5:40 AM. We're two-thirds of the way through "bodypump" class, working on our back routine. "Squat! Jump!" yells the instructor. We go into a squat, then jump up onto the platform they use in Jazzercise class. After a dozen or so of these, we add in the "power" move, thrusting our arms into the air as we jump up onto the platform. Something about this move seems familiar...
Senior year of high school. We're at the tail end of the football season, playing St. Genevieve's, and we're losing big. Both teams have sent in the second string, which is why I'm in playing defensive end/strong side linebacker. The coaches on both sides would probably be happy if we just played out the clock and got in without any serious injuries. Of course the second string offense for St. Genevieve's has other ideas.
Their offense has pulled off a couple of big running plays, and we're backed up on our own five yard line with a minute or so to go in the game. On first down, St. Genevieve runs into the center of the line, for no gain. On second down, they run a weak-side sweep, and lose a couple of yards.
Now it's third down. I line up over the tight end. The ball is snapped and the tight end stands up to pass block, which is my key to rush the quarterback. The tight end drops to the ground and tries to cut-block me. I avoid the cut block and see the quarterback looking past me--it's a pass to the wide receiver in the corner of the end zone. I get my hands up as the pass flies over me and just out of the reach of the wide receiver.
Fourth down. St. Genevieve doesn't line up for a field goal; they're going for the end zone. The tight end again lines up on their right side, like he did on third down. The ball is snapped, the tight end stands up to block, and I immediately know they're running the same play. I don't step in to rush the quarterback at all. Instead I squat as low as I can, throw up my arms, and jump as high in the air as I can go. The quarterback has executed the run fake and turns to throw to the wide receiver in the corner of the end zone. He doesn't realize I've already read the play, and throws the ball right toward me as I'm jumping into the air.
The ball goes right between my hands, as if I had made a target for the quarterback to throw the ball through. Our cornerback tips the ball away, and the game is over. After the game, my teammates tell me how close I was to catching that ball. They say that if I had intercepted the pass, there was no one between me and the end zone at the other end of the field. It's nice to imagine running into the end zone, scoring a touchdown. Realistically, someone would have chased me down after twenty or thirty yards.
Back at the gym. I'm finishing the last of my power squat-jumps when I make the connection. With every jump, with every look at my hands over my head, I realize that I'm still trying to make that interception. I'm not one to live in the past, but these power squat-jumps keep taking me back to what might have been.
Like Sysiphus rolling his boulder up the hill, it appears to be my fate to forever jump for that pass. I may never catch that ball, but that won't stop me from trying.