The Plegde

February 27, 2011
“Now go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” exclaimed Reverend Peters. “Mass has ended.” John and Lilia stood up, genuflected, and started towards the back of the church

“Honey, don’t forget your coat,” John said to Lilia. “I know it’s not cold outside but that piece of beauty around your shoulders was a very generous gift from your parents last Christmas,” he added under his breath.
“Very funny John!” Lilia said rolling her eyes. She looked proudly at John, her broad-shouldered boyfriend of four years. Although he did not give her the moon like desired in many move romances, she was happy to be in a relationship with the biggest jock in all of Hawaii, the starting quarterback for the University of Hawaii’s football team. “Are you ready for the big game tomorrow, John?’’

“You kidding, tomorrow is the biggest day of my life!” John stated, suddenly very serious.

“I know and you’ll do fine, I believe in you.” Lilia said as she winked at John. She then noticed a picture fall out of John’s wallet, it was a young girl. “Hey, who is that girl in the picture?”

“Oh,” John said and slowly lost color in his face.

“John, who is that girl?” Lilia stated nervously.

“It’s my sister, Aerial.” John said slowly and choked up. “She died seven years ago, and today was her anniversary. She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five and it got progressively worse.” John looked at the swaying palms in the distance as he tried to gather his thoughts. “All Aerial wanted to do was to watch me play football, and she died before I stepped on the field as a freshman in high school. That is why it is so important for me to do what I do, I don’t want to let my sister or my team down.” John finished as a tear fell down his flushed cheek.

There was a long pause and all that was heard was the drone of John’s 2005 Mustang Convertible engine. “How come you never told me? I didn’t even know you had a sister.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s just not one of those things that I could be really open about.” John said solemnly.

“I understand” Lilia said as John pulled up to 530 Sea Shore Drive, Honolulu. John swerved in the parking complex and clicked off his sleek black Mustang in the vacant lot. Lilia unfastened her seat belt and held John’s arm before she exited the vehicle. “You know I’m always here for you, right? You don’t have to be afraid to tell me anything.”

“I know, and I have been extremely honest with you about everything” John said as he leaned over and kissed Lilia’s cheek. “Now I need to get some quality sleep I will see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”

“Listen up, men!” Coach Carter commanded “Today is the biggest game of your football career. University of Alabama is trying to play spoiler, and we can’t let that happen. We need to go out on the field and show the rest of America that we, the University of Hawaii, deserve a spot in the BCS tournament. So are we going to win today?”

“YES COACH!” the team shouted

“Alright then. John, take us out,” yelled the former Naismith trophy winner Coach Carter.

The players in their green with black trimmed uniforms stood in the locker room, awaiting the count. “Give me a hard work on three, and win on six,” exclaimed John.

“1.2.3 HARD WORK 4.5.6 WIN!!!” the team yelled.

John led the team out of the locker room and through the hallway to the deafening roar. There were easily 50,000 people jammed into the stadium, and each person was yelling his head off. John quickly scanned the stands to where his girlfriend should be, nothing... nothing...whew, there she was. Lilia was sitting approximately twenty-five rows up wearing a white v-neck with a purple scarf. He made eye contact with her and she mouthed one word to him ‘Aerial.’ John smiled. John had put much thought into the game after he left Lilia last night. He was ready for this moment and would not let his sister or his fans down. John and the other two captains on the team, Lewis and Clark, strode to midfield to do the coin toss. They shook hands and wished each other a good game.

“Now gentlemen since Hawaii is the home team, Alabama will call heads or tails when I toss the coin in the air,” said the thirty-five year old referee brusquely.

“Tails!” said Chris Cooper, middle linebacker for Alabama.

“Heads it is, Hawaii has won the toss. Would you elect to receive or kick?” asked the referee

“Receive,” said John without a second of hesitation. John and his captains jogged back to the sideline as the special teams unit stepped on the field. John walked over to Coach Carter and talked about how he should go at Alabama on their first possession.

“Listen up John, Alabama has Chris Cooper. He’s an all-college linebacker that you will have to watch out for. They are a good rushing team but their secondary is pretty weak. Utilize the weakness of their free-safety LaShon McCoy, and we should be able to make some big plays down field.”

John put his helmet on and was trotting off field when coach called him once more.

“And son, I know there is lots of pressure on you but relax. Have fun, and do what you have always dreamed of doing. You’ll do great out there, John. I -- we -- believe in you!” said coach.

“Thanks Coach!” said John as he jogged to the 33 yard line where he was met by his fellow teammates. Over the roar of the crowd, he called. “Alright, we’re running 56-8 tiger shark. They are probably going to blitz so make sure to cover up that gap so Lewis can get through. Break!”

