Your office is third floor, in the corner, with a view of the skyboxes atop the stadium's west, two-tiered structure. Before they went up you could see the sunset. Now, in the mid-afternoon, the sun hits plexiglass, which reflects a glare into your office when the shades aren't drawn. You tell your secretary to have them shut on clear days; it then feels like a hotel room before breakfast. So you wait for dusk. Or rain.

There you spend early summer nights - a few of the quiet, dead days you will have in the course of a year - in a custom leather high back, watching spring practice tapes, looking for new discoveries. Your receivers trouble you; they run lazy, rounded off routes, and only one of them is fast enough to stretch the field. Your quarterback means well, but he pushes, and errs because of it. Teams, both good and bad, are like that - one man pressing to account for another's indifference to the craft.

Your son sleeps on a couch down the hall, in the graduate assistant's office; he is here because he means to copy you, to have the sidelines' free reign, the last word out of the locker room.

So, you say, prove your commitment. You won't hand him anything.

Your ex-wife lives in Seattle; that's where she's from, and now she's bank loan officer, a career she would tell you resides far below her capability. But then I just blew off twenty-four years, she would say. Your son mostly bores her, until he is positioned in some small way against you, and even though he is not in this case, she views it as such.

Typical of you, she says to your machine at home, typical, more concerned with rightness than whatever else. You would box your own son in while you coddle ex-thieves and vandals for position coaches.

She refers to Tad Hatch, even if she doesn't give it a name Tad, your offensive line coach, who you stood by through a lot of pus, because he was good, driven - he kicked his boys in the teeth until they wouldn't take shit from their own quarterback or much less anybody else that wanted to rub their fat asses the wrong way. You won two or three conference titles on his lines alone, and he cut them off steroids before nearly anyone, before he needed to. Dirty beats a fucking shot, he'd say, dirty beats a fucking pill, and smart and dirty beat anything. And smart, dirty and mean, shit. Juice is shit next to dirty. Tad said steroids were meant for white baseball players, to catch up to the niggers,and he was eventually right - whites used the juice to get the speed and power blacks largely enjoyed without it. He was right, yes, and still vile - you gave up niggers as a name the day one of them knocked you two feet in the air on a screen pass during practice in college. Shit, you thought, what's the point? You were sensible, like that, reasonable, they would tell you. It's what made you the head coach.

But Tad Hatch was equal parts intellect and maggot. In August, during two-a-days, Hatch would remark the heat felt like rabbits, fucking in a sock. Fuck rabbits fuck! When he choked his mistress with the cord of a hotel lamp to brink of strangulation, explained the nigger bitch was bent on telling everybody, and he was creating a metaphor for her to see how it would be for him if she did.

These men you protect for their sole advantage, the ex would say - that they played the game at a level your son couldn't attain. A lie, not true - your own father questioned every inch of your character for a decade out of college before saying you had been turned over, he could shape you no more, and you were following his lead with your own son, pushing him, seeing what in him gave, what held. But the ex didn't follow lines of truth as much as she did transitions from subpoint to subpoint.

Here, now, you eat Mexican food - a meat burrito stuffed with extra tomato and cheese - and finger the phone number of another woman, younger and too future conscious: home, kids, her own charity.

You check the voice mail. You get a voice, fragile. A name. Elizabeth, Elizabeth Something, the name means nothing, and it doesn't register. But her voice breaks and she mentions Leon, Leon Ponce. And it means nothing for a half second until you remember

Leon. Leon Ponce.

Leon. A player you had five, six years ago. Black, gold chains, Dallas kid.

An afterthought, a backup cornerback who you put on scholarship because he was fast and he hung with a player you coveted out of the same school, Jamar Banks, a running back who eventually blew out his knee. Leon, you remember, half-assed it for a year, became one of the team hoods, failed a drug test, then quit and left school altogether. Got Jamar to leave after another year or so, although Jamar was no use to you before or after the knee, Jamar knew it, you knew it.

No. Nothing about Leon's playing days was distinguishable from that of thousand Plan Bs. You should have no reason to remember him.

Got a boy down here.

And so it begins. A call. A tape. A coach with a hunch. Jamar Banks is a kid, still has the high fade the blacks used to wear.

Got a boy. Biggun. And oh Jesus can he run.

Now first it goes through the grunt coaches - unpaid volunteer assistants - who watch the tapes, toss most, make notes on the maybes, and greenlight the certains, and back then, how you had it set up, they then reported the greenlights to the recruiting coordinator, who then reported to you, unless it was a defensive player, which then meant to Dan Wood. Unless it was an instater, in which case you needed no tape; in the summer camps, the kids came down themselves, and their coaches would vouch one way or the other.

With Jamar Banks, it's a tape, and a one-day turnaround from grunt to recruiting coordinator to you. It's that…extraordinary. You sit in your office with the two of them and they gush.

"Coach down there says nobody knows him," the grunt says, speaking because he's been spoken to. "His mother wouldn't even let him go out til he was a sophomore in high school. Mother was sick, he took care of her."

"Mama," you say.


"Mama. Son, if you're gonna do the job - be any good at it - better know the talk, even around here, even around us." You point to Jamar's tape on the video screen, where it's black-on-black, every position on the field. "That's sixty percent of the team. Black don't use 'mother' unless he's a professor writing his life story. And do you think a white kid take care of his sick mother?"

"I don't know."

"Well, would you've?"

"I don't know."

"No. The answer's no."

The grunt takes in the lesson, then directs his gaze to the screen. "Anyway, this kid is uh…I mean, look at him."

Jamar shoots through his own offensive line then sifts through the remaining unblocked defenders behind the initial scrum. He slides past one, another, before getting leg tackled.

"Nineteen yards, and pretty, ain't it?" the grunt says, affecting some of the talk. "I mean it's actually pretty. He just glides. He doesn't get hit. Here he is - junior - and he's a virgin. I mean not even the local school's on him. Not one call. Not one letter. Last year he shared time with some little scatback down there, the scatback went to one of them black colleges, and the coach says this Jamar came in during the summer, blew em away. This is the third game here. This is all they've played. Got the tape yesterday."

"Newspaper down there?"

"Team's not historically very good, two and one this year, but you know how they are down there, so many good players, can't get 'em all right away."

Jamar now takes a pitch, and takes his time - patient, for not knowing the game well - until he bolts to the corner, where a linebacker has an angle, but Jamar shucks toward him, then away, finding another shift of gear, pulling away -

"Look at that," the grunt says.

Jamar encounters the last man between him and the end zone, and slows, downshifting, shucking again, but the defender doesn't bite. Jamar turns it out of bounds, stays clean.

"Well I don't see that bigofa advantage in a two-week jump on his recruiting," you say. "We can't claim rights on him or anything. Probably want to stay close to his mama."

"She wants him somewhere clean. Small," the recruiting coordinator says. "Place that can get him on track for school."

"Lotta places in Texas for that."

"Is." Your coordinator reclines and swivels, eyeing the tape. "But there might be something else."