Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Imagine What It Must Be Like...

Imagine what it must be like for a Head Coach in the National Football League, right before a game. Think of all the emotions that run through him, the mixture of excitement and worry, the thrill of leading a group of men into battle versus the nagging concern that, perhaps, you haven’t done everything you could to get your players ready for the game. This is precisely the situation facing the fictional hero of my novel OVER TIME, the Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers, as you will see in the excerpt below.

In this scene, the Packers are about to take the field against a powerful opponent that has beaten them many times before. Green Bay’s Head Coach, Errol “Brick” Denton, is struggling to find the right words to inspire his players to victory. He has a young team this year, untested in battle, but undeniably talented, including a promising rookie quarterback nicknamed “Wildass”.

An Excerpt from the novel, OVER TIME
© 2005 by Brian Hill and Dee Power

Seventeen minutes before kickoff, seven minutes before they had to go through the tunnel to the field. You could feel the vibrations in the massive cement and steel buttresses of the stadium, caused by the roaring crowd. It was not unlike the frighteningly exhilarating feeling the astronauts get when the giant rockets are engaged, and the tremendous forces are released, carrying them into the unknown. Seven minutes was all the time left for Brick Denton to make a difference in the game.

Suddenly, and totally unexpectedly, all of Denton's pregame uncertainty was gone; he felt completely alert, totally calm, totally in control. For the first time since he had accepted the job of Head Coach, he no longer felt alone. "Gentlemen," he began in a voice that was clear and firm.

"For too many years, we have had to take to this field and compete against two teams simultaneously. No one should have asked that of us. We had to play against the Bears some weeks, the Vikings on others. But we also had to compete against our own formidable team--every week--and all of the championships they won. We had to play a memory--one that got more grandiose over time. We were measured against them, and always fell short. We never had the toughness they did. We were paid too much. We didn't have the desire. We were spoiled, just in it for the money. We didn't try."

Now the players listened to his words. The gum was chewed more slowly. The eyes focused on Denton.

"How could we win, carrying that anvil on our shoulders? On this given Sunday, maybe it's time we threw this weight off, looked at things another way. When we take that field today, the tradition of excellence comes with us. It's our armor, our shield, not a heavy burden. We have won eleven championships: no team can match that. We don't have to exceed what those past teams did. The opponent has to try and exceed it. We already hold the titles. The titles belong to us. The nation is waiting for us to come back, they need us to come back. We play for small town America. We dare to do battle against the titans, the big cities, the rich owners. We play for the uncomplaining fellow who goes to work each day and does his damnedest. He doesn't get the recognition or the glory. He lives all that through us. When you win the championship again...and again...and again--which you are destined to do, I am absolutely certain, they won't just be dancing in the streets here....but in places all over the country that none of us has ever been to. People who couldn't find us on the map want a piece of our glory. We stand for something that people need in their lives.

"The media talk about 'America's Team' all the time. Well, what is America's Team? I will tell you. It is a team that plays natural grass, in front of fans who live and die by that team, who feel physical pain when that team loses; the games are sold out fifty years in advance, for America's Team. These games would not be a once a week amusement, they would be cornerstones of people's pride in their community, in themselves. The players, when they looked around them, would see history in all directions. I surely don’t deserve to be the Coach of America's team, I probably never will, but you damn well deserve to be its players. Harness the power of that greatness, gentlemen, of that tradition. It's here in the building. It's alive. It's not a ghost."

"I feel it, Coach," cried out Wildass, forgetting he was supposed to be a frightened rookie.

"I do, too," echoed in the room.

"Then play that way, men. Don't do it for me. Do it for yourselves. Write your names into the history books. The legends never died, gentlemen. You become the legends when you walk on that field. Our game goes on forever. Our season never ends. We never leave the field."

Denton then looked in each face, as though to impress the message permanently into their minds. Then he turned and opened the locker room door, and pointed the way.

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