Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

3:33 Sports Short #63 // Calvinist Football by Zachary Allard

My father suffers from a rare neurological disorder, and he's in pain every moment of the day. For most of his life, he was a proud working man, collar blue to the skin. He bought used pickups and changed the brakes himself. There were times he worked as many as four jobs. Today, he's on disability, and there's little else he can do than sit in his chair, feeling trapped.

And every Sunday, he watches football. He reads about The Dallas Cowboys during the week. He knows the names of the players and we talk about them when I call home.

*

Football is popular as ever but it's choking on its own crimes. Billionaires use public funds to build stadiums and take the profits for themselves. The game damages its players, often leaving them broken with chronic neurological damage. It fosters a winking culture of abuse where performance is the only accountability. Yet people keep watching--I keep watching--even though the game is mired in something that might have been called evil in another age.

*

By his own admission, my father wrestles with God. He fears the Lord in much the same way his grandfather did--a primitive baptist preacher who saw his twin girls choke to death in the Dust Bowl. Evil is tangible in their world.

His body is racked by neuropathy. The mylar around his nerves is disintegrating and they're raw as exposed wires. Neurological pain consumes my father yet he feels no qualms about football. It all kills you, he tells me with a wink.

*

There are still flashes of beauty. Odell Beckham Junior catches a pass with one hand, flying backwards. In instant replay, it's dance. After a game, their heads steam and their bodies are flawless and otherworldly as armor.

*

My Puritan ancestors were afraid. The universe was a thicket of evil and they shuddered because their hands were dirty. Fear and trembling were part of a goodly life because they believed they were tainted. One day, they would be called to account.

I own clothes sewn by children. My phone was built in a factory where workers kill themselves. I went to a college built on the backs of slaves. And my tax dollars will pay for a shiny new NFL Stadium near my home in Southern California.

*

My father can't sleep at night because his hands and feet feel like they're burning. His eyes are glassy with fatigue. Yet on Sunday, he hollers and claps. He has a bourbon and snoozes at halftime. He wakes up, and we drink another. I'm happy he's smiling. He turns the sound up; Two men collide with a crunch. Blood slick beneath their noses, they totter to the sideline. First down, my dad cries with gusto and we cheer. He clutches my shoulder; his grip is weak but warm. The Puritans are gone, I tell myself. It feels good, and we watch the next play.

Yet I can't help but shudder.   


Zachary Allard lives in Los Angeles where he work works as a script editor. His feature-length script, "Lodestar" was recently accepted into the Beverly Hills Film Festival.

Categories: