categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour
Monica Wood is today’s special guest star. She is the author of Any Bitter Thing, Ernie’s Ark, My Only Story, Secret Language, the Pocket Muse series for writers, and the forthcoming When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine.
VINCE WILFORK, C’EST MOI
Football, like all sport, teems with metaphor, boasting a long, tedious tradition of Teaching Young Men About Life. Agony, ecstasy, teamwork, character-building, yadda-yippity-yadda. But for those of us who are a) already built, characterwise; b) old enough to have absorbed our allotted portion of agony, thank you; or c) female, football is all about the glam and glitter of the offense.
Behold the snap, the hike, the bullet pass flying straight to the steely midsection of a wide receiver! Behold the gorgeous spirals! The gazelle-like runs! The circus catches in the end zone! No wonder these guys get all the glory, all the press, all the endorsements, all the girls. The quarterback and his posse: bestsellers of the Astroturf. For them the crowd chortles, it caws, it spills its beer, it waves many misspelled signs. What’s not to love?
Well, nothing, come to think of it. It’s just that, as a midlist American author, I love the defense more. Especially the lowly, laboring, monster-size defensive tackles. Overfed and underpraised, they lumber out to the line of scrimmage all game long, snap after grueling snap. Their numbers tend to run together. They do not show well in spandex. But they know their job, and they do their job, which is to thwart the opposition by annihilating whatever unlucky human form stands in the way. They perform a single job that’s more complicated and painful than it looks. Just like us. And like us, they dream of one day finding the ball in their hands (hey, it happens) and running like a water buffalo all the way to the end zone before one of the gazelles catches on.
Although my team, the New England Patriots, possesses arguably (I said arguably!) the best quarterback in the history of the NFL, is it Tom Brady to whom I raise my humble eyes when searching for a consoling literary metaphor? No. The J-Franz of football, sleek and strong and cute as the dickens, is not my guy. It is the defense to whom I turn, the defense from whom I discern the putative life lessons to be found in sport.
It’s a little late for me to become a quarterback of American letters. Let’s just say I “blew out my knee” years ago. (Oh, wait. That part’s not metaphor.) When in need of solace and inspiration—as I am now: floundering, out of ideas—I look to a certain sweet-faced, supersized DT for all the lessons I require.
Vince Wilfork. Vince the invincible. The round mound of get-down.
My Vince, who groans into position, reads the offense, and then roars up, like a pissed-off hippopotamus, to clog the gap and otherwise harass the pretty boys on the other side, often steamrolling 700 pounds’ worth of offense at one go. He eats his Wheaties and also quite a bit of sod. He moves with the grace of a kitchen appliance strapped to a dolly. His job is repetitive, punishing, inglorious, low to the ground. How he manages to breathe in there I cannot comprehend.
But here’s the thing. He loves it. Which is why I love him. The maestro of mayhem plays not for the glory (a shirt with his number cannot be found in my local sports shack); he plays for the guts, for the grind, for the love of the game.
And so I say unto you, fellow tacklers of words: Channel your inner Vince! Published or not, shiny-faced beginner or sour old vet, you have within you a 350-pound nose tackle ready to push off, helmet first, into the fray. Now get your lazy ass out on that “field” and write! You can! You must! Because, in the words of the unvenerated number 75, “Every game, it just git harder.”