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My Final Love Letter to DCU Fans

From left to right, Jennifer, Robin and Bobby "Lightning" Boswell, the competitors in a 1994 episode of "GUTS." (Family Photo)

(And where have all you DCU fans gone? Srdan, some guy named Vlad, Duffman, SEKim, Bryan76? All vanished into the offseason ether. Sad. Only Chico and Kim remain. Will any DCU people be at Wednesday's Maryland men's soccer home game? Do pro soccer fans get into collegiate soccer? Apparently the Terps have a fairly robust student fan club known as the Crew. Can I get an invite to hang out with some Crew members on Wednesday?)

Anyhow, DCU had some final team meetings yesterday, and I got an urgent call from Kyle Sheldon of DCU's peerless PR staff, who told me that I needed to come to RFK, stat. Bobby Boswell had brought in a video tape of his childhood appearance on the Nickelodeon show "GUTS," and he and Kyle and Alecko Eskandarian were getting ready to watch the tape.

About an hour later, I was in the DCU players' lounge while Kyle rewound and fast-forwarded the ancient tape, trying to find the part where little kids ran wearing funny uniforms and helmets ran around on obstacle courses. In the meantime, Esky and I had a bitter back-and-forth ping-pong showdown that I barely lost. It was, like, 21-19 or something like that. Maybe 21-18. Or 21-17. Or 21-16. Or something like that.

The video tape came with a yellowed slip of paper that said, "Bobby TV Star." There used to be several copies of the episode, but Bobby's college friends had somehow stolen them. While Kyle rewound and fast-forwarded through an old AMC interview with Dustin Hoffman and various black-and-white movies, Bobby realized that Esky was going to watch.

"I don't want him to see it," Bobby said. "He'll kill me."

"That's why he's here," Kyle said.

In the meantime, Bobby gave us the backstory. The episode was filmed in 1994 in Universal Studios. Bobby was about 11. One of the girls he was competing against, the dominant Robin, turned 14 that day. Bobby got involved through his older brother, who was supposed to compete on "Global GUTS." Somehow Bobby finagled a tryout of his own, even though he didn't meet the minimum weight requirements. He convinced the producers to let him try the audition events, which started with a soccer ball dribbling test. He passed. There was also a swimming test, and Bobby's mom was a swim coach. He passed that, too. He came back later for the taping, which took about 13 hours. Bobby says everyone on the set hated him. Also, producers told the competitors to play to the cameras, which is why he kept saying "Hi mom" throughout the entire episode.

Finally, after some commercials for Gladiators and Simon and Erector Set, we got to the show. The show's awful host, Mike O'Malley, introduced the three competitors. There was the dominant Robin. There was Jennifer, the "Jaguar." Finally, Mike asked, "Will Bobby 'Lightning' Boswell strike when the moment is hot???!!!" (Answer: No.) And we saw a fresh-faced, apple-cheeked, purple-clad, flax-haired young Bobby, mugging for the cameras. Esky started

howling, not for the last time.

The first event was called "Rebound." The competitors had to jump off individual pedestals, bounce with their bungee cords and grab a basketball from another pedestal. The dominant Robin kept ripping the ball out of young Bobby's hands. Once, he whiffed entirely.

"You are awful," Esky said.

"It's not my fault, I couldn't get up there," Bobby said.

"But you're not anywhere near it," Esky said.

"Dude, the cord pulls you," Bobby said.

The dominant Robin easily won "Rebound." Bobby and Jennifer finished with zero rebounds each.

"That's so embarrassing," Esky said.

"I couldn't even grab the ball in practice," Bobby said.

"Look at your hair," Esky said.

The next event was "Extreme Baseball," a baseball-themed obstacle course that involved climbing a fake Green Monster and other similar stunts. The dominant Robin finished in 49.1 seconds. Jennifer failed. Bobby, who went last, told us he thought he had it made. (His memories from this event are amazingly lucid.) But he struggled with a few climbing stunts and time ticked on.

"Figure it out!" Esky yelled at young Bobby.

"Hi mom" young Bobby said.

The dominant Robin won the event without breaking a sweat. They showed her post-event interview. She was bland but confident.

