ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a concerned coach. His team had had its most successful season to date. Although the Hopeless Necromantics’ 5-1-1 regular-season record in Season 12 was not their best, they had made it farther into the MML Playoffs than they ever had before (they’d never made it out of the first round)…all the way to the Final, in fact.
They had sacrificed so much to get there. Both werewolves had suffered career-ending injuries to their collar bones, and the team’s primary ball carrier, the sure-handed, agile, blodging ghoul Velcro Candy, was killed. In the end, the injuries were too much, and the team was too gutted to effectively compete against the defending MML Champions, a team full of vicious skaven led by one of the most dangerous gutter runner lineups the Pros has ever seen. Still, the Romantics fought and scraped their way through most of the first half, until an injury to their big, bad wight Jealous Again led to a botched offensive play, a stripped ball, an unfortunate crowd throw (in their own stadium!), a dodgy recovery by one of those gutter runners, and a touchdown pass for the bad guys. The rest of the match quickly went downhill, as the team’s morale seemed to fall apart as quickly and suddenly as their offense had.
Coach Jest tried to take some comfort in the overall success of the season. It was bad enough that his key coaching mistake in Turn 6 snowballed into the worst Championship Match loss in MML history…but Coach Jest was more worried about his rom-com loving Romantics spiraling into Iron Woobies again. For those not familiar with this trope, Iron Woobies are victims of external circumstance who, after having to deal with too much guff, have lost the ability to feel sorry for themselves, and will continue standing in the path of inevitable misfortune (see http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IronWoobie).
In S9, the Romantics had entered the playoffs ranked #1 in the MML with a 5-2-0 regular-season record. This was their second playoff match in their first 4 (no pun intended) seasons; they had also earned bowl games in each of the other 2 seasons. The Romantics faced off in S9 Playoffs Round 1 against The Midnight Howlers, the #8 seed. Not only did the eventual S9 champions beat the Romantics 2-1 in that match, but the Romantics’ captain, former 2-time MML leading rusher Chasing Papi, suffered a smashed collarbone, effectively ending his Blood Bowl career. This came after the death of their 2-time conference knockout leader, werewolf Merodach the Roarer earlier in the season at the hands of a mercenary minotaur named Zezush who was hired by the Magrita Misfits to do just that, as well as after the hobbling of their senior flesh golem, Pretty Woman, by the Stormreavers BC, also ending her MML career midseason.
The team had spent everything in the tank to fight past the injuries to their leaders and into the S9 playoffs, but when the postseason was over for them, and the offseason had time to settle in, fatigue, depression, pessimism, and even romcomism took hold of those remaining. The next 2 seasons were a mess. Whereas they had compiled a 16-7-5 regular-season record in their first 4 seasons, the Romantics posted a relegation-bordering 3-2-9 record over the course of S10-S11. And it wasn’t just the players who were lackadaisical. Rumors abounded that Coach Jest had mentally and emotionally checked out, even canceling practices on multiple occasions so that the team could participate in “bro seshes,” during which they all ate ice cream and watched romantic comedies together.
With the help of the team’s assistant coach Dr. Petro Pavlov, Coach Jest finally recovered from his romcomism relapse and rededicated himself to Blood Bowl. The team also got a much-needed boost from the incoming transfer of the aggressive, big, hard-hitting Jealous Again. S12 was a beautiful run…but the Romantics made it to the Final on fumes and pure will.
Now here they stood, on the brink of S13, with another 3 of their best players gone. Even worse, they only had enough money to replace one of them, although that replacement was a badass werewolf transferred from the Farm team Necromania, the same team where former MML leading Serial Killer, 2-time Most Violent player, and Romantic werewolf Shawn Michaels (R.I.P.) began his MML career, coached by the current and only back-to-back MML Champion, Gerdleah. The Romantics were staring down the barrel of an elf gauntlet in the Iron League / First 4 playpool, with no sure-handed players or skilled tacklers.
Coach Jest began to feel that familiar lump in his throat. He reached for his mini-fridge, where he kept his emergency pint of ice cream.
Just in time, Dr. Pavlov knocked on the door to his office. “Coach, you should see this.”
Coach Jest followed Dr. Pavlov out to the field where the team was facing away from them, fortunately, with their pants around their ankles, as the team’s sole cheerleader, Elvira, fiddled with a camera in front of them. The team’s new captain and only original member left, wight Sleepless in Seattle, called out over his shoulder, “What’s up, coaches? Wanna get in this picture?”
“Why,” began Coach Jest, half-amused and half-annoyed.
But Sleepless continued, “That guy Thunden at the League Office wants a team picture…says we need to send him one right away, or we can’t play in S13. That guy’s always complaining about ‘unnecessary’ fouls…always ranting about ‘don’t be a d*ck’ this and ‘don’t be a d*ck’ that. He’s obsessed with d*cks. So we figured we’d give him what he wants.”
The rest of the team was quiet. Everyone had a smile on their face. Every. Single. Player. And they were united in solidarity (again, no pun intended)…they were truly a team.
“Yeah, they’re gonna be alright,” thought Coach Jest. “We’re gonna be alright.” Then he broke the silence: “Make some room for me in that picture, team, but nobody better touch me. Elvira, I think you’re gonna need a bigger lens…”