As John turned around and let his players get set, he scanned the field and saw to little surprise that they were set up in blitz formation. “3-18, 3-18 set set, HIKE!” John bellowed as he quickly spun around and pounded the football into Lewis’s stomach to let him go to work. The play worked and Lewis was now in the open field; the crowd erupted. Lewis was brought down in Alabama territory at the 43 yard line, a gain of twenty yards. John went with the no huddle and waved his arms like a cowboy on a horse which stood for quick slant to his receivers. “Set set HIKE!” John quickly turned and bolted a pass to Clark Johnson for a completion of ten yards, another first down. John followed with a handoff to Lewis for five yards and an incomplete pass to Clark, which brought the team to third down. In the huddle, John said to his team, “Come on, we have made good progress down field and we can’t have the drive end here. Let’s run a diamond back 897.” He stood composed; this was his dream he would not fail. He looked at the defense’s orientation; they were set as if to stop the run. The play would undoubtedly work. “Hike!” he screamed and did a spin move to his left to roll out of the pocket. He turned right and saw the wide-open Clark streaking toward the end zone. John threw the ball perfectly into his grasp!

“YAY! TOUCHDOWN!” the crowd chanted out. Fireworks burst out from on high, and all John could do was look up at the crisp blue Hawaiian sky and think how proud his sister must have been.

Hawaii’s defense forced Alabama to turn it over on their next possession. Hawaii got the ball in good field position, but was only able to gain a field goal in the effort. The score was now 10-0 Hawaii with two minutes left in the first quarter. Alabama drove down field and turned the ball over on downs. John and his team had very little luck on their next possession and couldn’t muster any offense resulting in a three and out. Alabama took their new momentum right up into the two minute warning for the first half. They ran a very smooth play and scored a touchdown to make it 10-7 Hawaii, with one minute left in the half. After the ball was returned to Alabama’s forty-five yard line, John decided to break out the Hail Mary pass to end the half.

“Alright, let’s end the half on a high note, when I say hike everyone sprint down field and I’m going to heave it up there for someone to get. Blue 42 Blue 42 set set HIKE!” and everyone was off to the races. John drifted to his right and counted to seven. When he hit seven, he planted his foot and threw the football as far as he could towards the end zone. All he could see was a group of men all jump up at the ball and come down hard. It wasn’t until Clark came up sprinting towards the stands that John realized the play was a success.

“Touchdown!” yelled the crowd

John had done it, and his team went into halftime with a 17-7 advantage over the University of Alabama. John strode toward the sideline slowly, grimacing a bit as he walked off the field.

“Dude, we have this game in the bag!” Clark said to Lewis as the team entered the locker room.

“Yeah dude I know, we should win for sure!” answered Lewis. A lot of the same optimism was going around the locker room with a plenty of smiles on the players’ faces. As if everyone went to sleep, the room turned absolutely silent when John entered the locker room supported by Coach Carter and his assistant.

“What’s wrong John, are you feeling alright?” Clark hesitantly asked.

“No,” Coach Carter interjected. “It doesn’t look good, boys. It seems that John may have a hyper-extended right knee. He might be done for the game...make that the rest of the season.” He slowly continued.

“How did this happen though, he ended the half with a beautiful pass to the end zone?” his teammate clamored.

“As I threw the pass, Chris Cooper impaled my knee. I could have avoided it, but that would have resulted in a scramble with a few yards and no touchdown,” John said proudly but with a pale face.

“What a team player -- you really took one for the team there, John!” Clark said defiantly.

“Alright, alright. John you should probably go to the X-ray room.” Coach said with a hint of grief in his tone.

“Everyone else listen up, we are most likely going to play the second half without our starting quarterback…”

Those were the last words John heard as he left the locker room and entered the examination room. The examination room was a big and musty yellow colored room. It had three sinks approximately five feet apart and a big silver apparatus in the middle with three television monitors around it. John was assisted over to a chair and told by the trainer to wait until Doctor Osler arrived. When he was by himself all he could do was feel pity for his sister; this was not supposed to be the ending to his Cinderella Story. John was startled when Dr. Osler, a short and pudgy looking fellow, entered the room.

“Hello John, my name is Dr. Osler, now tell me where you are feeling pain?” the doctor asked as he began to examine the knee.

“Right here, and on the backside here.” John said as he pointed precisely to where he was referring to.

“I see,” the doctor said as he opened his manila folder and started furiously jotting down notes on the piece of paper. “It seems that you may have a minor hyper-extension.”

“What does that mean, will I be able to finish the game?” John asked impatiently, praying to hear good news.

