“You have to play this game likesomebody just hit your mother with a two-by-four.”
- DanBirdwell, Oakland Raider
There is something inside every one ofus that enables us to excel with our own special talents. Artists usethis mysterious, indefinable force to capture the beautiful colors of asummer day. This is the same strange power that can be seen whenwatching a mother calm her crying baby when no one else can. But howdoes this special force work when you take 11 people, each with theirown unique gift, and place them on a team? How can these multipletalents come together as a unified force? It seems that this quality weeach possess is an incredible wellspring of strength. This quality thateach of us possesses has been a special gift because it has meant that Ihave become part of the most talented football team I have everknown.
There is something about a Friday night football game thatmakes the hair on my arms stand up. Maybe it’s because I’mnervous, or it’s my mind telling my body that for the next 48minutes, my brothers and I are going to be selling our bodies with noconcern for our individual glory, but with the attitude that we are asingle machine with one job: to destroy anything in front of us. Withice in our veins we tell each other, “We only have 48 minutes towin this.”
I feel the sweat dripping down my face. My heartpounds and my pulse races as our defense waits for the quarterback tohike the ball. Each wants to make the play, to hit the carrier so hardhe coughs up the ball as if it were molten lava. We attack as if we area pack of wolves that has not eaten for days, and the opposing team isour prey. I hear the crowd roar and the cheerleaders chant as theplayers on the sidelines pace in anticipation.
The coaches arescreaming, predicting the next play, but as soon as the ball is snapped,there is utter silence. It’s not the same silence as if you weretiptoeing around a sleeping bear, it’s the type of silence youexperience when you are totally focused on one object and all you thinkof is one single thing.
Half-time approaches and as we come offthe field I hear fans’ comments.
“How do they keeptheir field so green?” one man asks. Another answers, “Therehas been plenty of rain and sun lately.” I bite my tongue, wantingto tell them that it’s the tears, the blood and the sweat of ourplayers that make that field what it is.
We enter the lockerroom, and as I look at the players, I see their bodies. Some are bloody,some covered in grass and dirt, and others show signs of fatigue, but intheir eyes I know they aren’t ready to stop. We talk to ourcoaches, exchanging tactics as if we are in the middle of a war. Withthe time we spend talking, teaching each other, the atmosphere around usgrows more charged.
As we hear the knock on our locker roomtelling us know our time is up, we huddle for last-minute words. Playersgrab each others hands and we kneel side by side, 41 players withdifferent talents and duties, all coming together as one dominatingforce.
We march back onto the field as if we are a great army,showing no fear. The lights seem brighter than sun shining over ourmajestic field. The reflection of the light off our helmets is like thesun reflecting off the armor of knights. As they protected theirland, we protect our territory, which stretches 100 yards long and 50yards wide. We battle, not stopping until the clock reads that dreadful00:00:00. To some it means the great feeling of victory, to others theghastly feeling of defeat.
The game is over and we return to thelocker room, not as tired football players but as warriors returning tothe safety of their village after a brutal battle. No matter how much weache, no matter how many fingers are jammed, no matter how many cuts areinflicted, we feel no pain because we have tasted the bitter sweetnessof victory.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.