The power of games

It's cooling, down at the waterfront. It's late in the day, and towers of cirrus and cumulonimbus clouds are floating, out on the horizon, and the beams of light are cascading down the tiers of lace and billowing air. The late day sunlight is stretching into pillars that reach down to light up the water, turning pewter to silver and to ribbons of gleaming bronze. Streamers of soft grey slide lightly  past rivulets of charcoal as the currents play under the waves. The lights and the colors are pleasing to the eye and the soft breeze floats a light mist off the water, gentling the back-light of sunset. The salt and the scents of the shore nip at my nostrils, but I'm really not thinking of the water. My consciousness floats back to the mountains, the combats of autumn and the state of the Broncos. It's football season,  though my feet linger in the sand.

Last year at this time, Lady Injury was camping out in the Broncos backfield. Some fool had given her a season pass, mistaking her for another Lady and she was making herself happy with plenty of our players. She has a thing for running backs, and they went down before her like sheaves of corn before a thresher. She's as capricious as her sister, Lady Luck. Her prolonged tarriance was the final crowning sadness to a wreck of a season, and her cold hands stayed on our players until visiting San Diego put the Broncos out of their misery, taking the playoffs from them and saving them from another quick playoff loss. A lot of guys left, a lot of guys never played again. Lady Fate joined her sisters and the coven converged on Denver. Luck and Fate hiked on the mountains and danced in Dove Valley, giving spice to the offseason. It's a new year, a new team, and it's only October. The Broncos are 4-0, and the auguries are good.

It seems that Lady Injury pulled up roots and followed me to San Diego. As I lingered on the beach, longing for the mountains, the Lady wandered over to Qualcomm and took the Chargers to task. She decimated their defensive line, cored the offensive line and snacked on LaDainian Tomlinson, just to get her running back fix. She's a cold, bitter dame, implacable and rough, as heartless as time with an unbreakable gaze. This time, the Chargers have caught her attention. Their only hope, faint as it may be, is that she will soon lose interest:, will move to tread on someone else's hopes and days. Somehow, that put me to thinking.

The sand is warming on my feet and I find myself shifting my weight, worrying at thoughts that feel like diaphanous  phantoms. After a long while of marinating in the last Broncos victory, I am  soon musing, thinking about the men who will still show up this weekend, this season. These players have chosen a life that is unique: I puzzle on it: When you think about it, the season will end in failure for 31 teams. It's an odd thought - small wonder that those who have tasted the nectar of a season that ends with trophies and parades feel slightly sad for those fans who have not had the experience. But, still,it led me to wonder -- is that what really drives the players?

Relatively few will win the Super Bowl. Most players don't find riches. They don't last long, with a career average of between 3 and 4 years. What could drive them? It must be the lure of fame, in some degree, but even that rings hollow. Somehow, within themselves, they must love the struggle itself far more then the triumph. The job of competition can beguile the senses: I've been there, and in truth, as trite as it sounds, it truly sang in my veins, as habit-forming as heroin. It becomes a unicorn, the hunt you cannot win, but delight to endure. The joy of competing can be a powerful thing.

Like a swarm of gnats, I find that letters and sounds are starting to fill the air around me. Soon, I have words pressing, phrases nudging at me, insistent and clamorous. I bat them away at first, but they are persistent. I given in to their summons, and I find that they, as I, want to talk about the coming season. I draw out the ever-present pad and pen and settle in the sand. Soon, the letters and the words are pairing up, aligning themselves on the sun's rays, rolling over each other, falling into pattern and phrase.

You do not always write because you want to, you know. When the words feel this way, insistent becomes imperative: you are only their scribe and you dance to their tune. They start rhyming and joining, and I'm scrawling, hurriedly, frantically scribbling, trying to give them the voice they demand before the light fades around me. The tide is creeping up the beach: it pushes at me and I struggle to finish before it surrounds me. When the words and the notes finally become quiescent, drifting gently into silence, I stand, quiet. I brush the sand from my clothing, and wander back to my home.

Tonight, this is what they wanted to say:

There are secrets to football that no one can master:
the twists and disparities of impassioned Fate.
The Super Bowl beckons to those that she welcomes -
the losers are often her cruel sisters' prey.
 
If Injury and Fate decide you are their lovers,
your season will fade into dust as you gaze.
The players but stand in defiance of certainty -
that in 3 or 4 years, most of them fall away.
 
They fight against fact: it's a game that few can win
Their glories are feted, but they only fade.
If they cry out, injured, they'll see others surpass them
Those players will sacrifice their bodies, each day
 
Few leave with money; although their hopes once beckoned
They've believed they're exceptions to the path that awaits.
Some buy faster cars or invest their take badly
Those will leave with a sadness that none other can say
 
Yet some will find glories and some will find victories.
They test themselves gladly, their concours they sought
Without struggle, hard fought, there's no conquest, and yet to me
They are soldiers, perhaps; in their hearts, battles fought
 
The spark that is passion can drive them far higher 
Find their Moirai, fey or joyful, the result of each game
If their will is imposed they can revel in Triumph
It's call is addictive; seductive, its gaze.
 
Salute their endeavor! for they buy every victory
with blood, and with toil, with their own tests and pain
A will of pure ferrum, despite bodies, much bloodied
By their gladiatorial combat for space.
 
If this game can allure you, don't waiver, embrace it!
Take your joy in its power and accept it's harsh trade
You can bask in the stands in the breeze of September
But December's hyperborean grip will you face!
 
So once more, my brothers, let us accept the bargain
they will triumph and fall, they surmount or in vain
they will fight over land: this is ancient and modern
They are us, in our lives, as we meet each new day.
 
For the struggle of one is the struggle of many
We give voice to their efforts, we curse and we praise
For within, this is life, in its constant elation
and it's sorrow, it's
just life and
we live it
through
Games

Originally posted at MHR

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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