Steve's Pre-2000 Birthday Challenge History





right: player's ball, pre-2000, with co-mack of the year, reed 'bubba' bartlett

It all started when I was a kid ...

I don't remember exactly when it was, but one day on TV  I saw Jack LaLanne pulling a boat from Alcatraz to San Francisco with his hands and feet tied together. Until that time I had only know him as the guy from the Jack LaLanne Show and never really considered him an athlete. I thought he just showed housewives how to work out. I mean, I would do some jumping jacks with him when I was sick and couldn't go to school but it sure didn't seem like real exercise, I just figured he was some TV personality. But here he was, doing something that seemed totally insane.

namath.jpg (12884 bytes)

My idols at the time were all real athletes, serious athletes: Ali, Elgin Baylor, Rafer Johnson, Steve Prefontaine, Joe Namath (okay, they all weren't serious) but here was some guy doing something that I couldn't imagine anyone else doing--or even attempting!

And why was he doing it? Not for a competition or to make money; he was doing it because it was his birthday--and he was OLD!

"Wow!" I remember thinking, "This guy is cool."

left: Broadway Joe, "I can't wait until tomorrow because I get better looking every day."

However, I was involved in organized sports well into college and never really had time to think about birthday challenges. Birthdays were a time to let your friends get you really drunk. Although I did manage to follow Jack and his endeavors, I never thought of one for me because there was always something else to do. But I knew (because I kept saying it in the back of my mind) that someday I would start attempting challenges of my own.

So I was working in this bar ...

College eligibility was gone and there was a void in my life. I had been participating in competitive sports most of my life and without it I was a rudderless ship. I needed to do something but recreation sports held no real interest. Skiing wasn't exercise, hangin' out on some lake or river was inane and adventure racing hadn't started. I needed some challenge, so I decided to concoct one of my own. What I came up with was my first birthday challenge:

It was during my training when the next element arose. My roommate at the time, RK Nyman, and I were having some apres-training cocktails at my bar. I was cutting way back on my drinking and RK would have none of it.

"What!" he said. "If you finish this and can't even have a shot with your buddies, it won't mean a goddamn thing."

He was right, of course, because the challenge was part of my lifestyle and drinking was also part of my lifestyle. I then envisioned walking into the Mt. Baldy Inn after my epic, sauntering up to the bar and saying "whiskey". It always seemed so absurd that these guys in Westerns would come out of the desert hot and thirsty and order whiskey. I had to experience it for myself. It became the goal.

Training commenced and, for this event, was rather absurd. Though still effective I would do things like down a six-pack then hit the gym. Not on most training days but sometimes. This was before I believed that dehydration could possibly affect me. In the end though, drinking hasn't really been part of my actual challenges but an integral part in the "reward" afterward.  It has, however, become quite forefront in many of my friends' challenges...

Well, it snowed (as it often does in November) and I had no chance to complete the challenge. I went anyway. I canceled my support crew and had my dad drop me off in Wrightwood and told him to pick me up in Mt. Baldy. It was only a fraction of the peaks but in the snow I figured it to be a good day. My dad thought I was crazy, tried to talk me out of it, and as I ran up the snowy mountainside he looked like he was never going to see me again. That night he arrived at the Mt. Baldy Inn and I was sitting there at the bar, whiskey in hand.

After this I was busy coaching basketball during November so I didn't do another challenge for a few years. My first year after I quit coaching I was living in Yosemite and it seemed like a good time to pick it back up.

Here are  my challenges  since, with a few of their highlights:


These things would be impossible if you didn't hang around a similar cast of characters, and I'm very indebted to everyone who's ever taken part in one of mine. 

For the most part, these people are my best friends in the world. When I can, I'm there to take part as support person for their challenges. 

Here's the original Castle Crew, circa 1994, at the inagural Player's Ball. From left to right:

Phil "Mustang" Request
Emmanuel Overdrive (that would be me)
David "Belt" Potter, often confused with the Reverend Speefnarkle
Binky "Binky" Greene
Derek, star of Moustache 47
Scott "Hondo" Buchanan
Mike "Kid Dynamite" Brown


        "He can't throw up."

        "Now, when was the last time you saw my boy throw up?" - Cool Hand Luke

          I capped this event by eating a whole habanero pepper. My stomach didn't work quite right for a couple of months afterward but I never puked, and also made a couple-hundred bucks.

At 39 I did nothing and, as I stated before, was in the worst shape of my life. However, success on the "Tour" and an almost irrational love of doing extreme things to my body turned it into part of this challenge: to go from the worst to the best shape of my life within the same year.