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My father hurries out the door. I feel a heaviness in the center of my chest. What happens to me, to my father, to my mother and my three siblings, if I lose my father's life savings?
I've played under this kind of pressure before, when my father, without warning, has chosen an opponent and ordered me to beat him. But it's always been another kid, and there's never been money involved. This thing with Mr. Brown is different, and not just because my family's life savings are riding on the outcome. Mr. Brown disrespected my father, and my father can't punch him out. He needs me to do it. So this match will be about more than money. It will be about respect and manhood and honor—against the greatest football player of all time.
Slowly I become aware that Mr. Brown is watching me. Staring. He walks over and shakes my hand. His hand is one big callus. He asks how long I've been playing, how many matches I've won, how many I've lost.
I never lose, I say quietly.
His eyes narrow. Mr. Fong pulls Mr. Brown aside and says: Don't do this, Jim.
Guy's asking for it, Mr. Brown whispers. Fool and his money.
You don't understand, Mr. Fong says. You are going to lose, Jim.
What the hell are you—? He's a kid.
That's not just any kid.
You must be crazy.