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August 15, 2022

A Sudden Death Victory

By Michael Price

"... there he goes ..."

"... fifty ... forty-five ..."

"... forget it, it's over ..."

"... forty ..."

"... he's gone ..."

"... thirty-five ... thirty ..."

"... boom, just like that ..."

"... twenty-five ..."

"... this one's history ..."

* * * * *

... twenty ...

From his desk assignment in the front row, Jimmy Goodhue feverishly scribbled the correct numbers onto his arithmetic worksheet. Old Mrs. Lambert sat behind her desk, directly across from him, grading language tests from earlier in the day, as her final class of first-graders, her last in a distinguished thirty-five year career in elementary education, silently added and subtracted their way toward lunch. Jimmy broke the silence with the breaking of his pencil lead, "rats"-ed under his breath, and picked up the at-the-ready spare he always kept in the groove at the top of his desk. He was pretty sure he was ahead anyway, but he wasn't about to slow down. Not now. That just wouldn't seem right. Mrs. Lambert had already stressed, as she always did, that everybody would be allowed plenty of time to finish their worksheets, that the most important thing was to get the correct answers. But Jimmy always got the right answers in arithmetic, at least he always had; "accuracy is very important," his parents had consistently emphasized. The fun part was to finish before Angie Curtis and Trevor Springer did. They were very good at arithmetic, too.

Finished. Jimmy audibly snapped his pencil onto his desktop -- not too loud, just loud enough to make it known, especially to Angie and Trevor (and Mrs. Lambert, of course), that he was the first one done. Most of the class looked up. Some of them shook heads of recognition. An "Ah, man ..." was heard from the opposite corner of the room, which Jimmy recognized to be the voice of Trevor. Mrs. Lambert shot Jimmy a familiar look that effectively communicated in a split-second that, a) I know, b) that's very good, Jimmy, and, to a lesser, more playful degree, c) was that really necessary? Jimmy loved that look. He never wanted to forget it.

He never would.

* * *

He scooped up the ball and sped toward the goal. Jimmy knew you weren't supposed to do that -- use your hands, not in soccer -- but every recess, there were so many legs to kick the ball through, it seemed like more and more every day; it was hard to even get the ball to the goal. The majority of the male fourth graders, probably more than fifty, started chasing him -- practically every day -- yelling "Cheat, cheat," the standard chant of late, as Jimmy darted, weaved, and otherwise raced his way through and past the maze. His friends, his teammates -- nine or ten of the better young athletes on the playground every day -- ran along behind and beside him, laughing in camaraderous anticipation, getting into position, waiting for Jimmy to set the ball down on the other end of the field, hoping for a chance at an easy goal. It had become a recess ritual over the course of the prior few weeks, one in which, despite all numerical odds, Jimmy's team always came out ahead.

But this recess Jimmy did not set the ball down in front of the goal of the masses. On this day, he kept running.

"Come back here, Jimmy Goodhue!"

Jimmy teased a good-natured glance over his shoulder at the now over-stimulated herd of fourth graders in animated chase mode. The school playground was vast and Jimmy used all of it, playfully baiting his classmates with the only soccer ball allowed on the grounds held high above his head. The thought never crossed his mind that -- had he been caught -- he might well have been trampled under the cumulative weight of that many human beings, no matter how young, how small. He flashed a fun-loving grin over his shoulder, back at the competition, further inducing them into a fraternal frenzy of pursuit.

"We're gonna get you, Jimmy!"

He was having fun. And they were, too; the posse grew in numbers with each glee-filled mass squeal. It certainly would have been a major coup for the boy who could honestly say he once caught up with Jimmy Goodhue; such bragging rights would be fabulously satisfying. It reminded Jimmy of backyard football over at his friend Tim's house. They played almost every day in the fall, he and his friends, after school. It was the one thing Jimmy really liked about the game of football -- people were always chasing him. And he liked scoring touchdowns. He really did. But Jimmy scored touchdowns all the time. This was different. Nobody had ever done this before.

"You just wait ..."

Jimmy knew what the word wait meant; he just never did it. His grin grew ear to ear. He had never been caught before -- everybody knew that. He was just faster. Period.

At just about everything.

Always had been.

