His face is  a mask of concentration, the walk from the locker room to the stadium an excruciating marathon. His teammates surround him, but the green and black of their uniforms is only a blur at the edge of his vision. He tries not to think of his fallen comrade, the sophomore tight end killed after a drunk driver ran a stop sign and pushed his truck into an oak tree. He knows he has to focus, but even as he forces the thoughts from his mind, the shadows linger. It’s as if the fans have suddenly disappeared to be replaced by the silence of his need to win, as if winning can make things better. After the game the whole town will marvel at his speed out of the pocket, his accuracy and how well he evaded the defensive line’s onslaught, but the victory will be hollow. On the way home, he will stop at the memorial garden and leave a team flag in memory of his friend, wondering why life has to be so brief and if it is indeed only a game.

07/30/08 revised 08/14/10

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