Jimmy Mongus sat silently in front of his locker, staring at the ball between his legs. He had lived his whole life in the shadow of his older brother Hugh, but now his time had come. He was the starting quarterback, and he would play the field like a champion.
He picked up the football with his large right hand, gripping it firmly, feeling the bumpy, leathery skin of the ball. Then he changed hands, seizing it with his left and squeezing it. Then he changed back to his right because he remembered that he was right-handed, which he thought was probably important.
The team gathered together like fish in a school. It was time. Jimmy slid his helmet over his head and looked proudly at his fellow players, all looking slick and shiny in their new white uniforms. Before the start of the season, the team had been forced to change their name due to some minor technicality of being really offensive. In honor of the city’s maritime history, they were now called the Sea Men. Together, they filed out of the room in the bowels of the stadium. At exactly 10 minutes to kick-off, the Sea Men burst forth from the tunnel and onto the field, to the great pleasure of the crowd, who roared with approval and then immediately took a short nap and then ordered some more nachos.
After deciding who would go first (it was always the other team), the Sea Men kicked off, surprising their opponent by pushing the ball right into the back of their end zone, which the other team was not happy about and they audibly complained, saying, “What the hell was that?”
As the Sea Men defense took the field, Jimmy felt the intensity of the home fans, cheering lustily in their brand new stadium, named after America’s forgotten soft drink, Squirt. The opposing players could hardly hear the quarterback’s audible amidst the vibrating noise of the crowd, and even the neighbors complained and gossiped about it at church. But there was no culling the excitement released by the crowd at Squirt Stadium.
Finally, the opposing team got off a play, but it ended before it began, much to their embarrassment. After two more tries they still couldn’t break through the Sea Men’s tight D, so they punted.
Jimmy took the field and the team’s gorgeous, underpaid, and underappreciated cheerleaders cheered him on. But he had no time for them. There were ten men on that field that needed him. He lined up under center, his hands ready to receive the ball underneath. He had trained his entire life for this moment, pumping iron in the gym, chiseling his body until his muscles could cut glass. When he proposed to his girlfriend next week, he would not need to give her a diamond. He would give her his muscles. And his money. And a small part of his fame. …And maybe he would hold off for a while now that he thought about it. Yeah, that was a good idea.
Jimmy surveyed the defense, observing the matchups, looking for the best option. In his mind he saw the Xs and Os from the coach’s game plan, the way it was meant to be. Xs and Xs were too damn confusing. They tried that in practice once, but Sea Men were crashing into each other everywhere, confused and alone. Except for this one guy who was happy to try and tackle everyone, which no one could figure out.
Finally, he saw the gap he would aim for and he called a quick audible at the line. The original plan called for him to shoot the A-gap, but he saw something better. At Jimmy’s command, the center passed the ball back smoothly into his hands. Jimmy grasped the ball and backed up three steps to give himself room and slow things down. Then he saw his target, his man had one-on-one coverage and had broken loose behind the safeties. Jimmy didn’t hesitate, he reeled back, then he thrust forward, propelling the ball overhead, through the defense. They were as one, tosser and receiver. And the player took the ball into his waiting bosom and ran the length of the field for an earth-shattering score.
On the sidelines, the Sea Men erupted. In the stands, six rather large, shirtless gentlemen with the team name splashed in paint on their ample bellies, one letter per person, celebrated by jumping wildly into the air, sloshing their beers and spilling nacho cheese on the girl in front of them. She shrieked and her Adonis of a boyfriend turned around. She pointed at the S guy, who she assumed prematurely spilled his nacho cheese. Quickly, the boyfriend slapped him a high-five and then a low one, followed by a colossal fist bump because, darn it, that man on the field had just scored!
And he would score three more times that day, which was a record for a man his age, and his deeds were recorded in legend and also he landed a Cialis commercial.
After sixty minutes of play, which included a much-needed 15-minute break, Jimmy Mongus, sweat drenched and spent, sat on the sideline bench, not wanting to return to the locker room. He watched the crowd file out of Squirt Stadium, satisfied and probably really drunk, but satisfied nonetheless. They would walk home feeling really good and really bad at the same time and they would casually discuss it with their friends at work like it was no big deal. Then the clean-up crews arrived to take care of the mess, which was never the job of the guys on team Sea Men. Their job was to go home, sit on the couch with bowl of corn flakes and relax with an episode of Mad Men.
But Jimmy knew he would always remember this day and whoever that team was that he just played. Whatever, there would be another team next week.
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