I used to get excited for game day. It was part of my life long conditioning. Everything led up this day. But no more.
The game has changed. No longer is it about our individual skills. No longer about our speed, our strength, our cunning.
No, the fans crave more. They crave carnage.
These musings swirl about my mind as I sit on the bench in the locker room. Elbows on my knees, head hanging low between my shoulder, long sinewy fingers clasped between my knees. The rest of the team has left the locker room to gather in the tunnel. Some hip hop or grunge metal song blasting from the arena’s speakers. The song has nothing to do with the team, or our mascot. Its whichever record label paid the most to have their music featured during this week’s game.
As their leader, I should be out there with them, offering words of motivation, encouragement, esprit de corp.
But I feel none of that. I feel dread.
I was built to lead, to throw laser straight spirals to lanky receivers. To hand off the ball with the deftness of a fine ballerina, all the while making it look like I kept it for myself. My body was just the right combination of motor skills, reflexes and control to lead a winning football team.
None of that matters now. Now it’s about the carnage.
Fans by the thousands are stacked into the bleachers, over a hundred thousand most games. Viewers by the millions tune into their cine-walls and VR rigs to watch from home every Sunday. Not to see the best team win, but to watch the players get carried off on auto-gurneys.
My game ended early last week after being impaled by the horn of the Minnesota team. What a ridiculous accoutrement! Vikings of old did not have horns on their helmets. Yet that team clings to the silly accessory.
I stand and run my hands along my torso, feeling out the new plating that covers the wound. In the process I catch my reflection in the glass wall that is the coach’s office. My eyes glow with their own light. My blue composite skin freshly polished for todays game. Upon my head, a representation of the Continental army’s tricorne hat. Its edges razor sharp. My shoulders are broad with two-inch red spikes ringing the edge of what should be shoulder pads.
Everything about my plating is an outrageous representation of the team’s mascot and designed to inflict maximum damage. Some of the team’s mascots are so innocuous that their arsenal is more than a stretch.
The Philadelphia team has razor sharp wings protruding from their backs and those positions allowed by regulation have hooked beaks on their faces for tearing at the opponents’ plating. The LA team emits high voltage electrical shocks when tackling. The Arizona team’s mascot is so harmless the best they could come up with was razor sharp talons in place of their fingers. Most every team has spikes of some sort all about their plating.
I look at the line of them running down the back of my calf as I turn to my locker. This year, our management added a new weapon. I reach into the locker and pull out two tubes about the length of my forearms. That is where I attach them, then connect the fuse wire into the socket provided. They fire fifty caliber musket balls. Oh, the uproar when management introduced the idea to the NRFL rules committee.
The first offensive weapon that could wound an opponent at range. At first the rules committee was going to shoot the weapon down, but the networks loved it and agreed to fund the shielding that would protect the mostly inert fans.
Yup, they loved the prospect of attracting a whole new set of blood thirsty fans.
These games are more like the old Roman coliseums than a modern football game.
“Danteen 11, get in the tunnel,” I hear the coach call over my internal radio.
Resignedly, I check my servo fluid levels, noting the crimson color. The color of blood. We may not be human, but we sure as hell better bleed like them.
Slowly at first, I walk to the tunnel, clicking over subroutines in my processor, trying to get my game face on. With each run I feel the rage grow; my energy levels swell. By the time the team is in site I am sprinting down the tunnel, eyes blazing red, the piped grunge metal drowning out the sound of my alloy feet pounding the concrete floor.
It’s game day!