“Actually the signs look good, I will have to take a few X-rays and we will do some brief physical therapy but I should have you ready to go by mid-fourth quarter,” Osler stated with conviction.
John’s felt a little with the news. John figured he would at least be able to step on the field before the game was over and help his team. For the next twenty minutes John had to have his knee X-rayed four times and when the doctor gave his initial feedback, Dr. Olser said things were looking up. John then went through the interminable process of having his knee wrapped up and was given Ibuprofen to take some of the pain off. Osler put him on the elliptical for five minutes so John could get a bit looser.

“Alright, you're all good, son. Go out there and win the game for us please.” The doctor said with a hint of sarcasm.

“Thanks again doctor, and don’t worry about it, I won’t let you down.” John said with his famous smile and wink. John trotted down the tunnel and, once he saw daylight, realized the crowd had started cheering. He paced towards the sideline and got chills on the back of his neck when he heard the crowd’s roar.

“We want John, we want John!”

John walked over to his coach and that’s when he saw the scoreboard for the first time. It was 27-24 and Alabama was in the lead with two minutes to go in the game. John’s pads seemed to get heavier as he realized all the pressure that was now on him with little left in the game.

Coach Carter pulled him off to the side and said, “We missed the spark that you bring to the game. We have looked awful in this half, and I want you to change that right now. I’m putting all the play calling in your hands. This is where legends are born and I want you to win the game for us.” John gave his coach a head nod and rushed out to meet the rest of his teammates at the line of scrimmage.

John called out the play 58-6 tiger shark to win the game. His teammates lined up in run formation since they are expecting the run. However, when John is about to call hike, he notices the defense is situated in run block formation so he calls an audible.

Yelling, “San Francisco Bay,” John rolled to his right and saw his receiver wide open in the back of the left hash mark in the end zone. He bellowed hike and the play was a success. Hawaii regained the lead with four seconds left. But there was a penalty on the play, and all celebration on the field came to screeching halt. The players joined hands on the side line and waited in anticipation for the referee to make his call.

“Offside on the defense number 67, penalty is declined. The result of the play is a touchdown Hawaii,” the referee says.

The stadium erupts and John’s name is sung out in praise. He truly came through and made his sister very proud.

That evening John went to a post celebration party where there a lot of drinking. It was the typical college party atmosphere with lots of kids in a small space and lots of alcohol. All of a sudden John’s phone rang; it was his girlfriend, Lilia. He stepped outside to take the call.

“Hello?” John asked acting as if he didn't know who was on the other line.

“Hey honey it’s me, Lilia.” Lilia said with a hint of nervousness in her voice. “Where are you, I have been worried sick,” she continued.

“Oh, I am at party with the guys, don’t worry. I will be home in like twenty minutes,” John said cryptically trying to conceal his drunkenness.

“Okay, but don’t stay out too late we have our anniversary lunch tomorrow at twelve and I have some big news!” Lilia exclaimed.

“I’ll be there!” John said acting as if he had remembered the whole time. “I look forward to hearing the news; I have surprise for you also!”John said with a hint of pleasure. Tomorrow was the day he had decided to propose to his girlfriend. He wanted to marry the girl of his dreams.

“Alright, goodnight and I love you “Lilia said as she was about to hang up the phone.

“Love you too, see you tomorrow.” John said sincerely.

John hung up and walked to the coat rack to get his jacket. Once he whirled it over his shoulders, he tried to find Lewis, his ride home. Lewis was heavily intoxicated and was probably not able to drive. John said he was ready to go and Lewis agreed, and stupidly gave the keys to Lewis. John considered calling a taxi to pick him up but said he would be safe since he lived really close by and there weren’t many people on the road at two in the morning. John had known Lewis for many years, and although he was in a comprised position, he still thought Lewis was trustworthy. Lewis started driving pretty well, and then the car veered to the left. That's when it happened: Lewis blew through a red light and was impaled by a four door black Chevrolet SUV. The car spun out of control and flipped over the guard rail plummeting in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean. The last thing John saw was a text message from his girlfriend that said, “I <3 U!”

John died at the age of 21 and never was able to fulfill his sister’s dream of becoming a quarterback in the NFL. One week after his death, a big ceremony was held on the University of Hawaii’s campus and many grieved for the loss of their hero. A shrine was built on front of the stadium and stands there to this day reminding people of the impact John had on their lives.

Lilia sat next to John’s mother at the ceremony, and her grieving was matched what Hawaii was feeling. The big news that Lilia wanted to share with John at their anniversary was that she was seven weeks pregnant with his unborn son. She had found the engagement ring that John had bought for her and used it as a token of remembrance, vowing never to marry another man. She also promised that she would raise John's son and have him fill John’s big aspirations and become the NFL quarterback that he had always dreamed of being. She succeeded. John Jr., graduate of the University of Hawaii, is now the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.

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