He started playfully tossing passes to himself, short at first, then boldly longer, leading himself perfectly each time, occasionally shooting a just-to-make-sure peek behind him. They were still back there. He kept running, hoping that the bell would never ring.

It did. It was inevitable, of course.

He hoped they could do this again tomorrow.

* * *

"All right, that's it! Line up for sprints!"

The twelve to thirteen-year-old Iris Park Redskins whooped it up; seven-thirty practice was almost over. They assembled themselves in a straight line at the edge of the backstop, as they had at the end of every cub football practice for the past three years; five sprints down to the warming house and back, probably some sort of inspiring message from Mr. Schumacher (Tim's dad, long time coach of the team), maybe something from Jimmy's father, who helped out whenever he had the time, and perhaps a "great practice, you guys earned it" trip to the root beer stand, Jimmy hoped. He was dry, and a little more tired than usual.

"Root beer floats for everybody after the game Thursday if anybody beats Jimmy!"

More teamwork generated whooping and clapping, artificially forced by all, was strictly a formality of sorts, a rah-rah, go-team-go bonding sort of formality; Jimmy smiled meekly. Coach Schumacher's root beer float incentive would not work, of course. Jimmy wasn't that tired. But the rest of the boys didn't care. Two years before, as fifth graders, despite their lack of experience and overall team body weight as first year cubbies, they had won twice as many games as they'd lost -- which wasn't too bad, all things considered. Last year they finished second in the league, losing a heartbreaking 21-20 thriller in the last few seconds of their final game to the always powerful Skyline Vikings, Jimmy scoring all three touchdowns from his tailback position, but getting stopped short of the potentially game-winning two-point conversion run by six inches. Now, as seventh graders, and in their final year of parkboard football, much of the team having had to diet to get down to the one-hundred-forty pound weight limit for the pre-season weigh-in (soon after which the boys' weight rapidly returned -- rapidly and with great interest, in every case), the Iris Redskins had utterly dominated the league, limiting their opponents to less than a touchdown per game and, offensively, scoring virtually at will, no matter what variety of radical defensive scheme the other team had devised to stop them -- Jimmy in particular. Going into Thursday's final game of the season, once again versus the mighty Vikings, Jimmy alone had averaged over three touchdowns per game but was by no means a one-man show. His friends had all grown bigger, stronger, smarter. As a team, they were very, very good.

After sprints and Mr. Schumacher's pep talk, Jimmy's father related a tortoise-beats-hare anecdote from his own high school football career, many years prior, a tale in which he and his team regrettably had played the role of the hare, aimed at the eradication of any and all possible cockiness and overconfidence in the minds of Jimmy and his teammates. Brian Lundberg, the team's center, left defensive tackle, and self appointed and team recognized comic reliever, as well as one of Jimmy's best friends on the team, listened to the story and, even before Mr. Goodhue had the chance to finish, couldn't contain a giggle.

"Something funny, Brian?" asked Jimmy's father.

"No, no, it's not that, Mr. Goodhue," waved off the boy. "It's just ... don't you think it would be a riot ... I mean, it'd be kinda weird, I guess ..."

"What's that?"

Brian turned to the rest of the team for support. "Well ... I think it'd be really cool if ... ," now looking directly at Jimmy's father, "You raced Jimmy."

The team exploded with genuine exuberance, laughing and clapping hysterically, maximally re-energized. "Yeah! Yeah! Do it! Do it! C'mon, Mr. Goodhue! Race him! Do it!"

Jimmy's face turned blank. He was not conscious of the fact that he was shaking his head no. His father was doing the same, behind a knowing smile, muttering "Oh c'mon, guys," "I don't think so," and "Gentlemen, gentlemen, let's all just go home," and the like, but the clamor escalated to the point where no was no longer a reasonable option -- not without a minor riot -- and the race was run.

Jimmy held a healthy lead when they reached the warming house but ran out of gas at the end, diving head-long past the backstop finish line, sprawled out in the grass, and laid there, motionless, entirely spent -- about a foot behind his father.

The walk home after practice that night was indeed a rambunctious one for the Iris Park Redskins football team, filled with much animated and mirthful banter amongst the boys.

Wow! Who'd have thought? Jimmy Goodhue! Whupped by the old man! Of all people! Unbelievable!

