A GOOD EMOTIONAL RELEASE.
Friday, 8 September 14 NG. A thick fog permeated the humid late summer as floodlights illuminated nearly ten thousand animated and raucous fans brought the metal bleachers of the decrepit faded concrete neo-gothic seating bowl and the green ivy brick walls of Pioneer Stadium to life. Most clad in Everton’s navy blue and silver colors, contingents of students, faculty, alumni, parents, and other spectators enthusiastically waved white towels above their heads in unison as they prepared to usher in the start of a new football season.
According to Everton legend, Pioneer football game attendees are treated to one of society’s great ancillary benefits: the ability to view the DRF’s most iconic light show, complete with flashes, synchronized glowing lights, and occasional fireworks. The other is the view of the multi-colored New York skyline and Manhattan Needle behind the world’s first holographic scoreboard.
Twenty minutes prior to kickoff, nearly then thousand people began to experience this great ancillary benefit when thousands of flashbulbs popped as Pioneer Stadium’s most famous legend commenced: a simultaneous up-and-down jumping ritual, known colloquially as “the Pioneer Pounding.” Unlike most years, however, the first Pounding of the 14 NG season was interspersed with screaming chants of one name:
JESS-E! JESS-E! JESS-E!
Underneath the brick arched tunnel to the right of the student section, fifty-two Pioneer players, clad in navy-blue jerseys with white numbering and lettering, plain silver helmets, silver pants, and black cleats, began their imitation of the Pioneer Pounding, drowning out spectators’ cheers and jumps like an orchestral crescendo. Meanwhile, a fifty-third member stood still, behind his teammates and coaches, disinterested in the sacred ritual taking place in front of him, a moment not lost on VIPs observing the players.
“We’re counting on you, Jesse,” said a grinning Pete Harrison, a lanky former Everton defensive back clad in a tuxedo with a navy-blue bowtie and cumber bund.
Fearing small talk from media and dignitaries, Jesse reluctantly replied “thank you, sir,” to Everton’s Principal, and the first African-Freedomian to hold a top administrative role at Everton.
“Be swaggerific, son,” Harrison countered. Jesse scoffed at that term. He considered it a byproduct of the DRF’s embrace of cheap entertainment.
As Harrison stepped away and began jumping with the rest of the players and coaches, a few reporters began filming Jesse with their ultraphones. Keenly noticing, Jesse began a noticeably half-hearted Pioneer Pound, but immediately ceased his charade of enthusiasm when one reporter asked: “hey Jesse, do you think Kevin Jacobson and Brianna Beau will divorce?”
Jesse gave the reporter an exasperated look, and retorted: “what do I care about a celebrity couple? You do know we’re at a football game, right?” Jesse, bowing his head as a self-defense tactic to ignore further questioning and suppress pressure, rebuffing the reporter as he stepped forward toward his teammates.
Unfortunately, the aura of the pressure Jesse already felt began to weigh on him again when two more Everton alumni wished him good luck: Tyler Miller, quarterback from 1 NG to 4 NG, leading Everton to three championships, and former linebacker D’Quan Larson, who set a national record with thirty sacks in a season in 7 NG. He did not respond to either Pioneer dignitary verbally or with eye contact.
Keenly noticing the distress on Jesse’s face, Stacy stepped in front of Miller and Larson and squeezed her nephew tight, allowing him to temporarily relax. “I’m so proud of you,” she wailed with tears forming in her eyes. Jesse then wrapped his arms around his aunt’s replica number seven jersey with J. Maith stitching, thanking her.
Shortly after, Bob approached his nephew and patted him on the shoulder. “Give ’em hell, kid,” he said. Jesse ignored him.
“Chin up, sweetie,” Stacy said. “Just remember, McDermott couldn’t catch a cold. Jackson will be open all night.” Stacy then released her arms from Jesse, and she and Bob stepped back as Mary approached and embraced her cousin.
“Good luck,” Mary pled. “Just be safe!”
“I don’t need the luck, Mare,” Jesse spluttered.
