Brice McCain, Antwon Blake And The Opening To My Great American Novel

I sat somewhat uncomfortably in my chair until it was my turn to speak. Finally the moment arrived and I said, in an unsteady voice, “Hi my name is David. I like Brice McCain and Antwon Blake.” I know you are now expecting me to say that I then felt as if this huge weight was lifted off me. Nope. Didn’t happen. I just tried to smile. One of those forced, fake smiles that one adopts when hoping for reassurance and acceptance. There was a knowing, collective recognition amongst my eleven peers sitting in the circle. They didn’t gasp in horror as do so many—particularly the ones who can turn to a Revis or Sherman for support. Those people, they’ll never fully, truly understand. When I was young I didn’t understand. I could tell this group was different, hardened. They knew the hell I had been living and what it took just to sit here and stumble through those two sentences. In unison they chimed “Hi David,” smiling back, offering false hope. The leader welcomed me and asked me to share my story.

I am not special. Mine is not an unique story. You may even have lived it or something like it. At first I could handle things. I started on Blount and Shell. Those were the heady days of my youth. I felt indomitable. I moved on to (Rod) Woodson as one did in those days. I was in my prime. Sure I had my moments, but the Woodruffs seemed okay. I wasn’t in too deep. Or I didn’t realize it. I probably started questioning myself when I liked (Ricardo) Colclough a little too much. But even then I had a young Troy that I could turn to to make me feel good. It just seemed like a passing fad. I wasn’t missing work. My girlfriends still tolerated me. But then The Game changed. Rather suddenly. And things started to go downhill. As I said, you know the story. You’re probably thinking the words before you read them. The refrains are all the same. It almost feels silly to catalogue it. A lack of funds for a Keenan Lewis, then gambling with a stake on the promise of a Cortez Allen. Curtis Brown peaking as a special-teamer. Terry Hawthorne and Shaquille Richardson offering hope, but each just another torn up lottery ticket on the elusive trail to a successful pass defense. What finally brought me here, here to Rock Bottom? One too many slugs of Old Ike Taylor. I couldn’t even find comfort in Troy, once my sweet elixir. When you read it, it’s easy to see how one arrives at Rock Bottom, almost like it’s a paved highway. Trust me it’s harder to recognize during the trip. But still, I ask myself in those quiet moments, when it’s just me, not yet back on the stool slumped over the next glass. Am I wrong? Am I wrong to like Brice McCain and Antwon Blake?

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