Now if you've ever been to a Harvard football game you've seen all those ridiculously dressed big bastards pounding their heads together and fighting for that stupid ball but you were there to see the band anyway and you got tanked up with your roommates at the barbecue lunch and you really couldn't make out any shapes so you just kept screaming unintelligible epithets about opposing coach's mother and then you passed out. Go Harvard.
Well, while you were inflicting cruel and unusual punishment upon your liver about sixty guys dressed in Crimson were going through a ritual known as "playing football." People ask football players "do you play football," and football players answer, "yes, I play football," but unless you've "played football" you really don't understand what an incredibly complex ritual "playing football" is.
It begins on Friday evening. After you've gotten all your chores out of the way so that you can concentrate on the game you put some psych up music on the stereo--most guys play heavy metal types like Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin but personally I'm fond of the Nutcracker Suite, in fact before one game I danced a makeshift ballet to Mr. Tchaichovsky's classic in my underwear but that's another story--and imagine that you're annihilating your next day's opponent. It's a mystical experience.
You then stuff yourself with an Elsie burger or some other piece of junk food and then, about 11:00 p.m. you go to sleep because coach told you to get lots of sleep before the game. No matter that you haven't gone to sleep before two and the guys across the hall are having the biggest party of the year and your bed is positively vibrating from the blasting music and you can't shake the images of annihilating your opponent that you were conjuring up earlier and there's absolutely no way in hell that you're going to get to sleep before four in the morning; you still go to sleep at 11.
The next morning you wake up, with your eyes feeling like they wree lined with sandpaper and about 9:30 you head on up to the Varsity Club for the pre-game meal. I know all you uninitiated think that the football team dines on juicy sirloin steak but you are so, so wrong; Mario, the V-Club cook, serves up a plate of scrambled eggs that look like those rubber gimmicks that you lay on the floor to gross out the girls in the sixth grade and with that comes your "steak," a sad old piece of meat that chews like old shoe leather, so you don't eat much of anything and you are already so nervous that you really weren't hungry anyway.
After breakfast you retire to the poolroom to pass a little time because you don't want to get to the fieldhouse too early because then you have to sit around forever waiting for the game to start and you just get too nervous when you have to wait around. The problem is, no matter how many games of pool you play and no matter how long you stall going down to the fieldhouse, you still get there with six million hours to go and you have to sit around waiting and getting nervous anyway.
You get down to the fieldhouse about eleven and head for your locker to get your things together but there's nothing new in your locker, you've seen it forty-seven thousand times and it smells about the same as well, and the guys that work down there have put your uniform in it so you can't pass any time doing that so you head into the training room to get taped up as a last resort. You ask around to see how long the lines are at each taping table and you try and worm into the line for your favorite trainer. (There's always one trainer who isn't quite as popular and although you don't know why he's not popular--a tape job is a tape job--you don't get in his line because you figure there must be some reason there's nobody in his line. I always felt sorry for that trainer though I suppose he didn't mind not having to work as hard. Well, you wait in line and then get taped and after what seemed like four hours you look at the clock and only twenty minutes had passed since you first got there.
You then look for some place to hole up until the pregame meetings with the coaches. Some guys sit on the head for an hour and a half, some lay prostrate in the hallways and others hide among the lockers. (I like to lay on the electric gurney cart that they use to cart off players injured during practice but some guys are superstitious and would rather not have anything to do with that cart.) You then head for the meetings with the coaches and there your coach goes over all the things you had prepared for the game. But by this time you are so damn nervous that you can barely listen and you even get the suspicion that the coaches are nervous because they don't really notice that your mind is a thousand miles away. They just keep talking because they feel kind of helpless when the game is being played so they just keep talking trying to do that one last bit to get you ready.
After meetings, you head on up to the lounge on the second floor to wait for the coaches to give a little pregame talk before you head on out for warm-ups. You wait, and wait, and wait...and finally in comes the head coach. He tells you it's all there, that you have the tools you need to win the game, and all that's needed to take the game is the effort, the heart, the will; the pressure is on and the throat gets dry and then its "go get 'em" and you're running out to the field.
As you grot down the steps of Dillon fieldhouse you put on your helmet so the fans can see how tough you are and you puff up your chest so they can see what a big mother you are and then you're in the stadium; the sounds coming from the stands are reassuringly loud and the grass feels thick and lush and you finally
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