CREATING CAMP REDBLOOD PART II: THE CAMPERS
If you were one of those kids who still had to go to Phys-Ed during your later high school years because you didn’t play a sport, you might have an idea of what kind of campers populate Camp Redblood during the summer of 1985, when Camp Redblood and the Essential Revenge takes place.
I do not like sports. I played hockey growing up, and though I made the most of it, I remain as uninterested in it now as I was then. Consequently, I was one of those elder statesmen of the gym class, typically home by 3 pm relaxing with a peanut butter sandwich in front of Animaniacs instead of busting my ass at some type of practice. One of the more amusing relationships I observed in all of high school was that of the alpha-male coaches and the beta, zeta, and flat-out omega-males those coaches had to interact with during these late-stage gym classes.
The guy who got stuck with my junior year gym class was a football coach I liked a lot. He made the best of our very silly situation by treating us like we were his own players for fifty minutes a week to varying (and often hilarious) degrees of success. My greatest athletic achievement in all of high school* was being called “Tiger” by this guy, a term of endearment normally reserved for his players. This moment occurred during one of those aborted gym class football games that I was taking way too seriously (being one of the more athletic kids in a class full of human marshmallows did wonders for my anti-sports attitude). I had made a decent tackle and the coach gave me a slap on the back and said, “There ya go, Tiger!” with legitimate enthusiasm. The coach was from the Midwest I think, so imagine someone from Fargo saying that.
It was a small gesture to him I’m sure, but here I am thirteen years later writing about it. A few other guys in the class received the honor of being called Tiger as well, and I’m sure they appreciated it as much as I did. Hell, we could have wound up with the shithead who spent those periods reading the sports pages while the nerds, potheads, and other athletically-challenged SOBs who made up his class fumbled around with basketballs and floor hockey equipment like Neanderthals discovering tools.
I guess this is my long, incoherent way of saying that Camp Redblood’s campers, like The Goonies and Stephen King’s Loser’s Club before them, are good, old-fashioned outcasts. In creating these characters though, I didn’t want to just make them types (the fat kid, the smart kid, the mouth, etc.), I wanted to make them all as weird and original as possible, just like the guys in those ragtag gym classes. Even as a kid I was never convinced that The Goonies were the rejects Sean Astin’s character described them as. Sure, they’re all a little weird, but they’re not exactly sitting by themselves at the lunch table. Aside from Chunk and maybe Data, I’m sure the rest of them would have avoided upper-classmen Phys-Ed. Brand is a jock for Christ sake.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Camp Redblood in 1985 is in a steady state of decline, with their “best” campers (i.e. the most athletic, confident, popular, and prettiest) having defected to arch-rival Camp Eagle. Redblood’s director, Dr. Cheevers, comes from a much different world, one where the geeks had not yet inherited the Earth, where feminism was a nascent, mildly irritating concept, and where you stood up for yourself with your fists if necessary. Being from that world, Cheevers doesn’t quite know what to make of the goofballs he’s left with, so he makes the most of them, just like my junior year gym teacher did.
*I go back and forth regarding my greatest athletic achievement in high school. Some days it’s the memory listed above, other days it’s the single game of JV Vollyball I played in (lost 15-0), which I did for the sole purpose of being invited to their end-of-year cookout. I still have the jersey and you better believe I listed JV Vollyball as an activity on my college applications.