Football is for the Birds (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(The Weekly Writing Challenge wanted me to go all gonzo.  This, if you ask me, is a perfect way to describe sports fans.)

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” –Hunter S. Thompson

**********

There are energies that refuse to be contained.  They ignore the laws of physics, the urgings of common decency, and they defy all logic.  Such is the boundless exuberance that I experienced last Friday.

Walking into work I was cheerfully greeted by my coworkers.  The normal uniform of black pants, replete with the array of creases and minor stains that come from work wear and iron-shunners, was joined by bright blue t-shirts.  These tops, all shiny and covered in hashtags and the giant number “12” on them, echoed loudly the celebratory nature of most of the city.

If spirit were mid-rif tops, you could see all of Seattle's belly-buttons.

If spirit were mid-rif tops, you could see all of Seattle’s belly-buttons.

I, a person who does not mind being the odd man out, ignored the choice to dress differently.  I tucked my black polo shirt into my black pants, kicked on my black shoes, paid my hair that I assumed was still combed, and went out onto the busy floor.

Customers bustled back and forth with the sort of amped-up attitude that is normally saved for Black Friday shoppers.  Outside on the streets, random citizens could be heard to bellow “Sea-HAWKS” as forcefully as possible to no one in particular.  Like some sort of tribal call from one hilltop village to the surrounding clans, he hoped that his boisterous call would be answered in kind by a likewise enthused comrade in spirit.

Seattle: Where the subtle need not apply (image from here)

Seattle: Where the subtle need not apply (image from here)

If a painter had wanted to capture the scene, she would have only needed three colors; blue, green, and black (The black is to paint all the “other” objects.  Trees, people, lakes; that sort of thing).  All the buildings with high-tech lights have changed their palettes.  The twin-tower hotel has one building rimmed with green, the other in blue.  Pacific Science Center’s arches are blue.  Little blue flags decorate small office windows but beam with big pride.  Even the Space Needle is not immune.  The body is alit with a blue hue while the very top is taking a hint from the nearby construction cranes.  Yes, much like its leaner but buffer cousins, the Seattle landmark is topped with a giant blue flag with the number “12” flapping and billowing for all to see.

Back inside my store, things were not much different.  There was a constant wave of blue and green filling up peripheral visions.  Scarfs, beanies, jackets, hoodies, caps, baby onesies; all were clad in a two-tone color scheme.  If you were to look for a guy in a Seahawks jacket, you were sure to have many fellows to choose from.  The variables changed.  Some jackets were faded with age and some had flaking letters.  The new converts were easy to find; their apparel was fresh and crisp, much like their recent interest in the NFL.

A woman, dutifully clad in a Seahawks scarf, had been excitedly chittering and chattering to one of my more sports-loving coworkers.  As she made her way towards the exit, she turned her attention to me.

“How ‘bout those Hawks, eh?”  The woman smiled merrily in front of me.  It was difficult to tell if she was missing a few teeth or if they were off from the color that chompers usually have.  Her glasses were small but thick, and her matted white hair lay limply by her cheeks, like a pom-pom ready to be shaken back to life.

Image from here

Image from here

“It’s quite a thing”, I added.  My hope was to be agreeable, but not to reveal my level of disinterest.

“They’re gonna win it on Saturday!”  She said as her teeth displayed her fervor.

“Well, they just might”, I added.

“Naw”, she said as her excited eyes danced and her head swooshed from side to side as she shook her locks in rebuttal.  “Them other folks don’t know how to play in the weather.  Our boys do.  They’re gonna win!”

I considered offering the bevy of clichés that ran through my head.  However, as pertinent as counting eggs before they are hatched and pride coming before the fall was, I couldn’t do it to her.  I feigned a slight smile and replied, “They just might.”

Still somewhat irked by my lack of interest, she realized I had been as cooperative as I was going to be and she bounded off to find a fellow supporter to root with.

“What’s going on?”  My coworker approached me out of curiosity.  A delightful, warm, and charming woman looked quite cute in her brand new Seahawks shirt.  She had gone all out; the area under her eyes was covered in blue decals, her short brown hair was pulled back in a Seahawks headband, and the wrist was adorned in a blue Seahawks jumbo-sized rubber-band.

“Oh, I wasn’t giving her the response she wanted”, I replied with a shrug.

“And why not?”  The small gal, about a foot shorter than me, moved a few inches closer to me.

“I just don’t root for anyone”, I answered.  “I don’t have a team.”

seahawks-hd-blue-wallpaper“The Seahawks are your team!”  The response was not so much an offering of help, but an edict.  Her normally adorable eyes grew large and serious.  The unspoken message of her unblinking look spoke louder than our Guinness record-breaking fans; get on board.  Now.

Clearly, there was no such thing as “somewhat” supporting “my” team.  Only complete and utter excitement would sate the passionate community around me.  Forget going the whole nine yards; only one hundred yards would content the rabid devotees that threatened to overwhelm me if I didn’t hungrily rush the field with them.  When surrounded by sports fans that are yearning for a championship, the rest of us must tread lightly least we are accused of foul play.

