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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Don't Cut off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" (without using the actual phrase or litera (02/14/08)

TITLE: Off Season
By Catrina Bradley
02/20/08


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I should be able to relive it in my imagination, to recount what it was like to be on the field the day Central won their first state championship. Unfortunately, all I can relive is watching The Game.

Pride definitely goeth before a fall, and I fell hard. I didn’t scrape my knee or bruise my elbow, but my ego sure enough got sacked.

Just the year before, I’d led my team onto the field every Friday night as the starting quarterback for the Central High Lions. (My record 32 touchdown passes from that season still stands.) I reigned as Sophomore Class King with my Queen (on and off the field), Alissa Avery. I had it made. I was invincible.

Or so I thought.

It seems Coach doesn’t play favorites, even with his star -- his prodigy player. Even when school’s not in session.

When the rarely-used back door of the school opened that afternoon, and Coach witnessed that cigarette falling behind me to the ground and smoke escaping my mouth, I swear tears came to his eyes.

“Jackson.”

I covered the butt with my heel. “Coach...” I strangled on the word, on smoke still caught in my throat, on fear.

“My office. Now.” The heavy grey door banged shut behind him, leaving a gust of rage in its wake.

I loathed what was surely to come next.

***

“The first four weeks? You want me to miss all of pre-season practice?” My careening spirits were sideswiped by a surge of hope. I’d still be starting opening night.

“Oh, no. You won’t miss one day of practice, pre-season or regular. In fact, you’ll be attending an extra, one-on-one, tutoring session every day.” Coach took his feet off his desk and looked me dead in the eye.

“You’re benched for the first four games.”

My surging hope turned to a flood of anger. “You’re kidding.”

“I kid you not. You know the rules. No cigs, no sauce, no sex. No exceptions.”

“But it’s summer, and I was just…”

“You were on school property. End of argument.” He leaned back in his chair, and rubbed the side of his face. “Sorry, Jackson, but you brought this on yourself. I’ll see you next month at practice.”

I got to my feet and stuck out my chest. “No, you won’t. You think you can play without me? Then let’s see how you play without me all year. I quit.” I stared him down, daring him to call my bluff.

At least I thought I was bluffing.

Coach stood and offered his hand. “Sorry you feel that way, Jackson. I had hopes of the scouts getting an early look at you this season, maybe already having you staked out for your senior year.”

I wanted to take it back. I wanted to cry out, ‘I didn’t mean it!’ But pride silenced my heart and held my tongue captive. I shook Coach’s hand and, through gritted teeth, said goodbye. My stubborn pride then turned me on my heel and walked me out of his office.

***

That’s how I ended up cheering from the bleachers instead of celebrating on the 50-yard line the night of The Game. Like many of the macho players dancing on the field, I shed a few tears, but mine were tears of sorrow over yesterdays that would never be.

Central High’s new quarterback, a senior transfer from Middlebrook, didn’t touch my passing record, but he did lead the Lions to an undefeated season and the Two-A State Championship, The Game of which I was only an observer, one fan among hundreds.

***

So I sit here now, in the lingering emotional aftermath of The Victory, holding my wounded heart in my hands. I tear my eyes away from its weeping redness and look up at Coach. “So, I was hoping you’d let me .. if I could ... come to practice next season. Maybe start over.” The lump I swallow is surely my pride, on its way to being digested and purged.

"If I let you come back, it’s the same deal. Double practices, and you spend the first four games on the sidelines.”

The lump churned in my gut, threatening to come back up. Before Pride could make an encore, I said, “Ok, deal. You know, I’ve been watching that sophomore second stringer, Willis. He should get the team off to a good start. Then I can take us the rest of the way to our second state championship.”

*

Author's Note: The line ”Pride definitely goeth before a fall” was inspired by Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride [goeth] before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." (KJV), and is misquoted herein for effect.


