[I decided the coach for Midland needed a different personality, so I’m revising yesterday’s post]
“Don’t recognize you,” replied Mike. “Perhaps you’ll do something today that will make me regret that oversight?” Bernie smiled, shrugged his shoulders as he looked down. “Hey Coach,” Mike called to a middle-aged man walking up behind him, “Bark Bay’s got some new fencers.”
The man walked in front of Mike Paris, looked at each Bark Bay fencer seriously, like a man evaluating a recently completed paint job, and grunted. “Pat Williams,” said the man, stepping forward and extending his arm in Bernie’s direction, adding “guess you need to call me Coach Pat.” After greeting Kassandra and Butch as well, he said, “Dan — sorry, Coach Dan — he’s probably still acting like he’s your communal big brother, isn’t he?” Pause, with no reaction from anyone. “Hmm. Probably hasn’t said anything to you about how tournaments are different than practice. No more fun and games. Everybody you meet today, even people from your own team, they’re your enemy today. If you don’t go in with that attitude, it’s going to be a long day, and you’re gonna go home with your feelings hurt, and then you’re going to want to quit, and then you’ll be down to two or three fencers again and Dan’ll have to go before the clowns on the school board and plead for the team’s continued existence, like he should be thanking them for all his grief and aggravation.
He waited a moment before continuing, as if to make sure the proper level of surprise had grown on everyone’s face.
“Dan does this all the time, tries to be everybody’s buddy. Leaves it to guys like me to tell you the truth. Fencing isn’t a game, it isn’t a sport, it’s a competition. Has its origins in dueling, at its heart it’s as much about blood as sweat. If you don’t have a killer instinct out on that strip,” he said, pointing without looking in the direction of the judges assembling the third fencing strip, “you’re going to get creamed.
“You Coach Dan wants you to think we’re all a band of brothers and sisters,” he said, waving his arms in a circular motion meant to take in the entire gymnasium. “But the truth is, anybody competing against you today will do anything within the rules to defeat you. And it’s my job to help them.
“So — let me finish by wishing you good luck. I don’t mean it, but our sport has its traditions.”