I had an awesome plan for the Bronco's game this week.
First off, the game would be on TV here in Alaska, so I would be watching it from the couch for once. That means that I've got room to spread out and really enjoy. Plenty of space for chips, dip, drinks that sort of thing, and I still have a place to setup my laptop for taking notes, etc. This was gonna be good. The wife also saw her opportunity, and had quite a menu brewing up before the early games were even half over. Is that homemade artichoke-crab dip? Why do you need cream cheese frosting? Oh, of course, for the chocolate cake. Good God.
In addition, we just rearranged the house and moved the liquor cabinet into the living room, so I already have several delicious choices lined up in my mind, and I just know the Broncos will give me a reason to tip a glass tonight, for better or worse. Even if the Broncos don't inspire, lord knows that I could use the break. Storms have been ripping through southeast Alaska as of late, and another one is going off outside right now. All week has been battening down hatches, tying up every manner of wind swept flotsam and generally preparing for the expected high winds, and I have been struggling with it due to a recent minor accident that gave my hands a pretty good squeeze, and has left them sore and swollen. I've been looking forward to Broncos football all week.
So I get all set up in the living room, food spread out everywhere, Broncos gear effectively rocked, and I get the TV turned on. Weather warnings on the local channels are preempting the programming for a moment. Bleh. I'll wait. Minutes drag by with reports of 60mph gusts and a small craft advisory extending to Monday night, while I nervously anticipate missing the opening kickoff, an all too common occurrence. Finally, the game is on, this is gonna be awesome, this is...
WTF? Seattle? San Diego? Where are my gorram Broncos?? Oh. I should have known. For some reason, the local networks all think that us southeast Alaskans just looove Seattle. We are all from Seattle. And we all just can't wait to go back to Seattle, and watch some Seattle sports. Rats. I'm hoping the Broncos are having a little better luck with their plan, than I am having with mine. I watch a bead of condensation run down the outside of my, untouched old-fashioned, the drink of choice to kick off the evening, and I contemplate how quickly I can run an HDMI from the CPU to stream the game on the big screen.
And that is when I got a phone call.
The good news is, I got the game on the car radio. It sounded awesome to start out. Man, I couldn't believe our defense was hanging in there, holding the Immortal Manning to FGs twice in the red zone. The offense felt a little clunky, out of rhythm, but the defense was buying time, and that was going to have to be good enough. As the windshield wipers cleared away the pelting rain and the truck shimmied in the high winds Perrish Cox fumbled the punt return and I thought about how we all have our storms to press through, and Indy has blown through better teams than ours without even feeling a bump. Keep your head in the game, rook! I thought to myself, hoping Cox would be able to quickly forget it before Manning could embarrass him. The VHF radio is chiming in every once in a while as well, and I have to give a somber nod of agreement when observations from the ship Kimberly Jean call in 77mph winds in the freaking harbor. This one is going to be a doozy.
So this guy who called, his name is Chris and he lives pretty far out of town. The game was hitting the end of the 3rd quarter when I arrived at his place. His home is an unfinished "studio" bedroom in a house he has been refurbishing, which means it is basically a big, dirty construction site. He had big plans for it after we rescued the house from being condemned when a rockslide left it hanging over a cliff north of Ketchikan. It was a slightly crazy project, but fun, and the result was a free house, battered but alive for him to put wherever he wanted. For the past year he had been sinking his cash and time into it, hoping to add it to his plethora of rentals in the area, but it has been an uphill battle. I originally told him that new construction would have been quicker and easier than rebuilding on the fly, but he had his mind set on the savings of a free house. And apparently, this storm that had been building up for a week caught him by surprise.
I can't believe how much damage has already happened. Sections of metal roof are completely dismembered and flapping in the wind along the ridge of the house. The top pieces of plywood have flown off of a nearby unit and it looks like they smashed a bay window on the kitchen. Glass and vinyl trim are scattered everywhere. The patio entrance, a nice looking set of white french doors have been slammed open, and rain has pooled up in the entryway. I try to close them on the way in, but the fancy doorhandle is embedded firmly in the plaster wall behind it.
