This piece is a Super Bowl story that appeared in an online market, Every Day Fiction, on February 3rd, 2019. The story does not focus on any one team as no team in mentioned. Rather, it focuses on a sideline reporter and a coach who has a gentle way of dealing with his team.
By Jon Moray
Sandra bit at the inside of her bottom lip as the kicker trotted onto the field for a 47-yard field goal attempt, that if true, would win the Super Bowl. She was a sideline reporter for the TV network covering the game and drew the unenviable task of interviewing the head coach of the losing team outside their locker room. Historically, Lady Luck was on her side when it came to shoving a microphone in the face of a winner, but today Ms. Luck was on injured reserve.
Sandra glanced up at the :03 remaining on the scoreboard, while several questions battled for supremacy in her head. “Why am I so flustered?” she whispered to herself. Perhaps it was the uneasiness of asking questions to someone who would probably rather get a tooth pulled. Perhaps it was big game jitters. Perhaps both. She surveyed the retractable dome roof of the stadium to provide a visual diversion from her anxiety until the roar of the crowd directed her attention back to the field.
The ref blew his whistle and play began. The snap was good. The hold was good. The kick was perfect, and while half of a sideline celebrated in surreal euphoria, the other half took the dead man’s walk toward their locker room. Sandra and her cameraman followed at a turtle’s pace.
The losing coach and general manager, known as Padre, consoled his players with fatherly hugs and encouraging words on the way. He sported a suede fedora with a wide band in team colors that disjoined from his head when a player’s shoulder pads bumped against him. A black suit filled out his gridiron attire, sadly appropriate for the somber atmosphere he would encounter moments later.
A soft-spoken relic from the past, Padre had an uncanny style of coaching, nurturing, and yelling at his players without raising his volume. Referees oftentimes couldn’t determine whether he was arguing a call or complimenting one. His personnel decisions also made him controversial.
During training camp, he brought in three players that were cut by teams for off field issues that led to arrests and embarrassing accusations. He preached second chances to an unforgiving media and even more disgusted fan base. Once beloved by the city, many called for his firing, but ownership reluctantly decided to stay the course. The media nicknamed the players the ‘Troubled Trio.’ To the players’ credit, they avoided giving their detractors ammunition and slowly gained trust with their teammates as the season evolved.
The team breezed through the playoffs on their way to a trip to the Super Bowl; a failed one, but not many experts thought this collection of castoffs would even make postseason competition.
The three players with the shadowy past collectively labored off the field ahead of Padre. As they neared the tunnel, a storm of expletives hailed down on them from unruly fans. Words of filth, and personal insults that could make the devil wince.
“Be bigger, gentlemen,” urged Padre, in a soothing tone. The trio turned, let their coach pass before them, and trailed behind. Sandra watched them enter the locker room, and then prepared for the awkwardness to come.
“Padre should be out in five minutes, are you ready?” asked the cameraman. Sandra stood frozen, as her eyes searched the dents in the concrete block walls. A tap on the shoulder broke her vertical coma.
“Huh? Oh…yes. I’m ready.”
“Are you going to ask about the Troubled Trio?”
“I guess I have to. Give the viewers what they want, right?”
The cameraman nodded as the door creaked open. Padre appeared, rubbing his chin, and looking like his frown took up homestead on his face. Before Sandra could speak, the Troubled Trio appeared.
“Excuse me, but we’ve got something we need to say,” interrupted the linebacker.
“Padre, we wanted this one for you so badly, more than we wanted it for ourselves. Without you, who knows where we would be? Certainly not playing football.”
Sandra drew a deep sigh, loosened her grip on the microphone, and allowed the teary-eyed player to continue. The rest of the team filtered out into the corridor to listen.
“Padre, we’ve grown as men in the short time playing for you. You made a difference in our lives, and while we lost today, you will always be a winner. You’ve won life’s Super Bowl.”
The players mobbed Padre, echoing ‘winner’ chants and jockeying to show their admiring affection. Sandra eyes glossed and lips puckered to prevent emotional waterworks. The cameraman signaled to cut away. She quickly gathered herself, straightened up, and faced the camera.
“This has been the best interview of my career, and I didn’t even ask one question. Back upstairs to you, Bob.”