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THE MAN WHO STUCK TO SPORTS

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A SHORT STORY

SCENE: a hospital room. a mother screams as she delivers a newborn baby

BABY: waaaaaaaaah

[a strange man who wasn't part of the scene until now and whose opinion was never solicited pokes his head into the room]

STRANGE MAN: hey stick to sports pal

BABY: [takes the advice to heart, and also poops]

SCENE: five years later, the boy begins kindergarten

TEACHER: okay, children, let's go around the circle and learn the alphabet!

KAYDEN: A is for apple!

BRAYCESON: B is for bear!

MYST: C is for candy! [giggles]

BOY: D is for defensive line, I really think coach needs to focus on it in this year's recruiting class, you can't win without blue-chips on the line

SCENE: the boy, now 9 years old, participates in a school play about the ecosystem

PARKER: I am a tree! My leaves take in carbon di...ox...ide and turn it into oxygen for us to breathe!

OTHER PARKER: I am the sun! I provide light and heat and vitamin D!

VAPESON: I am a cloud! I am filled with water that I use to help the tree grow!

BOY: I just don't think warm-weather teams are tough enough. You tell an SEC team to schedule a November road game up north, then we'll see who's more physical.

SCENE: the boy, aged 13, sits on the edge of his bed talking to his father

FATHER: I saw your internet search history, son, and I think it's time we had a talk about the birds and the bees

BOY: I'd rather talk about pitchers and catchers. They report today.

FATHER: okay yeah let's do that instead

SCENE: now a young man of 17, in the backseat of a car with his girlfriend

GIRL: I - I'm ready. I want to-

YOUNG MAN: watch the fifth round of the NFL draft? I thought you'd never ask.

SCENE: 22 years old, our subject is at his own college graduation party

FATHER'S ASSOCIATE: I have one word for you: plastics

YOUNG MAN: and I have one word for you: hockey players are inherently tougher than basketball players, you see a guy take a puck to the teeth and come back out five minutes later, meanwhile, LeBron James is sitting out with cramps? C'mon.

FATHER'S ASSOCIATE: wait I think it's like 22 years in the future in this premise, that scenario was in 2014. Also that's not one word at all.

YOUNG MAN: that's why he never won a title, if you ask me

SCENE: 28 years old, with his long-term girlfriend

MAN: [drops to one knee] will you marry me

WOMAN: yes, I will! Also, this is suspiciously out of character, you normally-

MAN: Nike just developed Pro Combat tuxes, they look awesome

WOMAN: I immediately regret this

Three years later

WOMAN: I'm pregnant!

MAN: [looking at calendar] we've talked about this, no fall babies! Rude. [sighing] We can probably induce on the bye week, I guess, but there's other good games then. Really inconsiderate.

A little under two years after that

BABY: da... da... daa....

MAN: David Boston? Yeah he was great. Now hush, I'm watching All-22 of the Eagles game.

For your sake and my own, we skip ahead 60 years, as the man, now 93, lies in bed near death

DAUGHTER: I don't even know what to say to you. For our entire lives, you've stuck to sports. When I would come to you with a problem, you'd start talking about football. At first, it would seem like you were working through some pained sports metaphor, but 15 minutes later I realize you're just recounting to me the time two bad college football teams played to a 3-2 result, and there's no overarching point. You missed my wedding because "spring practice started that day." It wasn't even the spring game! Any time I tried to discuss the world or politics, you'd shut down and start talking about what changes you thought "coach" needed to make for a conference title that year. I tell people my name is "Billie" and that you named me after Billie Holliday, and then I have to show my ID that says it's actually "Biletnikoff." You didn't even try to stop mom when she left you, you just said she didn't buy into the "process"! Do you have anything to say to me after all of this?

Tears well in the old man's eyes. He struggles to gain enough breath to speak. He gestures for his estranged daughter to lean in so he can be heard. Trembling, he finally whispers.

OLD MAN: ...roll tide.