40 Greatest Influences of the last 40 years #26 Josh Wolfram/ JC Biagi/ Matt Harri Aka the 2nd Triumvirate
So in my 3 hour ramble about school and teachers, I almost mentioned a conspiracy theory about Mrs Richard and I thought better if it. But today I will tell you that conspiracy theory.
Long story short: I ran for ASB president in high school and Lost.
I know I know, sour grapes right? The loser of an election always claims voter fraud conspiracies (well not always, but it has happened before and it’s definitely going to happen again this year). But to understand my conspiracy suspicions you have to know who I am (or was) and who the other candidates were. And with apologies to Matthew Broderick and Reece Witherspoon, I am going to re-duex the plot of Election which incredibly came out the exact year that this story happened.
I didn’t even really want to be ASB president. In fact I was so unenthusiastic about the prospect that I didn’t even use my real name to sign up run. Luckily the school administration was able to identify me anyway (meaning my mom who was and still is the school secretary fixed my name on the ballot). I used one of my misappropriated hip-hop abbreviation nickname: Tonster, EZT, T-Bone, TMX, T-Bags, T-Dawg and Spider-monkey (which is the only one that I liked, but it scares me to think that Chris Bosio was actually fired for calling someone that. Once again, as everyone was keen to remind me back then, I’m not black I just wanted to be).
But somehow my ego couldn’t let go of the fact that only one person was running for President unopposed. And that person was Josh Wolfram.
It’s hard to describe Josh Wolfram without resorting to stereotypical phrases such as “golden boy” and “chosen one.” Other apt descriptors are straight A student, all world athlete, and million dollar smile. There was a rumor that he single highhandedly rescued a nun and 3 kittens from communist rebels in Nicaragua, but upon reflection that may have been an exaggeration. His father is a local judge if not neighborhood sovereign at this point.
I haven’t seen him in years but my understanding is he did exactly what you would expect: Air Force Academy. Officer. Hero. Family Man.
The best way to description Josh is that he would be the ideal type-cast of the Bachelor on “The Bachelor “ except he does not have a secret tragic fatal flaw that has ruined all his previous relationships.
No wonder he was running unopposed.
Who would possibly be stupid enough to run against this guy?
What could you possibly say in a campaign speech to discredit him?
Well I was the stupid one that ran against him.
And I came up with a campaign speech to beat him!
But before I tell you about campaign speeches there is one other thing you needs to know.
I alluded to this when talking about Jeff Murray, but like six months previous at a pep rally before a football game against the Asotin panthers, I was in some kind of Hunting for Panthers WWF( yes at the time it was still F and not E) wrestling inspired skit where our QB, the Robot Known as Brian Lindgren, was supposed to try and pelt me and another guy with footballs as we ran around the gym dressed as Panthers. It was like wrestling meets football meets dodgeball. It was awesome. And so naturally, I did my best Stone Cold, NWO, Rudy-poo candy ass smack talk at Brian, and then I threw down my hat, flipped off my shirt and tore off my tear away warm up pants and threw up some “suck it' signs while daring the QB to “bring it on!” Now this seemed to go over really well at the time. The crowd thought it was hilarious. Brian was slightly rattled and his accuracy was off. He missed me once and then I faked not paying attention to bait him into trying to bean me from point blank range only to jump out of the way at the last second, and he ended up hitting Jill Ebding instead. I took that as my cue to leave and I waved to the crowd as I ran out the side door of the gym. I was outside catching my breathe as the girl’s basketball coach exited the gym to leave. I don’t know for sure what he was thinking, but he laughed out loud upon seeing me and continued to his car without a second look. Now later I learned there was a slight controversy over my wardrobe choice. Not quite my own Janet Jackson Wardrobe malfunction, but still controversial. So remember that this was the late 1990’s and the movie Space Jam was still part of the cultural zeitgeist. The fact of the matter is that I wore red plaid Bugs Bunny playing basketball shorts over my Irish green spandex compression shorts. I was literally dressed for basketball practice. But apparently the perception was that I stripped down to my skivvies and was running about in my underwear.
