Mack appreciated his role as the defensive play caller on a winning football team. He felt he had truly earned this honor by enduring eight years of violent, gridiron battle. On game days, he would always look forward to adding maximum energy to each testosterone-filled collision that he encountered on the field. Off the field, Mack’s incessant scowl would similarly offer evidence that he “cut” others little slack.
Last season, Mighty Mack had begun to notice that his mind would stray otherwise from the field of action. Much younger men than him seemed to rule with gladiator bravado, having less concern for the brute physicality of this game. In fact, he now sensed that time might be running out for him as a dominant presence in this competitively demanding career. Cortisone shots in his aching shoulders before each game would ease the physical pain but could not silence such mental anguish. Recent stories about early onset, brain disease among retired players added to his increasing anxiety.
During training camp, Mack received cold news that he had been traded to a new team far from his home state. Allegiance to the past meant little now as he pondered how his value in this new environment was measured to be no more than the late round draft choice that he was offered for so dispassionately. It seemed that family and friends suddenly meant more to him than his exorbitant salary.
Predictably, Mack could not will himself to be silent under such circumstances. He knew that any attempt to “dog it” on the field would bring immediate calls to “cut him” during preseason. If personal protest was needed, then it made sense to make opening day the target. The stage would now be set for Mack to go AWOL from his new team and send a message of defiance against such disrespect of his talents
On the eve of the first game of the regular season, Mack knew the familiar, road game ritual. Team meetings would end early and a player curfew would take effect overnight. With each player banished to their hotel room, Mack would now scurry out on the street without being watched at midnight. Booking an early morning flight on his I-phone, Mack would soon escape from his inner pain by finding refuge at home. His mind would finally find peace in this vital form of protest.
Boisterous Mack would never again play the game of professional football; the game he truly loved. The bone-crushing hits that he had endured as a player would mean a future life of stiffness and pain. Yet Mack would find new success in raising two children successfully, staying married , and later passing the bar to become a dedicated lawyer in this country. Past glories on the football field seemed so unreal to him now to be replaced by the sweetness of a much more settled mind.