Cowboys aren’t easy to love

At community college I had a professor who said she spent six months out of the year writing, and the other six months reading. She said she would not write while she was reading, and she would not read while she was writing. Her name was Ms. Bartlette. I remember her because I got an A in her class and I don’t remember doing anything particularly special beyond bullshitting my assignments (as I always did, at every level of schooling), and flirting with her at every opportunity.

She reminded me, in that sense, of a female professor I had while I was at Virginia Tech. I’m not tooting my own horn by any means, I’m just saying that I went to class like five or ten times between January and May and ended up getting an A in the class. I got paid in meal money to edit papers from other students in the class — who were business majors and, eh, not so great at putting finger to keyboard — and by the end of the year my professor told me she understood. She said the way I wrote reminded her of J.D. Salinger, and she loved that.

I only say all this now because this, right now, is sort of like my offseason. Where there is no football, there is no me. I’m not writing nearly as often. I don’t have consistent benchmarks or checkpoints to deliver my precious opinions about teams or point spreads. I am merely a wolf crying out in the wilderness with neither the care nor the motivation to waste anyone’s time with my words.

For the first time in a few years I made an earnest attempt at writing a short story. I spent about a month, more or less daily, constructing a fictional story about an immigrant engineer from New York who ended up being a high school basketball coach in a small town in Kansas. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? I made it all the way into the third act — or what I assumed was the third act — before I hit a fucking wall. The engineer turned high school basketball coach in Kansas, his name was Charles Kowalski. He took the worst basketball team in the state all the way to to championship game and lost on a last-second shot. I just did not know where to go from there.

Did the bus crash in the snow on the way home? Did Charles Kowalski parlay his success into a better coaching job? Did life go on as usual, and everyone lived happily ever after? What good was any of it without a legitimate love story? I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions at the time, and I still don’t. The story died, just as so many others have along the way. It was 75 minutes worth of reading; that’s how long that mutherfucker was.

In the meantime, I have found a fondness for old country music. I started watching Western movies again. In May I had the best financial month of my year, and one of the best months, money-wise, in my life. I bought a cowboy hat. I’m not exactly on the verge of buying a gun and a pickup truck and voting Republican in 2024, but I’m really enjoying this latest frontier.

As far as the rest of this shit is concerned, I’m just here. Football is right around the corner and I know I’ll be consumed. I know my blog will start picking up with more articles. I’m not unhappy by any means, but I’m also not bursting out in ecstasy. For many months I have been stuck in the grey area between black and white, and positive and negative, and regretting all that I haven’t done that I should while at the same time appreciating all that I am and all I have been doing. Football doesn’t matter. But it matters that I’m in my offseason, even though the work never ends.

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