April 7

A Sporting Apocalypse

(continued from April 6 entry)

 

Having your dreams crushed at an early age helped readjust your priorities.  No longer an Olympic hopeful, you concentrated on your studies, graduated cum laude and secured a well-paying job, developed many close friendships.

Among your friends, however, you tried to steer conversation away from sports.  As you argued, one’s favorite team was usually arbitrary — affected by birth city, an inexplicable liking for a particular player, affection for a uniform color or a cartoon mascot.  And yet (you’d say), once that arbitrary choice has been made, “your” team’s success can become all-consuming, as if winning is a matter of life or death.  You get emotionally invested in something that has no meaning.  Right?

Friends would nod, and you knew some of them agreed with your logic.  Some of them still wore a football jersey on casual Friday.

All of them are gone now.  The super-flu wiped out 99% of the population.   Society has pretty much crumbled.  No job, no friends…

But sports, unfortunately, remain.

The reason?  Only the youngest and healthiest could outlast the illness.  Basically, the athletic types.

The new competition is part boxing, part jousting.  Combatants improvise weapons from scavenged metal and glass.  Crowds form a wide circle, essentially creating an improvised arena.

A residue of your daily childhood training kept your body strong enough to make you one of the “lucky” spectators.  There’s no money, so nobody has placed a bet — but people guessed about a fighter’s agility; considered what damage a modified lacrosse stick might cause versus, say, the brutal strength of a concrete block.  They chose a favorite, rooted for him or her to win…even though it shouldn’t matter at all.

The crowd continued to cheer at bloodshed.  Their priorities were wrong, just as yours had been during your days of obsessive practice, your futile childhood dreams of Olympic stardom.

We’ve already lost, you want to shout at them.  The game is barbaric.  People are slowly killing each other, for sport, finishing the job of the illness they survived.  Look at how that lance sweeps through the air, barely missing the woman’s head…  Look at…  Look…

And, my god, the way she ducked the attack, her body twisting in the air with the grace of a swan, her long blonde hair flipping above her head, stray strands tangled in the weapon’s glass teeth before she pulled away and countered with a forceful kick.  There’s actually beauty here.  A beauty you’ve missed for so long.

You’ve picked your favorite.  You cheer her on to the end.