Caught Cheating While Playing (on) the Field

He that will cheat at play, will cheat you any way.” –Dutch proverb

**********

Lance sat on his couch and stared past the television.  If this were a normal Saturday night, Lance would be watching the game that was playing out on the screen.  The announcers were excited and a flurry of activity was occurring on his five-foot, HD display.  There was much cause for enthusiasm and uproarious behavior.  Yet, Lance couldn’t focus on the players.  He had heard about a game that had happened earlier in the week, and he had been obsessing over it ever since.

A series of knocks roused Lance from his brooding.  He got up from the couch, trudged over to the door, and opened it.  Without a word or a look to the man standing on the doormat, Lance returned to the couch cushion that was still warm.  He took his beer from the cup holder and took a long, slow sip.

“Sorry I’m late”, Vince said as he shook off his coat.  “Traffic was out of control.  You’d think people had never driven in the blasted rain before.”  He tossed his wet attire in a pile by the hat rack, just as he always did.  “What’d I miss?”

Lance jerked his head in a way that drew attention to the screen in front of them.  “Game’s right there”, Lance replied.

“You mind if I have a beer?”

“You know the way”, Lance stated.

Vince, feeling unsure of his standing, headed to the kitchen, removed an aluminum can from the door, and headed back to the living room.  “You bettin’ on your team tonight?  Even though they’re favored to lose?”

“They’ll be fine”, Lance said quietly.

“What is with you?”

“Do you wanna talk, or do you wanna watch the game?”

“You just seem mad.  Trouble at work?  Are you taking out Cynthia grief on me?”

“Maybe I get annoyed when people talk during the game.”

“That’s not it.  You’re usually screaming at the dang thing.  Besides, there’re commercials.”

“This beer’s empty.  I need another”, Lance announced as he went to the kitchen.

“All right, that’s it.”  Vince ran to the kitchen and stood in front of the door handle.  “What is your beef?”

“You’re blocking the beer.  Move.”  The last response was more of a threat than an actual sentence.  Lance’s broad shoulders and jar-sized head seemed all too eager to punctuate any statements with violence.  Lance could do plenty of damage when he wanted too.  And at the moment, Vince thought his friend was too ready to attack.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong”, Vince demanded.  He hoped that the bravado in his voice was effective, even though he strongly suspected that his bluff wasn’t entirely convincing.

“Why don’t you ask Burt”, Lance replied.

“What does Burt have to do with anything?”

“I wouldn’t know.  You’re the one that’s so chummy with him all of a sudden.”

“What?  Lance, I haven’t seen Burt in weeks.”

A massive fist zoomed past Vince’s head, narrowly missing him and landing full-on into the refrigerator door.  An intimidating dent was now present where Lance’s hand had landed.

“Lance!  What the-“

“Don’t lie to me!  You two were playing football just last night.”

“How did you-“  Vince stopped himself.  Somehow Lance had found out.  Suddenly the sullen mood made perfect sense.

“What am I, stupid?  Of course I found out.”

“You weren’t supposed to”, Vince replied quietly.

“Oh, c’mon.  Half our friends were there.  You wanted to get caught.”

“Why would I want that?”

“Maybe you’re tired of me and you’re just too gutless to say anything.”

“Lance, if I that were true than why would I be here?  I’m not tired of you.”

“But you are avoiding me.  You’re just here for the beer”, Lance replied.

“Now you know that’s ridiculous.  C’mon, we’re close.  You can’t pretend that we aren’t.”

“Then why?  Why would you claim that the game got cancelled?”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t be like that”, Vince said.  “Look, just because I spent time with him doesn’t mean that I’m done with you.”

“Is he better than I am?  Does he have skills that I don’t?”

“Lance, c’mon.”

“No, I’m serious.  Does he know tricks that work for you?  Are his moves sleeker than mine?”

“Lance.”

“And I’ve heard about that T.V. at home.”

“What?”

“Oh, the guys can’t stop talking about it.  ‘Look how big it is!  It’s so gorgeous!’   I’ll bet he lets you be in charge when you’re over there.  Does it make you feel like a big, macho man?  He just thinks you’re so great to be around.  If only he knew the truth.”

“The truth?”  Vince was tired of being on the receiving end.  He had played defense in college and was ready to dust off his old skillset.  “And what is the truth exactly?  That I put up with people who are abusive?”

“I’m abusive?  Me?  That’s a laugh.”

“Please.  Everybody’s seen it.  The way you treat people.  The pushing, the shoving, the name calling.”

“It’s football!  That’s how you’re supposed to behave”, Lance replied.

“Well, nobody else acts that way.  Just you.  And our friends feel the same.  Several of the guys actually asked me to talk to you about it.”

“What, their feelings are hurt?”

“And their backs, and their shoulders.  You don’t respect other people, Lance.”

“I don’t tow cow to whiny little twits with no drive, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.  Why can’t you try to see it from their side?”

“Whatever”, Lance growled.

“All right Lance.  There are two reasons why I snubbed you.”

