What I Learned From Rigging The Homecoming King Contest

On the first day of senior year in high school my group of friends came up with an ingenious plan. Keep in mind that we weren’t the most popular bunch, not disliked but not the kings of the school either. If anything, we were just kind of there.

It started when our friend John excitedly joined the group and introduced his bold plan. “I’m going to win homecoming this year,” he said, cackling like a madman.

We loved the idea.

Me and Reece would play the background. John was more of the outward type, much more suited to the main actor in this play, while we were more the Karl Rove, Machiavellian types. We decided on that day that our goal for the year would be for John, who played no sports, wore glasses and had a lisp, would win the homecoming contest. At first it appealed to us mainly because we could piss off the football team, but eventually it became more about the challenge.

We lobbied hard for John. On voting day, we went around to each lunch period, selling the idea of John as homecoming King to everyone we could, especially targeting the underdog types; the shy kids, the goths (or “freaks” as they were called), the potheads. all of the rejects basically. They all loved the idea of John, a very unhomecoming King type, getting the top honor and flaunting his banner all over school.

Support came from surprising places. We tapped a nerve in any kid who had ever been picked on, laughed at and generally made to feel like shit in the ongoing saga of high school. Before long, we had people who didn’t even know John as our biggest supporters.

When it finally came time to vote, we were again surprised to see people sporting hand written “John For Homecoming” t-shirts on people we didn’t even know. The gym was electric. I sat down on the floor, waiting for the announcement. John had made the final five.

It wasn’t long before we knew he would win. The crowd was on John’s (and by extension, our ) side. And soon it came, the announcement and the subsequent handing over of the sash. To this day, whenever I see John we always talk about our victory. It’s probably pathetic to say but this but it still might be one of the greatest accomplishments I ever was part of. Judge me all you want.

So why am I telling you this story? It isn’t to simply brag about some stupid thing we did over 10 years ago (although I do love telling the story!). Rather I’ve been thinking why this event was so special and why it meant so much to us.

Because on that first day, making John homecoming King seemed to be an insurmountable task, like getting Charles Manson elected president. It could have been simply laughed off, forgotten about. But we didn’t let it go. We set a clear goal and we followed through with lots of hard work. It may not seem to be a major accomplishment but it was to us. Why? Because it was something unlikely that we made happen.

Lots of times I’m filled with doubt over whether I’ll ever be able to write for a living. Maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’m not commited enough. But then I think of John wearing his homecoming sash and I remember that we made the impossible happen. In those moments, my goal seems more attainable.

So go out there and become the homecoming King. It’s not as impossible as you might think.




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