by Alex Azar
“Sweetie, you know I hate seeing you do that.”
With the needle still in his arm, “Then turn around bitch.” Doing what Jermaine says, Tabitha turns so he can’t see her tears. “You know I can’t let this slip, without football I’ve got nothing.”
Looking over her shoulder, “You’ve still got me.”
Not bothering to make eye contact, “Yea, for how long?”
That was the last straw for Tabitha this week, and she storms out of her boyfriend’s dorm.
The repetitive act of making and breaking up with his current flame enrages Jermaine. He punches the wall with his left hand, for fear of injuring his throwing arm. Grabbing a bottle of low-grade tequila from his top drawer, “Coach Conic, she just doesn’t understand. All this is to prove to you how much I still love this game.” He takes a long disgusting swig of the brown liquid, “Wish you were still here.” Another swig, “Just don’t know why you did it, what made you do it?”
Three years ago, a full year after Jermaine’s high school graduation, Coach Conic was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A nearby suicide note explained that after his team’s perfect season and ensuing retirement he feared spending a lifetime “post perfection”. He ‘knew’ that no experience would ever be as satisfying.
He went on to address the players that served under him this season, and everyone before, asking them to not follow in his footsteps, but to remember what he taught them. Stating, that although he had no kids of his own, Conic was as proud of them as any father could be.
His funeral was attended by nearly every player he ever coached, including the two that made it o the pros. He was given an incredible ceremony, despite his unchristian death. He was even buried in his coach’s jacket.
The shock of his death affected his players differently; many who hadn’t continued to play in college joined teams almost immediately, some who had been playing quit, despite protests that Coach Conic wouldn’t have wanted it.
Jermaine, who was accepted into school on a full athletic scholarship, viewed Coach Conic’s suicide as a challenge to prove he will always play football for the love of the sport. Unfortunately, his dedication became an obsession that caused him to turn to steroids. He’s become too blinded to realize that he’s fallen into the same pitfalls the coach warned him, and the other players, about.
The day after his most recent break up with Tabitha, Jermaine played the worst game of his career, with two missed snaps, six sacks, three interceptions, and no touchdowns. Blaming Tabitha, the scene in his dorm was something out of “The Program”, resulting in him throwing her across the room.
Hearing the commotion, Jermaine’s center, Carl Teicher stormed the room, restraining Jermaine. “Tabitha, don’t you say a fucking word of this to anyone. Your damn fault his game was off today anyway. How the hell you gonna give him shit the night before a big game like that?”
As Carl has Jermaine pinned to the floor one of the wide receivers and another lineman enter the room. Carl tells the receiver to get Tabitha to her room and make sure she’s all right. But before she’s out the door, “Remember girl, don’t tell anyone.”
By this time Jermaine’s calmed down, “I’m cool. I’m cool; get your fat ass off me.” He explains he was so upset over the game and that he just snapped, didn’t mean to take it out on her, but she was the closest one around.
“Well QB, I think you need to stay away from her till the season’s done. At this rate we ain’t making the championship so we only got a few weeks left.”
Noticing a stash of needles exposed on the dresser the lineman interjects, “You should lay off of this too, man. You can’t deny this shit’s been fucking with you anymore.”
“No, it’s not that… I mean it is yea, but I fucked up. I was stressing, so I doubled the cycle. If I go back to my regular, I’ll be good, I swear.”
Jermaine did as promised, he cut down his dosage and it greatly helped his anger issues. So much so, that when his second promise resulted in Tabitha dating a basketball player, he didn’t snap. In fact he congratulated her, and warned her new boyfriend to treat her right.
All was in order again. Jermaine’s next two games were among his best, putting the disaster of a game in the back of his mind. Now it was the last game of the season, and while they may not have had the best year, Jermaine was ensuring The Timberwolves ended on a high note.
During the halftime speech, the coach is busy hyping the team up, telling them what he thinks they need to hear. Jermaine, excited to get back on the field and finish what he started, can’t help but compare his coach to Conic, and long for his high school days. Getting up to shout the huddle chant to finish the coach’s inspiration Jermaine quickly falls to his knees.
With it looking like The Timberwolves were going to end the season with a string of wins, they finish on the lowest note possible. Jermaine Worthman died at the age of 21 during halftime of the final game of the season from steroid abuse. It will later be discovered that he was supplied the drugs by his coach, as were several other players on the team, and players from years before.
After the tragedy, the football program suffered greatly, resulting in its eventual termination. Marred with controversy and negative press, the school would change the remaining teams’ name to The Wolves.
Several years later, a football program is reestablished, and because of Jermaine’s example, drug tests are no longer conducted by school officials, but instead by the state. The team never regained its prominence, but Jermaine Worthman’s jersey is proudly hung in the stadium.
This was a difficult one. Thinking of ‘juicing’, every story I came up with seemed like a different version of ‘Anger Management’. It was later I remember a scene from the movie The Program, which inspired the whole story. For those of you who have been following me on this project, you should recognize the main character and his mentor from a different story previously in the project, and in fact is a sequel to the ‘director’s cut’ of Coaching Team Sports that I mentioned in that ‘outro’.