St. Germain, Gleason: The best (and funniest) at what they did
There are a few abiding rules to column writing, from the axiomatic ("don't use no double negatives") to the sublime — best captured by late David Carr of the New York Times: "You go out, find people more interesting than you, learn about something, come back and tell other people about it."
On the subject of finding people more interesting than you ...
It was never difficult for your humble narrator to find such personalities in Old Lyme, especially the two coaches who retired last week. Randy St. Germain (baseball) and Paul Gleason (girls' soccer) were pillars of one of the state's best Class S sports programs, not merely because of their success, but their effortlessly cool dispositions.
St. Germain found the recipe for the common coaching conundrum of taking it seriously without taking yourself too seriously. Sometimes, coaches become affectations of themselves. St. Germain was too busy having fun.
I remember going to baseball practice, almost 15 years ago now, when the town's former Little League team that came within an eyelash of Williamsport made the state semifinals. This was vintage Old Lyme during the St. Germain Administration.
St. Germain's wife, Kristen, showed up to practice that day, only to the complete delight of the players, who stopped practice without their coach's permission for a comedy routine. They hooted and giggled, much as you'd expect adolescent boys to react, before Mike Neaton, standing near first base at the time, offered just loud enough, "think he'll kiss her?"
Later in practice, an Old Lyme student happened by the field to inform catcher Dave Quintin that his father's car had just been sideswiped in the parking lot by a sanitation truck. The student, a bit unclear about particulars, filled in Quintin slowly and painfully.
"Great," St. Germain said. "Cheer him up with more details."
And then I began noting the conversations they were having. Seems nobody had a first name. Nicknames, nicknames everywhere: Misery, Dick Tracy, Yak, Hot Rod, Lover Boy, Free Love, Genitalia, Moo-licious, Harry Potter, Fat Dude and Big Daddy among them.
I left there that day thinking that if I ever coached, this is how I'd want things to run.
Then there's Gleason. I've written this many times: Dos Equis is fooling itself trumpeting that guy with the beard as "the most interesting man in the world." I doubt Beard Guy could compare to Gleason's resume:
He speaks English, Spanish, Polish and Zulu ... majored in marine biology and invertebrate zoology ... earned a soccer scholarship to Oregon State ... is a modern day Fred Sanford, running a junkyard in Quaker Hill ... once worked in Mexico as a charter boat captain ... accumulated 30 years' worth of lobster data as a marine scientist ... won four state championships ... and uses words "erudite" and "proselytize" as we would "and" and "the."
Then it turned out that Gleason has a story tethered to Dos Equis, too.
"When we were in Mexico, the greatest joy was seeing the gringos come down, take the lime and push it into their beer," Gleason said once. "They'd get a Dos Equis or a Corona and shove the lime down into their beer. Within seconds, the top of their bottle would be covered with insects. The lime was never supposed to go into the beer. The reason the Mexicans used a lime was to put them in the top of their bottles (like a cork) to scare the insects away because it's a natural insect repellent. You take the lime out, drink the beer and put the lime back in. The gringos didn't get it."
Gleason would also engage in that time-honored soccer tradition of lapsing into Zulu upon the occasion of a great goal scored.
"I went to South Africa twice," Gleason said once. "Once for a month and another time for another month. The language fascinated me. I tried to learn as much as I could. I never got the 'click' down to speak the language correctly. They have a 'click' as they speak it — like every other word. I still can't do it. But I learned a good deal of it. But it comes back into my brain every now and then.
"Like last year, (Old Lyme soccer player) Keelin Hurtt made an amazing shot in a tournament game and I don't know how she was able to do it. I screamed out 'inkosi yamakhosi!' which means 'king of kings' in Zulu. It just popped in my brain. Vickie (Day sportswriter Vickie Fulkerson) was behind me and she goes, 'what was that again?'"
Not to say I told you so ... but I told you they were more interesting than I.
I will miss them. But not before thanking them for being who they are — and showing their players the essence of great coaching.
So from "Moo-licious" to "inkosi yamakhosi," thank you, Randy and Paul. They'll always leave the light on for you in Old Lyme. (And so will we at The Day).
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro