I wrote this story nearly 3 years ago to some friends. Many had said that it deserved its space on the page.
This is not literature; this is a memory…
Today, I wish to tell the story of the moment in my life when I almost exploded. Not from fireworks, or some sort of physical explosion, but explosion of emotions. Emotions that take you over so vehemently that, when you experience such a rush of different kinds, you nearly explode. Let me continue.
I played football in high school and weighing in at a rough 215, I was nearly 30lbs heavier than I am now, four times as slow, nine times less coordinated and eight times as funny. I was that guy. I played quarterback in middle school (of course, come on) and then moved to Tight End when I got to high school, because, let’s face it: my cheeks (both sets) were the size of a small country and my name on the team was Round-Tail. I kid you not. The sad part is that I responded to it. When they called it out, I came running. Unfortunately, this was my life. Okay, stage is almost set.
As the years went on, I got in better and better shape, as my 16-18 year old body grew far less round and much more Dutch. Up until my senior year, I had played very little on varsity for one reason: I was slow. I was very, very slow. Its like my muscles hadn’t chosen to come into existence yet. When I said Go, it took a good ten feet before I felt some momentum moving me forward. Well, come senior year, I had gotten pissed, lost a girl a little while back and decided I was going to kill people, so I worked out pretty hard during the summer and came into football camp (Football is…HUGE at my high school, lot’s of State Titles, haven’t lost a home game since 02, blah, blah, blah…seinfeld: yada, yada, yada…) looking like a fresh 1 dollar bill. Not a million bucks, I wasn’t close to that, but I had dropped a bunch of weight.
All summer I had been doing sprints, and all summer (unbeknownst to me) I had been getting faster. Sweet Georgia Brown! When camp started, I was good to go. I got some playing time on the field and was designated, with another guy, much, much better than I, who ended up playing at Washington St. as the kickoff specialist dude. I was the guy that stood next to the kicker — kid named Josh — and ran straight down field, everyone blocked for Brady and I, and together, we smeared the kick returnee’s body all over the Pacific Northwest.
It was great gig. I loved it.
And everyone loved me for it. I was approaching second-string stardom! Knocked myself goofy a couple times, but hey, I work for Goofy now…
Okay, got it. I run. I kill. I’ve improved. And the kicker’s name was Josh. Stage set. Josh was this little recruited soccer junky that ONLY kicked. That’s all he did. He was our standard small dude with a big leg. Up until this point in the season, we hadn’t been challenged. We had only been scored on twice, I think, and we were like 6-0, or something. We were playing a team from Granite Falls and we were winning quite large — like 50 something to 0. It was ugly. It was just before halftime and we were going to pull our starters at the half, but did NOT want them to score, especially before the half. Especially on the starters. With the last kickoff of the half coming up…we took the now-infamous stage.
Now all week, we’d been giving Josh crap. I forget exactly why, but we’d been telling him something to the effect of, “Dude, if someone ever returns a kick for a touchdown, it’s going to be on you. All you have to do it catch him and trip him up. You are our last line of defense and if you can’t chase someone down and trip them––you’re worthless. We never kick field goals, because we never have to. If you ever mess up a kickoff for us, you will be forever remembered as a pansy-ass. So, don’t let it happen. Don’t be a toilet puck. Tackle someone … one time. I dare you to get a tackle this season.” Surprisingly, and mostly because he sought acceptance, Josh was okay with this. He was a fast little bleach stain and, in all honesty, he should never let someone out run him.
Annnnnd, the kickoff flies down the field….
I remember as I ran, that everyone was running out of their lanes. No one was doing what they were supposed to do (most likely, because we had some subs in because we were beating Granite Falls like a drum). As Brady and I ran downfield, Brady got blocked and I was left alone––running towards the ball. The guy caught it. Then, like the Red Sea…there was his lane. Surprisingly, he went the opposite way of me – novel. There was no way I was going to catch him. I turned on what I had and sprinted his way, but it was pretty much over.
They were going to score.
Granite-effing-Falls was going to score on us. On the starters. In the first half. On a kickoff. This was not a good thing. Coaches are going to kill us. Then, as I pushed ahead, I saw it….
There came Josh, his little legs like spokes on a bicycle, racing towards the clueless player – I mean, this was the highlight of both of their lives, thus far. As the player was about to run right past Josh, like a passing horse, Josh just climbed on. Right on the guys back. Like a buckin’ bronco, the guy kept running down the field––with me in hot pursuit.
Let me make that clear: Josh hopped on the guys back as he ran by. Like a cowboy…or cowgirl…or douce?
Here’s the stage: Josh is on the dude’s back, I’m chasing from behind, and pretty much no one else is close. I’m running for all my legs will carry me and we’re about to the 40 at this point. Josh is obviously slowing him down – bucking and kicking as he may be; he’s carrying a munchkin on his torso — which is allowing me to catch up pretty quickly. This is good. Maybe, they won’t score?
By now we’re at the 50 and I’m prepping to dive at this guy’s legs to get him down. Yes, little Josh had ridden him for about 15 yards and, at this point, just holding on for dear life. The guy could kick it a mile, but is about as rough as Cinderella. Now, I have to make a quick note here: this is where the emotions kick in…
This is where happiness for Josh; anger at Josh; laughter for his antics; fear because of the return; worry because of the coaches; more anger at Josh for not killing him and more frustration to kill this guy myself ALL come into focus. All these emotions converging onto one man’s brain. All these, plus one other: Terror.
As Josh rode him to the 50, and at the exact time that I was about to leap and crush his bones, we saw something we hadn’t seen before…
Granite Falls is a cheap school, with a cheap field and cheap ground to lay that field on. It was a little muddy as well, so you couldn’t really see where you were going. As Josh and his stallion approached the 50, they, together as horse and rider, stepped on one of the field’s many potholes. In an instant, Josh’s weight shifted forward, with the kick-returnee’s weight shifting back. All pressure was applied to the left leg, just below the knee, and it straight up snapped. Picture a whip cracking. Now multiply it by eleven.
Just then, I dove. Just then, Josh landed on top of him. Just then, I landed on top of Josh. Just then––a blood curdling scream rang out for the State of Washington to hear.
Josh stood up, amazed at his tackle – the kid was face down in the mud — and started cheering like Charles Lindbergh! Yay for Josh, he made a tackle! Personally, I was unsure of exactly what had happened, thinking the crack could have been from two helmets connecting, so I just stood up (still pissed because of the length of the kick return), and then… the player on the ground rolled over. As he rolled, his leg stayed on the ground. And then there it was: the kid was facing up, his leg facing to the side, resting on the ground, pointing at him as if to say, “hey, buddy, check me out … I’m down here. I’m not connected to muscle anymore.’ Josh hadn’t noticed yet and screamed at the kid, “yeah boy! That’s what I’m talking ab—“.
And that’s where both teams collectively puked.
A moment after his celebration on top of a crippled footballer, Josh looked like he was going hurl.
I couldn’t think. Josh started screaming like his dog just died and I didn’t know whether to pass out or laugh. For some reason, in that moment, I just stood speechless, waving my stupid arms at the medical staff running on the field. It was all the emotions. I didn’t know whether to be happy for Josh, frightful of the chewing I was about to get for not tackling him sooner or straight up amazed that I had literally jumped on top of a guy that had just broken his blasted leg. My weight couldn’t have helped with the pain…. It was too much. As I ran over to the sidelines, I probably looked like a Vietnam vet. I was half laughing, half bummed, half just wanting for the game to be over so I could eat my post-game pizza. I had seen death, and it was dire.
We won that game by a lot. I don’t think they ended up scoring and I’m not sure why I remember it so vividly. Wait, yes I do, it was because one of my friends buckum’ bronco’d some dude through a pot hole and broke his friggin’ leg in half.