As we prepare to enter into the All-American holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday, I think back fondly to the naivete of my youth, in which I thought pro-football was a pure sport that celebrated incredible human athleticism. Fast-forward a few decades and I’m now disgusted at the incessant branding and advertising fueled by corporate greed, immoral treatment of the League’s players, and overall lack of human decency on display by the owners and managers. Gladiatorial combat never went extinct, it evolved. This story is a look ahead to what the future of football might one day become.
In the winter of 2045, during the first week of the GenXFL playoffs, the defending champion Mile-High Marauders soundly defeated the upstart Kalamazoo Killers 57-2. The lopsided the score was not the story that drew international attention.
The game, which would come to be known as the “Massacre at Mile-High”, became a watershed moment in shaping league policy. It featured a heroic performance by severely injured Kalamazoo quarterback Brett Cannon, two on-field murders accidental deaths, and a nationwide manhunt that left four civilians and two State Troopers dead. What follows is an edited transcript of the post-game press conference with Kalamazoo Killers head coach, Bruce “Belt-Check” Grable.
[Coach Grable enters the room]
Coach Grable! Coach!
That game really got away from you there. Any comment?
How’s Cannon’s arm?
[Coach Grable takes the podium and raises his hands for quiet]
Grable: I’ll get to all your questions in a minute, but before I do, the Denver State Troopers have asked me to read a prepared statement to the viewers out there, especially those in the vicinity of the stadium:
As you’re likely well aware, our starting linebacker Justice McEllevan escaped confinement during tonight’s game. His whereabouts are currently unknown and he is the lead suspect a person of interest in the murder accidental deaths of two individuals. He should be considered extremely dangerous. Those of you within a 10-mile radius of the stadium should stay inside, lock your doors, and call 911 should you see anything suspicious. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to apprehend McEllevan by yourself as he is a highly trained and potentially lethal athlete. Any questions?
Any word on the identity of the two victims?
Grable: One appears to be our linebackers coach, Rob Dwyer. He’s normally the one responsible for locking up McEllevan in his safety cage between changes of possession, but he was found decapitated next to the empty cage. I’m not sure of the other victim and it’s not my place to speculate.
Wasn’t McEllevan already on work release from his imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend?
Grable: First of all, that case is on appeal and I won’t comment further on it. Secondly, yes, the on-field cage was a condition of his release into our custody for his good behavior.
It helps that the judge on his case is an old college buddy of yours.
Grable: It doesn’t hurt. Go Mustangs!
[laughter from the crowd]
Are you at all concerned that this monster of yours is out there among innocent civilians?
Grable: Does anyone have a football-related question?
What’s the status on Cannon? He took a helluva shot on the first snap. Do you think it was wise to keep him in the game?
Grable: Look, he wasn’t dead.
His arm was torn off.
Grable: Yeah, but it wasn’t his throwing arm. If it had been, maybe my decision would have been different. It takes at least a quarter for the musculoskeletal reattachment grafts to set and we didn’t have the luxury of time. We slapped a league-approved Piston Fire artificial arm on him and he was right as rain by the next set of downs.
Do you think the weight differential threw his accuracy or his timing off a little?
Grable: That’s a moot point now, anyway. He’s in surgery and should be good to start rehab tomorrow. The fact is this: Cannon’s our starter and he gave a damned Greek god’s performance out there tonight. We had a lot more fall apart on us than just our quarterback’s non-throwing arm.
Would you lay the blame more on the offensive or the defensive side?
Grable: Hell, both. You can’t win games – especially not a playoff game – when your offense doesn’t put up a point and your defense turns to Swiss cheese. We could have survived Cannon’s injury, but that blown call by the refs – taking that touchdown away from Turner by saying he didn’t maintain control to the ground – that was a killer.
What’s Turner’s condition?
Grable: Oh, he’s dead; snapped his neck in three places in that mid-air collision. I don’t fault the Safeties for that, though; it was a clean hit. But can’t you cut a guy a break for not holding onto the ball because he’s dead before he hits the ground?
[Grable shakes his head]
Some might say your players retaliated against Referee Tom Daniels for that call.
Grable: I’d invite them to say that to my players’ faces then. It was a textbook hit on Daniels.
… but Daniels wasn’t wearing pads…
Grable: Look, Brixby got confused. You all know Teddy’s head ain’t quite right these days. [laughter] The point is, if Daniels couldn’t take the heat after a bad call like that, maybe he shouldn’ta bin on the field in the first place.
He has a broken back. He might never walk again.
