If secrets constitute us as individuals, and secrets are crucial to storytelling, then it must be storytelling itself that expels us from Eden. Storytelling is corrupt and corrupting. - James Wood, writing about the works of Ian McEwan, in the 4-30-09 London Review of BooksSo let me tell you a story.
When I was in high school, I thought long and hard about going out for football. This would have been a spectacularly bad idea, as I was/am 5'-3", around 135 pounds, and not even all that fast or shifty. My role would have been, at best, fourth quarter special teams, mascot/joke, and de facto star jock tutor. But what the hell, right? Life is short, death is long and the writer in me (yes, always) just wanted to hear pre-game motivational speeches from the coach.
Eventually I took the laughter of the coaches to heart and kept the clipboard in my hand as the team's reporter for the school paper, which let me go to all the games anyway. The coach even let me listen to the speeches, because why not, really? You don't have that job unless you like the sound of your own voice. (Or this one, of course.)
The Northeast High School varsity football teams that I covered were pretty mediocre. As with most "magnet" schools, we had a thin level of top-tier talent from the inner city, supported by scrappy/overmatched borderline 'burb candy asses. Let's just say you could really tell who our bench guys were, and that we were not at our best in an endurance contest.
Our best player was our starting QB and CB, a tall athlete who was basically a homeless man's Randall Cunningham. He was also our best basketball player, and while dreams of MVP level stardom came to those who saw his good moments, he was really more of a I-AA player, which is where he wound up.
In my years of following the team, there were two very memorable games. The first came when we played Frankford, who had Blair Thomas (a star RB at Penn State, a first round draft bust with Jets). It was a tight game for a long time, but every time Thomas touched the ball, the difference between his future and everyone else's became more clear, and he eventually dragged his team to the win.
The second was our big annual game against arch-rival Central. The game was played rain and mud that made Scooby Doo-esque foot fumbling common, especially for a reporter without cleats. Closest that I came to that special teams work, really.
At the half, buoyed by the knowledge from my feet and eyes and not noticing the presence of actual real-life reporters, I burst into the coaches room to tell the head coach to call more rollouts, so that our mobile QB actually had a chance at making a defender miss on the only part of the field that still had grass. It got me laughed out of the room so that the real minds could work. Maybe it's coincidence, but we did get more rollouts in the second half.
At the end of the year, I also found that the coaches, who relied on me as the only source of statistics, had voted to give me a varsity letter. Your call as to whether they did that to thank me for not trying out. I had my mom sew it on my gray 80's bomber cloth jacket, and didn't get any action, ever, while wearing it. There's nothing like being the reporter/hanger-on for a dramatic lack of action, kids. One benefit of the death of print journalism, really.