“Finally, the truth comes out.”

“First off”, Vince said as he jabbed his finger dangerously hard into Lance’s chest.  “You’re a cheater.”

“I am not!  I would never do to you what you did to me!”

“Not that kind of cheating you emotionally unstable nimrod.  You go out of bounds”, Vince exclaimed.

“You went behind my back!”

“On.  The.  Field!  You run out of the boundary lines that are there for a reason.”

“Oh”, Lance said quietly.  “That.  Well, that’s me taking advantage of a situation.  If a ref ain’t gonna call me on it, then I’m gonna do it.  Anything for a victory.”

“Yeah, well the guys have noticed.  So stop it.”

“And?”  Lance shoved Vince’s finger aside and took a step closer.  His beer breath was pungent and inescapable.  “What’s the other reason?”

“I’m really not supposed to tell”, Vince said reluctantly.

“I knew it.  What, you’re in love with him or something?”

“No, you moron.   Burt has pancreatic cancer, okay?”

Lance froze.  “Seriously?”

“Yes.  He has to get treatment, go to the hospital, post-op; the whole thing.  He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play again and his team wasn’t up this week.  We used to be teammates.  We were something special before you came along and changed everything.  So he wanted to have one last round.  Him and I.  I didn’t think you’d understand.  So I didn’t tell you.”

“So it wasn’t that you’re dumping me, it’s that you were getting back together with your old partner.”

“Lance.”

“It’s the legs, isn’t it?  His legs are better than mine.”

“You aren’t as young as you once were”, Vince admitted.  “Plus you are gettin’ a few extra pounds around the waist line.”

“Wow.  Hurtful much?”

“Enough”, Vince said.  “You aren’t perfect, and I’m not perfect.  But you can see why I did it right?  Why I went behind your back?  I still love ya, you’re still my guy.  I had no choice.  I had to team up with Burt.  It was a onetime thing.”

“It would still appear that we need to work on keeping our lines of communication open”, Lance commented.

“Dude”, Vince replied.

“What”, Lance asked.

“That psychologist wife of yours is really changing you.”

“You’re jealous because Suzanne won’t let you drink in your living room.”

“Can we just watch the game now?”  Vince felt himself pleading but couldn’t stop.  His wife would want to talk when he got home.  There would be forced discussions about emotions later.  Right now he wanted to watch large groups of men beat the ever-living snot out of each other.

The Poetry of a Crowded Bus

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Poetry of a Crowded Bus

Trying to maintain order during a legalized gang brawl involving 80 toughs with a little whistle, a hanky and a ton of prayer.”  ~Anonymous referee, explaining his job

Harry never considered himself a big sports nut,
He lacked the passion for competition in his gut.
He didn’t own jerseys with a number or a name
Nor did he know any members in the hall of fame.

Not a football buff, Harry was a regular guy.
He focused on his night job to help hours pass by.
When his shift was over, Harry headed for his home
He yearned for his soft pillow to meet his drowsy dome.

Yet he found an obstacle between him and his bed,
Had he known earlier, it would have filled him with dread.
A quiet, empty bus was a key part of his plans,
Instead he found one crammed full of excited sports fans.

Had he remembered the news, he’d known what to expect
But now he found that the hope of a calm ride was wrecked.
The seats had all been taken about four blocks before,
So Harry knew he’d be standing still on the bus-floor.

The driver declared that she’d skip the last stop downtown
However someone wanted off, which just made her frown.
Somehow everyone fit, though they were rather sour.
Waiting was no option; the next bus was in an hour.

Harry stood exhausted as his arms grew quite weary.
His knees started to hurt, and he was feeling dreary.
With each stop that let folks off to walk to their houses
There arose a hassle for the commuting louses.

Take the person who stood stuck at the back of the bus
Who couldn’t maneuver through and so started to cuss.
The people had no room to get one past another,
Frightened children stood terrified next to their mother.

Harry was just too tired to look around and see,
If he was standing next to a suit or hillbilly.
He certainly wished they would stop cheering in delight,
After all, the hour was quick approaching midnight.

It had been a hot day, and everyone had that smell
That comes when one’s deodorant stops working so well.
There was the well-known stench of burped-up stadium beer,
Which helped explain why some guys were so eager to cheer.

Finally it happened, as the riders knew it would,
The driver came to a light, stopped as fast as she could.
The brakes were applied, the crammed riders all held on tight,
Clearly the bus was too big to slow down for the light.

The quick jolt sent the bus-full of them bouncing about,
Naturally large groups of people started to shout.
The crowds reached for the handholds, they all gave it their best;
Still Harry fell backwards as someone fell on his chest.

Harry fought to stand up, although it took him a while,
Then he found himself greeted by a delightful smile.
“Sorry about that”, the woman said softly to Harry.
“Thanks for catching me; that was a little bit scary.”

They laughed at the situation, their faces started to happily beam,
Thus the non-fan met the head of the cheerleading team.
Harry surprised himself by stating his thought out loud,
“There are advantages to being stuck in a crowd.”

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