For The Team (With Audio Recording)
January 1, 2013
— audiobook, biased fans, fandom, flash fiction, heart on sleeve, kiss the badge, self punishment, short story, tribalism
By Thomas Ang
Originally published 28.02.12 – republished 01.01.13 with audio recording. Find other recordings at soundcloud/strangebOUnce.
Raindrops fall, leaves fall, my feet fall, to cold uncaring pavement. Coldness: one way to deal with heartbreak. Every gasp of air is taken with painful desperation; I battle the squeezing of the heavy, soaked shirt that sticks to me. But I keep on running, committed to the cause.
This is how it must be after yesterday: one part punishment, one part escape, and one part preparation for next time. Tying the game would have been enough and we were so close. How many seasons, again, until another chance? We just passed it away…
My feet are slapping the ground with force now. They shouldn’t, I don’t want them to, but I have no strength left to cushion each footfall. I can’t ask for more than the next step, and the breath to take it.
I punish myself so that I won’t let it happen again, it’s to make losing that much more painful. That, at least, is working. Ask my lungs how they feel about not being big enough. Ask my shins how they feel about the impact. My knee, the knock I’ve been carrying, has stopped hurting somehow. Endorphins do that.
They help me escape physical pain. Rhythmic breathing and brainless repetition, being alone on the road and outside of time, they help me forget other pains: disappointment, inadequacy, guilt, consequences.
I can let it take my mind away from what happened during the game, but I don’t today. The respite is only temporary if we let it happen again. We must be good enough next time, so I search for what I could have done differently. I scan the replay in my mind for a moment that would have changed everything.
The pain in my shins is gone now, replaced with numbness. No stitch in my side. My breathing is calmer. Have I slowed down or have I found my rhythm? It’s like I’ve broken through the wall guarding the place where the answers are kept.
There was a play that decided the game, a single line that changed the story. In that moment upon which all others hinged, what could I have done?
I wasn’t close enough to block the shot.
I wasn’t marking the shooter, didn’t let him go free.
I wasn’t out of position, or lacking the fitness to get back.
It was a poor pass from a teammate, a giveaway in a dangerous place, from which all our problems flowed.
I’m running faster now. I’m not sure why. It feels like the right thing to do. Perhaps I could have called out to him. I wasn’t in the position to ask for the ball, but I could have yelled for him to look to his left.
I don’t think he would have heard me though. Not through the din and distance between us. Not over the chanting and screaming all around.
Not from my seat in row 27 of section C.
Thomas Ang is a kindred spirit to strange bOUnce, whose fictional sportswriting and blogging can be found at Roarof theFaithful.com