Sunday, September 23, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
merchant of dreams
Where were you three weeks ago when I finished my burger and handed the waitress a $20 as I left the bar? (Because when you realize your year’s over four months early, it doesn’t make much sense asking for change.) Where were you two weeks ago when I started to do my laundry during commercials and wished there wasn’t a game to watch when I came back?
Maybe you’re still gone. But 38-0 will keep me from looking for you for a couple more days.
For a few hours on Saturday, I forgot about everything else. Everything that went wrong, everything that might still be wrong, everything that we thought disappeared last year but still grins and wags its mangled finger at us. There is still no championship to speak of, nothing significant worth proclaiming. But for a day, for one afternoon, not a single thing went wrong. If they are to salvage anything, if they are to turn this apocalypse into a kingdom of rubble, they’ve certainly given us a worthy beginning.
I watched Brandon Graham destroy an offensive line like a bully smashing a kindergartner’s Lego castle to pieces. I watched as Shawn Crable taught us to never stop holding out hope for vindication, and listened to him talk about preserving shutouts afterwards. I watched Johnny Thompson tackle like a shopkeeper throwing the broom down in front of his deli and tackling a thief trying to make a run for it with an old lady’s purse. Both passion and desperation at the same time. I saw the coach we wished we still had any reasons left to defend stand at the podium with a movie star he’d smoke cigars with later that night. And for a third straight week, Mike had not only transcended the pantheon of great men, but he didn’t even acknowledge that he had. He still had work to do. It was simply his job to save us.
After he lost to
“I wouldn’t rather be a part of any other team right now. I wouldn’t want to be on a USC national championship team. I wouldn’t want to be on a
And yet again we saw someone who didn’t just play for us, but someone who thought like us. This was his mess – our mess. And in some absurd, freakishly soothing way, we both held onto it tighter even as it gave us so many reasons to let go. Right now this team belongs to no one but those it matters most to. A hundred reasons to hate it, and yet we don’t. Sometimes, if you can manage to get beneath the pain, it feels pretty incredible to realize you love something that much.
But after the game was over, he smiled the same way he always did. More restrained, no sweat on his forehead, a t-shirt instead of a suit and tie, but a smile all the same. I recognized that man.
“I was just telling the team, I lost the taste of winning for a while. We got that victory, I got that taste back in my mouth, and we wanna keep winning.”
There was focus, there was composure, there was relief. For the first time, there was a season.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
I don't want to say goodbye to you, so I'll just say goodnight
When they turned the camera on he was leaning so far away from the podium they had to reposition the lens just to get him completely on screen. The same people he stood in front of now had asked him this question a few weeks earlier:
“When did you first meet
Now he was just a kid standing in the corner of a funeral parlor while his best friend lay in a casket across the room. It was
But he showed up anyway and he listened to a bunch of people pretend to care what he was going through. Never before had he spoken as if what happened on the field intimidated him, or revealed something that made him question himself. But he didn’t even try to argue this time. Not that anyone would have listened, or believed him even if he did. The story had already been written, and there was no place in it for sympathy. There was an underdog tale Mike was no longer the protagonist of.
He’d spent the last three years both motivated by the hope of vengeance and a culminating triumph, and confident that it one day he’d get both. Now he just stood awkwardly and stared around the room while intermittently wiping the sweat off of his forehead.
At times he was almost consciously somber; not that he wasn’t as devastated as he seemed, but that it was too much to grasp at that moment. He knew how bad it felt about an hour before he got to the podium and how bad it'd make the hours of his life that followed. But for now he still smiled every once in a while. It was as if inside him was the consciousness of what just happened, the impulse to fight back, and the frustration that for the first time in his life he didn’t know how to.
Jake kept grabbing at his collar and looked as if he could crush bricks into dust with his clenched fists.
You can blame Lloyd for retiring a year too late, or Ron English for being everything Jim Herrmann was and we swore Ron wasn’t; you could blame Chad for losing control and never figuring out how to get it back. But next year, when there’s a new head coach, new running back, new pair of wide receivers, new left side of the offensive line, two new defensive backs, and the only thing familiar to you is the feeling that you’ve been defeated before the game has even begun, just try to remember how much this season should have meant to us. It's gone, and that's what we'll remember. It doesn't matter whose fault it was.
A few seconds after Minor fumbled they showed Mike walking up the sideline with his helmet in his hand. Like he’d done it before and he almost wanted to laugh because he was about to do it again. Maybe he was hurt, maybe he wasn’t. But he ran for 115 yards in the fourth quarter and had the guts to talk to us after it was all over.
This is a kid who calls himself H20, because “he can run like water,” and in every one of his last 12 games he’ll be fighting for a consolation prize. So if you want to know what hurts me most about the game, what burns holes in my heart, it’s not that I watched