“6’6”, 245, musclebound,” the doctor said. “Seems you’re ready.”
Andrew stepped off the scale and looked at the doctor. The New Orleans CyberStalkers will be lucky to have you.
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Andrew said. He grabbed his shirt and stretched it over his wide frame.
“Don’t look so down Andrew. You’ll be making millions in a few weeks. You know, this might not be what you planned for your life, but your parents will be so proud!” The doctor said, in a failed attempt to cheer him up.
“Yeah, I’m sure they will, what with the 4 PhDs behind them and the meek salaries they command. I hate playing ball. It seems so, brutish to me.”
“Brutish it may be, but it will definitely get the bills paid and make your life a bit easier.”
Andrew shrugged at the thought of it. Getting tackled and hurting others for money, he hated it, but it was what he was good at. Not through working at it like athletes used to do back in the day, but through sheer planning and given affinity skills.
Andrew called his ride from the office, he was never able to pass the written portion of his driving test, so, he settled his feelings towards having to be driven everywhere for the rest of his life. As the tiny car pulled up, he waved at the driver and stepped towards the door. He squeezed in the car and sat uncomfortably in the back seat.
“Hi, I’ll be your driver today. The names Sean. Please, let me know if you need any adjustments on the way to your destination.
“Alright, thanks. I’m Andrew and I definitely will.”
“Wait, Andrew? As in THE Andrew Coernell?”
Andrew sighed. Ever since the drafts he’d been recognized everywhere. “Yep, the one and only.”
“Woah! Big fan, man! My mates and I watched you in the draft a few weeks ago! You were brilliant! Knocking those dummies down like it was no big thing!”
Sean prattled on about sports and how he played football in high school, but never did very well as his parents put a lot of his skill points in his self-confidence box.
“You know, I envy folks like you! I could charm the pants off just about anyone, but when it comes to sport, I’m about as useful as a ham on hockey rink!”
“Yeah, well, at least you can still do most things you want. I wanted to be a chemist when I was younger. Like my father, but, nothing ever made sense to me. Almost all the skill points my parents gave me were in strength and speed.”
Andrew could see Sean’s brow furrow. “Chemist, huh? That’s an interesting choice. Never had much of an affinity for that myself. Mostly cos it’s boring. But you know, someone’s got to do it,” Sean said. “Well, here we are. 1835 Winterbury court. This your place?”
“Well, officially owned by dear old mom and dad, but yeah I live here. Anyway, have a good one Sean. See you round!”
“Wait, wait! Could I by chance get your autograph? My mates won’t believe I drove you!”
“Sure,” Andrew obliged. He grabbed the pen and photograph of Sean’s children and wife, and signed it. His signature was sloppy, barely legible, but still, unique. He handed it back and watched as Sean stared in awe.
“Thank you, so much Mr. Coernell. Really appreciate it.”
Andrew waved Sean off and headed toward the two bedroom condo he shared with his parents.
“Hi, Ma,” Andrew said to his mother who was seated at the kitchen table staring at a complex set of mathematical equations and a philosophy book.
“Oh hey, Andy. How did the physical go?” she said keeping her nose buried deep in the equations.
“It went well, as expected.”
“That’s good, Honey! So, when’s your first game? Your father and I want to make sure we don’t miss it! We want to clear out the schedule.”
“Thursday, at the Megadome. You know, you guys can come to it. Y’all get free tickets.”
“Oh really? I didn’t know that. I’ll tell your father when he gets home from the lab and we’ll see about making the trip on Thursday. You should really see about getting that hair of yours cut. From what I know about football, long bright red hair running down the field doesn’t help a whole lot.”
“Honestly, Ma, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Plenty of guys in the league with long hair. I’ll just be another one of hundreds.”
“Alright, if you say so,” Andrew’s mother replied.
Andrew waded through the thick swampy air of the apartment and headed to his room. He stepped in and began removing all the science fiction posters, and chemistry articles he’d loved from the wall. He thought there was no sense in continuing to admire this thing. This thing that he could never be. All because his parents had been selfish. They thought about their own needs when they decided to have him. 18 years of work for a good payoff his dad would always say.
He crumpled up the posters and tossed them in the trash. He laid down on his bed and started scrolling through his phone. He looked up articles of himself and what everyone said about him in a futile hope that it would make him feel better. It didn’t. It hurt. Few knew of his own desires and wants. They saw him as entertainment, and the worst part is, that his parents hadn’t even had the idea of giving him a boosted self-confidence to deal with all of that. They were so focused on making him the strongest, fastest man they could, that they completely neglected his mental health.
They somehow got it in their heads, that a pale, shy, red-headed boy would make the ultimate athlete. In some sense, Andrew had guessed they were right. He was the only undefeated high school football player in the nation. Whatever team he played on never lost a game. But every game he played felt like a personal loss for him. A loss of self. A loss of his own dreams and desires. He found himself dozing while he struggled to read the articles and think pieces the sports columnists had written about him and soon was passed out on the bed, phone in hand.
Five practice days came and went, and Andrew excelled in each and everyone. His coach and teammates seemed to be elated with his practice performance at the new starting quarterback. The move to make his starter was highly unusual for the team and in fact, for the league, the news said. “To bench the current starting quarterback in favor of a new, untested, rookie is reckless.” Rafael Williams had said on his daily sports review show on the NSR [National Sports Review] station. After being invited to watch Andrew practice however, and Rafael quickly changed his opinion. “This guy really is something special,” Rafael reportedly said.
