This short story is a response to the article, “Joe Medley: Football a ‘religion’ around here, but not ‘a God thing” published in the September 20, 2010 issue of the Anniston Star. Also, see “Medley needs lesson in faith,”a letter to the Editor regarding Medley’s article.
By Laurie Charnigo
It was Leroy’s third visit, during the human month of September, with the Supreme Coach, a.k.a. God. On his way UP, a million thoughts raced through poor Leroy’s mind; “why won’t Mark Richt listen to my advice?” “Why is Saban such an ungrateful stick-in-the-mud? I make it all go Nick’s way. Third game into the season and I give him the luxury of playing his fifth string and still, no smile. I mean, the way he yelled at those boys during halftime. And telling the broadcasters, for every woman and child to hear, “our defense is playing like shit.” Gonna lose points with Supreme Coach for that one.” And that damned Chizik calling Auburn’s win “a God thing.” That nut had to go and run his mouth. Put my whole career in danger.
‘Course the Anniston Star couldn’t just let the “a God thing” comment go unnoticed. So there it was for the whole National Collegiate Athletic Angels Administration (NCAAA) to read in the Monday morning news “Joe Medley: Football a ‘religion’ around here, but not ‘a God thing.’” “Supreme Coach, Almighty!” Leroy swore. He’d spilt his coffee in the Huddle House as he read the whole ridiculous piece. The trouble those SEC coaches and that pesky Alabama newspaper always got him in….”
“Leroy! LEEEE ROY!” The Supreme Coach, wearing neither red, orange, blue, purple, green, yellow, nor any other color that might represent the spectrum of earthly college jerseys in existence, sat at his desk with a large file, labeled “LEROY” splayed out before him.
Emerging from the labyrinth of his jumbled thoughts, Leroy bowed before the Supreme Coach.
“Leroy, how long has it been since I promoted you to Patron Saint of the SEC?”
Feeling disgraced and still harboring ill thoughts towards the Auburn Coach for the mess he’d gotten him in, Leroy mumbled, “’bout three years Coach.”
“Leroy,” Supreme Coach fanned himself with a stack of documents from the file before slamming them on the desk. “You were thoroughly briefed on your angelic duties, WERE YOU NOT?”
“Yet since your promotion, you’ve been in my office for no less than seven deadly sinfractions. But this, Leroy….” God pulled the whistle- blowing Anniston Star news piece from his desk and waved it in Leroy’s face. “This threatens the entire 2010 season for your southern flock.”
Leroy’s head snapped to attention. “But Supreme Coach, no! Please let me explain. I mean what about all the jobs I done well.”
“I’ve done well, Leroy,” corrected Supreme Coach. “You’re not way down there anymore, boy.
“I’ve done well,” muttered Leroy. “Like when Tebow was crying those big ole tears last year. Did I not wipe them? Was not my heavenly presence felt among even the most drunk Alabama fans that they too were moved to feel sympathy for the fallen quarterback? And was it not me who blackened “John 16:33” under Tebow’s eyes for the whole jumbotron- watching world to bear witness?
“No Leroy,” interrupted Supreme Coach. “Tebow wrote that Psalm and you know it. Now, let’s review some of these NCAAA violations, shall we?” Supreme Coach opened up the file and pulled out a memo. “Hmmm. Ah yes, how about violation number six?” Remember why they slapped you with that one?”
Leroy shook his head, looking ashamed, but chuckling silently inside. “Oh yea. That was bad, Coach. While wiping Tebow’s tears away, after Florida lost to Bama in the 2009 SEC Championship, I accidently hummed “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” in his ears.”
“Wasn’t a very angelic gesture on your part, was it? Especially, your giddy emphasis on “we just beat the hell out of you.””
“No Coach.” Leroy fidgeted with his wings. All the sneaking about, lying, wheeling and dealing, and general disobedience was starting to make them droop and feel mighty heavy.
Supreme Coach pulled out a second document from the file. A hint of a smile crossed his face briefly until he cleared his voice, obviously struggling to remain serious. “And how about the time Florida was running up the score on some little FCS team and you played that silly prank?” Supreme Coach’s voice cracked a little, as he tried to choke back a laugh, “Remember when you lined up those poor Gators in “Angel Wing” formation.” ESPN had a field day with that one; “Urban Meyer’s new razzle dazzle do-what???” they called it. Poor Meyer passed out cold from embarrassment.
Leroy chuckled. ‘Good times, Coach, good times.”
“Say Leroy, I’ve been meaning to ask you a question. You know I have a lot to take care of what with the whole Cosmos and the anti-Cosmos, and you know I SEE everything, I KNOW everything, am EVERYWHERE all the time, but occasionally- and this is just between the two of us- I have been known to nod off after a tiresome full-scale catastrophe every once and a while. And, anyhow, I missed one of the games last year and need to know- just for the records, naturally…”
Leroy perked up at the thought of Supreme Coach sleeping on the job. “Sure, Coach. Shoot!’
