The door seems to open itself, and I’m thrust through it, the resentful stares of my teammates pushing me from behind.
Gus, the security guard, stands in the corridor feigning surprise at my appearance. But his eyes tell all, and he gives his head a shake, tsk-tsking.
I race out the back, heading for the arched pedestrian bridge that crosses over to the parking structure. But my feet freeze to the concrete when I get there, as just below I see the line of Zebras making their way their way off the field, disappearing under the walkway one by one.
Last in line is Heartless Hawkeye. Of course.
Nothing gets by that guy. Nothing. And he makes his calls without the slightest note of emotion, a sort of Joe Friday, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
Most everyone calls him “Hawkeye,” but I added the Heartless. Just now, in fact.
I pull the bill of my cap down, flip up my jacket’s collar, and duck my head. Can’t let him see me. But as I start up the incline, he slows, then stops. He seems to take a long look into the crowd ahead of me, then his eyes light up, and he raises a hand.
The last time his hand went up like that, a yellow flag landed at my feet. “Offsides, number fifty-three,” he called out.
The flag might as well been a baseball bat; it knocked me to my knees. Though the Bucs had been marching down the field, eating the clock in the process, we’d finally stopped them at the forty, just outside their field goal kicker’s range.
There were four seconds left. We were up by two. They had no choice. They needed three points. So they lined up for the kick.
I knew the quarterback’s rhythm. I was sure of his count. At what I thought was the right moment, I jumped, determined to cut through and block that kick.
But I was off, and Heartless Hawkeye doesn’t miss a thing.
It’s only five yards. We’re still good, I told myself, despite my teammates’ glares.
The ball, uncaring of my dilemma, sailed through the goalposts, sending the Bucs to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, I’ll probably be traded to Buffalo.
I hate the snow.
A woman with light, straight-cut hair and a big smile, steps to the rail and waves enthusiastically. “Andrew!” she shouts.
So Hawkeye’s name is Andrew, eh?
“Hey, Mom,” he calls back, a boyish grin breaking across his face.
Which, of course, strips away my “Heartless” moniker.
I guess I was offsides yet again.
I drop my head even lower, if that be possible, and head for my car. Maybe I’ll get used to the snow...