Follow the bouncing ball player.
He is Perry Klein, also known as Mr. Transfer, and he has had--in fact, still is having--the craziest high school athletic career I've ever heard of. Here is a capsule travelogue:
Santa Monica High. Played frosh-soph football there as a ninth-grader, even though he was attending a Malibu junior high at the time. Sounds weird, but it was legit.
Palisades High. Didn't care for the football program or the bullies at Santa Monica High, so he enrolled at Pali as a 10th-grader. Besides, the Pali football coach was a good friend of Perry's dad. As an 11th-grader, Perry broke seven national passing records (including most pass completions in one game, 46), and 2,000 hearts, when he transferred to . . .
Agoura High. Oops, sorry, faulty rumor. Klein never went to Agoura. His sisters did, and somehow some people got the impression Perry did, too, so that became part of the legend. Perry sightings are like Elvis sightings, although the two have never been spotted together.
Carson High. Perry jumped from Pali to Carson for his senior year, because the Pali football program had bottomed out and he wanted a new challenge.
Pali High again. Just before the start of football season, Perry transferred back to Pali. . . . Oops, another bad stat. He seriously considered transferring back, and even returned one day to the Pali campus and talked to his old coach, but decided against the move.
Carson High. Back at Carson after not having left, Klein helped the Colts win a City football championship.
Santa Monica High. Transferred in just recently. Said he was sick of the 90-minute commute from Malibu to Carson. Coincidentally, Perry is an All-City volleyball player with Olympic volleyball aspirations, and Santa Monica High has a much better volleyball team than does Carson.
This, then, is the legendary Perry Klein, coming soon to a high school near you. Have jock, will travel. A ramblin' kind of boy. "I Was a Teen-age Athletic Soldier-of-Fortune Gypsy Commuter."
Now, a lot of kids transfer high schools to further their athletic ambitions. Greater Los Angeles is one massive leapfrog game, not all of it on the level. But Klein is in the running for King Frog, and he is also a rarity--a rich white kid who transferred to an inner-city type school (Carson) in order to play on a better football team.
He is also very good, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback, rated best in the state by at least one magazine.
He is also the only kid I've ever heard of who transfers by seasons. If this is springtime, it must be volleyball at Santa Monica High.
Naturally, the high-profile peregrinations of Perry have set off skyrockets at the California Interscholastic Federation office, which tries to keep athletics in perspective. You can't just transfer because you want to play on a better ball team. There are rules. Your family has to move with you, for one.
The CIF investigators have been on the Klein family like a cheap suit. So far, no dirt.
The whole story raises all kinds of questions about ethics and parental zeal and questionable priorities and commitment vs. challenge and deep stuff like that.
Picky, picky. What intrigues me about the Perry Klein story is the fantasy angle. I'm jealous of the kid.
I went to one high school for four years, with marginal athletic success. Who knows, if I had been creative and ambitious enough, I might have found a school more appreciative of a 6-2 power forward with a unique, off-balance skyhook.
Like Smokey Robinson's momma told him, you gotta shop around.
So Perry is my hero. I dropped by his house recently to meet him and hear his story.
The Kleins live on the beach at Malibu. Their home appears to be that of a wealthy family, or of several wealthy families. The nearest neighbors are Goldie Hawn, Carroll O'Connor, Sly Stallone and Flipper the Dolphin. Imagine the canasta games.
"People assume I'm rich because we live here," says Danny Klein, Perry's dad, a former college quarterback and coach. "They don't realize I bought this place years ago when they were practically giving away beachfront property."
How many years ago? Five. Surely you remember the Great 1984 Malibu Land Giveaway.
Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. Klein are proud of their son and glad his career has taken the turns it has taken. They see Perry not as an athletic opportunist, but as a spirited lad, open to life's adventures.
They have helped him. Perry couldn't transfer to Carson High unless his family lived in that district, so mom and dad rented a 2-bedroom apartment in the city of Carson. It worked out great, they say, because Danny's business is in Gardena and he was sick of the commute from Malibu.
The Kleins kept their Malibu pad, of course, for weekend R&R;, and recently they moved back to the seashore full time. Parents who would move from a palace with a view of the Pacific to a dinky apartment with a view of the San Diego Freeway are either incredibly devoted to their son or incredibly creative in circumnavigating the transfer rules.
I don't know which they are. I'm no investigator. All I know is that they have made it possible for their son to have an exciting high school career. Again, I'm envious. The only big change I made in high school was in my junior year, when I impulsively switched from chocolate malts to strawberry malts.
"We feel we did the right thing for Perry," Perry's mom, Diana Klein, said. "If you have a child who excels as a concert violinist and his school has no orchestra, you send him somewhere where he can further what talents he has, you send him somewhere to fine-tune his talents.
"Besides, the cultural change was great for Perry. It was a reverse busing. We 'bused' him into a neighborhood of average (income) people, and he learned a lot. Some parents take their kids and travel around the world to educate them. Perry's done that by going to three schools. It's made him grow up."
As Danny says, "If you're stuck here (in Malibu or nearby Palisades), you just see one side of the world, you grow up with blinders on. Perry's ahead of the game, he's learned a lot about life."
Perry has no qualms about all the moves.
"The truth is, you want to go to a higher level of competition," he says. "Why stay at the same level? It was a challenge (transferring to Carson) I could've failed. I made the decisions. I always made it harder on myself, put challenges on myself, but the only way you can make yourself the best you can be is with challenges."
Perry was challenged socially at Carson, where he strolled onto campus as the hired-gun, rich-kid, white-guy quarterback. There were resentments, so heavy that at one point some football players let it be known they would try to make Perry look bad on the field. That's when he thought about transferring back to Pali. He decided to tough it out.
The City championship wiped out a lot of those bad feelings. Many of his classmate-detractors came to appreciate and even like the quarterback who celebrated each touchdown by doing a back-flip.
"I miss Carson a lot," Perry says. "It was the place where I felt most at home, and yet not really part of it. It's like at first I was just the guy who came to play football, but when I left, I felt like they felt I was a part of the school. I still have a lot of good friends at Carson. I still go back and see them."
Incidentally, Perry apparently picked up an education along the way, and a 3.3 grade-point average. He wasn't as heavily recruited as he thought he might be, but maybe the recruiters had trouble finding him.
He has signed a football letter of intent to Cal. Of course, that's not chiseled in stone.