Two nights later they would top off their perfect season by walloping the once-feared Vikings 44-13, with their star tailback leading the way with four long touchdown runs. It was to be the end of a season that cub football legends are made of.

Jimmy walked home with his father in silence that evening, fighting back tears.

* * * * *

"... fifteen ..."

Even Jimmy had a hard time believing he was still standing.

"Mr. Goodhue, your word is salubriously."

Jimmy stood tall. Miss Dunbar, his seventh grade English teacher, had required all her classes to memorize the state song the previous year -- and sing it in class (exactly why, Jimmy could never figure out) -- and he liked the sound of her calling him mister. It sounded important. Almost grown up. It sounded right. He heaved a sigh of relief. He knew this one.

"Salubriously. S-A-L- ..."

Jimmy looked around. There were actually quite a few people in the auditorium, more than he would have guessed. They, too, were all a bit surprised that Jimmy Goodhue, the unanimously recognized future of the local high school sports scene, had advanced to the final round. Jimmy had never really considered himself the spelling bee type and wouldn't have been caught dead attending one as a voluntary spectator, strictly out of potential boredom. But he was in this one. Totally different thing. He had to be there; what was he supposed to do, lie? Evidently, he could spell. He hadn't previously been aware of how well he could spell, comparatively speaking, but there were only two eighth graders left standing on stage -- two out of four hundred twenty-eight in the class -- and he was one of them. Regina Mathews was the other one, standing just to his left. She had just correctly spelled rendezvous. He was glad Miss Dunbar had given that one to her. Regina was really smart. Very pretty, too, Jimmy couldn't help but notice.

"... U-B-R- ..."

Jimmy had started to like the way girls looked at him in the halls at school. They certainly seemed more interested this year than last, he'd often noted to himself, and sometimes felt mildly stupefied by the power of time -- simple time -- when it came to some things, not limited to, but especially this year, girls. Last year, they were people. That's about all. Other human beings. That giggled too much. In groups of two or more. This year, it took all the manners he'd been parented not to stare while walking down the hall, the giggling didn't bother him so much, and he found himself strolling by certain lockers a little slower, even stopping sometimes, in the presence of certain cheerleader gaggles. And all of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, he actually welcomed the opportunity to work on his young gentleman routine -- the mom definition -- the one that had previously seemed so corny. He'd read something about chivalry in a men's magazine at the dentist's office, liked the idea, and decided to try it out. He was never far from the school newspaper love-gossip column. Girls had become fun. They liked him, too.

"... I ... O ... U ..."

The brunette cheerleader with all the nice sweaters -- the one in the make-up -- had written a poem and had given it to Jimmy for Valentine's Day. He never told her what he really thought about it; it seemed breathy, somehow. And there were far too many references to nature to suit Jimmy's tastes. He didn't think it was terrible, but it was so long. He remembered thinking, while reading it for the first and only time, that he absolutely couldn't wait for the end to come. Jimmy told her he thought it was deep. It was the best he could do. They went out for a long time.

"... S ..."

It had been one of those obvious junior high romances, almost like it should happen. Big, junior high jock plus pretty, junior high jockette, both smart and with inviting smiles, equals kiss, at least one, and usually many, many, many more; after that, the equation breaks down once in a while. But they most assuredly looked good together, a solid ten on the cute couple chart. Technically, they never actually broke up. Her family moved back to Omaha.

"... Y. Salubriously."

"That is incorrect," monotoned Miss Dunbar. "Please sit down, Mr. Goodhue."

The audience moaned in disbelief as Jimmy took a seat, stunned.

No one could believe he wasn't still standing.

Even him.

* * *

Something was wrong.

The day of the big ninth grade inter-district gridiron showdown between undefeated Northbridge and hated rival and likewise unbeaten Johnson Tech High had finally arrived. To the surprise of absolutely nobody in the surrounding community Jimmy and his Northbridge Titan cohorts had steamrollered through their conference schedule with ease, setting new freshman school records for points scored and offensive yardage gained along the way, all accomplished even before opening kickoff in the season's eagerly anticipated final game. Johnson Tech had been the conference defensive juggernaut of the year, having posted six shutouts in eight games and limiting their opponents to less than ten first downs per game. Tech's kids were big, mean, and some said, occasionally dirty, but had never defeated Jimmy and his friends dating back through junior high and parkboard football. The two school principals had decided to make an event out of the game; they moved the starting time from four-o'clock up to one o'clock, making it quite clear to their respective freshmen classes that school was most certainly not dismissed, ensuring that both student bodies in their entirety would be able (and required) to attend. Permission was granted to have the game played on the varsity field. Programs were printed. Concessions were to be sold. Two bands, more press than had ever covered a freshman sporting event in the area, and about a hundred and fifty rabid hooky-playing parents, would all be there. The atmosphere would be electric.