It was Thursday evening and Andrew and the team were in the locker room, getting suited up for what would be their eventual win. He grabbed the black and green helmet from the locker and prepared to head out to the field to greet the fans in the massive stadium. Overhead, he could hear the announcer.
“Introducing: The New Orleans CyberStalkers! Led by rookie Andrew Coernell!”
Andrew started a slow jog onto the field, followed by the veteran wide-receiver Jesse Snow, and Coach Harding.
“And also introducing the Atlanta Terabytes! Led by 3-time Super Bowl winner Yao Jameson.”
As Andrew waved, he saw his mom and dad near sidelines, waving their CyberStalkers flags, cheering for him. He guessed that now their investment would pay off. Both starting teams met up in the middle of the field and coin toss was done. “CyberStalkers Receive!” The referee said. His echo reverberated throughout the Megadome. Andrew steeled himself for a tough game. Atlanta was the leading team in the league, but he was going to do his duty and make sure he fulfilled what his parents decided he should do. He was still a good son after all.
The 1st quarter came and went without a score between the two teams, they were deadlocked. Andrew snapped the ball and Passed it to Jesse Snow who ran it in for a touchdown. The dome screamed with excitement, and Andrew could feel that excitement on his skin. His hair stood up. Excitement began to overtake him. The latter half of the second quarter began, and Andrew handed it off to his running back who ran 30 yards to the endzone. The score was 12-0 and Andrew was fuming. It would be 14- 0 if their kicker hadn’t been so terrible.
Andrew sat on the sidelines watching the defense fail at every turn. 2 touchdowns were scored in the 3rd quarter, and, their kicker made both field goals. 12-14.
Andrew lined himself up behind the line. He faked a handoff to the running back and ran to the endzone himself. “I’ll be damned if I let this team ruin this win for me,” Andrew thought.Again the kicker failed. 18-14.
The first half of the 4th quarter was rather uneventful. A bunch of failed plays from the Terabytes, a few missteps from the CyberStalkers offensive line and the score remained the same. 18-14. “We’ve got this. 40 seconds left on the clock.”
The Terabytes called a time out, freezing the clock and Andrew headed to the huddle. Coach Harding began to speak.
“Listen, boys, 40 seconds left. We can’t screw this up. I’m calling a 23-counter backside reverse. Let’s win this game. Go home showing Atlanta what’s what. Y’all ready?”
“We ready!” the team shouted. The trepidation could be felt throughout the stadium.
Andrew lined up behind the line for what he hoped would be the game winning play. That’s when he noticed a slight shift in the defensive lines structure. That’s it, he thought. He needed to call an audible into a 42 counter. He spoke in his mic to the coach and informed him of the plans. Andrew called the new play change, allowed for his teammates to shift, and snapped the ball. He handed it off to the running back and thought his job was complete. And that was when he saw him. The hulking lineman: Jameson Rawlins. He tackled the running back so hard that Andrew was sure he was concussed. The football flew through the air and the Terabytes lineman grabbed it. Rawlins zoomed towards the end-zone. 40 yards to a touchdown with two seconds left on the clock. The CyberStalkers were finished. 18-20 final score. The CyberStalkers lost. Andrew lost.
“This is a fucking disgrace!” Andrew yelled to no one in particular. He snatched his helmet off and threw it to the ground. And that’s when he saw him. Jameson Rawlins. Widely celebrated lineman in the league, and also, the guy that ruined Andrew’s win.
Andrew went barreling towards Rawlins. The stadium became silent to Andrew. He tackled Rawlins, taking him down to the ground and began a flurry of punches. Teeth flew from Rawlins’ mouth, blood ran down his face, and he was unresponsive. His face was swollen, and by all measurements, Rawlins was dead.
Andrew couldn’t take it. The one thing he was made for and he failed. His teammates swarmed him and he fought off all of them and headed towards the sidelines where his parents sat. “Why did you make me do this! I failed even thought you made me be perfect for this! Why!” he screamed. He saw his mother draw back in fear and his father step in front of her as if he could protect them both.
Before Andrew realized what happened he felt a searing pain in his chest. He stopped dead in tracks, looked down at his chest and noticed the blood. He looked around and saw the police officer standing in shooting pose with the gun still smoking. Andrew fell to the ground.
1 Week Later
“I’m Sharon Le Carre, and welcome to Channel 6 Nightly News. Today we bring you the tragic story of Jason Rawlins and his murder at the hands of rookie star quarterback Andrew Coernell who was killed during the ensuring brawl.. An official autopsy determined that Mr. Rawlins’ cause of death was officially determined as blunt force trauma to the head. Some have decried this as proof that Ability selection of children is inherently dangerous ans Mr. Coernell abilities were chosen by his parents. Critics of this perspective say that this was just a random anomaly and shouldn’t be viewed as the standard throughout the industry of genetic manipulation. Government officials seemed inclined to agree as senators and congressmen from Louisiana have declined to create a bill to tighten regulations regarding the skill ability manipulations procedure. More on this at 10 tonight.”