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A Poetic Ode to Football

(Author’s Note: On Friday, my brother-in-law and I will be boarding a plane on the first leg of a journey that will end in Stillwater. The aforementioned brother-in-law, Travis Rice, used to host a Super Bowl party at his house every year, back when we both were younger and had fewer children in our respective households, and one of the highlights of the event was the annual "Trav Bowl," played in our host’s front yard and pitting friends against one another in a friendly game of two-hand touch. Typically, the sides were divided by age group, which always placed me on the older team. The 2001 Trav Bowl ended in a tie when I missed what would have been the game-saving tackle late in the game. Although wwcmrd? asked me to share some of the fiction I used to write, I haven’t really found anything that would fit. Here on the eve of football season, though, I thought the following ode to the gridiron game and its larger meaning might be appropriate, if only to get everyone psyched up for the fall. Enjoy.)

Walk It Off:
After a 21-21 Tie (Super Bowl Sunday 2001)
by T. Kyle King

At first I heard only the wind. I lay there, sore
from the previous day's exertions, and could hear
its rattle whistling within my chimney. Before
long, the rain began. I did not move. What was clear
to me as I lay in the darkness, the stillness,
was this: You are not as young as you used to be.

A game of football laid me low; not some illness
or injury, mind you, but a game. Can you see
why that would bother me? No, you cannot, because
it is not my body that hurts the worst. (My pride
bore the brunt of it.) I close my eyes---see it---pause
over each detail of my grand failure. Inside
my house just now, all is quiet but for the rain,
and everything is dark. One more stop, and we
win. (Just one.) I am bent, tired, panting, but no pain
impedes me. (Walk it off.) One more stop. This could be
the ballgame, right here. We are up by seven points,
but they are knocking on our door. (Youth is wasted
on the young.) Are they sore and tired, too? Do their joints
ache as much as ours? One more stop. We have tasted
defeat before. The Greeks believed a man was in
his prime in his thirties. (They stood on the front ranks
of the phalanxes.) Is it hubris---is it sin?---
to want so much to win? (We line up.) I give thanks
to God above for our one-touchdown lead. One more
stop. Do they disrespect their elders by trying
to defeat us? No; they do what we did before
in our own time. One more stop. I would be lying
if I said I thought this was just a game. (The ball
is snapped.) We drop back into coverage. Just one
more stop. The quarterback rolls to his left. With all
my might, I rush to meet him. (This is all in fun,
a casual game between friends, their speed and youth
against our strength and experience.) One more stop.

I dive as he reaches the corner. (All life, truth,
longing, and history weigh heavily atop
my outstretched form, mortality trailing behind
me like a ragged cape draped across my sagging
shoulders.) I fall quietly and slowly, inclined
not to rise from where I land, face-down. No bragging
follows: I lie in a heap in the dirt; he runs
on and scores. (The game ends in a tie.) We would have
won, with one more stop. This is a game to the ones
who hear no footsteps gaining on them, who can laugh
after leaving the field without winning. He will
one day be the man who arrives a half-step too
late. (Will that make him more than just sore?) I lie still
in the dark and listen to the rain and wind. You
are not as young as you used to be. Some may scoff
at rain on a roof and fading of youth, but I,
in my soreness, know there is no walking it off
and no stopping the sound of wind blowing time by.

Here’s hoping Tim Tebow feels the same way on All Saints Day.

Are you ready for some football?

Go ‘Dawgs!