An independent journalist since the 1980s, Flammang
Tales of Travel and Back at Homeby James M. Flammang
Stan was not a fan. Sports fan, that is. Things would have been easier, a lot easier, if he was. But growing up, he was one of those kids who was always chosen last when picking sides for softball, basketball, whatever.
For good reason, too. Stan stunk. Throw a ball – any kind of ball – in his direction, and you may as well have tossed it right at the ground. Because that’s where it would be, in a moment.
Not that Stan was the only misfit in the neighborhood, when it came to sports. One difference, though: he just didn’t care. The others were hurt by all the taunts from the athletic crowd. “Butterfingers.” “Loser.” Plus a few cruder terms as the boys grew older. More than once, Stan had seen his best friend Greggie run home, almost in tears, after a game – stabbed by those pre-teen and teenage verbal assaults.
But Stan? He just didn’t give a shit, if you’ll pardon the expression. Sports? Not for him, that’s all, whether as a participant or a watcher. He always had better things to do than sit in front a TV with his eyes glued to some game or other.
Otherwise, his high-school life had been fine. He got good grades without struggling hard. Hardly at all, in fact. A couple of good-looking girls seemed to like him well enough even without any athletic exploits to brag about. He danced reasonably well – even the fast ones – and had his own car. Who needed a little round object or a slab of wood to make their life more complete?
As might be expected, the sports fans got even more intense as they hit their late teens and edged into the 20s, finished school, got jobs, started families. Most of them stopped playing themselves, but directed that excess energy into their role of all-out, our-team-first fans.
They knew all the players on the city’s teams, as well as the university competitors. They had all the statistics memorized. Some of them had season tickets for one team or another – at a price that almost caused Stan to lose his breath. Or his lunch.
“Can you believe it?” he said one morning to his deskmate, Randy – another non-fan. “Harold came up with over two thousand bucks for a season ticket. I mean, you could buy a pretty good used car for that.”
Stan had been surprised to see how many non-fans there were in the office at Argos Publishing. Half a dozen, at least. Other places he’d worked, he had been the only one. As far as he knew, anyway.
The idea came to him at an opportune moment, just as he’d tossed a wadded-up sheet of scrap paper toward the wastebasket across the aisle. As it hit the rim and dropped inside, Randy let out a snarly cheer. “Go, Stan,” he called out. “Do it, Stan.”
Stan stood up and took a mock bow, raising his hand to quiet the crowd of one. “All in the wrist,” he declared with a modest nod of his head, loosely waggling his hand at the wrist – the wrong hand, actually – to demonstrate his prowess.
Actually, he had to admit, he was surprisingly good at tossing paper balls into the wastebasket. Why, he couldn’t imagine; but for whatever reason, he hardly ever missed.
In a matter of seconds, the whole scenario came to him, like a jolt to the brain when witnessing an accident. Teams. Tournaments. Maybe gambling. Prizes, too. Except, only the non-sports would participate. Jocks and fans? Out of luck.
He loved it.
Maybe the fans would just scoff and sneer, derisively snorting: ”Yeah, look, a game for losers only.” Then again, maybe not. Maybe they couldn’t resist being part of a new sporting event, even if it didn’t meet the usual criteria.
Especially if they had gambling. Stan knew for a fact that a couple of the fan types were heavily into wagering. Some of them bet on everything, it seemed, from football to horses to cards.
Still, was he the only one who was good at tossing the paper ball? If the other non-sports couldn’t get it near the basket, the whole idea would collapse.
They’d need a contest, for non-fans only. Surreptitious at first. Let out only a few hints that something was happening, so they could retreat if need be. If some of the non-sports needed guidance, maybe he could try and advise them on how to shoot more accurately.
Stan almost laughed out loud at that one, causing several heads to turn his way. Imagine, him, Stan the non-fan, coaching a group of players. His overbearing – even cruel – high school gym coach, who’d given Stan a hard time every single day, would faint away if he could ever see such a turn of events. ...
Note: This story is intentionally incomplete at this point, intended to serve as a sample.
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