A Single Play

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A Single Play


Eleven young men crowd together in a tight circle, ten of them leaning in and looking anxiously to the eleventh, a powerfully built young man standing tall in the center of the cluster of bodies. This individual pauses to catch his breath, his muscled chest rising and falling with hurried breaths. He glances fervently to his right, searching the mass of bodies on the sideline for a signal or instruction. The young man spots a figure in a black cap raising a hand, holding four fingers high in the air. The young man immediately looks to his wrist, scanning the collection of words, numbers, and phrases encoded there in a slip of paper. To anyone unfamiliar with the code words and phrases, the paper would resemble an essay in a foreign language, an amalgamation of letters and numbers thrown together indiscriminately. However, this young man is well versed in the language contained on the paper; it is as natural to him as his first language. His eyes slide down the paper, quickly finding the specific set of words and numbers he is seeking. He looks up from the paper on his wrist, and into the eyes of the other ten young men crowded around him. The one in the center relays the instructions to the other ten, his mouth firing words out as rapidly as a machine gun fires out bullets. The other ten figures in the circle nod; they are all fluent in the language the instructions come in.

After the young man in the center finishes barking his instructions, all eleven of the bodies in the group disperse simultaneously. They all know their duties; they know precisely what to do and where to be. They move swiftly to their spots on the field. Across from them, eleven other bodies line up in their respective spots. All of these moving parts center about a ball sitting in the middle of the twenty-two figures shuffling around the field. The leader of the first eleven moves his cohorts into position, barking orders and making adjustments. After a moment, everyone is still.

The stillness blankets everything. This is the moment of silence before the explosion. The powerfully built young man steps in behind one of his comrades. Up until this moment of stillness, he has been orchestrating everything. He crouches and reaches both of his hands downward, preparing himself for the delivery of the all-important ball. In a few brief moments, he will call for the ball; however, in this moment he is motionless and silent, just like everyone else on the field. He runs his gaze over the eleven figures on the other side of the ball, searching for any signs of weakness.

Finally, he is ready. He shouts out more instructions in that strange language, and the ball slams into his hands. In an instant, the bodies on either side of the ball slam into each other ferociously. The young man with the ball, the quarterback, spins around and pretends to give the ball to one of his teammates. The quarterback has spent hours upon hours perfecting this small bit of sleight-of-hand, and it pays off. The fake fools the defense easily, and several of the defenders converge on the player who they believe to have the ball. The quarterback never sees this; he has already turned and begun to sprint the other direction. The play has very plainly caught the defense off-guard, with defenders scrambling to get to back in position. The quarterback looks down the field, seemingly without care for the massive bodies flying towards him, each possessed with the desire to grind the quarterback into the dirt. The quarterback spies one of his teammates streaking down the field, seemingly uncovered. Stepping into his throw, the quarterback launches the ball into the air. He watches it go, cutting through the air in a tight spiral. The receiver tracks the ball’s path through the air, his arms outstretched in anticipation of the little leather blob’s arrival. The quarterback watches intently, waiting for the inevitable catch and score.

However, both the receiver and the quarterback will end up disappointed. A third young man, this one wearing a different color uniform, flits across the field and snatches the ball out of the air. This new character sprints down the field, outracing all pursuers. The crowd roars as he reaches the end of the field and scores. The scoreboard flickers; the luminescent digits have changed to reflect the events that have just occurred. The young man that threw the pass hangs his head and begins to trudge towards the sideline. The tall imposing figure that was present only moments ago is gone; in his place, a slouching teenager with his eyes cast downward.

The quarterback finishes the long walk to the sideline and drops himself onto a creaky wooden bench. Teammates pass by with offerings of condolences and sympathetic pats on the back. The quarterback acknowledges them all with brief nods. Moments later, he rises from his place on the bench and strides purposefully back towards the field. The tall and imposing figure has returned, leaving the slouching teenager to his place on the bench. The quarterback approaches where the other ten players stand, and once again, the eleven young men crowd together in a tight circle once more.





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