The Game

This is the second of two Super Bowl Weekend related excerpts from NPL editor Karl Wenclas’s book The Tower. Send NPL your football themed stories!

 

A few drunk-already fans with fair throwing arms at the front of the stands bounced paper beer cups off Bobo’s head, which the mascot enjoyed, waving his fake furry arms wildly. “He wants more beer!” one of the drunks laughed. “Give him more beer!” Half full cups flew at the multicolored creature.

Behind Bobo on the field high stepped a marching band which was more of a marching orchestra likely to break into excerpts from Wagner, Orff, or Beethoven’s Ninth, as well as themes from “Star Wars.” The majestic sounds enhanced the spectacle of the stadium which, now filled, came alive with the intended glories of its architecture. Team colors of blue, green, and orange blazed in richest Technicolor against silver-steel buttresses, to which the bright instruments marching down the field added the rich clarity of their notes.

The teams entered the green field from opposite sides of the colossal stadium, their uniform colors exciting the fans, who roared. Trumpets blared a Liszt fanfare– a Tychon touch. This could be ancient Rome. The ballet dancers wearing team colors struck artistic poses that, strangely, fit the music and the prospect of coming violence. The visible muscles on the dancers, world-class athletes themselves, mimicked the hidden physiques of the football players. Males lifted females, whose legs spread in horizontal lines, then closed together in synchronized order. Every sense impression had been carefully coordinated to stimulate the paying audience so they’d consume more food, more beer. Adrenaline and aggression run wild.

Also beauty. Football at its best is a beautiful sport. As the game began the Laser threw beautiful passes across the field, his rocket arm guiding them with uncanny accuracy to hyperfast athletes. Whomp! They had to be super athletes to survive the rocket strikes. A mammoth video screen showed his magazine visage. Within his helmet the Laser’s blue eyes scanned the field searching for openings. His hyperalert brain studied the field as if this were a complex chess game. In this chess game the pieces were always moving. Behind the protection of a line of towering guards, he barked orders, moving his athletes, confusing his opponents, the home team. Tychon’s team. Cutting up the good guys.

His tallest guard was a first-year player quickly gaining a reputation for his strength and size, and a fan moniker to go with them, “Goliath.” Goliath was a Wisconsin-bred farm boy who looked by his huge arms to have served an apprenticeship as a plowhorse. In stature he stood out above a host of tall men. This was the impossible obstacle the home team’s Destroyer had to overcome.

The ball snapped, athletes sent out on criss-cross patterns while the quarterback, the famed Laser, found the tiniest opening. “Whap!” Another catch. Touchdown.

The home team, Tychon’s speedsters, dished it out as well. In his skybox Tychon loved it. Crashing three-hundred pound bodies at the lines. Bone-cracking violence. A player carried off. The game went on.

Far below Tychon, Lara Vox sat in the stands with the mob, incognito. She wore a red ski cap and black sunglasses. Lara was here to further scout the facility, but also to take in the spectacle. She stared wide-eyed at all of it. She didn’t know the game’s players and didn’t care. The spectacle mattered. The gloried presentation of power. No wonder the sport was so embraced! The game was America: a perfect metaphor. The masters of the world watched amid luxury. The game resembled a war, players and crowd indoctrinated in conflict and blood. Mock war: preparation for the genuine article.

Lara had snuck into her seat in her disguise, ever alert for Tychon’s boy, Rick Romeo. She looked, but saw him nowhere. That was her enemy, who she opposed. Lara played her own game. Her team had yet to take the field. In two days it would.

Lara’s seat rested beside the home team tunnel. Burly men with painted home-color faces in her row shouted the home team cheer. With her well-conditioned voice, Lara joined them. Must keep the animals amused. They loved it! She did the team cheer better than they did! They loved her! High fives all around. This was a good warm-up for the coming protest, she thought.

They’d be horrified to know they sat with notorious radio personality Lara Vox, the sports team’s greatest opponent.

“Come on, men,” Lara told them. “Pick it up! The team needs us! Let’s go!”

They stared at her without words for an instant, captured by her passion. This was an alpha woman.

“Fuck yeah!” the largest of the bear-like men shouted. “Let’s go!”

They passed Lara a beer. Everyone fell over each other yelling the team cheer. What do you know? The home team– Tychon’s team– scored a touchdown. Fuck yeah!

If her rival Mr. Romeo recognized her, and called in the security people Lara spotted everywhere, she’d use her seatmates as a blocking phalanx to escape out of here. Not only the Laser knew how to manipulate men.

Criss-cross plays, sideline to sideline, the Laser was back finding targets, crafty blue eyes scanning everyplace like a highly trained robot searching for openings on the field. “An opening,” his eyes read; his brain said. He put to use his rocket arm. “Zoom!” “Whap!”

Lara spotted standing on the sideline in front of her the coach from the press conference. He looked glum. But how could anyone know? His face was a wall.

