Re: Monday, Cliff’s Backpack, 8:10 p.m.

Dear Team

by Michael Signorelli | photograph by Hans van der Meer


August 15, 2014 3:41 PM
From: Jeff
To: Team
Re: Monday, Cliff’s Backpack, 8:10 p.m.

Happy Friday! You’ve all worked hard this week and deserve to have a relaxing day at work. Way to go. You’re a special group of people. You’re warm, forthright, and athletic. You’re a group of sexy coeds looking to cut loose, to hit the road for love and adventure. You want it all: fun, friendship, healthy meals in comfortable settings. And you don’t want to pay too much!

You understand life’s give and take. You understand that the same energy flows through all things. You’re certain that the Earth rests on the shell of a giant turtle. We ARE that giant turtle. Also, we are NOT that giant turtle. You dig.

No one thought we’d make it this far. No one believed in us. No one! Not your friends. Not your colleagues. Not your family. Not your Mom. No, not even “Mommy” believed in you, cared for you, thought you were worth loving. Up until now your life has been a meaningless sequence of failures and anxious bowel movements. But I digress.

I speak only the truth when I say Monday night’s match could come to define each one of you as a person. Since the season’s start, lo those six weeks ago, we have veered ineluctably, like neighboring galaxies destined to collide, toward Cliff’s Backpack, who we meet in the Coed 7v7 Championship, Just-for-Fun Division, Pier 40, 8:10 p.m.

As many of you know, I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the name of the team we’re playing. What was so great about Cliff’s backpack? Was Cliff even a person? Is this a reference to a backpack full of Clif Bars? Or am I way off? Was Cliff someone they once knew who’s now gone and forever out of reach? Did he move to Hoboken? Did he leave behind his backpack containing the totemic scraps of a new religion now obsequiously observed by a co-ed soccer team? I think it’s fair to say that probably, yes, that is what happened. So, let’s show up Monday and kill the cult, just like we killed those circus performers everyone’s looking for.

I expect a robust turnout. While the halves are only fifteen minutes long, too often I find myself stumbling across the field in near-erotic euphoria from lack of oxygen. Substitutes are essential. I’ve seen your timesheets so don’t even think of playing the work card. And if you don’t have a jersey, let me know ahead of time; I have extras.

As you know, now that I’ve taken over tactical responsibilities for that Benedict Arnold Greg (whose defection to Keep the Change ranks in shame with Figo to Madrid), we’ve shifted to a 3–2–1 formation from the 0–0–6 in which we started the season. Our strength will stem from our organization in the back.

Mary, let me make this clear: you are each attacker’s personal avalanche. I want you limb on limb. Sweaty bod on sweaty bod. I want you whipping into one another like big wet eels. Do not stand on the formality of them having the ball. I want to hear slaps and groans. You are a lion in lady’s skin. I believe in you. You’ll be playing on the left.

Travis and Stephanie, I’ve been waiting all season for your off-field romance to produce some midfield chemistry. If your combination play so far is anything to go by, perhaps you should be asking yourselves where this relationship is really headed. (And, yes, I realize the nature of your romance was told to me in confidence, but I just don’t have time to give you your own private peptalk, and we’ve all seen you getting into cabs together after games anyway.)

Patrick, I recommend no fewer than five Advil one hour before kick-off. Your ankles click like a baseball card stuck in the spokes of a bike. It’s sickening and a little fascinating. But you’re our eyes in the defensive third. Swivel that glossy bald dome of yours and let us know what’s coming. And be vocal about it!

Dave, we get it. You’re great. You’re the best player on the team. You’ve hardly lost a step since earning All-American at Amherst. We swoon when you calmly hold possession. We thrill whenever you score. We wouldn’t be here without you, our ruggedly handsome ringer. Sigh. Will this do, Dave? More? And can you please be on time?

As for everyone else on this email, you’ve been reasonably effective before. Stand on that sideline with real purpose. Balls of your feet; gritted teeth; hands palsied with tension; constant movement; quick, shallow breathing; inhuman guttural noises. Feast upon their sticky sweet fear. Don’t substitute onto the field; descend upon it. You are the pestilence.

I’ve checked the pollen forecast, which, for once, shouldn’t be an issue — though even trace amounts of moisture smother my alveoli much like a very tired mommy quieting an infant. To combat any such condition, I will wear my custom mesh goalkeeper kit. It’s not indecent if I remember my undies. I have that on paper, from a judge.

Back to Cliff and his goddam backpack. I’m not quite sure what could be in Cliff’s bag, but it’s time we found out. I want us to steal the backpack. I want us to unpack the backpack, spreading its contents in a messy circle. I want us to make two piles, categorizing the items by pawn-shop value and the other by order of pain they will cause when we pelt the members of Cliff’s Backpack with them after the game. Win or lose, we WILL be throwing shit at Cliff’s Backpack — shit we have taken from their own backpack! I haven’t really thought out the plan beyond this point. We’ll take it from there.

Team, I can’t prepare you any more than this. The arena is now yours to dominate. We’ll either stride away as winners bathed in the godly rays of victory, or as losers sodden with the cold, bilious swill of a thousand misremembered nights. To be honest, both outcomes sound appealing to me. But whatever I might have said in the past, screeching across the field or hissing at you in late-night, postgame voicemails, I say to you now: you are the bringers of night, the inheritors of dawn. You are Jenny’s Cupcakes FC.

Believe.

Your captain,

Jeff

******

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Michael Signorelli is an editor at Henry Holt. Follow him on Twitter.