All Things Mysterious Volume Eighty-One
Brand Plays the Game
Young Brand was so excited! He was going to play football for his neighborhood team! When Kenny Krunk got the mumps, the other players reluctantly enlisted Brand, who wanted desperately to play with the ‘big boys’ but was considered too puny. The alpha dog male of the group, Biff Bamn, told Brand that he could play end, ‘just don’t do anything dumb, like score for the other team.’ Brand took this warning very seriously and practiced at the local park, running this way and that until he was quite sure that he knew his left from his right.
Come the morning of the game, Brand was too excited to sleep so he got up with the sun and put his uniform on! First, the football pants with the snappy blue stripe up the sides! Next, the padding--a prized thigh pad that had been Brand senior’s when he played at the University of Guam. Trouble was, young Brand only had the one and so had to decide which leg to put it on. Then he decided to wait until the game and wear the pad on whichever side seemed advisable. Then the shoulder pads, which weren’t his father’s hand-me-downs, but his sister’s who used them as a planter. They were perfectly serviceable after Brand brushed the dirt and the fertilizer and the earthworms and the leaves from them, and he shrugged them on and prepared for his favorite part of Game Day--the Donning of the Jersey. Home white with a bold ‘⅙’ on the back and front. Now, THERE was a jersey a player could wear with pride!
After all the fiddling with the pads, Brand noticed with a start the time--five minutes to two! Nearly game time! As usual he’d saved his helmet for last, slipping it on with some pain over his protruding ears. Thus properly attired, he ran out of the house only to run right back in again, having forgotten his shoes. He didn’t actually have any football cleats, but had made some by hammering some nails through the soles of an old pair of loafers. True, they kept falling off during play since there were no laces, but at least the price was right!
He bounded down the street, full of pep and ready to play end for the team! Bet none of the other guys look as good as me, thought Brand, whose journey to the field took twice as long as it might have, since he stopped to admire his reflection in every shop window and car mirror.
When he arrived at the field, he saw a bunch of the guys running around--but what was this? Why were they all wearing T-shirts and shorts? While he was standing there staring, one of his fellow players noticed Brand and yelled, ‘Hey, Biff! Look who’s here!’ and they stopped running around and came running over, crowding around the future All-American. Biff Bamn looked him up and down and said, ‘What are you, dressed up for Halloween? I told you we were going to play football!’
And the boys ran back to the pitch, laughing, as they chose sides, installed the goalkeepers and prepared for the coin toss and the kickoff.
Football. Who ever heard of two games called the same thing? Brand considered doffing his ‘football’ uniform and joining in the ‘match’ but decided against it and started the long slink home.
Brand’s ankles started to ache as he slunk; the nails sticking out of the soles scraped the sidewalk, not being designed for long walks. He did make one concession, though, taking off his helmet and dragging it along behind him as he moped along. Tiring, he decided to sit in the park awhile and found a nice restful spot under a tree. It was getting chilly, so Brand put his helmet back on and took off his ersatz cleats to ease his aching dogs.
He started to drowse but after some time he woke with a start to a huge clanging bell sound. Boinnng! It was within his own head; an apple had fallen from the tree and conked him right on his helmeted coconut. As he was shaking the cobwebs out, there appeared in a shimmer, another Brand! Looks like he didn’t shake too many cobwebs! It was a mirror image of himself, in full football gear, helmet, pads, and all. The apparition beckoned to the ‘real’ Brand, who followed dumbly, mouth hanging open.
They walked, or floated, back to the pitch where the other boys were still kicking the ball back and forth. The apparition gestured toward the field, and Brand, getting used to his ghostly doppelganger, said, ‘Aw, they don’t want me out there.’ The apparition gestured more forcefully, this time indicating that Brand should doff his uni and get out there on the pitch. Unsure, Brand looked out over the field. One of the players was down, holding a knee and hollering. Perhaps this was a situation Brand could take advantage of! He quickly shed his helmet, pads, and jersey to stand revealed in his football trou and a T-shirt and started slowly toward the circle of players standing around their stricken comrade. He stopped and looked back to see his ectoplasmic double give him a double fist-pump to encourage him. It must have worked, for with a yell Brand charged out onto the pitch, ready to take over for the player who’d been hurt. The others gaped at him in disbelief, since the last time they saw him he was slinking away, tail between his legs. Now, as one they looked to Biff Bamn, who shrugged and said, ‘Ok, come on.’
The game was literally afoot! Here came the ball! Brand went to give it a kick but missed and went sprawling face first in the grass. As everyone laughed, he picked himself up and noticed the apparition looking at him intently, unblinking. Then the ball came near him again. Like a flash, Brand took the ball away from a defender on the other team, went the length of the field and put the ball into the net! GOAL! His own team mobbed him! He’d won the game! As everyone was piling on everyone else and yelling in triumph, Brand looked around for the apparition to share the victory but the other was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly Brand opened his eyes. He was still sitting under the apple tree. Had it all really happened? Must have been a dream. Best to go home, then. He stood and looked down, and that was when he saw the grass stains down his front.
Take a look at some sports related mysteries:
The inimitable Hercule Poirot investigates...The Murder On the Links! ‘The links’ refers to a golf course, just like ‘the gridiron’ refers to football and ‘the diamond’ refers to the National Pastime.
Pitchers and catchers next week! So how about some love for the unfairly maligned umps:
And for the younger reader:
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