Subject: The Narc
Remember when I was a kid, and you told me about that guy Job that those Bretonnians talk about from their Bible? He had everything and then it was suddenly ripped out from under him, as a test of his faith? Well, I feel like I’m him right now.
A couple of weeks ago, I was living the life! I was the star quarterback of the undefeated MML Farm team, Butcher’s Cut. My coach was a universally respected tactician. My teammates loved and respected me. I lived in a boss penthouse apartment, with a personal chef, and a hot French maid. And then Coach Gerdleah called me into his office and informed me that I was being traded…to a college team…a community college team.
I tried to argue that I already have a law degree from Harvard, but he said it didn’t matter. The MML had decided that elevating a college team to the Pros would add credibility to its Stay in School campaign…and anybody who played on the college team actually had to be attending the school.
So, this past week, I started school at Greendale. This place is so ghetto! I had to park my Ferrari out in the student parking lot, far as hell from any of the buildings where classes are. Who knows if it will still be there when I get back. And then I literally spent 45 minutes in an English class writing about “What it Means to do My Thing.”
I thought the Cut’s Back Room was basic, but Greendale’s field, The Melting Pot, literally looks like the bottom of a McMurty’s pot after they cook their special sauce. Cigarette butts, weed roaches, and empty 40-ounce bottles are strewn all over the place, the stands capacity is terrible, and much of the field is more rock than grass.
Coach Serious Jest is…well, he seems crazy. He keeps going on about the Universe and how it led him to the team, and then me to him, and how he’s going to make me a superstar. But I think he couldn’t handle washing out as a lizardman coach in his second season, after winning the Wicked Forest Conference in his first season, and ran away to another conference, and took this ragtag team on because he nobody will expect them to win anyway.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s some talent here. These guys were an unstoppable force in the community college circuit, and they far surpassed everyone’s expectations in somehow making it all the way to the HUMANitarian Bowl finals. But the MML is a whole different level, and these guys haven’t even been able to put a winning record together on the Farm. Something is missing. Who knows, though; maybe that something is me.
My teammates sure as hell don’t think so, though. They’ve made it very clear that they don’t like me, and they resent their former thrower, Walter Scott, getting traded away as part of the deal to get me.
At my first team meeting, before Coach Jest arrived, Freddie Gray said to me, “What’s your name? Ham Shank? Why? Cause you a pig? Hey, look everybody, we got us a narc up in here! We gonna call you the Narc, Narc.” And that was it. The rest of the team erupted in laughter, and I instantly became the Narc. From what I’ve learned, Freddie’s one of the fastest guys on the team, and a very competent blitzer; and although Freddie doesn’t make very good grades, he has a razor-sharp wit when it comes to comedy. He knows exactly what to say to lift his teammates’ spirits, and exactly what to say to bury his opponents’. Unfortunately, today, he saw me as his opponent, and it didn’t matter what I said, my name was the Narc now.
“My name is Todd, man. Ham Shank is just a moniker I used as part of a team themed ‘Butcher’s Cut.’” He responded by mimicking my voice and manner of speaking in an unflattering way. “I don’t know why you’re giving me a hard time, man. I’m human like you. My skin’s even the same color,” I pleaded.
That last part sobered Freddie up, but not in the way I wanted. He got right in my face. You ain’t like me, that’s for sure. You ain’t like any of us. He motioned toward Jorg Fentleberry, the journeyman who made such an impression during his first game with the team that they permanently hired him. “Even the white boy over there got more soul than you! I trust him to have my back way more than you! You walk in here, all high and mighty, looking around at this school, at all of us, like you’re better than us. Probably describing this place with stupid words like ‘ghetto.’ Actin’ like you’re some kind of savior, and we should be kissing your ass. Like your expensive-ass car is safe in that far-off parking lot. Naw, fam, you got another thing coming. You gonna have to prove you belong here. You gonna have to earn our respect. And until then, you on your own…and watch out, cause Coach Jest cut the apo for the first match.”
Coach Jest walked in then, and we all took our seats for his newest pep talk about the Universe and how it had paired us against the right team at the right time: high elves with no Mai-Tee-Blo training and many gold pieces of bloated due to their saving up for stadium upgrades. But my mind was still stuck on what Freddie said. He was right. I didn’t want to be here, but if I was going to survive, I had to accept my place. Maybe Coach Jest had something there about following the Universe.
I thought hard about that while lifting by myself after practice. Thought hard about it all the way home in my expensive Ferrari that was all graffitied up with the word “Narc” and pictures of pigs on it. I even had a dream that we were playing our Week 1 opponents, Thee Grandiose Gladiators, and I led the offense the length of the field, with everybody in sync, seamlessly executing plays and scoring right on Turn 8 to take a 1-0 lead into halftime. I woke up before the 2nd half. Maybe it was an omen?
I sure hope so, Dad. Because life sucks right now, but I’m starting to think that if I can win my teammates’ respect, if I can lead them to a few victories, this might actually be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I hope I can make you proud, Dad. Wish me luck in our 1st match tonight!
Todd a.k.a. Ham Shank a.k.a. The Narc
*Breaking the Fourth Wall: for more on the real Freddie Gray, check out: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/01/us/freddie-gray-who-is-he/