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This article has been read 1097 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sally Hanan02/21/08
Great example here. You caught the cocky team attitude so well, and the story ended perfectly.
Joanne Sher 02/23/08
Great descriptions - especially of the MC's emotions. A great example for the topic. I was right there.
Patty Wysong02/23/08
Great story! I'm soooooo glad that coach stuck to his guns like that. Excellent example of the topic and a great POV.
Lynda Schultz 02/23/08
Excellent writing and a valuable lesson taught.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/24/08
Good lesson--good story--good writing
Beth LaBuff 02/25/08
Oh...I was caught-up in reliving the heartbreak with him...I'm glad the coach stuck to his word. Your title is perfect. You've written this very well and illustrated a great verse.
Lyn Churchyard02/25/08
When he swallowed his pride and spoke to his coach, that was probably when he scored his biggest 'touchdown pass' ever.
Nice job Cat... very nice :)
Joy Faire Stewart02/25/08
The emotions of the MC are so realistic and loved that he learned his lesson. Great job on topic!
LauraLee Shaw02/25/08
Love the personality of this piece and it's realistic tie-in to the topic. There were several lines that rang clever in my mind, but this was my fav: My stubborn pride then turned me on my heel and walked me out of his office.. I also liked the bit at the end with his pride wanting to re-surface. Great stuff!!!!
Jan Ackerson 02/25/08
Excellent writing! I can't stand football, but I hung on every word of this story--so obviously it transcends the surface level and grips the readers on the level of truth and emotion. Very, very good.
Karen Wilber 02/25/08
Great story (great title) and I got all caught up in what was going to happen. I became so involved with your MC I kept wanting to tell him to quiet down - even though I knew he had to play his part for the proverb's sake. Good one.
LaNaye Perkins02/25/08
You definately captured the topic in this wonderful entry. I love the turn around in the ending. Well done.
Leigh MacKelvey02/26/08
I always said your writing is so natural and so I'll say it again, " Your writing is so natural." I also liked the personifications sprinkled throughout. You write a very clean and pure story every time!
Sharlyn Guthrie02/26/08
This is such a great story for this topic. What a hard lesson! I like that the teen redeemed himself in the end. So often that's not the case.
Seema Bagai 02/26/08
This is a great story. In my opinion, the teen's voice seemed a bit too mature in a couple of spots. Overall, I enjoyed this well-written piece.
Debbie Wistrom02/27/08
So glad he humbled himself for the next season. Glad the coach stuck to his guns, we need more of that.
Joshua Janoski02/27/08
“I kid you not. You know the rules. No cigs, no sauce, no sex. No exceptions.”

That sounds exactly like how a coach would talk to his players. I liked that line.

I also liked how you did this from a first person male perspective (while you are a female). I chose to do an entry from a first person female perspective, and I didn't know if it would turn out weird. I liked the challenge it gave me though, and you demonstrated here that it can be done very well.
Sara Harricharan 02/27/08
This was good! I felt a little bad for Jackson, but he should have known. I loved the character of the Coach-and I'm glad that there was a second chance-once he was able to put his pride aside. You did well with the topic here. Even though I'm not big on sports, I was completely caught up in the story! ^_^
Shirley McClay 02/27/08
WOW! Excellence. I like to pick a favorite line, but there were so many great ones! Here is the first that really caught my attention.. I strangled on the word, on smoke still caught in my throat, on fear.
But there were SO many! Amazing job.
Loren T. Lowery02/27/08
One of my favorite lines from this wonderfully written article. "Before Pride could make an encore".
What a great story teller you are with a very compelling message.
LauraLee Shaw02/28/08
Oh, Cat---CONGRATS ON YOUR EC!!!!
I'm so very happy for you!!! :)
Marita Thelander 02/28/08
YAY! Happy dancing for Cat. Good story...now if only OUR High school would follow through on rules like this.
Sara Harricharan 02/28/08
***Congratulations, Cat!*** ^_^
Sheri Gordon02/28/08
Congratulations on your EC, Catrina. I love football, and I really enjoyed this piece. A lot of self-absorbed athletes would probably benefit from reading this story. Good job with the topic.
Leigh MacKelvey02/29/08
Yeah, yeah, Yeah! A wondefrul place and E.C. ! It's time for you, Cat! Keep it going!