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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

TITLE: Get In the Game
By Dave O'Neil


“I may have lost a step or two, but I could still play with these kids today!” He seemed to gaze miles from here, to a place that he has visited before. “I know how to play, how to cut corners. They may be quicker and stronger, but I can outsmart them.” He grabbed another donut from his stash. Evidence of earlier escapades cling to his unshaven face like a koala cub to its mother. Is that peanut butter? Or maybe some potato chip crumbs? From when, I wonder. He hasn’t shaved in three days . . . ! Apparently the training regiment isn’t what it used to be either.

I am temporarily hypnotized by the swaying back and forth of his tricep as he scratches behind his ear. As I look around the room, there are trophies on the shelves, testimonies of many victories, both team and personal. He must have had quite a career. It must be difficult to no longer be able to do the things you used to be able to. But you have to stay in shape, don’t you. Just because you are a little more limited than before, it doesn’t mean you just can’t do it. You change your game a little bit. But you stay on the court, don’t you?

As he ran his chubby fingers through his tussle of hair I struggled to remember a joke I had once heard. How did it go? Something about more face to wash, but not as much shampoo. Actually, not a lot of money squandered on hygiene here, I concluded. I refocused as he reached for a video tape. “See that” he gurgled, “I was in a zone, unstoppable.” I casually glanced at my watch as he fast forwarded the tape. “There, you see that? I’ve got four more of these tapes somewhere.”

“I wouldn’t mind getting into coaching,” he announced as he reached into his pocket. His search successful, he looks at me, “You wouldn’t happen to have a light, would you?” As he pats his pockets he continues on. “I have a lot to offer the kids. I can teach them what it is like to win. It takes going to practice, learning the play book, working out, watching what you put in your body. I know about all of that stuff.” Giving up, he puts the cigarette down on the table next to him. I smile nervously as I imagine what the kids would think.

He emits a faint snore before his eyes are fully closed. As he kicks it into second gear I reflect on what he has said. Years of experience on the field of play may give you an understanding of how the game is played. You may be able to explain all of the terminology, the strategy, even the price you must pay to play at a high level. But if there is no game left in your legs, or your heart, you are communicating in broken English, at best. People today, especially the youth, live in a “show me, don’t tell me” world. Maybe that’s not all bad. As the one time “legend” settles in to dream about what used to be, I step back into the real world. As I drive away I can’t help thinking how much that applies in other areas of our lives. I change my route and head for the gym.

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This article has been read 538 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 02/22/07
Fascinating character study!

There were some switches in tense, and I was also a bit confused as to the relationship between this guy and the narrator. Maybe a bit more setting would clarify this.

You struck a good note with the last sentence or two--driving the lesson home in a subtle manner. Nice.
Jacquelyn Horne02/24/07
It seems we can never see ourselves as others see us. This is a classic example.
Donna Powers 02/25/07
This was a nice picture of someone who I'd like to have heard more about. Nicely done
cindy yarger02/27/07
Lots of food for thought in here. Good job!