The Baller(13)

By: Vi Keeland


Easton quickly reached up and pushed the button for the flight attendant. I actually laughed a little.

“So . . . really . . . why are you sitting here?”

“Have you looked around this plane? There’s one hot woman and a hundred hairy men. The question should be, why isn’t everyone fighting to sit here?”

“That almost sounded like a compliment, Mr. Easton.”

“It was. You’re hot as fuck. And I like you.”

“Oh really? You have a funny way of showing that you like me. Every time I see you, you try to sabotage my interview.”

“Every time I see you, I expose myself to you.” He flashed me his trademark smile. “That’s how we show girls we like them where I’m from.”

“Where are you from, the jungle?”

“Brooklyn.”

The offensive-line coach interrupted us. “Brody, I want to make some changes to Red Reverse Four. We just studied the tapes from last week and need to shift the play around a bit.”

“You got it, Coach.”

Brody took my hand and kissed it. Then he disappeared with the coaches for the rest of the trip. I didn’t see him again until game day.



***



As usual, the sun was shining in San Diego. I really missed California. After college, I thought I’d be back a lot more than I had. But over the years, my fear of flying had escalated, and now the only travel I did by plane was for work. This trip had reminded me that I was letting my fears control me, instead of the other way around.

I stood along the sideline watching the game with Brett Marlin, the on-air, play-by-play reporter. Part of my job as a staff sportscaster was to be Brett’s backup eyes. We consulted between live feeds—it was virtually impossible for one person to keep track of twenty-two men on the field at once. Four eyes did a better job.

As expected, the division-rivalry between San Diego and the Steel was intense. The outcome would determine first and second place between the two, and they played as if it were the Super Bowl. The roar of the crowd was so loud that it made it difficult for Brett and I to hear each other in our headsets. I felt the vibrations from feet stamping against the stands in my chest. God, I love games like this. With thirty seconds left on the clock before halftime, I stood near the goal line, watching as the Steel moved down the field. On a third and short, Brody dropped back to pass, only to find his receivers all under heavy coverage. Rather than chance an interception, he waited, somehow avoiding the head-on charge of a three-hundred-pound defenseman. Then he lowered his shoulder and charged toward the end zone. His legs never stopped moving until he crossed the line. Was it just me, or was the sun suddenly getting warmer?

The crowd went crazy, and I caught myself clapping a little, too. Reporters were supposed to be neutral. As Brody jogged off the field at halftime with the scoring ball in his hand, he surprised me by tossing it to me. I hadn’t even realized he had seen me on the sideline.

My mom and I had spent years going to games, sitting in box seats on the fifty-yard line—I loved watching my dad play. Hell, it was growing up going to those games that made me want to be a reporter. I couldn’t imagine my life not involving football in some way. But watching Brody out there was different. The way the man moved was sexy and confident. His long strides, thick, powerful thighs, the way he seemed fearless to barrel over people. He was such a dominant force that it was impossible not to be attracted to him. And it wasn’t just me. Women actually catcalled almost every time he removed his helmet when he came off the field. During the second half, he scored another running touchdown. When he again tossed the ball my way, some of those adoring lady fans actually booed at me a little.

After the game, I waited outside the locker room, catching up on texts and emails. The first one I opened was from Indie.