Shivering in Virginia Parker Young
On a Saturday night somewhere in Virginia, in the middle of the game against the fourth-ranked Orange Team University, Maroon Team University’s quarterback, no. 8, begins visibly shivering — afterwards, some will say it was a seizure, others will say a panic attack, and still others will take the medical staff’s official post-game explanation at face value: he was cold — and on the next play, from shotgun formation, he misses the snap. The snap isn’t bad. He just misses it, probably due to his shivering plus whatever else is happening to his psyche. The ball grazes his left shoulder pad. A horror is unfolding, a horror which has nothing to do with football, by the way, and the football grazes his shoulder pad, fluttering awkwardly to the turf, while no. 8 shivers and lets the horror unfold. The football field is like a cemetery and he really is cold. The ball is loose, but he can’t remember how to behave or what the ball signifies when it’s on the ground, on the grass of the cemetery, and this is what disturbs us, the viewers, most. We will never be certain what we do is right. No. 8 can’t remember what to do, he can’t remember why he’s shivering, and worst of all, he can’t recall a single detail of his life up to this point, which concerns him, because it means he could be anyone. And anyone else could be him. After the play (fumble recovered by Orange at the Red 25), it takes a heroic mental effort for him to walk off the field, onto the sideline with his teammates. He shivers. Nobody touches him. On the field, all the tombstones are lining up. Not a single person joins him on the sideline; nobody wants to talk. No medical staff, no coaching staff, no teammates. He shivers and sinks into his shoes.
Thirty minutes later, one of the student trainers walks with no. 8 through the tunnel, into the locker room, where for some reason the lights are off. They can’t find the light switch. The trainer stumbles around in the dark, muttering, looking for the light switch. The trainer curses and turns on his phone’s flashlight to scan the walls. No. 8 has two thoughts at once. I’m dying. No I’m not. Did someone move the fucking light switch? says the trainer. It used to be right here.
Let’s watch the play again. Before the snap, the slot receiver and the boundary receiver each eye one another for an extended period of time. Then, at the moment the ball is snapped, they make the exact same move off the line, an ineffectual double jab step and spin which can’t be anything close to what the coaches drew up. Don’t we all live in the same world? And aren’t we all becoming more like one another with each passing day (although we must pretend to embody the opposite effect)? In summary, something mysterious happens to the slot receiver and the boundary receiver, they accidentally mirror one another, and meanwhile no. 8, the quarterback, is lost and seeing tombstones. He needs somebody to mirror. That may be the root of the problem. The game is over at this point. Orange is up 21 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Angry fans begin to leave. Days later, when no. 8 announces his retirement from football, many of the same fans are overwhelmed by a sense of cosmic well-being which is difficult to explain.