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Tecmo Bowl Days

Matt Rector


before the spastic torment of middle school 
when an erection was just an uncomfortable oddity 
and the television had a dial and wood paneling

we lost a summer to this game
backs hunched     thumbs fast     legs folded
on the floor inside our parents' living rooms
while they went to work

we negotiated terms:     no one can be the Raiders
no resets     no skipping other people's games 
choosing a team in the same division is allowed

we advised and threatened our opponents:
if you run too much with Cunningham it messes up
his throws     you should use more than just Taylor on defense
to get the other guys's conditions up     that play works
against the computer     but not against another player
who is good

we played beyond the point where
our fingers began to hurt and our eyes
began to sting     we squirmed and writhed on the floor
as our immature bodies ached     attention riveted
on the game

we compared endless columns of digits
that flashed up on the screen:     he's leading in yards but
my guy's averages are better     he's good on offense but
on defense he's even lower than the computer     Sanders 
would so be number one if he didn't get hurt for two games

and then you would have to play each other
always undefeated against undefeated     and you would hope
that he was the one that had to play right to left
and you would change your plays to ones
you'd never use     against the computer

and you would gnash your hands into the controller
trying to guess his play     and you would attack his weaknesses
and he knew yours     and if it was close
you'd lose everything in those last few moments
clusters of color wheel pixels burned onto your retinas
bars of analog tunes stuck inside your ears
until finally the computer made you fumble or
he stopped you on fourth down or
you got by his man and zigzagged your way 
to the end zone

afterwards it would be awkward
for one to be so happy when one felt so sad
but both trying to hide it
so you'd have to go
                   and walk back home

and as you hit the sidewalk     and the fresh air
for the first time in hours      didn't your body
feel like it was floating along above the grass
and your stomach feel like     it was dragging behind?   


Matt Rector is from Schenectady, NY.


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