Coaching the Nerd (Nerds Vs Jocks #2) - Eli Easton
“Go back! Go back! Go back!”
Go back to what? my brain queried. Simpler times? Home? The starting line?
Or perhaps to the moment before I volunteered to be on the Alpha Lambda Alpha flag-football team. Yes, let’s go back to that, please.
Guys scurried around the large open field next to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, baseball diamond. I studied their movements but could discern no rhyme or reason to them, and, therefore, they were difficult to emulate. There was so much stopping, and then there’d be what looked like a random melee. I’d read the flag-football rules online, so I knew the focus was on the football and the flags that were belted around our waists. But surely there must be more rules to this game than the three-sentence description that was given to me.
The group scattered like a flock of birds startled into flight, and then they were heading right at me.
I turned and attempted to run away.
“Ooof.” A body collided with mine, and I staggered. I glanced to see the flag-football team captain, Tray Blackstone, scowling at me.
“How the fuck are you always in the way?” he demanded rudely, his lip curled. He ran on, half-backward, looking into the distance.
Well, if he was running in that direction, perhaps I should as well?
Wait. Wait. I saw the ball now. A guy named Rex had it and was weaving as he ran.
Should I go after him? Was he on the opposing team? Well, that seemed like relevant information, didn’t it? I should have been apprised of who was on what team. Printed rosters, perhaps, could be distributed at the start of each game. Or colored shirts distinctive enough to visually distinguish Team X from Team O? They likely had that for league games, but since this was a practice session, everyone wore ordinary clothes, mostly layers of sweats and thermals on this rainy, muddy February day. Surely it wasn’t only newbies like me who would benefit from some team-identifying apparatus?
Oh dear. I was the only person left standing in this entire part of the field. Everyone else was down near the goal at the south end. I jogged in that direction, trying my best to locate the—
“Sean! It’s Sean, right? Are you just gonna stand there all day, or are you gonna play?”
I looked at the huge guy jogging toward me. I knew his name was Bubba, though probably everybody on campus knew that. He was distinctive among the student body for his bulk—had to be at least 6’5” and closer to 300 pounds than 200. His head, with its closely shorn dark hair and beard, loomed above everyone else on campus. I’d heard his booming laugh coming from the ALA’s front lawn on nights when they had parties over there and I had my window open while studying. He’d never looked at me before, though, and he might have been scary jogging toward me except that his brown eyes were friendly.
He stopped a few feet from me and put his hands on his hips. “Sean, dude, you gonna play?”
“Yes. Well. I was just trying to figure out exactly what I should be doing. To play the game, I mean. It’s rather fast-paced, isn’t it? And no one explained the, er, teams.”
He got a befuddled look and rubbed his palm over his hair. “Um. Okay.” He glanced down the field. He was sweaty and glowing in that robust, athletic way. He looked as if he belonged here like a cell swimming around in its native habitat. Feeling as out of place as I did, I was envious.
“So, look, Sean, all you gotta do is prevent the other team from getting to the goal with the ball. Only instead of tackling them to stop ’em, you grab the flag out of their belt. Someone grabs your flag, you have to stop, and you lose the ball. And that’s all you need to know for now.” His thick fingers flipped one of the plastic blue flags on the belt he wore around his waist.
I pushed up my glasses. “Yes, thank you. That sounds like essentially what I read online. But I’m unclear which of these players is on my team. What if I accidentally take a flag from the wrong person? I imagine they’d be quite put out.”
He blinked at me for half a beat then laughed. It was a head-back full-belly laugh that sounded almost musical. “They’ll be quite put out! Ha ha! You’re funny, Sean!” He knocked my shoulder with one