The Time I Almost Played College Football

I had a dream this morning that demanded being published. Nothing has been edited, this is exactly how it happened.


All week the teams had been doing their insane training regimen. Running miles in their gear, intimidating the locals and digging trenches in front lawns so that they could all hunker down and shout at passers-by. Yep, it appears that College Gameday Weekend was in full swing. Every team in the country had come out to Ann Arbor to play at the pinnacle of college-sports venues; The Big House.

At the south end zone I sat, where the rest of the teams were, watching the match between No Name Team One and No Name Team Two. The details couldn’t have mattered less because my dad was talking to us like we had a job to do, and it appeared that we did. Somehow my dad had become a college football coach and was about to lead us onto the field in the next game. He’s rattling off positions and comes to me, telling me that the guy I’ll be guarding is about 3x my size. I’m wearing flip-flops and shorts, none of us are warming up and everyone on the team appears to have the same athletic ability as me. I do not see this going well for any of us.

Not wanting to disappoint the coach, I get up and wander to the concourse which is set up like a shopping mall. I make my way to a store toward the end that doubles as a chinese food restaurant and a stuffy store with imported goods. I know I am going here for pads and cleats, however, I’m more interested in the model planes and cars on the shelf that my impending death by squashing. Eventually the nice old woman who runs the store assures me that all I need is this two gallon bottle of overpriced imported water as it will give me courage. Realizing she is right and that all I needed was courage all along, I have her ring it up with a triumphant smile. We hug as if we’ve made some kind of emotional journey together to see the wizard of Oz, I sign my receipt with what looked like the letter “a” a half-dozen times then scrawled the words “thank you” onto the top while she stood there watching.

As I leave the store I realize that I have two gallons of water which comes free to players, which I don’t exactly want to be in this particular dreamscape. I see a TV with the details of the current game and take notice of the casket the team we are playing next is keeping as a mascot; the body of a deceased player undoubtably inside. No I definitely don’t want to play here, but I trek onward to actually buy shoes and padding. Never does it dawn on me that these things are ALSO provided to players. It seems I am running a little slow on this day.

Somehow my brain knows where it is going in this bizarre landscape so I move toward the shoe kiosk back toward where I started. First I must pass through the Russian bar they have set up there, where I swear my brain knew Russian or some similar gibberish dialect. I passed the men drinking vodka and watching the game, the bears playing cards and eyeing me hungrily. I stumbled through the dark space for what felt like too long but finally made it out the other side. To be faced by my dad.

He was pretty upset I wasn’t at warmup and demanded to know if I was playing. Not wanting to disappoint him I held the water bottle up, smiled that triumphant smile once more and said,

“HHHHHHHHKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK.”

That sounded nothing like the word “courage”.

Nothing but forced air escaped my throat, like some kind of balloon person that had sprung a leak. Suddenly I became aware that none of this was real, all of this was just an outlandish dream and that my mouth was open and air from my CPAP was being forced out through it.


 

I want to believe there is some kind of lesson here or maybe a moral to the story. Maybe it was a message to not wear flip-flops to sporting events just in case they needed someone with minimal athletic talent to taunt the opposition. Perhaps it was about rising to any challenge that may come your way no matter how daunting it may be. It could also be that I miss football.

But, it probably means I need to stop eating cookies before bed.

 

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