On the field, a variety of games took place within the game. The Destroyer wasn’t happy. He spat and cursed and raged from sideline to sideline. His job was to attack the Laser, to take the man down! Blocking his way on every play stood a giant obstacle, the heralded rookie lineman called Goliath, whose job was to keep secure his team’s glamorous quarterback. To protect him so he could throw his missiles as if this were Afghanistan; so he could afterward do TV commercials and modeling assignments to keep Money America the super-spectacle civilization going. Every piece of the game fed into every other piece, and into the larger game outside the stadium. Weren’t television cameras covering every inch of the field and stands? Including from a glowing huge oblong blimp filling the sky overhead? Weren’t massive television screens above the crowd on all sides showing plays in real time to fans here, and millions more watching at home? The game itself was one big television commercial, an advertisement for a very big product: America! The larger game was as complex and coordinated as the immediate one happening on the field.

The Destroyer was paid millions of dollars to play his one small role in this drama, within this loud insane theater. Destroy the Laser!

Mad rushing athletes colors ripped uniforms flying sweat breaking bodies. Destroyer rose from a pile, angrily throwing other players around. Every play, Goliath stood like an immobile white tower in front of him, with young strength flicking him– he the great Destroyer!– aside. The Destroyer was breathing, panting, tiring. “Man . . . !” he shouted. This wouldn’t do. Where was his own strength? Had it slipped away?

For a careless second he felt all the many bruises he’d endured in his career, felt them in his hip, back ankles: everyplace on this once-athletic shell of a body that he found didn’t so much carry him as it once had, as that he– his will– had to cart it around.

“One play,” he muttered. “I need one play!”

Like Samson in the Philistine temple he needed a momentary return of strength.

The two opposing lines of the two teams placed their hands on the turf, the white Goliath across from Destroyer. They glared into each other’s eyes, trying to will the other off the field. At the corner of his vision, Destroyer saw his real target, saw the piercing computer-guiding eyes, heard the voice shouting orders to his men.

As the Laser scanned for weakness, so did the Destroyer. He’d noticed a hint of a flaw in the giant in front of him. A casual slow inch of a misstep. If he could move fast enough to take advantage. . . .

The ball snapped, bodies moved, the giant’s an instant too slow, the Destroyer with every shred of his renewed determination and might crashed by Goliath knocked him aside they slammed into each other Destroyer heard cracking he hoped not in himself his legs surged drew on every residue of speed carried him as the Laser stepped back his laser. perpetually cool, eyes– emotionless, robot-pure as ever– then for a flicker of time they betrayed him, showed a quick flash of panic of the game not going strictly according to plan, the Destroyer knew now he had the man he put a large hand on the suddenly human hero and slammed the gilded quarterback to the ground.

A roar of cheers. He got him!

Destroyer realized at the same time he’d blown apart tendons in his legs. There went his new contract. He didn’t care. He tasted delicious blood on his lips from his nose, he’d destroyed himself everyplace but his adrenalin high rushed through him, he heard only resounding cheers. For him!

The Destroyer lay flat on the ground. The Laser and Goliath picked themselves up slowly, feeling their own pains.

As a stretcher carried his broken body off the field, down the tunnel, accompanied by walls of cheers, the Destroyer was happy. Television screens across the stadium showed his sack of the quarterback, over and over. He lifted a fist. He remained the Destroyer.

A dozen rows in front of Lara the symbol of fan solidarity, Bobo, made his way through the stands like a walking logo, high-fiving the crowd. Kids pulled at his beer soaked costume. Spectators knew that, among all fans, the crazy mascot was the most devoted. During defeats he continued to be wide-eyed and trusting: the eternal believer.

Lara saw the stadium as a menagerie, with Rick Romeo, the surreal mascot, and the freakish players captive inhabitants, part of the Tychon collection of curiosities. The plutocrat bought anything that caught his eye then brought it here for public display. To protest this madness was a good thing. They were puppets– marionettes dangling on strings. Tychon gave them life.

On the field the Laser stood upright making short pass play after pass play, like a dead god restored to life. Right and left, throw upon throw, nibbling yardage, while at the same time the now encouraged, now vigorous home team defenders increased their pressure on him, taking away choices, narrowing his space.

Suddenly the Laser connected with a long pass to a receiver who hadn’t caught a pass all season, in an heretofore impregnable point at the very center of the field. A place not supposed to be vulnerable. Tychon’s coach watched, frozen. His jaw dropped at a play no one had anticipated.

Oblivious to the change in fortune, Bobo walked up the aisle in Lara’s direction carrying a bouquet of flowers. “Bobo, you’re everywhere,” she muttered. His googly fake eyes wore a love-crazed expression. Lara realized he carried the flowers for her. She’d been spotted! Could Rick Romeo and his security minions be far behind?

“Gots to go, boys,” Lara told her burly mates. “It’s been fun.”

 

*******

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