Jimmy and his teammates were dismissed from class at ten am to eat an early lunch. Nervous tension ran thick as the boys, in hushed, anxious tones, devoured plates of spaghetti, toasted French bread, fruit cup, and some sort of light-brown dessert bar. Almost everyone was finished eating, ready to return their trays, and proceed to a pre-game team meeting, when Brian turned to his friend.

Jimmy Goodhue was gasping for breath.

"Hey! Hey! We need help, here! Hey! Over here!"

Jimmy's mates quickly helped him to the nurse's office. His face was already swollen to the extent that his eyes were nearly shut by the time they got there. Only with a unified reluctance and extreme trepidation did they leave him there -- Mrs. Martin, Northbridge High's long time school nurse insisted on it -- and they sullenly proceeded to their meeting with overwhelming concern, without their star running back.

Mrs. Martin made Jimmy lie down, tried to settle him down. He was getting very little air, his nose and throat all but swollen shut. He couldn't get enough air to talk, to express more than anything how frightened he was. He cleared his throat and gestured that he wanted something in which to spit, which he did over and over again. He tried coughing a pathway clear, desperately trying to put something in his lungs, wheezing, coughing, coughing, wheezing. He felt like he was dying, just lying there, perspiring profusely. He had to move, he had to do something. Suddenly, frantically, he shot up off the bed and took a few steps, then back. And forth. It wasn't getting better. Mrs. Martin tried to calm Jimmy but he was inconsolable, panic-stricken, and she yelled for help. Jimmy frenetically paced the room in mini-steps, thick, syrupy moisture seeping from slits he could now scarcely see through. The school's vice principal, Mr. O'Hara, was the first to answer the nurse's call, with a pretty student office aid not far behind. Mr. O'Hara took one look at Jimmy and calmly but firmly addressed the young lady.

"Call 911. Do it now."

Jimmy's breaths were now almost imperceptibly shallow as Mr. O'Hara and Mrs. Martin tried their best to make him as comfortable as possible, speaking only in gentle, soothing tones, belying their pulsating concern. Jimmy tried to drink some water but spilled almost all of it down the front of his shirt, which actually felt good to him. It was the last thing he remembered before going into shock, subsequently passing out on the nurse's bed.

When he woke up in the hospital, some eight hours later, he was told that he had experienced a severe allergic reaction and would be fine but would be staying overnight for cautionary observation. Shortly thereafter, his father informed him that Johnson Tech had beaten his mates 6-0. He found out later that Tech had bottled up the Titan offense the entire game, holding Jimmy's pals to but a single first down in the second half, while scoring the lone touchdown on a blocked punt late in the third quarter. The local press lauded Johnson Tech's "staunch demeanor" and "physical dominance" over the much heralded Titan offense, making special mention -- excessively so, thought Jimmy, after reading the articles for about the tenth time -- of how the kids from Tech had finally defeated their arch rivals from the other end of the district, for the first time ever in football.

It was also duly noted, more than once, that if Jimmy Goodhue had played, the result might well have been quite different. After all, nobody had ever thought the vaunted Northbridge offense could be stopped. Nobody ever had, not like that.

All it took was one peanut.

* * *

"... ten ..."

"Ball!"

Jimmy Goodhue knelt on one knee in the on-deck circle, vigorously rubbing pine tar onto the handle of his bat. If only his since-forever buddy, Tim Schumacher, could somehow manage to get a hit, just get on base any way, this year's representative of Northbridge High's long maligned baseball program still had a chance. First and second, nobody out, bottom of the seventh, down by three. Jimmy had waited five long years to play on a regional championship baseball team. This was their last chance.

"No! Outside, ball two!"