So fastfarward to the ASB election campaign speeches. I was called to go first. So I got up and reminded the assembled audience that the last time I had spoken to the assembled student body in this gymnasium I had ended up taking off my clothes. I then proceeded to unzip my competition tech vest that was a popular fashion fad of the day and then when the crowd made an audible gasp of tension I reached into my shirt pocket pulled out the paper upon which my speech was written. I shook my head in mock bewilderment and said “What? I’m just getting my speech out. You all are sick!” I then looked at the person in the crowd directly in front of me, which I believe was Bernadette Davis and said “you’re just disappointed” which I thought was hilarious, and she thought was kind of funny, but no one else laughed. I then turned my attention to my opponent, “the imortal Joshua Wolfram” (and That is a quote), and proceeded to give a detailed list of all of his unknown devious and diabolical flaws. The only thing I had was he was “short”. That was it and I conceded that was the only thing wrong with him. I then began to proclaim my own unique virtues and to quote the likes of literal and figurative giants Gheorghege Muresan, and Robert Van Winkle. I openly ogled his girlfriend Olga without saying her name. I also made simultaneous references to both adult diapers and premature ejaculation in a manner that allowed me to deny both mutual exclusively, and side step any further Daltoso rule backlash. It was a smashing success!
Josh then got up and conceded he had nothing as compelling as what I had said, and fell back on his reputation which as we all knew was impeccable. But he was clearly a bit shaken and not brimming with his usual confidence. As my boy Von said following the assembly, Josh’s speech had just fallen “a little short.”
Emboldened by the success of my speech I conducted an informal straw poll. To my surprise and delight sophomores that I had no connection with were flocking to my corner and promising to vote for me. There were approximately 115 students in the student body and by my informal count I had secured 62 vote commitments, enough for a majority. And let’s be honest, my constituents were the one’s most likely to stuff the ballot box and vote twice. I couldn’t lose.
And if it was just a presidential election, that would probably have been true. But this was a full ASB cabinet election which means there was also Vice President and a secretary to elect. And as in many elections, popular sentiment wanes when partisan political practicality is concerned. And so it was in this election. After all this post is not the Josh Wolfram, Ultimate Love Island Contestant fan page. It is the 2nd Triumvirate.
Much like the original 2nd Triumvirate at the dawn of Imperial Rome, my 2nd triumvirate was a coalition of rather obvious heir-apparents that the general population was all too happy to go along with. Unlike their ancient Roman counterparts, they actually were pretty good friends.
JC Biagi, was another star athlete. He went on to be the QB on a state championship football team and was also an Ace pitcher who played college baseball at Louisiana State Baton Rouge or something like that. He wasn’t quite a straight A student. I know this because he and I often teamed up to do our math homework together in school. At times it was the blind leading the blind but we both cared enough to work hard to try to get better, but we weren’t going to stress out over subjects we just weren’t that great at to begin with.
JC and I were not quite related, but it it was close enough. In the dense forest of family trees that made up the congregation at church and school, our branches were touching and curled around each other even if they were from different trees. We shared some cousins. Basically my dads sister married his dad’s brother or something like that. Yeah our cousin Laurie is like the central axis of the St Francis family vortex, but I will get to that in a future post.
So JC and I were both held back in school for various reasons. I was held back because I was a baby, and he was probably held back for athletic reasons. He is actually a few months older than me, born in January, and so if he was held back, he would always be a few months more developed than the majority of his cohort in school and that may have given him an athletic advantage. Malcom Gladwell exposed this phenomenon in his book Outliers and I think I heard JC’s dad say one time, “he was held back for sports,” but I could be imagining that.
JC ended up going to public schools for a while in grade school but was a core class member from 6th grade on. A natural leader with a big personality, and an aggressive mentality, he was always outspoken and not about to back down from anything. He had the balls to go up and shake Kevin Uretsky's hand and probably swayed some sports highlights in the process. He didn’t appear afraid to reveal his inner contents be they political or gastrointestinal.
He played football and baseball. He always toyed with the idea of playing basketball but never did. With our Football and Baseball teams success, not playing basketball gave him approximately 6 weeks off. But he was a great athlete so had he decided to play basketball, I think he would have taken my minutes. But much like his Triumvirate partner Josh, his heart was never in basketball.
I can recall grade school fights over the red rubber ball. Who ever obtained possession of it got to decide what game would be played with it. In a school full of kickball enthusiasts, I stood alone on the basketball court with corkscrewed rims that had been bent from kids hanging on them.
These battles for red rubber ball rights did evolve into some fairly intense basketball games , especially once Josh learned how to ally- oop. Once he learned that, he couldn’t help himself, but play more basketball. I of course learned how to Ally oop too, which led to me shouting in his face “Two can play that game” which was a Bobby Brown song at the time so I was super impressed with my self to have pulled that one off. On another foray to the rim in one of these playground battles I pulled some kind of spin move for a bucket to which Matt Harri said “well, there wasn’t anything that anyone could have done about that one!” To this day, that may have been the best compliment I have ever received on the basketball court.
