Jim Trainer

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

1.
Everyone knew it would happen; they had to. But everyone shed the tears, bemoaned the game and watched the replay. Then the gurney and the straps around him, and the announcers were saying it was serious, and everyone was prayers with the family.
They sat at the bar, on the couch, in the silent stadium scared to utter the words; then it was all anyone talked about.
Five minutes after he was in the tunnel we were playing again.
On the sidelines and then in the locker room my teammates said a lot of stupid things intended to console me, intended to assure I felt no blame, intended to distance themselves from the reality. Then they ostracized me when I didn’t respond to their bro-down gestures. The coaches selected three very popular and media pleasing players to speak for the team. I was excused-at first.
Being a week before Thanksgiving heads were bowed over turkey from one coast to the other like the dark days of Dallas. The men glanced out of the corners of their eyes, mumbled as they excused themselves from the table pushed their chairs back and went into the living room and watched the game. The kids followed them. At halftime all the front rooms all over the country were watching in depth discussions of the tragedy and everyone cried again by the end of the profile piece of Chad Washington.
I couldn’t get the sound out of my mind, or the feel of the total sudden rag doll feeling of his body but I didn’t tell anyone. I was supposed to see a counselor and the police offered a shrink who had experience with cops who’d shot people on duty.
The league called it a clean hit-I don’t know what a clean hit is, and I haven’t seen the replay.
Pundits and writers condemned the game, everyone talked about the concussions, protecting the players, called into question the future of the league but the ratings went through the roof.
The league office called the owner who agreed with the Commissioner that my silence was making the situation worse, I didn’t know then how it could get worse, but they had a franchise to protect and called me into the inner sanctum to personally ask why I wasn’t saying something on camera.
I sat on his couch with my hands folded looking at a very uneasy man.
He cleared his throat four times, twice with his back turned to me facing the forest outside his window. When he turned he gave me that rich man smile that had nothing behind it but bemusement at the notion that anything but having his way was possible. He seemed to be in a mood to make it easy for me, but he took on a firm paternal tone,
“Why are we here, Eddie?”
I shrugged.
“Don’t start that with me. We’re talking here.”
I locked eyes on him without directly challenging him but I shook my head slowly left to right.
“Look, Eddie, I understand. And I want to help.”
He went to his desk and picked up a sheet of paper.
“Any of these statements would do you, and this team, and the league a lot of good.”
He waited.
“Anything you say is going to feel inadequate, Eddie. I know that. But you have to say something.”
I sat there.
He walked it over to me and extended the sheet about the height of my forehead.
I took it but didn’t read it.
“Try one.”
I put the paper on the table before the couch.
“Eddie. Eddie. Your silence…is..it’s putting a bad light on you, on my team, on the league, on the game.”
He started to say something more, I could see the rage building under his collar.
“I’m never going to say a word about it. I’ll just play the game. Nothing I can say will do anyone any good.”
He got brave, he owned the team, he signed the checks, he had the power,
“You’ll play the game? You play the game because I say so. We give you the money and the privilege to play the game. This is a business, Eddie. I am the boss of this business.”
“You know, Gordon..”
He swallowed hearing me use his first name, his eyes blinked, then he smirked, no one called him anything but Mister or Sir.
“..what’s weird about all this is that up to now you have had all the power, but now, oddly enough, I do. If I quit, if I site the reason why I quit the foundation of the league will drop into a sink hole. If I play you’ll make more money, the league will make more money than it ever has. Businesses like money, Mr. Shafer. So, don’t fuck with me-the tables have turned.”
I got up from the couch, balled up the sheet of paper and bounced it off Mr. Shafer’s chest.
“I ain’t saying shit, Gordon.”
I walked over the carpet opened the door and walked through the cameras and the writers who Shafer had planned to make a statement to, me standing beside him brought back into the fold by the benevolent and understanding owner from the tragedy that had driven me to silence.
Everyone shouted my name, microphones were thrust in my face and I kept walking.
All that was six weeks ago. I kept playing, never said a word, made four interceptions, scored on two them and had more fan votes for All Pro than any player in history.
Then I disappeared, now I’m on the phone with an interviewer named Clarence Johnson.
Johnson was going for ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’ angle for the havoc I’d brought to the national obsession-the generator of a million parties, the violent wet dream of much of the male population, the curious acquiescence hoping for insight and proximity into things male by women sitting beside them in front of television in bars and on the couch watching football like it was war and church rolled into one massive orgiastic celebration of violence and intimidation. Which it is.

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  1. I know that voice. Another great boy up in the sky story.

  2. GREAT STORY SO FAR JIM CAN’T WAIT TO READ MORE

  3. […] last week Aho. There he is. I dropped the ball last week and failed to bring you Chapter 2 of Too Skinny, Too Small. But as I mentioned, I blew out my back and this much madness was too much sorrow.  I’ve […]

  4. […] process). That book kept me alive. Kept me current. Prompted me to reach out to great writers like Don Bajema and reconnect with great writers like Butch Wolfram. The rest is history except I wasn’t […]

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