The baseball program at Northbridge had a history of ineptness that conversely rivaled, in terms of scale, the past and current brilliance of Titan football. Five years prior, their incompetence with bat and glove had sunk to such depths that both Jimmy and Tim had made the varsity baseball team as eighth-graders, unheard of by anybody who had followed area high school athletics for the past thirty-plus years, and much more a testament to the team's massive futility than the two boys' prowess as ballplayers; they were good, but they weren't that good.

What made it even more remarkably appalling was the generally accepted fact that, at least for Jimmy, baseball was not even close to being his best sport. It might not have been his second best, or even third, for that matter. He had been an all-state selection shoo-in after leading the football Titans to their second consecutive state title in the fall, outrunning opposing defenses and into school and conference record books with the help of a precision-like offensive machine which, although not huge in stature by local standards, afforded him great freedom to race at will into rival secondaries, races that he ended up winning with great regularity. Once Jimmy got a step on that last possible defender, "... only God in cleats has any shot at him ... ," Coach Hancock had been quoted in one local newspaper article.

In the winter, he captained the basketball team to the school's first twenty-win season, losing eight, finishing tied for second in the conference, losing by five in the region finals. Jimmy wasn't so much a great basketball player as a great high school athlete playing basketball. Never a prolific shooter, he was a major force nonetheless, extremely quick, strong, and as was noted often in the local press, could "jump out of the gym." But his greatest asset was his defense, always smart, always tight, smotheringly stingy, and always with the capacity to guard the other team's best player, whether he was 5'10" or 6'10" -- it didn't matter. He was the unquestionable leader of a team, favored or underdog, that nobody ever wanted to play, win or lose.

"Steeeee-rike one!"

But because he made the varsity baseball team at such an early age and remained staunchly committed to the program -- in spite of its dreadful history -- many locals maintained that Northbridge High may have been deprived a state championship in track and field. Ron Cumberland, the fastest sprinter on the Titan track team, was the second fastest player on the football team -- always had been. He had never beaten Jimmy in a foot race, not when it counted, although by the end of their senior football season Coach Hancock occasionally good-naturedly chided Jimmy for not winning every end-of-practice wind sprint, as Jimmy always had, dating back to his Iris Redskins days. "Where's Jimmy Goodhue?!" Coach Hancock would bellow through a wry grin following two or three forty-yard-dashes not won by his star tailback. Jimmy would, indeed, then "... kick it out of cruise!" and proceed to win the rest of the day's sprints, as expected by all.

Ron Cumberland would place third in the hundred-meter dash at the state track and field meet that year, prompting many locals to argue over coffee at Bonnie's that Jimmy Goodhue may have missed out on an opportunity to participate in what might arguably have been his best sport. Hypothetically, the press suggested, he might have won the state track meet almost by himself, with potential wins in the hundred, two-hundred, long jump, and, with Ron leading off and Jimmy running anchor, the four-hundred meter relay. And possibly a few other events. Such a singular feat had been accomplished only once in state high school league history, some sixty-seven years prior, during the war, when many boys had to give up all after school extra-curricular activities to help out however and wherever they were needed at home, and the field was unevenly diluted.

"Steeeee-rike two!"

Jimmy stood and knocked dirt from his cleats with his bat. Two and two. We got a shot, thought Jimmy, taking a practice swing, then another. Dammit, Timmy, if you were ever gonna get a hit ... at least get on somehow. This big new lefty relief pitcher is a little wild, he thought hopefully, anxiously grinding away at a now flavorless chaw of bubble gum, optimistically confident of getting one last at-bat, one last chance to win the game.

Baseball, despite the team's yearly failures, had always been a fun game to play for Jimmy. His first two years, playing against older, bigger, generally more mature players, Jimmy struggled along with the rest of the team, hitting barely above .200 both years, the Titans finishing well below .500. His sophomore year was better: he stole bases at will, showed flashes of power, and played his always stellar center field, often exhibiting a better than average throwing arm. They lost only one more game than they won that year -- also better. He was an all-conference selection his junior year -- finally -- and would be again as a senior, leading the conference in home runs and RBI's in his final year. It had taken five years to do it but Jimmy Goodhue had patterned his considerable athletic prowess into a pretty decent high school baseball career, leading the Titans to their first two winning seasons in recent memory.

