Commentary

Time to run and tell Mom

Updated: March 6, 2010, 3:13 PM ET
By Carl Ehrlich | Special to ESPNBoston.com

Editor's note: Carl Ehrlich, who was the captain of the 2009 Harvard football team, is in Spain to play football. He's chronicling his experiences on and off the field for ESPNBoston.com. Today he reveals the downside of competitive trash talking.

When I was a kid, my brother and I competed in the "Ehrlich Triathlon."

For the first event, we picked a sport. These ranged anywhere from stickball to basketball to, for a brief and misguided period in my athletic career, aggressive in-line skating.

Actually, the first "sport" was just a backdrop for the real first event: Trash Talking. Anyone who has played anything against me (or read my last blog) knows I'm well practiced in this arena.

From this came the second event in the Ehrlich Triathlon: The Backyard Brawl. Using everything from elbow pads to pitching wedges (I wish I was joking), my brother and I would inevitably drop the gloves or the ball or whatever and settle the score like "men."

Thankfully, this was before my brother learned anaconda chokes and heel locks.

The Backyard Brawl then led to the third and final event: Run and Tell Mom. It required fleetness of foot as well as judicious cunning, because the only real way to win the final stage of the Ehrlich Triathlon was to tell your side of the story quickly and coherently.

I mention this because, after a week of trash talk on my part aimed at my former Crimson teammate, Sean Hayes, his Barcelona Pioneers put a 39-0 hurting on the Firebats. After a long, quiet bus ride home, this blog is roughly the "Run and Tell Mom" equivalent of the Ehrlich/Hayes Triathlon.

Carl Ehrlich
Courtesy Carl EhrlichCarl Ehrlich (left) takes some ribbing from friend and opponent Sean Hayes.

Mom! Mom! Let me tell you what happened!

1. The stadium was on a mountain and we had no prior elevation training.

2. We had to drive to Barcelona that morning and our entire linebacking core got car sick.

3. We watched a Spanish-dubbed version of "The Replacements" on the bus and Keanu Reeves' performance brought three of our players to quit football.

4. The stadium lights weren't bright enough and there is a terrible carrot shortage in Valencia.

In reality, the game came down to one thing: We were unprepared and the Pioneers made us pay for it. While the hurricane in the forecast may have missed the stadium, Barcelona's quarterback had no problem making it rain.

Watching their warm-ups, I got the feeling it might be a long day. For one, their uniforms fit, which speaks to a real level of professionalism in Spanish football. And in addition to looking like football players, they played like them too. After a Pioneers receiver over-ran a 55-yard bullet from their QB (one of many he fired that day), he reached behind his back and caught the ball without breaking stride. No one on the team batted an eye.

The only way Dominic Olney, our starting receiver and my roommate, is catching a 55- yard ball behind his back is if it gets stuck in his tail pad.

And when they weren't making circus catches, what stood out was their size on the offensive line. Hombres grandes. Their defensive tackle looked like Zangief from Street Fighter.

And then there were their linebackers, to one of whom I owe an apology. Then again, after a sack, an interception and a few hits you could hear from the parking lot, he may owe me one. Playing against Sean Hayes reminded me how much I miss playing alongside him.

The game itself, as you might imagine of a 39-0 final, wasn't a great one to watch. A game synopsis in five words: Pioneers score. Firebats don't. Repeat.

Talking with Sean on the 50-yard line afterward was like being in a parking lot between a funeral home and a night club. While unable to hide his excitement, he cut me a break and didn't rub it in too hard.

After rigorous negotiations, we came to a collective agreement for our public story. What I'm allowed to disclose is that I put him on his back once. But, according to our final deal, if I pretend I knocked him over the time he says he slipped, he has the right to tell everyone about Ole'ing me, matador-style, headfirst into a pile of mud. So none of that stuff happened.

Back in the days of the Ehrlich Triathlon, the purpose of the 'Run and Tell Mom' segment was to save face after getting your butt kicked. This case is no different. After talking trash and then getting beat that badly, the only real way to save face is to admit being wrong and give credit where credit is due. Sean, you won. Good job.

That being said, I'll end this Run and Tell Mom like I always have: a pledge that it won't happen again.

After captaining the 2009 Harvard Football team, Carl Ehrlich played professional football for the Valencia Firebats of Spain. Since hanging up his cleats, he has been filling up his passport doing humanitarian work in Southeast Asia. In addition to his travel notebooks, he has previously written for ESPNBoston.com and the New York Times.

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