It was August and time for training camp. Prior to the start of each checker season, the Detroit Doublejumpers, along with all of the teams in the National Checker League, conducted pre-season training camp.
This was an especially big thing for the Doublejumpers. Having been world champions for several years running, in the previous season they hadn't even made it into the playoffs.
There were a number of reasons. A couple of key players had retired, and Doublejumper management hadn't done well at recruiting. The General Manager ended up getting fired, as did the Head Coach, and it was a close call for the Assistant Head Coach, the Openings Coach, the Endgame Coach, and the Tactics Coach.
The new Doublejumper Head Coach was a woman named Charity Chastity Hopkins, a descendant of the infamous checker pedant of the late 19th century, Harvey L. Hopkins. She had a reputation for being tough and strict. The press referred to her as "Cha Cha Hopkins," much to her dismay. But no one called her that to her face. Ms. Hopkins was an accomplished kick boxer and a black belt in karate in addition to a well-known checker coach.
There had been a few changes in the Doublejumper lineup, but Cha Cha was determined to bring the team back to their old glory and she would do so by any means necessary, including physical intimidation.
Training usually took place at a resort near the appropriately named town of Au Train, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. But not this year.
Cha Cha had located an old military barracks and had it cleaned out and outfitted. When team members assembled in Grand Rapids for their usual charter flight to Au Train, instead they were greeted by a school bus. They were told to stow their own luggage and board the bus.
It was a long ride to the barracks. All the players thought they were going to Au Train. The coaches on board didn't tell them otherwise, and in fact barely spoke. Cha Cha was not present on the bus.
The players arrived at the barracks late at night. Before they even had a chance to look around and realize where they were, Cha Cha had boarded the bus and yelled, "You have one minute to get off my bus and line up at attention on the yellow footprints!"
Sure enough, taking a page out of military boot camp, Cha Cha had had a yellow footprints painted in front of the barracks.
The team looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. The team captain and hero of these stories, Marvin J. Mavin, shrugged his shoulders along with the rest. There were a few mumbles but everyone left the bus.
"Faster, faster!" Cha Cha shouted. "On the footprints NOW!"
The ten players moved toward the footprints at an uncertain pace.
"I said MOVE IT!" Cha Cha screamed.
Marvin, as Captain, turned to her and said, "Hey, look here Coach, this ain't no way to ... "
There was a blur of motion and before he could say another word Marvin was flat on his back on the concrete with Cha Cha's boot bearing down on his chest.
"You got a problem obeying orders, Mister?" Cha Cha said. "Well you better get over it. I don't care if you're Captain. Right now you're something that a dog chewed and spit out, do I make myself clear?"
"I ... " Marvin began, having trouble catching his breath.
"You'll address me as 'Ma'am' whenever you open that mouth of yours. Now, did I or did I not make myself clear?"
Marvin, who had watch Full Metal Jacket some years ago, had the presence of mind to reply, "Ma'am, yes ma'am."
"Now LINE UP!"
Cha Cha stepped back. Marvin rolled over, coughing, and stumbled to his feet. He joined the others at the yellow line.
"Stand at attention!"
It was the beginning of the team's worst nightmare. After being held at attention until they were all weary, they were made to carry their luggage into the barracks where two long rows of beds were set up dormitory style. By then it was two o'clock in the morning.
But the team didn't get to sleep late. At five o'clock reveille sounded over loudspeakers in the room.
"Up and at it!" Cha Cha commanded from the dormitory door. "Problem practice in three minutes. Beds made and assemble in the practice room in two!"
The weary team quickly did as they had been told and took seats in a room across the hall which had a sign that said "PRACTICE."
In a moment Cha Cha entered. "Who gave you permission to be seated?" she said loudly. "Stand up!"
The players got out of their seats.
After Cha Cha had eyed everyone to ensure they were in the proper stance, she commanded, "Team, be seated!"
"Now," she continued, "we will start every day in this room. You will assemble here at 5:05 AM sharp, with beds made to military standard and stand at attention until I arrive and instruct you to take your seats. You will then solve a checker problem. You will have five minutes. If you solve the problem you may proceed to the mess hall where you will be allowed up to ten minutes for breakfast. If you fail to solve the problem, you will instead do ten minutes of push-ups. Do you understand?"
A weak chorus of "Ma'am, yes ma'am" ensued.
"I can't HEAR you!"
The team responded more loudly.
"I still can't HEAR you!"
This time the team shouted.
"That's better." Cha Cha turned on a projector and the following problem appeared on a screen at the front of the room.
"Write your solution on the sheet of paper in front of you. Team, BEGIN!"
Marvin, as well as the rest of the team, sat there befuddled. What was going on here? These were top professionals, a couple of them with multi-million dollar contracts. Did Cha Cha really think this method of training was going to work?
But Marvin was hungry and didn't want to do push-ups, so he tackled the problem.
"Lemme see ... " he muttered, "if you ..."
"NO TALKING! You there, Captain Dog Food, you will solve the problem silently!"
"Ma'am, yes ma'am," Marvin said, as loudly as he could.
Fortunately you can solve this problem without the stress of a drill instructor shouting at you. You WILL try it. You WILL click on Read More to see the solution!
Solution and Conclusion
Cha Cha exited the room and returned five minutes later. To her surprise, no one was there!
"All right, you maggots, where are you?" she shouted. "No one gave you permission to leave!"
She looked around and was further angered when she saw that no one had written a single thing on the sheets of paper on each desk.
Fuming, Cha Cha stormed out of the building, only to find all of the players standing around talking.
"You're all in for it!" she screamed. "You'll see what happens when you fail to follow orders! You'll being doing push-ups and running laps until you all collapse, and you'll get nothing to eat or drink until you're half dead!"
Team Captain Marvin J. Mavin stepped forward. His teammates stepped forward as well and formed a protective circle around him.
"Don't think so, Cha Cha," Marvin said, "we ain't listening to you no more."
"What did you say?" Cha Cha shouted. "I'll show you!" She made as if to run at Marvin, but the other players tightened their circle around him.
"Try it," Marvin said. "You got away with that once, but you do it again you go to jail for assault."
"Then ... then you're all fired!" Cha Cha screamed as she stopped in mid-lunge. "I'll call the General Manager!"
"Check our contracts," Marvin said. "You ain't got the right. Anyhoo we're on strike. Until you get fired and we get a manager that ain't a total ... well, you know what ... we ain't practicing. We ain't playing. We ain't doing nothing except going back home, like right away, when the charter bus we called for arrives, any minute now."
"But ... but ..." Cha Cha spluttered.
"And furthermore, we called the other team captains," Marvin went on. "They all agreed to a sympathy strike. There ain't going to be no more National Checker League until you get sent back to whatever prison camp they got you from. You get it, Cha Cha?"
In about five minutes, a bus arrived and the players all boarded it, leaving Cha Cha standing in front of the training camp, foaming at the mouth with her face a livid red shade of uncontrolled anger.
(To be continued.)
The team never solved their checker problem, but we hope you had some luck. Here's the drill, so to speak.
10-6 only draws.
11-15 only draws.
This problem appeared in a book published by Millard Hopper, who presumably was the composer.