Shadow on Concrete Wall

Cheap Hit

How will sports fanatics act when they can experience the physicality of their favorite sports?  Would the athletes themselves be unaffected by the knowledge that they have legions of fans living their lives vicariously through their actions on the field of play?

 
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Story Text

Jimmy lined up against the Sooner’s receiver on the weak side.  It was third and eight and the receiver appeared eager.  He was gonna run a fly.  The chump didn’t know it, but he hadn’t a hope.

Under the Cotton Bowl’s floodlights, sweat ran down Jimmy’s neck, despite the Texas winter chill.  Jimmy smiled at the wide-out to send a message.  It was a fake coverage.  He sneaked a peek at the ball, saw the snap and jumped to the inside.

He sprinted for the quarterback, Bower.  Jimmy saw the tailback slide over, that puny runt had no chance.  Jimmy hit the tailback and spun around him.  The QB was ten yards away, Jimmy saw the six on his back, the ball was gone already.  No matter.

“I’m gonna hit the bastard!”  His heart raced.

Five yards away, Jimmy took off like one of those ski jumpers.  Whuuumpf, his helmet hit Bower right on the number six.  They were flying as he pinned the QB’s arms.  The unforgiving turf ripped the air from Bower’s lungs as Jimmy drove him down face first.  It was a two-touch landing as the quarterback bounced once.

He won’t get up from that, Jimmy thought rolling off the QB.

As Jimmy stood up, the yellow flags arced towards him through the crisp night air.  That was okay, Bower was toast.  “He ain’t gonna throw no more touchdowns ‘gainst the Tide tonight!”

Man, this was great, as he jogged back to the bench.  The sour expression from the defensive coordinator didn’t faze him at all.  So what the screenplay didn’t net enough yards, so what he just gave them a first down.  That hit was the ultimate sensation.

This was the best fifty bucks he’d ever laid down to sense a college game.  That taste of power, as he drove Bower into the ground.  He chose right picking linebacker Ricky Calhoun, the meanest defensive player at Alabama.

He watched from the sidelines as they half carried half guided Bill Bower to the sidelines.  Several team mates slapped him on the back.  “Great hit Calhoun.”  And “He’s done for the game.”

After the game, Jimmy removed his headset; he waited for the post-sensing nausea to pass.  He was back in his slovenly bachelor studio in downtown Atlanta.  He was sitting on his bed, unmade in the last week.  The beer cans from half time lay on the linoleum floor.

Jimmy knew he was a slob, but he didn’t care that much.  At five foot ten and three hundred pounds, he wasn’t planning on living a long life so why give a damn what he ate, drank, or smoked.

His interlink buzzed and he flipped down his interspecs.  It was his Alabama alumnus friend.  “Hey Jimmy, did you catch the game?”

“Hi Sammy, yeah, I wouldn’t have missed it.  Did you sense it?”

“Yeah, I had Watson.  Did you see that hit from Calhoun?”  Sammy gestured with his arms outstretched as if he was making the hit himself.

“I had Ricky Calhoun didn’t I.  Man that was f’ing great.  Hit the bastard right between the shoulder blades.  Knocked all the air outta him.  And I got the new upgrade, so much better, I felt everything, Sammy.  I swear I heard a rib crack.  All for fifty bucks.”

“You lucky bastard.”

They talked about the game for a bit and agreed knocking Bower out of the game allowed Alabama to stop Oklahoma in the second half and win the Cotton Bowl.

Later, as he surfed the Internet, Jimmy saw the usual chatter about sensing players and the increased violence in sports.  It was just bullshit he decided, the powers that be wanted to limit the sensing of sports.  “Ya can’t put that genie back in the lamp,” Jimmy smiled to himself.

#

The next day at work, Jimmy had his old Crimson Tide t-shirt on.  The hit still had him pumped up.  At his break, he was hanging around the warehouse’s breakroom, drinking his coffee.  He enthused about the game with anyone who caught his eye.

When Gary, an Oklahoma graduate, entered the breakroom, Jimmy saw a chance to get in some good college rivalry time.  Jimmy hitched up his pants and swaggered over to intercept Gary who was heading for the coffee maker.

“Hey Gary, did you see the game last night?”  Gary was an overweight, out of shape, college football nerd too.

“Damn right I did,” Gary replied warily.  Gary was a couple of inches shorter with a ring of dark hair around his bald pate.  If he wore a habit he’d be a dead ringer for Friar Tuck.

“Great hit on Bower, huh?”

“Piss off Jimmy!”  Gary reached for the coffee jug, turning his back.

“I mean it was a clean strike.  Right between the shoulder blades.”

“It was a fucking cheap hit, that’s what it was.  A typical Tide cheap hit.”

“I dunno about a cheap hit.  I do know it felt great to me bud!”

“You asshole!  Were you sensing that linebacker?”  Gary turned around, his coffee needs forgotten for now.

“Yup.”

“Bastard!  I had Bower, didn’t I!  That stupid hit hurt like hell, I couldn’t breathe after.”

Jimmy laughed.  “Hey, if you can’t take the heat you know….”

“You’re a cheap hitting overweight slob.”

“And you’re a sore loser and a wimp.  Football’s about hitting,” Jimmy’s spittle was flying.

Incensed, Gary took a swing at Jimmy.  It was too low, hitting him on the shoulder.  Jimmy swung back, but lost his balance and then they were both rolling on the floor trying to punch each other.  If they’d been in the mud pits it would’ve be funny, but at work, it was pathetic.

It took three staffers to pull apart the two grunting and gasping combatants squirming around on the floor like a pair of iguanas fighting over a mate.  It was just as well, Jimmy and Gary were more at risk of a heart attack than landing a telling blow.

#

Five minutes later, Jimmy stood with Gary in front of the manager’s desk.  He had his best hang-dog expression pasted on his face as the warehouse manager lectured them about work place safety and camaraderie.  Jimmy remembered to nod at all the right places.

“Now shake hands and keep your stupid rivalry out of my work space.”  The manager kept his serious face in place as they shook hands.

“Both of you can go clean the men’s bathrooms together,” the manager added as they turned to leave.

Jimmy and Gary got around to talking again in the men’s bathroom.

“There’s a hockey game between the Blackhawks and Bruins tonight.”  Gary said as he swabbed the floor.  “Are ya gonna sense it Jimmy?”

“Sure am.  Who ya gonna take?”

“Kaminski on the Bruins.  What about you?”

“Okay.  I’ll take Nikula on the Blackhawks,” Jimmy promised.  “I’ll be looking for you on the ice!” 

The fight wasn’t over.