It’s 4thdown and 20 and the Home Team Coach decides to go for it.
He’s a new Coach who’s never coached in the pros. But he got the job because he was loud and boisterous and downright ugly sometimes. And that’s what the fans wanted after the parade of boring, “take it one game at a time” sound biters with meh records that the Team suffered through the last few years.
This was a once proud organization. But they didn’t play the way they used to. They weren’t tough like they were all those years ago when they won. He promised they would be again though. He promised they’d be great again.
But 4thand 20? On the first drive?
The commentators are a little confused. The stiff play-by-play guy calls it nuts. The color commentator, a retired good old boy hall of famer for the Home Team, says he likes the energy. And that maybe it’s time not to listen to the football experts around here. That’s why they brought this guy in after all.
They run the play. The defense drops back into a prevent. The Quarterback dumps the ball off to a running back out of the backfield. There’s no one near him because why cover the back out of the backfield on 4thand 20 after all. The ball carrier accelerates. He picks up five yards. And then ten. And then 15. Then he dodges a tackler before he’s met by three other defenders who bring him down a full four yards short of the first down marker. For a moment, there was a spark. But then it was gone.
A snarky, smug comment by the play-by-play guy takes us into the commercial break.
They call them “experts” for a reason.
We return to see that theres been a development. The Coach has thrown his challenge flag. It’s not clear what he’s challenging. The video shows that His ball carrier wasn’t particularly close to the first down. They go through a quick booth review and of course the booth upholds the referee’s original call. The play-by-play guy adds some rhetorical disbelief. The hall of famer says nothing. And the other team’s offense comes out on the field.
But the Home Team’s offense stays put. The Coach is out there talking to the referee now. And it looks like he’s not interested in leaving.
The referee looks confused. The Home Team’s crowd is getting into it. This is the first time they’ve seen their Coach in a game. And they like what they see. He’s doing exactly what he said he would. He’s not taking any shit. As the Coach argues more and more, the more excited the crowd gets. The ref throws a flag. Delay of game AND unsportsmanlike conduct. The Coach picks the flag up and shakes it in the refs face. He refuses to leave. He argues some more.
One of His players comes over to the Coach. He seems upset. The Coach barks something at him and sends him off the field. A backup trots out from the sideline to take his place in the huddle. The Coach glares at the other ten. He’s made his point. This is His team. It’s not just His team. It’s His building. And these are His fans.
Someone hands him a microphone. An employee of the team owned stadium perhaps. Now the Coach is on the PA system. He’s talking directly to this crowd now.
“Do you believe this guy?”
He motions to the ref who stands a few yards away, flatfooted. Confused. Unsure what to do. He’s already thrown his flag. He looks to his crew. They try to ignore him. They wander a little further off.
The play-by-play guy is getting angry now. This is an outrage. An affront to the great game. The Hall of Famer interrupts…Let’s hear what Coach has to say here.
The Coach plods menacingly with the mic. “This guy has been calling BS calls against us for years. The league, the networks all of you have hated THIS team and THIS city for years.”
The crowd cheers.
“I mean you saw what happened. Our guy was in the open. Running. And you mean to tell me that just as soon as he got close to the first down, all of a sudden he gets tackled? Right there? Just like that? If you look at the first part of that play, no one is even close. There’s no way we don’t get it. We got it BY ALOT.”
The old Hall of Fame chimes in…He’s got a point you know…we all saw that.
The crowd is in a frenzy now. The other networks have left their games to show this one.
“I mean look at those guys holding the yard markers. You think they really put them in the right place? One of them’s from California. And that guy over there? The one that made the tackle? He tested positive for steroids two years ago. And look at that guy. His buddy that helped. Are you trying to tell me he’s not on steroids? Look at him. If anyone knows a guy on steroids it’s me. If you can prove to me he’s not on steroids, I’ll get my offense out of here now. See that? Right…you can’t? Shocker…I know.”
The Coach creates some space now. He’s pacing. He’s left the referee alone. He’s talking directly to the crowd.
“You see it’s not about this first down. It’s not about the last one or the next one. It’s about all the others we were cheated out of. And all the ones we’ll be cheated out of in the future. This game is rigged. It’s rigged against Me. And it’s rigged against YOU!”
The crowd erupts. The play-by-play guy has punched himself out. He’s got nothing left to say. The hall of famer takes over…it’s about time someone finally said what we we were all thinking. The Coach is still going though. He’s come back over to the ref to hand him back his flag.
“You know something…I have a bad feeling about this crowd now and what it means to you. I don’t think they’re going to be happy if I take my offense off the field. I don’t even know I could if I wanted to. You know, because I’m not sure what they’d do. Some of these folks are very passionate about their Team. And I just don’t know what their gonna do…but whatever it is…it’s probably not going to be good for you. I mean…it’s out of my hands now. And that goes for you guys in the other jerseys too. You take this ball from me…and it’s not going to be good. Believe me. Not after how unfairly you’ve treated these wonderful people”
The crowd is chanting now. “First and 10…First and 10….”. Some of them are coming down to the field.
The referee and his team head for the tunnel out of the stadium. So does the other team. The play-by-play guy is gone too. The hall of famer is alone in the booth, rambling about the greatness of his friend the Coach and how his Team has finally gotten it’s due. They’re back baby…
The game is over. The Coach declares victory. The crowd continues to chant…and lone ball of famer joins in.
The game was forfeited. The season is canceled. And there’s no more football in the city. But at least they won’t lose any more football games.
Somewhere a fan wonders aloud what was gained. What was lost is less mysterious.