Friday, October 14, 2005
You’ve heard the stories. He’s played hurt all his life, always playing with kids bigger than him, beating them most of the time. He missed a year of high school with an injury, lost two more in college. His mother can barely stand to watch the games. She still worries about him playing with the bigger kids.
His father walked away from football to save the world, turned his home into a safe house for boys who know too well how to take a beating. You’ve heard those stories, too. One of the kids his father brought in, burned and scarred (maybe hot coffee? maybe steam from a radiator? maybe something worse than you want to know), didn’t have a change of clothes and then the boy walks in, offers his own. That’s the story his father still tells today, even after he’s seen the boy grow up, seen the boy win the games he walked away from.
What do you know of sacrifice? Like most, probably nothing. Per usual, you’re feeling mixed up in a bar, feeling bad about a player’s broken leg, feeling good about your team beating the number five school in the nation. Feeling damn good, on the whole. You’re feeling optimistic before you feel drunk, and this is a new and wonderful thing.
And there he is. And there’s the arm that put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the arm that had football coaches in his home even when he was too hurt to play, that arm touched by God.
Then he teaches you a lesson.
Brodie Croyle has more reason to hate the University of Alabama and its football program than any other man on the planet. It has lied to him, maimed him, and left him unprotected to the jackals’ fangs. It has asked so much of him and rewarded him so little. Yet he stands there, shows you victory, and afterwards shows you how to rejoice. As the father builds up the boys who are no one’s sons, the son will restore his father’s house.
This is your place, he tells you. Do not speak of sportsmanship when all you have are market researched clichés and cable television highlights. This is how you lead men. This is how you become iconic in a world gone numb. Hold yourselves up, he tells you. Hold yourselves higher still.
Who may stand against him? Who is Ed Orgeron, this thick-neck babbler with his rants and burlesque motivations? Who is that plump rat from Knoxville who can’t trust or lead young men? Who are these scant teams held in higher esteem by the collected sportswriters of the Associated Press?
Look upon his work, ye mighty voters of the Downtown Athletic Club of Manhattan, and tremble!
Posted by J at 11:24 AM