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We lose the toss. That means I'll see action later rather than sooner. But what's this? The Monarchs fumble the opening kickoff! Dragon ball on the London 18. Just a matter of time now. Three plays later the field goal unit is called. I jog onto the grass at Wembley Stadium for my first play in three years, my first professional play ever.
A word here about London nosetackle Roy Hart. I doubt Roy remembers it, but we met in February, at the WLAF scouting combine. Even more than his build, which resembled that of a bank safe, Hart's coiffure had impressed me. He had several hearts shaved into the back of his head—a big heart, filled with several hearts in descending sizes.
Those hearts fail to make me think of love. Hart has been named to the All-World team. Now, as I bend over the ball and peer backward at my upside-down world, he is grunting and pawing the earth in front of me. Forget about him, I think. My whole world becomes the midpoint between the outstretched hands of the holder, Louis Aguiar. I whip the ball backward and am bludgeoned and then trampled by my old friend.
The partisan crowd roars with delight. I'd blown it. I wonder if the ball has stopped rolling yet—indeed, if it has landed yet. I picture our kicker, Massimo Manca, scrambling for his life, reprising the panicky dance of Garo Yepremian. I slink to the sidelines. Out comes Bicknell to meet me. "Good snap," he says. Aguiar mishandled it. It wasn't my fault! Being the team guy I am, I blurt, "Thank god!"
The field goal unit gets another chance at the end of the quarter. Another good snap, another good head rush as Hart clubs me over the medulla, driving me so far back that I nearly block the kick with my butt. Manca pushes the kick wide to the right. Mercifully, the kick is not replayed on Wembley's stadium TV.
Because we turned the ball over four times that day, we ended up punting only twice. Both my snaps were on the money. When the game ended, we had lost, I had hit no one, I had been clobbered twice, and I had played in my first, and, likely, last pro football game. So, why couldn't I stop smiling? As my pal Brent told a national TV audience, I would be getting $2,500, the loser's share—"not bad for a day's work." Not bad at all.
True, I'm back in Boston now, filling out crosswords and circling want ads. But my rent is paid through August.