This One or That One

Another bit of writing based on real conversations.


Darnell Watkins and Elias Shoemaker had been in the press box for over two hours.  Watkins, the offensive coordinator, was swiping through a gallery of player headshots.  Shoemaker, the defensive coordinator, was guffawing and sighing at the portraits and summaries.  He was beginning to lose track of which Thomas was the cornerback from Notre Dame and which was the kicker from UGA.

“Just pick one,” Watkins urged.

“I can’t just pick one; it’s not that simple,” Shoemaker responded as he stood up from the chair and walked around to stretch his legs.

“Sure it is,” Watkins retorted, putting the tablet down on the table.

Shoemaker turned around and looked at the offensive coordinator, who, five years ago, was managing inventory in a shoe store at a mall.  Watkins had always enjoyed watching football, live and on TV, but it wasn’t the love of the sport that motivated him to enter the world of coaching for a professional team.  In the nearly four years that Shoemaker has also been on the coaching staff, he’s started to suspect that what drives Watkins is less about helping a mediocre team ascend to competitive, athletic awesomeness and more the desire to urge decision-makers to “pick one for the love of Odin already.”  Perhaps he was a good footwear associate in that regard.  Just pick one, you won’t be disappointed.

“Are you hearing me?”

“It isn’t that simple; I can’t just pick one.  There are other variables to consider.”

Watkins nodded and then pressed for more details.

Shoemaker looked down and then back up. “At this level, how good a player is on the field can be worked on and improved through drills.  What we need is someone who can make nice with the quarterback.  He can be a jerk, but he is the glue of this team.  The losses from last season were defensive missteps.”

Watkins gestured for Shoemaker to continue.

“What I’m saying is that I need guys who have their egos in check and can tolerate, even understand, the QB’s mood swings.  I am determined to find him the right group and finding this group takes time.”

“QB is a prima donna? Is that what you’re saying?”

Shoemaker held back for a couple of seconds before answering for whatever he said next would likely get back to said ‘prima donna.’  “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“He requires a particular sort of consideration of his personal space and his fluid states of mind.  So, the guys he will play most closely with will need to respect his wishes.  And, when he says things like, ‘not in my foxhole,’ he is left alone to do whatever he needs to do.”

Watkins scratched his chin.  “Not in my foxhole?”

Shoemaker nodded.  “It means, ‘don’t try to make me feel better when I’m in a rotten mood.  This ain’t any time for prayers.”

Watkins picked up the tablet from the table and loaded up the gallery again, scrolling through much slower this time.
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