But following football and basketball, both extremely high intensity, high pressure, win-baby-win sports at Northbridge, baseball had always provided an oasis of relative leisure for Jimmy in the spring of every year, a deep breath and a sigh before coasting into a summer vacation significantly sprinkled with hours upon hours of wind sprints and free weights. He had taken to heart Coach Hancock's suggestion, three years prior, that he seriously consider spending a considerable amount of time and effort in the weight room, get a little bigger and stronger, that he wasn't going to score on every play, other guys were getting faster, that sometimes he was going to have to take a hit. Since and because of that conversation, with a little fear of losing his edge on the competition sprinkled in, Jimmy had put on thirty-five pounds of muscle without losing a step. He was now fast and stronger.

He had also grown as a student leader. As a senior, he would place in the top five per-cent of his class, academically, and was an active member of Northbridge High's National Honor Society. He was a tenor soloist and section leader in the concert choir and always felt a little cheated about never having the opportunity to audition for a school play, especially the winter musical, due to his extra-curricular athletic obligations. He was generally well-liked and respected by his peers and the faculty loved him as a student. His favorite teacher, Mr. Steiglitz, once told Jimmy that the one thing in particular he liked about having him in class was that he really enjoyed the humor, the many impromptu one-line zingers, even the ones aimed at him, the overall fun that Jimmy brought to the classroom, but especially that "... unlike most guys like that, you know when to quit."

"No! Ball three!"

Three-two. Seventh inning. This is all so cool, Jimmy thought, trying his best to concentrate only on the now. He had already hit one long home run to left in the first inning and a two-run double down the line in the third. He had just missed another home run in his last at bat, the ball just barely hooking foul at the last instant, before grounding out to third on a bang-bang play. If only ...

"Ball four! Take your base!"

Bases loaded. Nobody out. Down by three. Jimmy strode to the plate, not with the thought if only he could somehow manage to get a hit to merely keep the inning alive, but rather to hit another home run, a grand slam this time, this time to dramatically win the game, to suddenly put an end to it all, to finally become region champions, to actually qualify for the state tournament in baseball, to indelibly mark the point in time when, at long last, the Northbridge Titan baseball program got itself turned around.

The thirty-five or forty Titan fans in the stands stood and gave it their all, clapping and whooping hysterically, as Jimmy stepped into the batter's box. The opposing coach waved his defense way around to the left, The Goodhue Shift in effect, with two outfielders -- both playing very deep, near the fence -- and three infielders all on the left side of the diamond, the third baseman guarding the line, practically standing on the bag, just as most teams defensed Jimmy, who by this time was well known as a dead pull power hitter. They were ready. Jimmy swished his bat across home plate twice, as per his pre-pitch routine. He was ready. The big lefty accepted the sign from his catcher and swung into his wind-up. This was it.

Then -- boom, just like that, it was over.

Jimmy didn't wait. The first pitch was a fat fastball, belt high, and Jimmy hit it hard. Very hard.

By the time he scrambled out of the batter's box the third baseman had already fielded the one-hop rocket and stepped on the base.

One out.

Jimmy dug for first with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He ran as fast as he ever had in his life, knees high, arms pumping violently, as the ball was rifled to the second baseman, waiting on the bag.

Two outs.

A collective Oh, no! pall of silence fell over the Titan faithful as Jimmy Goodhue, the fastest boy in Northbridge High School history, was declared "Out!" by the first base umpire in a virtual dead heat.

Game over.

He just couldn't get there fast enough.

* * *

"... as we commence our journey into the next phase of our lives, leaving our high school years behind for whatever lies in store for each of us, fond memories safely stashed away in the forefront of our minds, in fervent and anxious anticipation of what the future might very well surprise us with. I invite you to join me in an ovation of honor and great thanks to our beloved Northbridge Senior High, its faculty and staff."

Wild, enthusiastic applause and shouts of approval.

"When I was first asked to participate in this ceremony I was reluctant; what did I have to say that would be important, memorable, something that we could all take away from this evening's festivities in fond remembrance of our time and efforts here? I got the idea, actually, from coach Hancock -- I'm sure you're all absolutely shocked to hear that ..."

Laughter.

"... so if you'll forgive the personal reference ..."

Dramatic pause.

"Northbridge Titan athletics have been good to me, football in particular, I guess ..."

Cheering. Not wild cheering ... more respectful -- the boring kind.