Grable: Well, there’s always the Nice-and-Fuzzy League. He can ref there from a motorized scooter on the sidelines. They take quitters of all kinds.
On the defensive side of things, what’s going on with this John Smith guy? He came outta nowhere!
Grable: Yeah, Johnny’s one of our young guns, an up-and-comer. Put our only points on the board, so that’ll go on his highlight reel.
Back in training camp, the only John Smith on the roster was a 5’8”, 130-pounder who could barely lift a football let alone take down Boost Jones, the Marauders’ all-pro running back. Now he’s a 6’7, 350-pound monstrosity. What happened to this kid?
Grable: Johnny originally signed on for the latest round of our GenX program, and it’s worked wonders. We’ve had some kinks.
The guy crushed Jones’ windpipe, even after he’d already ripped the ball out of his hands in the end zone…
Grable: Johnny finishes plays, that’s what we like about him. Like I said, there are some kinks in the program. That’s why we kept him locked up for the better part of the season. That and the legal concerns regarding the fine points of genetic splicing vs genetic engineering, transplants, and so on, but that’s all in the clear now. Everything’s on the up and up. This is the GenXFL, after all. Greatest sport on Earth!
Do you ever stop to think that maybe you and your ilk are what’s wrong with the game? At its inception, football was an everyman’s sport played by collegiate athletes of natural ability with little more for protection than leather helmets and knee-pads. Now, these men are groomed from birth, some literally grown, until their every muscle-fiber, every nerve-cluster and adrenaline-pumping cell has been fine-tuned to churn out maximum pain to the opposition and optimum performance for your side.
But there is no “us vs them”, no Marauders vs Killers; there’s only the owners and the players, the masters and the slaves. You coaches, you’re the middle-men, the enablers, the pushers, the plantation overseers. You’ll happily exploit your athletes for personal gain, but the only thing those wins will bring you is easy, bloody money and empty glory. And all the while you’re a man in the master’s pocket just the same, easily bought, easily disposed of.
Even the fans are willing victims of this whole charade. Your masters have sold them a lie and hooked them on a drug that they can’t quit and literally can’t avoid. Subscriptions to the GenXFL and its affiliate leagues are baked into any telecom package you can legally buy, and you can’t block the incessant, misogynistic, and ignorant stream of ads promoting the games without paying more opt-out fees to the league. It’s convinced people that football is an integral part of our nation’s healthcare, educational institutions, and military, even while the league’s profits balloon into the tens of billions of dollars year after year, during which its earnings are tax-exempt due to its non-profit status, depriving those integral services of much-needed funding. This trick has worked so well that to denounce the corporate leechcraft behind the formerly pure sport of football is to risk being Un-American, a label that will earn you the sharp-end of the mob’s justice.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the players suffer most of all. The lucky ones who are blessed with natural gifts and athletic ability may prolong the day when they’re injected with growth hormones, muscle-destroying and rebuilding enzymes, neurotransmitter enhancers and suppressors, or outfitted with carbon-fiber limbs and SynthGel joints, but as soon as they lose a step, drop a pass, or miss a tackle, those halcyon days of being a human athlete are done. Sure, they’re compensated for their gifts, for a time. That compensation never comes with a proper education on how to function as a responsible individual in society, how to manage your sudden influx of immense wealth, and how to be a mentor to the millions of fans out there.
And then the time comes when the league is done with the player, having chewed them up, sampled their genes, combed through the genetic patent that is now a legally owned property of the League, and separated out any enhancements that might accentuate the skills of a future generation of players before spitting out the old and used-up athlete to endure decades of post-traumatic stress disorder, crippling physical ailments, and debilitating mental collapse, all without providing health coverage, starting at the average age of 35. The League has turned men into monsters, killing machines, literal abominations, and then turns them loose on society without guidance or rehabilitation.
I guess my only real question for you, Coach Grable, is … how do you sleep at night?
Grable: Geez, pal. It’s only a game!
Coach Grable was later found dead in his mansion from an apparent overdose on sleep medication. Justice McEllevan was eventually apprehended and was traded to the Texas Hangmen on the condition that he would sit out the first three games of the 2046 season. The Mile-High Marauders went on to win the 2045 GenXFL championship against the San Domingo Sand Devils. They returned to the championship game the following year where they were systematically destroyed by the Silicon Valley Slayers, a GenXFL team fielded by all-android players; this one-sided and brutally efficient victory led to the creation of the Robot Football League and a segregation between the two, a move which ultimately led to the decline of the GenXFL and the human race in general.
The reporter who asked Coach Grable this last question has never been identified.