I quickly find the guy dragging a huge tarp out of a storage shed behind the house. He is soaking wet, head to toe, his eyes are wide and bloodshot like he hasn't slept for a week. I help him with the tarp and he fills me in on his plan, which is why he called me out here. The roof is a serious problem. He didn't want to call anyone, but the roof situation was getting out of hand, so he needed reinforcements. He is talking a million miles a minute and I can barely understand him, but apparently he has this whole thing figured out. I'm only half listening. A tarp, a ladder, some boards and nails. Got it. I'm not exactly excited to be there, and all I can think about is the Broncos heading into the home stretch in the fourth quarter. With the way the offense was moving, we must surely have got within one score, maybe even tied it up. The pass protection seemed like it was awesome, so it might be a shootout at the end if the Broncs could start finishing it off in the redzone. And I was missing it. I grab my share of the tarp and head for the ladders at the edge of the house. Lets get this over with.
Halfway up the ladder I get that same feeling I did in the first quarter when the Broncos went two straight drives completely out of sync while the defense was hustling its butt off. This isn't going to work. I look at the guy on the other end of the tarp and he is earnestly hurrying to the top, just about to edge over the eave. I'm calling out to him to stay low but its too late, and with a huge CRACK the tarp inflates from a gust of wind and flies off into the woods beside the house, blanketing some short cedar and spruce trees. We were lucky we could let go. Just like Cox's fumble, it only took an instant to lose our grip on the easy one, and it was only going to get more difficult. Chris doesn't miss a beat. He is back down the ladder and wrestling the tarp out of the trees. I appreciate the energy he is showing despite his obvious exhaustion. This guy isn't asking for me to show up and bail him out of a tough spot. He just wants some help. That makes it easier to jump back in, and we soon have the tarp corralled and I offer some adjustments for his plan. Are the Broncos somewhere adjusting right now? Is the WR-QB communication clicking? I push the thought out of my head and focus on the task at hand.
This time, the plan works and the roof is quickly under wraps. Not a marvel of modern engineering, but it'll do. We finish tearing off some of the shredded roofing and cover those areas up as well. Things are starting to come easier. Chris has never been shy about getting the right tool for the job and a full stable of cordless DeWalts allows us to quickly blaze through the mess around the house, cutting plywood, cutting out the jagged remains of two broken windows, and getting everything sealed back up. We are both soaked by now, but Chris is showing great stamina. Apparently he has been at this since yesterday when he got back from a week of work on the Ferry. Constant work, no sleep or rest. I definitely can appreciate the effort he is putting forth. He has sunk his whole life into making this investment pay off, and it shows in his determination not to let the storm get the best of him. For my part, I am coping by naming the cordless drill "bay bay," and the skillsaw is Lloyd. "Nice catch Lloyd!" I say as I'm cutting, and Chris has no idea what I'm talking about but we are both smiling. The work is plentiful but coming along.
Finally it is too dark to keep working outside, but Chris has some flashlights and worklamps. We head inside to get them and take a short break. The bedroom that he calls home has a bed, a loveseat and a chair, plus a small impromptu kitchenette type of thing set up with a television and cable box sitting on the floor in the corner. It sinks in for me how hard he has been working to make his plan a success, as I sink down into the chair and Chris hits the sofa. He is telling me where the lamps are and as he leans back and closes his eyes, he stops talking. I let Morpheus take him. He's earned it.
The room is dark and a pallid chill hangs over it. Chris likely hadn't turned the heat on since he had gotten back. The Broncos game is long over and there is no sense in turning on the TV, not even for highlights. I know what happened. They lost. That isn't the pessimist in me thinking that, it just seems like the most likely event. Three new offensive linemen, another playing through a tough offseason injury, another getting back after being out, two rookies and another player who may as well be a rookie? It is no wonder we can't run the ball. These linemen hardly know eachother. Even if one guy gets it right, at least two other guys are just as likely to get it wrong on any given play. The odds just aren't in our favor there. All over this team there are just so many young players, guys who need to take their lumps or they will never get better, and no one said it would be easy watching them take those lumps. Its tough to think that Orton and his receivers won't always be perfect, but it is the truth. It is tough watching this team struggle just to be itself. I hear all the reasons why we can take something good from this loss, but I am still not reassured. I am uneasy because I worry that all these guys are working so hard for something that may not be in the cards. It is so much different from the offseason, when you were kept at arms distance from the players, when you hear about and think you understand the struggle but you never actually see it for real.
I look at Chris, asleep on the couch, drained. My hands ache. Six hours ago I had a long list of places I would rather be, but in a few hours I will wake him up and we'll get back to work, for as long as it takes to make it right.
And that is how it happens.
When the first lines of care engrave themselves upon our foreheads.