Heading into a senior season in high school cross country, I can’t say that there were a list of concrete goals at work. Knowing that the Sectional Wall awaited me at the end of the season, I had little confidence that I’d make it downstate against such tough competition at York, where the perennial state champion York Dukes were one of several talent-filled teams that dominated the top spots. I didn’t mark that down as an ultimate goal. That would be a ‘wait and see’ objective.
What I did know is that I was running really well during early season practices. That created some odd friction and awkwardness within the team, as I was torn between running my best and helping the other guys along. I loved my teammates and wanted them to do well as a team. At the same time, the pressure to beat the top guys from other schools required absolute intensity. That comes with the territory. So I can’t say that I was the best teammate to everyone on the squad. I was too focused on trying to beat everyone I could.
Our first meet against Lake Park was held at Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve, a rolling layout that included a mile loop through thick woods on the east side. I took off in the lead and raced through the familiar trail knowing when to duck under a series of overhanging blackberry bushes. There were two guys from Lake Park on my tail until that section, and I could hear them griping about the blackberry branches over the trail. It was kind of a dick move to take the lead there. But hey, all’s fair in love and war.
Then the course moved along the flats next to Ferson Creek and climbed a gravelly trail to to the upper level of the preserve. By then, I’d built a decent lead and was preparing to bring it home in under 15:00 for the three-mile when I felt something go slack down low.
Earlier that day, I’d found a beautiful set of silky orange running shorts in one of the gear bins of uniforms. There were a holdover from the classic uniforms of the late 1960s. I loved their look and frankly, they felt great compared to the clunky nylon shorts we were issued for meets. So I snatched the orange silk shorts for use in the first meet that day.
Up until that moment before the finish, I was looking forward to running home in first place with my flashy retro orange shorts. As the finish line neared, what I felt was a strange loosening in one side of my jockstrap, which I’ll have to admit, was only hanging by a few threads when I pulled it on. It was an old, worn-out thing that I liked because it wasn’t so bulky. It held your junk in place without chafing in the heat.
With 200 yards to go, the old jock snapped. Suddenly I felt a rush of air down below and realized my dick was popping out from beneath the silky shorts, which were considerably shorter than the standard nylon shorts we were supposed to wear. I quickly turned around to see if the Lake Park guys were catching me, but I still had a good lead. I panicked for a few strides as I bore down on the chute.
All I could do was take hold of the edge of the shorts to hold them firmly in place as I ran in the last fifty yards. From there, I ran straight to the team bus and pulled on some sweatpants. Unfortunately, that meant I could not stick around for a handshake with the guys from the other team as they rolled through the chute. It probably looked like a prick move.
Yes, that was an obvious dick joke.
That night, I had to explain to my mother why we needed to go out and buy a new jockstrap. That wasn’t a favorite thing to do, go jock shopping with mom. But with four boys involved in sports, she was not squeamish about such things.
When I was really young and not yet participating in school sports, I saw my brother’s jocks in the laundry and wondered what it would be like to be old enough to wear them. My brothers also wore cups in their jocks while playing baseball and soccer. That was a good strategy to protect the junk in potentially damaging sports.
Of course, runners don’t need protection as much as they needed support. Over the years, more than one gym teacher warned us that if we didn’t wear jocks while we were young, our balls would hang down to our knees in old age. We had no way of knowing whether that was true or not. But the first jock I was required to wear was for 7th grade P.E. class. Our gym teacher was a stickler about wearing jocks. If you got caught wearing regular underwear beneath your gym shorts, the punishment was writing “I WILL NOT FORGET MY JOCK STRAP” fifty times on the locker room chalkboard. Writing those words on the blackboard burned the commitment into your brain. I only forgot my jock one time that whole year.
That gym class teacher saw jockstraps as part of the discipline of physical fitness. He was a wrestling and gymnastics coach at the high school level, so he knew the importance of functional apparel and equipment. That gym teacher was right on all counts. As I learned in cross country a few years later, taking care of your equipment (that’s another dick joke) was an important part of being prepared for competition.
Jockstraps eventually became less common as running shorts evolved with briefs built into the shorts. Even those required a period of adjustment. I too well recall the first time I ran in a pair of silky Sub-4 shorts that I’d ordered for my senior cross country season in college. I went jogging in those new shorts with my girlfriend one afternoon, and immediately got a full-on erection from the back and forth stimulation of the smooth briefs. She found that pretty funny.
So we did away with jocks at the running garment industry improved their wares. Along the way, however, the word “jock” became a derogatory slang word to describe guys (and even gals) in sports. A couple years after college, I was hanging out at a local bar trying to meet women and started a conversation with a gal I’d known in high school.
She asked, “What are you doing now?”
I replied, “I’m a graphic designer in marketing…”
She stared at me. “You’re an artist? I thought you were a jock…”
“I didn’t know the two were mutually exclusive,” I responded.
Little did she know that jocks would someday become an erotic fashion statement, as evidenced by the selection shown below.
I doubt any of my teammates would have sported these jocks in the locker room back in the day. The see-through models in particular would have drawn some comments. We pretty much ignored each other’s dicks even though we spent plenty of time naked in the shower. Being naked in front of others just wasn’t something we worried much about.
But that didn’t mean I was going to complete the first race of the season in “balls to the walls” fashion before the home crowd. I happily wore the new jock the rest of that year, and ditched those tiny silk running shorts for good.