"I wonder what she's doing right now," Kyle said.

"Probably a CEO," Bobby said.

"Probably in the WNBA," Esky said.

United midfielder Jeff Carroll showed up to join the festivities. The next event was Skurfin' Safari, which involved a sort of surfboard race up and back a liquid straightaway. The dominant Robin's time to beat was 25.7 seconds. Bobby needed more time than that to reach the halfway point.

"Maybe because your goggles were in your eyes?" Esky suggested.

"What's wrong?" Kyle wondered as we watched a flailing young Bobby.

"I'm terrible," Bobby said.

Bobby finished last, 21 seconds out of second place. Then came his interview.

"YO! I'm Bobby Bosworth. To prepare for 'GUTS' I trained hard in my Tae Kwon Do class, because I thought it would make me mentally and physically ready to compete," Bobby said as Esky howled and sprinted to the TV to rewind it. We watched this at least four times. Old Bobby insisted that Young Bobby actually said "Boswell" and not "Bosworth," but Esky disagreed.

"I knew my own name," Bobby said.

"You said Bosworth," Esky said.

"Maybe the tape's warped," Bobby said.

"When did you change your name?" Kyle asked.

The next event involved bungee jumping off a ledge, kicking a soccer ball off a pedestal and trying to get it into a goal. Young Bobby kept missing the ball. Then he slammed into the ledge and dangled for about 15 seconds, arms waving helplessly. The camera eventually cut Bobby out of the picture and concentrated on the two girls.

"I couldn't do anything," Bobby said.

"You are [bleepin'] embarrassing," Esky said. "What the hell, man?"

"I couldn't reach the thing," Bobby said.

"You're not trying," Esky said.

Eventually you could see Bobby complaining to the producers. This was also something of a theme in the episode. Whenever things went badly, he complained. But somehow, Bobby was declared the winner of this event. He made two kicks. We rewound and watched him slam into the ledge again and again.

The last event was another obstacle-course type event up the "Giant Crag," a smoking, flashing monstrosity. Bobby was already mathematically eliminated--which he claimed he realized at the time--but he was a game competitor, and literally a split-second before the dominant Robin reached the summit, a flash of purple lightning named Young Bobby Boswell flew into the picture and slammed his hand down in victory. He finished second overall. He kept pumping his arm into the air on the victory podium. At the end, he thrust both arms into the air.

"That's awesome, man, that's awesome," Esky said.

"I haven't felt that embarrassed in a while," Bobby said.

Esky gave us his final verdict.

"I think it's kind of cool that you were on 'GUTS,'" he started. "I think it's pretty funny that you lost to a girl. But the thing I'm most disappointed about was your whining. What was it called, Surfing? Skurfin' Safari? Who complains about Skurfin' Safari? I think maybe you needed to concentrate more on your Tae Kwon Do class to get physically and mentally prepared. No, no, it was a good effort."

Then Esky and Jeff Carroll played ping-pong. Trailing 9-11, Esky guaranteed victory. They bet lunch. Esky fell behind 16-20, scored five unanswered points and won, 23-21. He screamed in victory. Jeff Carroll put his head in his hands. Esky voted for either Quizno's or Chipotle for lunch.

I asked the guys about their offseason plans. Esky is going to Vegas to watch his boy Vanes 'Nightmares' Martirosyan in a super welterweight fight against Juan Carlos Salgado, and is also visiting Europe, Charlottesville and New Jersey. Bobby, who was raised in a military family and is constantly doing events with children, volunteered to go to the Pacific to do soccer clinics on military bases. Esky wasn't sure if he'd watch MLS Cup this weekend; "depends how I feel that day," he said. Bobby will be in Dallas, receiving his award for defender of the year. I asked Bobby whether he'd miss the team in the offseason.

"Yes and no," he said. "I'll miss them because they're my buddies, but I'm with them all the time and it's good to get away. I won't miss Kyle at all. I won't miss Esky, although I'll be excited to see him when we get back."

Then Bobby reconsidered.

"No, I'll miss Esky," he said. "He's a good guy. He means well."

Here's hoping the Bog survives long enough for us to continue this story in a few months.

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 9, 2006; 3:11 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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