A Game of Football, a Heavy Insult, and a Desperate Escape

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At 7 am, several of our players arrived at our meeting place, dazed and dazed on their feet. I drove them to Mississippi anyway, believing that an hour’s drive would be a miraculous cure. I couldn’t have made a worse decision. A player needed my styrofoam coffee mug for his sick bag.

In Biloxi, the team stepped onto a newly chalk-painted dew stone field. The soccer balls looked new. We watched the Keesler boys thunder through their warm-ups in beautiful new uniforms and the latest flashy Nike shoes. Our team deliberately took a look at our blue thrift store T-shirts ironed on with lettering.

A whistle blew to start the game.

Imagine baby bunnies in the path of a steamroller.

The aviators attacked. When they went to the ball, my men went upside down. The kicks knocked our players back like a cannonball.

Keesler scored a goal in the first 30 seconds of the game. Two minutes later they scored a second goal. Our forward Ibrahim sent a corner kick just off Keesler’s goal with a nice header, but for several minutes he couldn’t remember where he was.

Humiliation can be expressed in many ways.

Today, two of my players sat in the midfield and expressed themselves. Another player vomited loudly, something purple with yellow clots. The worst, though, came after Keesler’s sixth or seventh halftime goal. The skinniest, smartest player on our team got behind the Keesler defense to piss into the Airmen’s goal, an obvious foul.

The midfielder lifted one leg, then the other, as he caught the full view of both teams and a mixed audience of bewildered spectators. He looked like he had been slowly electrocuted. It took a long time.

The Keesler aviators turned to me, Coach C, in unison, their eyes shining, unforgiving.

Suddenly, our team rushed for the first time that day. Our rescue vehicle waited in the parking lot. Everything in a blue shirt moved in that direction, blurry.

I broke Mississippi law when I left town. I took us east to I-10, shooting at a getaway car full of hung or heart diseased football players disgraced by bad play and worse behavior. As they burned toward the house, the screaming, bat-waving Air Force kids in their roaring Mad Max muscle cars grew larger in hindsight.

Freedom?

Freedom is losing a game but winning a desperate race to the Alabama-Mississippi state line.

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