On Saturday, December 2, I found myself in Chase Waller's house watching lots and lots of college ball. Devoted Bagpipe readers may be familiar with Chase for his critiques of other people's movie reviews and other highly influential pieces. At halftime, Oklahoma was beating T.C.U. 24-17. I had very few thoughts on this. Already two bratwursts in for the afternoon, I spent halftime in a semi-catatonic state enjoying the pitter patter of conversation on both the front and back porch.
Time oozed along, beyond my notice, until a hulking red form came into my periphery. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield stepped into view, the rotting wooden floor boards creaking under his 220 lbs. Experts call Mayfield this year's definite Heisman winner, and non- experts call him a total douche.
“Baker Mayfield! Well hey, shouldn’t you be listening to your halftime pep talk right now?” My voice trembles from the fear that the elite athlete has overheard some of the unmentionable names I’ve called him and may wish me harm. But lo, he smiles and thumps the tar out of my shoulder, and my guilt wanes.
“Hey champ, you catch my T.D. to Andrews in the first quarter?”
“Of course!” I almost shout. I pause self-consciously, before gathering myself and continuing: “But I’m having a hard time enjoying your wonderful performance. I can’t relax and enjoy this game knowing that the fate of my favorite team will be decided later tonight. I’ve already borrowed and worn through three of Chase’s t-shirts, due to incessant, full-body sweating.”
Silence. I’d been staring holes through my sneakers. When I finally look up, I find Baker Mayfield’s eyes brimming with tears. Big, fat tears. “You poor, precious boy, you know so little. You are too young and too foolish to know any better. Will, football is not about football. It’s not about winning or losing. In no time at all the earth will crumble back into the abyss, and no one will give a rat’s donk over who’s made the playoffs.”
“I don’t understand. Aren’t playoffs and bowl games what it’s all about? And how are you so much wiser than me, aren’t you my age? And, no offense, aren’t you kind of an idiot?”
Baker chuckles demurely. “Child, I am not Baker Mayfield. I don’t even exist. And no, no, not at all. Rose and Cotton and Grass? None of the bowl games matter. What matters are the friends, rather, the boys. The boys in this house who fill up both porches and every inch of available couch space. Enjoy these games, but do not fret over who will win and who will lose. If you cherish the memories you make with your friends, you have already won.”
Suddenly a monstrous fart shakes me to my core. My friends are once again gathered around the T.V., watching the kickoff sail across the field to start the second half. I realize the big, fat tears are mine.