Monday, March 5, 2012

The Mighty Derrickles, Road Warrior

Brooding on the sidelines, a dark and lonely inhabitant of the aptly-titled Underworld, Douganos Collins watched as his men squandered away a fourth quarter lead. "Underworld" his coaching mentors called it, better  known as "NBA Purgatory," is where Douganos finds himself. He is struck with the realization that his men, though spirits high and judgement swift, do not possess the strengths of one thousand NBA Champions. This is what he lives for, for this very moment, to take a group, many of whom were discarded by the previous regime, and have them competing with the best. Douganos is no idiot. He understands the limitations of his men. He pleads with them to get out and run, fearing the contest will become a half-court game -- a game he knows his men are unequipped to win. 

Douganos favors his point guard Jruedeus. In Jruedeus he sees himself. A dedicated young man, willing to put the team on his back for stretches, and a man who possesses no conscience. Any shot is a good one and any shot can fall given the right balance of skill and determination. For all his offensive exploits, Jruedeus lacks size and defensive valor. He fronts his opponent but is unable to alter his desired path. He withstands the crushing blows presented by cross screens but eventually relents. Douganos has to do something. The game is getting away from him. He admires Jruedeus' heart in the face of adversity, but can stick with him no longer. It is time to make a change.

Douganos reaches back into the depths of his memory. He remembers his decorated collegiate career, Illinois State Redbirds in the faraway town of Normal, a town that was anything but. He still checks up on his former university, in fact, they named their gymnasium after him, the only such Division I university gymnasium named after a former player. Douganos recollects the 1972 Olympics in which his men were robbed of their gold bounty. The bad taste never left his mouth. Some lifetimes later in Normal, they revealed a statue of him and his former mentor, coach Will Robinson. The statue looked most unsavory when viewed at the right angle. Some might say it was built in the Greek tradition.

Douganos knows his past glories count for very little in the current NBA landscape. A man's prestige is only worth what he has done the previous day. His mentors warned him of the coach's life -- the sleepless nights, the stress upon familial relations, and gradual loss of one's mental faculties. It was not a life for everyone, and had led many great men to their early graves. Douganos willingly accepts the possible side affects. He simply loves coaching too much to ever leave it behind. He once lived a life of leisure, providing simpleton analysis for the dolts watching at home. The job was pleasurable and afforded him the opportunity to stay close to the game he loved, but the job was not coaching. Nothing was. He knew one day he would return, and return he did to Philadelphyus. 

Douganos sits helpless as the mighty warrior Derrickles carves up his defense. Douganos' past success, three straight wins against Derrickles, worries him. He knows the humble warrior to be of keen memory. Surely Derrickles will find it within himself to bring a little extra to this battle. And then the idea dawns on him. Yes, yes, that is it! That was it all along! Douganos calls timeout and rallies his men.

"MEN," he shouts. "We shall commence a new strategy. Thadysseus, Andronis, Evanthea, come forth!"

The three men, Douganos' boldest defenders, step forward, welcoming the task at hand.

"I need you three to blanket the mighty Derrickles. What say you?"

"YAY," the three defenders chomp in unison. 

"Very well then. CERBERUS COMMENCE!"

On Douganos' word, Thadysseus, Andronis, and Evanthea morph into one hellish creature. Their body becomes that of a maddened hound and their tale a poisonous serpent. 

"It is your duty to protect our basket," instructs Douganos. "Now GET!"

The beast unleashes its fury all over the court. Derrickles is powerless, forced to give the ball up to his teammates. His teammates, though well-seasoned and supremely confident, lack the composure of Derrickles. They turn the ball over and take bad shots. Douganos lets out a bellowing laugh. I've done it, he thinks to himself. I've reenacted the strategy many have used before me. But THIS! No one has seen anything like THIS!

Douganos rests on his good fortune. He possesses three men, all 6'7 or taller, athletic, with long wingspans and quick feet, who can combine and make battle difficult for Derrickles. He knows no other team possesses the resources he does. Two players, yes maybe, but not THREE. The lead once 13 points in Derrickles' favor, has now dwindled to two thanks to the effort of Douganos' three-headed monster.

91-89. 37 seconds left. Derrickles dribbles the ball at the top of the key, milking the game clock. Douganos' beast lurks. Evanthea had been inexplicably discarded. The beast, Thadysseus and Andronis, stand alone. They force Derrickles left, his weaker side. Derrickles progresses undeterred into the lane and leaps with the grace of a spotted tiger. Thadysseus and Andronis have been left behind, the job of basket protection now lies squarely on the shoulders of their teammate, Eltonia. Once a feared warrior in his day, Eltonia no longer inspires fear as he did in his youth. Derrickles contorts his body midair, as only the truly battle-tested can, and floats a shot with his right hand over the outstretched arm of Eltonia. The shot is good! The most beautiful of songs ring out from the gymnasium sky and a single phoenix perches itself on the top of the backboard. The remaining seconds become a free-throw shooting contest of little regard. 96-91 Derrickles.

On his way back to his battle gathering, the normally stoic Derrickles lets out a beaming smile. He relishes in the victory the Gods have bestowed upon him. On the other side, Douganos rests his head in his hands, grief-stricken. He longs for the day he gets another chance. "Derrickles must fall," he tells his men. Even his three-headed beast has failed him. What more could he have done?

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