Seasoned, but not (yet) savvy
He is the most recognizable, the one with the most requested autograph, the one everyone wants to be like.
He is also the most vulnerable, most cursed, the most like a bug in a jar.
He is the quarterback.
He has no counterpart in any other sport. There are no plays constructed solely to inflict bodily harm on a point guard. There are no 4-inch-thick playbooks that a pitcher must memorize. There are no middle-aged, second-guessing sports fans sitting on the sofa who are referred to as "armchair goalies."
If the limelight were water, the quarterback would either sink or surf. No swimming.
He is the focus of the offense and also the defense.
He is a leader.
Whether he was born to lead is not relevant. Neither is whether he wants to. He must.
And he knows this, for he has chosen his position not by chance. He knows that in his spirals spin both love and hate. That in his bed sleep both the glory and the goat.
He learned this at a young age, maybe from some older male in his life, from his daydreams, or from his television. But he will never be feted until he fully embraces it.
Fortunately, this quarterback does embrace it, discovering himself through his shortcomings and long completions. And he is doing this comparatively early in his career.
Maybe because he plays in a pressure-cooker. Both the city and the state in which he stars expect him to immediately play like the legend he is following and save their football souls. That kind of stress causes major seismic activity, but it also makes diamonds from standard issue carbon molecules.
Or maybe because of his two-sides-of-the-coin performances. In just six games, he has appeared heady in some instances, and he has chased his tail in others. But by experiencing such extremes, one can come to realize balance by default.
Either way, the kid is special, and everyone knows it. Everyone knows that although his coach is an offensive wizard, this quarterback is the one waving the wand. But what most everyone forgets is that he has not always been the quarterback.
He is still an apprentice.
Just two years ago, this enormous talent, with blood so Kentucky-blue that it colors his eyes, was tossing footballs on a lower level... a level where neither football nor winning at football is nearly as important as it is here and now. And though he has spent his entire life preparing to get to the here and now, the here and now was still just an ambition back then.
So although he seems seasoned, he is not yet savvy. Although relaxed, still raw.
Hence, throughout this season, he is granted permission to be labeled "young." And so is his team.
Youth is not always a bad thing, but it is always a noticeable thing. Example: this past weekend's game.
Playing in unaccustomed weather conditions, the team faced an opponent of similar caliber. This game was particularly important to the quarterback and team because they (individually and as a unit) were coming off a feeble attempt at football the week before and needed to prove to people - mainly themselves - that they could recover.
But of greater importance was that, due to the tenacity of forthcoming opponents, this game was a must-win if they still wanted to realistically entertain post-season hopes.
Things, and the quarterback, looked good at the start, as the team jumped out to an early lead. The first-year running back was motoring along quite nicely and the defense was unseasonably solid.
But soon, offensive inefficiency, a missed tackle or three, and penalties (like penalties always do), caught up with the team. And the opponents, -the team in red, black, and white with their funny-looking bird mascot- retook the lead.
But all was not lost, as the quarterback had the ball in hand as time inched to its end. However, as you may have heard, he could make no last-minute magic on fourth-down, and his team lost - again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory - and fell to 2-4 on the year.
In post-game comments, the coach said, "I was very disappointed in the game. We had opportunities to do some things. We were in a position to win the game, but..."
The big quarterback, to be expected, was similarly despondent: "We had our chances to win, but we didn't. I thought we let that one get away, especially after we were ahead..."
But do not expect him to stay that way.
He is resiliency personified.
Whether he was born to be resilient is not relevant. Neither is whether he wants to. He must.
He is the quarterback.
And he will explore heroism-or-zeroism all over again this weekend. Look for him. He's the one in brown and orange, wearing #22... divided by 11. He plays on Sundays.
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