“Just relax,” she replied.
“I’m not nervous about how I’m going to play. I just…I don’t understand why this means so much to people. We’re just kids. I am only the quarterback here because I have the physical tools and the smarts. All this pressure, all this expectation…it’s making me not love football anymore.”
“So why are you still playing?”
“Because it’s still a good emotional release, plus, if I quit the team, I’ll probably get expelled.”
“Well, at least go out there and win it for me and Matt? I mean, Matt needs to protect your blind side, so I probably wouldn’t tell him what you just told me. If it’s any consolation, I’ll probably be reading Bionic Boy comics during the game so…heck, I really don’t love football, either!”
Jesse let out a slight chuckle and smile. “Thanks for lightening my heart, Mare.” Shortly after, Matt departed the team huddle and skipped toward his cousin and sister.
“LET’S GO!” Matt shrieked, then vigorously wrapped his arms around Jesse’s shoulders, eliciting a smile to light up his baby blue eyes. “YOU READY FOR THIS, CUZ?! YOU READY?!”
Matt’s enthusiasm inspired Jesse to relax without feigning. No longer distracted, Jesse’s competitive sporting instinct overtook him. He opened his mouth as wide as physically possible and let out a primal scream that echoed throughout the player’s tunnel. Mary, Bob, and Stacy watched with pride and collectively grinned and held each other.
“YOU READY?!” Matt cried.
“LET’S GO WIN!” Jesse roared.
“MAITH! THE BIG ONE!” shouted Everton’s head coach, Chick Lowe, a bald, husky fifty-something with a snowy, trimmed goatee, from the end of the tunnel. “YOU’RE NEXT! LET’S MOVE!”
“Excuse me, fam,” Matt gleamed as he pointed at each member of his family, “time for me to take my place in the spotlight!” He sprinted back to the front of the line, then listened as the public address announcer boomed over the loudspeakers: “AT LEFT TACKLE, STANDING FIVE-FOOT-NINE, A FRESHMAN FROM NEW HACKENSACK, PLEASE WELCOME…NUMBER FIFTY-THREE…MAAAAAATTTTTTT MAAAAAAIIIIITHHHHH!!”
“YAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” Matt screeched as he sprinted out of the tunnel and on to the forest-green field to the tune of thousands of cheers.
Meanwhile, Jesse closed his eyes, clapped his hands, and mumbled to himself: “let’s just get this stupid thing over with.” Shortly after, the crowd roars became deafening, nearly drowning out the announcer. “AANNNNNDDDDD…AT QUARTERBACK…SIX FEET TALL, A FRESHMAN…FROM NEW HACKENSACK…PLEASE WELCOME…NUMBER SEVEN…JESSSSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEEE...MAAAAAAIIIIITHHHH!”
Jesse’s ears began ringing as he sprinted on to the field. He could not hear himself scream even as he focused on the wall of flashbulbs popping in front of him. When he was greeted by his teammates, he reciprocated their passion and enthusiasm without pretense or phoniness. “LET’S GO YOU PIONEERS! CHINS UP! LET’S MOVE!” he screeched.
Riding this wave of emotion, Jesse led Everton to a resounding 55-7 win over Paramus, throwing six touchdown passes on 578 yards passing. After the game ended, Jesse painstakingly ignored the flashbulbs, cheering, and a tidal wave of chatter from swarms of bloodthirsty reporters and made a beeline, with security escort, toward the players’ tunnel. When he was finally away from public view, he was passionately greeted by Matt, who squeezed his cousin like a little girl squeezes a stuffed animal.
“WHAT DID I TELL YOU, CUZ?!” Matt yelped. “THAT WAS TOO EASY!”
Jesse, meanwhile, had exhausted his enthusiasm. When he absorbed himself into Matt’s arms, he instead produced an exhilarated frown while catching his breath, as if he were relieved to be off the field.
“Take me to Jackson’s party,” Jesse asked Matt with an asserted glance. “I think I could use it right now.”