"... but you know, I was thinking the other day ... I can't remember the last time I actually watched a football game, I mean on T.V. At least not from beginning to end, not all the way through. They're so long: commercials, time-outs, T.V. time-outs, they take forever ... but I do watch football sometimes. I still like it, still enjoy the game very much, so instead ... I watch highlight films. I love those films, the ones on the sports channel. They're so great ... and now I'm guessing you're wondering what all this has to do with graduation ..."

Laughter.

"... let me finish. These highlight reels ... d'ya ever watch 'em? They're really cool, I think, all done in super-slow motion. All the greatest plays, all the great players making the greatest plays ... but slower, much slower, so you can see, break everything down, appreciate what really happened ... enjoy it, savor it, allow the greatness of it all to sink in ... and then there's the guy with the great voice doing the narration, makes it sound so very important, so worth remembering, with that incredibly dramatic background music that can induce goose bumps all by itself ..."

Smattering of laughter.

"I really like those films, I watch them whenever I can. They relax me, somehow. The excellence, but slower ... savorable ... a small fraction of the actual game but the best fraction, all the best parts.

"Now -- for those of you taking notes, here comes the dreaded analogy."

Laughter.

"If only we could have somehow captured the last few years on tape, but only the highlights, the best parts, sort of a high school highlight reel, if you will, the plays, the players, maybe even a blooper or two ..."

Laughter and cheering.

"... a little goose-pimply background music, the guy with the great voice ... but slower, so you could really see things, really appreciate the greatness of it all.

"A slice of our lives has been nibbled on, nibbled away by time, fellow classmates, a very significant slice ... it's been important, it's worth remembering. Friends, teachers, parents ... it's been the best. Really, it has.

"It just went by so fast."

* * *

"... five ..."

"... Harvard with the ball at their own forty. Fourth and about a foot ... Yale digging in ..."

"Remember now, the Eli defense has to protect against the big play here, too -- sudden death, any score'll win it."

"... Harvard's gonna go for it ..."

"Biggest play of the game, right here ..."

"... and it's already been such a great game."

"Ya gotta know ... everybody in the stadium knows who's gonna get the ball in this situation ..."

"Yup, right now ya gotta go with your bread 'n butter ..."

"... Jimmy Goodhue time ..."

"... forever and ever."

"Can the fabulous freshman tailback do it yet one more time?"

"Everybody on their feet ... the noise ... my goodness, but it's loud in here ..."

"How much does he have left?...we're about to find out. The true freshman has been spectacular all day long. All season long."

"Goodhue the tailback in the I ... now Harvard ... Spellman under center, barking out signals ..."

"Hard fought, excellent football game."

"... the crowd on their feet ... the snap ... now the pitch back to Goodhue!..."

"Yup!"

"... sweeping wide right ... looking for a block ... there it is! ... he's got an opening! Into the secondary! First down and a lot more! Down the sideline!..."

"... there he goes ..."

"... fifty ... forty-five ..."

"... forget it, it's over ..."

"... forty ..."

"... he's gone ..."

"... thirty-five ... thirty ..."

"... boom, just like that ..."

"... twenty-five ..."

"... wait a minute! ..."

"... now Clark giving chase! From across the field! Here comes Clark!...twenty! ..."

"... he might have an angle! ..."

"... fifteen!...Goodhue! ..."

"... it's a footrace!..."

"... checking back over his shoulder ... ten! ..."

"... Goodhue tiring!..."

"... Clark!...five!..."

"... look out!..."

"... AND HE'S HIT RIGHT AT THE GOAL LINE!!! OH MY!!! HE NEVER SAW HIM!!! A VICIOUS SHOT DELIVERED BY CLARK!!! GOODHUE'S DOWN, RIGHT AT THE FLAG!!! IT'S GONNA BE CLOSE!!! NO INDICATION YET, LET'S SEE WHAT THEY SAY! ..."

* * * * *

"No pulse."

"Boy, what a shame."

"Never knew what hit him."

"Boom. Just like that. History."

"Boom is right."

"Couldn't have happened much quicker."

"Ya know, I guess he scored."

"Scored?"

"On that last play."

"You're kidding."

"No. Won the damn game."

"Boy. That fine line ..."

"You can say that again. What time you got?"

Article © Michael Price. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-10-14
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