senior year had been built up to colossal proportions. It is safe to say that it has been nothing short of spectacular. What started in August with ‘hell week’ ended in Earl Hansen hoisting the D1 State Championship trophy to the heavens, and his glorious moustache finally getting the credit it deserves.  Me and my teammates got to play on California’s highest stage, and came out as champions.  And for the haters out there who dare slander “Teenage Dream”, I will not encourage or endorse the awful lip-syncing that occurred in the video, but if you have a problem with the celebratory merriment that occurred on an eight hour bus ride then you can kiss my big ol’ state ring.
It was a humbling experience to lose in the semifinals in lacrosse this year. I walked off that field in shock, because it hit me that it was the last time I would ever suit up and go to war for Palo Alto high school. When you live on top of the world for much of your season it makes the fall that much harder.  On the bus back from Mountain View, I felt a new sense of pride and love for this school. I will be graduating high school, but I will never forget the fierce pride I felt every time I pulled on the green and white. I will never forget the loyalty I felt to my brothers every time they lined up next to me, no matter how battered, bruised, or broken they were. There is no pinnacle of emotion I have ever experienced that compares to the feeling of trotting onto the turf of Hod Ray, as the smoke from the barbecue descends onto the field with the gentle breeze, the band blasts music into the crowd, and the towering lights blast down luminous rays that vanquish the darkness from the gridiron. For those three hours under the lights, you feel untouchable.
Whether you read my column for laughs, my extensive vocabulary(ha!), or as is the case for me with most books, just for the pictures, I’ll always have the Last Word. Maybe not with my mother, but certainly at The Viking. And so one last time, for the magazine I love so dearly, this is Michael Cullen signing off. Have a great summer Paly, and oh yea… CLOM! \m/

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The Last Word