Next Year

This is difficult, men. It’s difficult to be in this locker room right now. The fact is you left everything you had out on that field: blood, sweat, hair, fragments of bone, the keys to the garage, mortgages and insurance papers, fingernails, food stamps, the stray molar. And hope, too. Don’t forget hope. In response to whatever inspiring remarks I might be about to make you might rightfully offer up an observation or two of your own. But Coach, you might for instance point out, we trained our asses off for this day. We did the extra repetitions, the weekend plyometric routines, the Eastern isometric exercises. We exceeded our self-expectations and we rose to the occasion to play our best ball ever, in prime time in front of 300 million fans on our sport’s biggest stage. Why, Coach, did we not get the results promised to us in all of your preseason pep talks and in your bestselling motivational sports psychology book, Live Like a Champion? And don’t tell us, Coach, that there is a moral victory here because just step back through that corridor and out onto the turf and take a look at the no-doubt still-lit scoreboard because we did not lose this game by some small and effort-affirming margin or on some last second scoring drive, we lost 375–6, Coach—a result that hardly reflects the exertions we’ve exerted, the character we’ve built, the belief we’ve espoused in your much-revered dogma which now seems to us, Coach, like the biggest pile of steaming bullshit we’ve ever stepped through en route to utter annihilation, and many of us I will remind you Coach have been getting annihilated for many, many years and hoped that you were somehow the anodyne to our vague sense that we were somehow predestined to fail. Men, there are answers to these seemingly unanswerable questions, but they are answers you won’t want to hear and that you will fortunately-for-our-oligarchs soon forget because of a certain additive we’ve been dissolving into your Gatorade® for the last 235 seasons, because in fact your old Coach has known from the very beginning of this season and all preceding seasons that your efforts were indeed doomed and that we were essentially living out a script written long before any one of you donned the shoulder pads or strapped on the shin guards or taped up a stick or applied the pine tar or worked on your crossover dribble. It was necessary for you to believe, Men, simply because lack of belief may have resulted in despair or worse: mutiny against those who pull your withered old Coach’s strings, those unelected box office moguls who tug your old Coach by the bill of this faded and sweaty cap that you see is embroidered with the same three words I have implored you to utter without cessation inside your skulls throughout this entire travesty of a season, Fear Is Failure, and the sad but I-understand-crushing fact is that those who dictate our offseason maneuvers, our free agency positioning and our scouting-and- development programs, not to mention all of the on-the-field X-and-O type decisions, these select few individuals needed you to believe that you had some chance, that if you just pulled up the bootstraps, if you put your nose to the grindstone, if you wasted not and wanted not, if you focused on the task at hand, if you indeed left it all on the field just as I admit you have totally and completely left it all on this sweet-smelling field of earth and bluegrass on this deceptively sunny and brilliant Sunday afternoon, that if you did all of that Gentlemen, you would believe that against all odds and against all the lessons of your unstoried personal histories you could succeed. With that naïve optimism you Men have poured yourselves into this singular pursuit only to see, here at the twilight of your always-doomed and miserable careers, that you have never been in the same league as the opposition and that you are to them as fuzzy white bunnies are to grizzly-eating great-white sharks. And so now you’re no doubt calling up some recent memories, thinking, But Coach, we have played them before and we have been so close. In Scranton we went to double-game point. In Albany we took them to triple overtime. Out in L.A. we actually beat them, or would have if the ref hadn’t thrown that flag on the final play of regulation. To which I say, you poor washed-up suckers, the flag thrown on that final play is a metaphor for the entire ontology through which you mindlessly toil. There will always be flags thrown on the final play, Men, and should the opposition ever decide to go all out against you, 375–6 is roughly what you should expect, on a good day. Because they have something you flawed would-be champions can never have, no matter how many extra laps you do on the track, no matter how hard you work on your footwork, no matter how many weekends with your kids you sacrifice in pursuit of our shared goal of shared glory, no matter how many times you rise at 4AM to get in those ten sets of pushups and to endure those abdominal exercises I’ve heard some of you calling “Fatalities” on account of the deadly-seeming pain they instill in even the toughest and strongest-willed among you. What the opposition has, Men, is so simple and yet so central to everything. It’s the thing that kills the buffalo in its tracks. The thing that determines its own flight patterns in international airspace. The thing that assures that members of whatever team they back (and they will never back this team, Men, you can bet your kidneys on that) are armed with the bunker-busting nuclear weaponry that so unnerved us in tonight’s event. It’s the thing that drills for oil in arctic refuges, the thing that charges 29% interest, the thing that manufactures the shit we put in your Gatorade®, which fortunately for us all ought to be kicking in right about now. Let it go, Men. Aristotle once said that the life lived outside belief in belief would be strange beyond description. Let us not live that life. Drink deep, you fuckers, and then allow me to tell you about the training regimen we intend to put into place today with an eye toward next season, because I think we all know that with our continuing—nay, our ever-increasing—effort, we can get back here to this championship game and take that final step. I think that we all know that together, we can accomplish anything. I think we all know that if we believe, we can attain the Promised Land, we can live the Dream.