By Carl Conrad
It was a quick pitch to the left. Manny sprinted to the outside corner of his team’s offensive formation as the play started to develop then Timon Carter, the quarterback, whirled and tossed a lightly-spinning pitch into his arms. Manny took it smoothly in stride, pushed hard off the cleats of his left foot in the damp, soft, green, grassy soil, and turned up field.
Manny had eyes that could see holes in the defense where there didn’t seem to be any and hips that could shake through tacklers like an otter squirming its way through the dangerous waters of a swamp. But, as he burst past the defensive end who lunged at his ankles and missed, something strange — no, something unbelievable — no, something absolutely impossible happened.
A linebacker hit Manny in mid-stride and cut him in half – not literally, as you might think, but actually! Manny’s legs continued to run in place for a step or two, but his torso was completely removed from his body, wrapped tightly in the now rolling, spinning, twisting tackle that had ripped through him as cleanly as a chain saw. Blood spurted like an oil well from the severed halves of Manny’s body, making the grass where his parts rested look like a butcher shop.
It wasn’t actually the force of the tackle that was so devastating, it was its speed. Like a flash of lightning, the tackler cut right through Manny’s body as if he were butter. There wasn’t even a sound it happened so fast, but Manny’s upper half lay twisting in a heap on the turf, still clutching the ball in his hands – while the life oozed from the corners of his lips like jelly oozing from a frosted breakfast roll.
There was a collective gasp of horror and astonishment from the crowd as spectators realized what had happened. The referees converged, tentatively and uncertainly, around the separated halves of Manny’s body, as they conferred.
Two cheerleaders fainted. Several players looked away. A horrified shriek sliced through the air like a Samurai sword as the crowd in the bleachers realized what had happened. There was a sickening grimace of revulsion that froze the moment between two judgments – was this a great defensive play, or a vicious, deplorable, criminal attack?
All eyes turned to the linebacker who had delivered the fatal blow. There was no expression of regret or remorse on his face, only the rage and defiant stare of a zealot. He even turned and yelled something to the opposing team with an uplifted fist as they clustered together and looked at him.
“We’re the Panthers! We play rough,” he boasted as if oblivious to what had just happened. “Anybody else wanna carry the ball?”