I know when I’m dreaming. I’m in my bedroom. It is dark. I flip the light switch profusely. Nothing happens. I walk to my nightstand covered with books I’ve read over and over. When I try to read the lines, the words belong to another language.
I am dreaming now.
The walls in my bedroom break into pieces and collapse. The floor shakes. My body feels weightless, and I start to float in the air. When I look down at my feet, I no longer see the hardwood floors of my bedroom. My feet stand above cold, beige, tiled floors. I recognize this floor: they belong to my high school.
When I look up I see a man at a desk. He appears thin, and in need of a meal. He had a long, large nose and baggy skin. The gray fedora hat he wore blocked his eyes. As I approach him, he does not look up from his desk. Instead, he is leaning down, writing diligently in a notepad.
“That’s funny!” I said to myself. “I have the same green pen and paper at my desk.”
When I take a seat in front of him, he begins to communicate to me. Though, I don’t know the language he speaks, I understand the meaning clearly. He is advising, and giving me details. He speaks quickly. I start to worry I can’t keep all the information in my head, so I ask him to put his pen down for a moment. But he continues to recommend. I worry some more.
And then it happens again. The floor shakes. The walls around us collapse. After I blink once, I open my eyes to endless blue. I am standing above water. All around me is endless ocean. My feet begin to sink. I panic.
I run towards a small fishing boat not too far away. The old man is on the boat, again, hunched over writing.
“Help me,” I plead to him while coming over the boat. I take a seat and continue: “I’ve done everything I could for the team. I’m not sure what else I can do! I am… well… I don’t know. You must help me! I know… I know who you are. You’re Coach Tom Landry.”
“And?” Coach Landry replied calmly, still writing.
“You must help me! I want you to help!”
The Coach giggles.
“You want help, like you want to win. You go back to your players and staff, and ask them to want to win. You have them fill their balloons with this ‘want’ of winning. You ask for an extra pep in their step. You ask for swagger, exuberance, and calculated confidence. But on the first day of the week, you lose over and over. The balloon you create is easily pricked by a pin. And then by design, you go home to your family for a good meal and drink. Your players do the same — they can’t fill this want, so they spill over other wants until satisfaction is felt.”
“I don’t understand,” I replied, crossing my arms.
“Jason, I didn’t want to win, I needed to win. Anybody can want to win. Not everyone needs a win.”
The waves around us slap the sides of the boat; it wobbles. I feel like we would tip over at any moment.
“Visitors,” answered Coach Landry, barely moving his lips.
When I look over the boat, I see sharks. Circling the small boat, they swim in groups. And then slam! The tip of their noses, one after another, strike the boat.
“Do something Coach! Stop writing for once and look up! Do something!”
But Coach Landry continues writing. He appears calm, as if this attack was an experience he had before. And then finally, the waves calm. So did the shark crashes. I can breathe again.
“How can you stay so… so, calm after that? Doesn’t that bother you the slightest?”
“Yes, it does, actually. But you’ve got to keep up the work. Either you work, or someone else will for you. Besides, the sharks will always be there. In fact, they’ll be back. Well, others like them anyways.”
In the distance, I hear voices. Voices of men, women, and children. The voices grow louder, and drown the voice inside my head. I cannot comprehend what they are saying, though, I know I don’t like it much.
“Shut up!” I screamed, looking in the far distance at nothing but ocean. “Shut up, all of you. Just shut up! Who are they Coach? Tell them to stop! Who are they?”
“You already know the answer to that, Jason.”
I can’t stand the old man any longer. I really want to yank the pen from his anemic body and throw him over for the sharks to feed. At this moment, I resolve to hate him.
“Give me a direct answer for once! And… and I’ve asked you already! Help me! But all you do is write and write. You crazy old man! Help me!”
Once again, the Coach sits writing. When I look down at the notepad, it is blank. But he continues scribbling. I ignore him for a bit and calm down.
And finally, the Coach speaks: “Jason, I lost more than I won.”
“That’s not true,” I said laughing. I add: “You’re Coach Landry. You’re the winner.”
“Well, a lost always outweighed a win. I’ve lost more than I won. I understood this. I accepted this, just as I accepted this: the better team does lose. Anything can happen on the field. Be ready, always. You must respect the game and its elements. When you can respect the seconds in the game, the direction the wind blows, your opponent, players and staff, you’ll be able to place yourself for success. Even if you aren’t the better team.”
“I don’t understand Coach. I have so much to ask. I have so much… so much I want to know.”
And then boom! Another boom! The sharks were back. This time, in greater numbers. This attack was different: With every strike of their nose, the ship shrank.
“Coach!” I yelled, fearing for his life.
The boat grows smaller and smaller with every collision. In a moment, we could be in the water with the sharks. I did not scream, or panic. I sit there, waiting. I watch the Coach write.
Strike. Boom. Boom. Slam. Slam. The boat had one strike left until we fell over. Then Coach Landry, without looking up, whispers:
“Just keep writing, Jason.”
I never see his face. I blink. When I open my eyes, I see the ceiling of my bedroom. It is dark. My feet touch the cold hardwood floors as I make my way to the light switch. I flicker it, and the lights turn on.
I rush down the hall and pass the bathroom, where I would normally wash my face and do a good shave. I dart down the stairs, grab my jacket and car keys. The air outside is cold. The sky has an orange glow. The light from the sun barely kisses the grass. My neighborhood is empty. I jump into my car and rush down the streets.
I can’t wait to get to my desk. There is work to do.