So Matt Harri, Son of Dr. Harri and Mary Harri, was the 3rd member of the 2nd Triumvirate. Matt was an interesting guy. So while JC was kind of a brash star athlete, and Josh was kind and conscientious but still had his golden boy aura glowing around him, Matt Harri was rather unassuming. He was tall. He was strong. He was a straight A student. He made Billy Madison references in his Salutorian speech at graduation. He was an all state lineman in football. He played basketball too. But his passion was motocross. As hard core as I was into basketball and reading SLAM magazines in class when I should be studying, Matt was every bit as into motocross and reading DIRTBIKE magazine during study hall. He would light up explaining to me the difference between a 4 stroke and a 2 stroke engine the same way I would if anyone ever bothered to ask me about 3-2 vs a 1-3-1 zone.
I can remember sitting on the bench during a basketball game and he was confessing that he felt somewhat unprepared for basketball as all he had been thinking about lately was motocross. Of course we had similar conversations about being distracted by girls too.
Matt was so easy going. He had a lot going for him, and it would seem like he could have been a little uppity, but he was actually so humble in this very natural way.
I actually ran into Matt at memorial pool a few years ago. I’m sure he recognized me as I was running around with only a pair of plaid shorts on. He is apparently a pastor in a mega church of some sort. The naturally humble motocross driving Salutitarian grows up to be a man of God and a leader of a congregation. Could anyone have possibly foreseen this leadership ability?
Josh, JC and Matt by their status as class leaders, and let’s face it, popular teenage masculinity, were the blatantly obvious choices to be the ASB student body President , Vice President and Secretary. If industrial organizational psychologists had observed our class to identify the natural leaders, it would be those 3 guys. Hands down, no doubt. Those are the 3 guys.
And so they called all of us candidates into a classroom to review the election results. We were waiting alone for a few moments and Josh made a comments to the effect of “oh man Tony. I think you beat me.” And in that moment I suddenly recalled in 4th grade when Josh read aloud an assignment when he talked about his “best friend Tony.” Now to this day I think that best friend reference at the time was actually an attempt to sway me to give up the red rubber ball for kick ball, but even so, the man publicly declared me his best friend. And he had worked so hard to amass what one personal called immortal and impeccable credentials, and here he was concerned that this would be the single chink in he otherwise flawless armor. Did I really want to rob him of his chance at perfection, like a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 9th in a 7-0 game trying to run out a bunt single to break up the pitcher’s otherwise perfect game? (I thought these guys would appreciate a baseball metaphor for once). The answer was no. And it was always no. Hell I really did not want to be ASB president. I just had wanted to beat Josh. So walking into the room I had been thinking I might take the moment just before the results were announced, to officially withdraw from the race. But the atmosphere was giving me bad juju. I wasn’t feeling the energy of an improbable underdog political victory. I wasn’t even getting a close well contested election. The room felt flat and that made me feel sick. When reigning ASB president Keith Michels walked in to give the results, I put my head on my desk. I couldn’t t even look up. Josh was declared the winner. And even though I was kind of relieved, that I hadn’t totally disrupted the Universe, something didn’t sit well with me. My unofficial straw poll had given me a clear advantage. So either people had lied to me about their votes, or some other power was at work. And I knew what that power was. I had just felt it. If I could be sitting there and feel a twinge of guilt that I was messing with the natural order of things and was resolving to preserve that order by dropping out of the race at the last possible second, it’s totally conceivable that the “powers at be” that not only collected and counted the ballots but had watched for years as Josh, JC, and Matt had demonstrated excellence in academic, athletic, social, and religious pursuits, and then also witnessed me, assassinating Mr. Simmons character, stripping down in front of the school, making thinly veiled references to bodily functions and hiding behind gangster nicknames, to just cite my shenanigans related in this post.
When I asked for the actual results I never got a specific vote count. I was told “it was close, only like 2 votes made the difference” which would not even be a lie technically if there was a little Matthew Broderick action and a couple Tony Votes were just accidentally misplaced conveniently.
I realize what a strong accusation that is to make. And I make it without a shred of evidence. But I do acknowledge 2 things.
1.) All of the teachers at DeSales have a sense of the bigger picture and the greater good. It is what makes them good educators and leaders of young people.
2.) Preserving the integrity of Josh JC and Matt as the ASB cabinet served that greater good.