“The 2009 Alabama- Tennessee game…it’s about that suspiciously miraculous so-called “maximum block.” Did you have anything to do with…”
“No way, Coach!” Leroy exclaimed. “That was all Terrence Cody! I swear!”
“No swearing, son!”
“Sorry Coach. But even if I’d wanted to make that happen, I couldn’t. Don’t you remember? Prior NCAAA violations got me all banned from them Tennessee games. Had to call in the PAC-10 Patron Saint to substitute. Holy Moses, was that embarrassing.” Leroy began to snicker.
“What’s so funny?”
“We’ll see how pure and innocent Mr. Patron Saint of the PAC-10 is going to come out of this season, now that he’s got that devil of a coach, Lane Kiffin, to deal with.”
“That’s it!” yelled Supreme Coach. “I’m giving you one last chance, Leroy, and if there’s any more meddling or unsaintly behavior, I’m demoting you to Division II women’s basketball!”
Leroy froze as he stared at Supreme Coach with eyes big as saucers. “Dear Lord, no! Anything Coach, but not…oh no…no…no!”
‘It’s up to you,” spoke Supreme Coach in a softer tone. “But let this be your last violation. The NCAAA knows you meddled in the Auburn- Clemson game. You hate Auburn so you made them sweat it out to the very end. But since they’re in the SEC, and that’s your conference, you abused your saintly powers to divert Clemson’s final field goal attempt. That’s your seventh NCAAA violation.
Furthermore, and what really has us in an uproar, is that this was such obvious interference that even Chizik was on to you. He KNOWS. And now the Anniston Star is snooping about and people in the South are starting to debate MY role in football. You represent me, boy. I trusted you. The people must know that I play no role in football, whatsoever; not in National Championships, not in regular season games, not in the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, recruitment, rankings, and especially, overtimes. Now, Leroy, let’s go over your duties as Patron Saint of the SEC one last time, shall we?” Supreme Coach tapped his great big shoes in annoyance.
Leroy yawned and, without the least bit of enthusiasm, mumbled, “My job as Patron Saint of the SEC is to be present during group prayers and motivational speeches; to comfort the mothers of football players when their sons are sacked, tackled, and carted off the field in stretchers; to lift the spirits of the band to carry on even when their lousy teams are down by 40 points and all the fans have split; to never take “Hail Marys” literally, and my most important duty is to remind the fans that football is…um, well that football is just…I mean that one should not take it so… um…” Leroy’s voice began to quiver and tears formed in his eyes as he tried to muster up the courage fanatics of his sort so severely lacked.
Supreme Coach reached into Leroy’s file and pulled out a signed photograph of a man in a houndstooth hat, leaning against a goal post. “Quick!” yelled Supreme Coach. “Who’s God, him or me?”
Instinctively, Leroy cried “The Bear!” as he attempted to snatch the photograph from Supreme Coach, the one he’d smuggled into Heaven years ago. But Coach quickly placed it back in the file. Leroy fell to his knees and began to cry, having, once more, failed God’s test. Having fumbled, if you will, his very soul. “Please forgive me, Supreme Coach. I know I ain’t no good as an Angel. I don’t even know why you made me one, seeing as I don’t deserve these here wings. I know you are God and that “The Bear,” well… he was just an earthly football coach- a damned good one- but, still, just a man, an ordinary angel here now in Heaven, but I just cain’t stop….”
“Don’t worry, Son.” Supreme Coach patted him on the shoulder. “One day, Leroy, you are going to burn that photograph. Yes Ma’am! Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. And you won’t think twice or look back. You’ll open your eyes and behold this paradise I’ve created for you, you’ll feel the love of your ordinary non-ESPN- watching angel brethren, you’ll feel the freedom of no-competition, and wonder at the smallness of human football, especially college football, which is easier for you guys to knock than it is for my fanatical flock who follow the pros.”
Leroy shook his head in agreement, looking somewhat calmer as he walked out of Supreme Coach’s office. But deep down, all Leroy could really think about was the upcoming Alabama-Arkansas game. That Ryan Mallet was a damned good quarterback and he could spell disaster for the Tide’s defense. Leroy sighed, hoping he could just get through another game weekend without racking up another NCAAA violation or drawing more attention to the “God in football” debate. More than anything, he needed to keep a low profile and stay clear of Mr. Eugene Chizik, who, apparently, was sensitive to supernatural forces. Go figure.
While Leroy spent the rest of the day forming giant “Roll Tides” out of super heavenly fluff clouds, Supreme Coach sat quietly in his office studying the photograph of “The Bear” from Leroy’s file. Coach shook his head with pity, as he thought “Poor Leroy. Someone sold the ole boy a fake. Doesn’t look a thing like my handwriting.” At that, he grabbed a bottle of whiteout on the desk, covered up the phony autograph, and signed it “To Leroy. In Faith and Fumbles, Roll Tide.”