The Legend of the Great Bootsock is a sorry homily for the rest of us who have talent, but zero gumption to keep fighting the hard fight against time and condition and geography.
The Great Bootsock got his name as the star of his small-town high school football team. As the true freshman quarterback of his team, he won the first game he ever played by diving over a goal line scrum — even though one of the opposing players had grabbed his sock and was pulling him back from the score.
When the sock pulled away from the aggressor’s grasp, it wrapped around the heel of the great Bootsock’s cleats, sticking there like a flag of immediate infamy and respect, and the Legend of the Great Bootsock was born.
The Great Bootsock won many awards for his athletic skills. He starred on the gridiron, the baseball diamond and the basketball court. He was the master of any ball, in any size or shape. He was one with the sphere.
When it was time for the decorated Bootsock to graduate from high school and enter an adult life, he accepted a scholarship from the local university — a football powerhouse in its own right — and all his family and friends knew The Great Bootsock was destined to fulfill his greatness as the best and only football player in the known world.
Except, when The Great Bootsock arrived on his college campus, he shriveled in the spotlight. He couldn’t throw. His running was escape by happenstance. His teammates ridiculed his “Bootsock” nickname as something childish and frilly — and “Bootsock” quickly became “Bootsucks” — and the gleam was off the trophy boy. His star was falling from the sky.
The Great Bootsock never played a down for the college team. He instead transferred to a small, local, community college without a football team and earned a respectable degree with respectable grades.
All the while in community college, The Great Bootsock never missed a home or away game for his beloved high school. He was still hailed as a conquering hero. Those who knew him, and knew him best, knew his greatness could never be forgiven or forgotten, and since many of his classmates never graduated from high school, let alone college, none of the Bootsock failures beyond the twelfth grade bothered them. He was a perpetual sun in the sky in their starry eyes.
Upon graduation, The Great Bootsock took a local job in his high school neighborhood managing a small credit union. He was able to repay his adorers with small loans that made their day and helped move their paychecks into actually being able to afford something. His creditors, and clients, were forever grateful.
The Great Bootsock, a small success as a man, and a large failure as a professional athlete, knew, with each check he signed on the behalf of others, that he never lived up to his greatness. He never fought back against the ripple of a larger pond. He was forever the biggest fish in the smallest glass of water, and that lack of a rising tide bothered him to no end.
The Great Bootsock mottled on with his quiet, singular life. He married. Had children. Was installed in his high school’s Hall of Fame as the best athlete ever — in the history of the school.
The Great Bootsock worked and ate and slept. He sometimes played with his children — children who aspired to match the greatness of their father, but not his goodness, because he didn’t have any of that leftover from the adoration of his playing days.
The Great Bootsock became a shell of a man and a fallow human being. Sure, he knew how to smile and glad-hand, but it was never enough — he couldn’t win the game bowing to lesser men.
The Great Bootsock’s children excelled in high school sports, but they were never able to match the greatness of their father, and that pleased The Great Bootsock to no end. The one thing he knew was that his children would never be better than him and that meant his fragile legacy was safe. No Great Bootsock, Jr. would ever wear the weary crown of the original Bootsock.
After hiding in his neighborhood credit union for 30 years, and never venturing more than five miles away from his home in the neighborhood, The Great Bootsock died of a weak heart and a broken constitution.
As he lay dying, The Great Bootsock knew he had based his entire life on a single moment of ridiculousness that should have been a footnote and not a hallmark pox on his life. The Great Bootsock wished he could go back in time, and still win the game, but demand that he be called “Gregg” for the remainder of his days instead of “The Great Bootsock” because some legends, he now believed, were never meant to be born.