The Old Man stubbed out his cigarette on the side of his boat, a patchwork affair that had seen almost as many winters as he had. It had been unsatisfying, more paper than tobacco, and, setting aside that he had no more tobacco, he had used the last of his matches to light it.
The Old Man had been out at sea for two days and nights, now. At first, his detractors had called him unlucky, but that was long ago. Now, the word was a kindness; those who used it, in the beginning, had long since utilized other terms. Cursed stood out the most strongly. After all, it had been more than a week since his last success, though it felt more like, say, 84 days, and, worst of all, some had the audacity to question his prior successes. Among them, there were even claims that some of those successes had been the product of luck more than skill, and that his recent failures were somehow kismetic, the universe smoothing out a range of peaks so great that they may even be called explosive.
The Old Man paid little attention to things like luck or its lacking, but it was hard to carry on. Friends had deserted him. Those who had never been friends exactly, but who were at least not uncivil, turned to enmity. Even among his fisherman comrades were those who began speaking of analytics, and other strange maths illuminating a future in which the strength of one’s arms, or even of one’s spirit, mattered less than probabilities, maximization of success, data-driven statistics, and other nonsense. Why not even four days back someone had spoken of an “are square”, and the subsequent confusion almost led to blows. What was an “are square”?
His only consolation these days was the Seahawk. Still young, not yet jaded by the bitter truths of the heavy and heady game that was, uh, fishing. Still curious, reverential of questions even when the answers didn’t confirm his priors. And even when the others had tried to castigate The Old Man, to fill the young Seahawk’s head with absurdities about luck, being cursed, and how you don’t need a solid running game to set up play action passing, still the young Seahawk came to him and asked him his questions, eager to learn.
Why just the other day, he and the young Seahawk had had a pleasant conversation about contribution. What does it mean, to contribute?, the young Seahawk had asked. Well, The Old Man had answered, it means to be a part of something, I suppose. It means to share in that something, whatever it is. Do you have an example, the young Seahawk further inquired? The Old Man thought for a few moments, his brow furrowed in contemplation, then raised a hand in triumph. Yes!, he exclaimed. Consider, for example, the running game. Everyone knows that running produces body blows, which tire and confuse the, um, fish in the sea. Running also protects the ah, um, oar. Does that mean that you should stop running even if the, uh, fish are so plentiful in the course of your rowing that you can barely move the oar? Ye- the young Seahawk began even as The Old Man continued breathlessly: Of course not! Should you stop running even the fish are so mighty that they take your oar from you? I mean, pretty obvio- The young Seahawk continued, this time more quickly, in spite of The Old Man’s callous air of excitement, yelling no, No, NO. You keep running, rowing, whatever, even in the face of adversity, because running in spite of obvious and avoidable danger is how you show courage, and compete, and win. Even, he continued as the young Seahawk muttered under his breath what the fuck, when you have a better option, such as a fierce and dangerous weapon that can cast the oar at great speed and distance, because the secret to victory is that there is no better option!
Or consider the question of the actual catching of fish. Sometimes, even several fishermen are not enough to catch a single fish. Sometimes, the fish is so fast and powerful that it can break through the nets of many fishermen, even say twelve forced missed tackl- um, efforts to catch the fish. We would say that the failures of the fisherman has contributed just as much to the failure as the fish, would we not?
The young Seahawk nodded.
And don’t even get me started on special teams, The Old Man said with elongated words, a great exaggeration, as the young Seahawk remained silent, as if conveying that no sublunar power could compel him to do so.
This was the third day since he had spoken with the young Seahawk, when he had set out to prove to all of the naysayers and detractors that his way was the best way, the only way. And much as he missed the young Seahawk’s company and conversation, he had vowed then to press onwards, no matter the cost, to not return until he had proven to the young Seahawk that he was right, in this thing if not in others, that those who doubted him did so in ignorance, not wisdom. He would catch the greatest fish of them all, alone.
“Fucking Seahawks Twitter,” Old Man Pete Carroll muttered to himself as he beat onwards, against the current, borne forward, ceaselessly, into the strange future.