Story:Holding Out, Part 2
Holding Out, Part 2
Written by Rourkie
The alarm blared too loudly for Lance’s sensitive ears, interrupting a fitful nap. Despite his protesting mind desiring more sleep, the rabbit’s body operated on rote, and he pushed himself up to let his blood start pumping before he was conscious enough to be aware of the action. Old habits die hard, and while snacking was off the table during the regular season, it was all but forbidden during playoffs, so the rabbit had to rely on his other standby, sleep, to help deal with his current mood.
The nap hadn’t seemed to help, though. The thunderstorm outside meant that the room was muggy and humid, despite the central air's best attempt to double as a humidifier. Neither his nap nor the air conditioning helped to clear away the metaphorical cloud that hung over his head.
“Figures,” the rabbit grumbled, “Way to get your hopes up, Lance. Every good week comes with a price,” he reminded himself aloud. It was a practiced refrain he often uttered to himself but hadn't needed to repeat in some time. While the MVP hopeful did his best to seem optimistic in public most of the time, in private he was surprisingly cynical, at least where the matter of “self” was concerned.
The couple of weeks leading up to his current state had been some of the best of his life. Surrounded by friends and family for the whole week before the playoffs, it was the first time he’d had his whole “crew” together in one place. His relatively new house was full to capacity, and the festivities served as an unofficial housewarming nine months after he’d made the purchase. This is what “home” feels like, he’d told himself. He had never allowed himself to feel that way about any place he'd lived before, even after moving with his brother to the east coast; they'd all just been places to live, and nothing more.
He mused on the idea as he poured himself some cereal, the only thing he had on hand in the rented room, justifying it as his evening meal. It wasn’t particularly glamorous, but he wasn’t feeling very sassy, either. Those good vibes seemed to be eluding him now that he was alone again in a small hotel room with no one but his thoughts to keep him company.
The first week of the playoffs had been even better. He could ignore losing to Huntsville that Saturday for the near sweep the Tides had accomplished. His family had stayed around for the first two games, and it was great to feel like he was on a team which actually had a shot of winning the playoffs for the first time in his career. He had even tried his best not to get too cocky about it. Although he did share some playful jabs on Twitter early in the series, by the time the Tides had won three-in-a-row, he found it hard to restrain himself from gloating. He had been on the other side of the coin in the past, and remembering what it felt like when blow-out threatened to knock his former teams out, he’d opted to trade a snarky attitude for a more subdued manner, focusing more on what lay ahead than taking a flailing team down another peg. After all, as a team captain, he had to do his best to lead by example.
That attitude had lasted until the next game, when Huntsville surprised him with a cake. At the time, he thought little of it; he even thought it was funny. “‘Sorry you’re going to lose tonight!’? Tch, totally gonna save this for when we win the series,” he’d commented to his teammates, getting ready for the game. But they had lost, by a single basket.
Maybe that’s where we went wrong, he thought to himself with a sigh, settling into his shredded wheat. A single loss in Huntsville did little to ruin the best Mother’s Day of Lance’s life, but it did remind the Tides that they weren’t invincible.
More importantly, it showed Huntsville that the Tides could be beat.
While the Tides went into their most recent game confident that the home field advantage would clinch them a victory, the Mayors clearly weren't afraid to fight a little dirty to get what they wanted. Hard elbows and a couple choice shoves were enough to take out two of the rabbit's teammates. It had been clearly worth the fouls to Huntsville, who walked away with the win.
Lance walked away from the game enraged.
There was a sense of honor that was lost, a line crossed. He was willing to be a good sport, win or lose, and that mentality had started to spread to his teammates, but he wondered if preaching to them to play clean had made his team complacent.
After the loss, the shit-talking from Huntsville of course had continued, and the rabbit lost his cool. With a day to level out, the rabbit realized that it was honestly his own reactions to the situation that had gotten him down the most. He liked to consider himself able to bounce back from anything life threw at him, but thinking back to the things he'd recently posted on social media sites, the bunny just felt ashamed and frustrated that he'd let himself get so riled up.
Of course, it didn't help that he'd wasted a well-crafted confectionery treat on top of everything else; it was the icing of guilt layered on top of the rest of his feelings. He hadn't even realized he'd smashed the cake until he looked down at it, staring at it on the floor. And of course, he'd made that stupid tweet implying he could have his cake and eat it, too. Way to go, Lance.
The cereal was bland in his mouth, much blander than the carrot cake would have been. He pushed away the bowl, hardly touched. "This is stupid. All of this is stupid. We need a new plan."
Lance called the front desk. "Yes, can you recommend any restaurants in the area?"
"What's all this?" Sluggy asked, as she and some of the other Tides entered the back room of Giovanni's Bar and Grill, a restaurant not too far from Huntsville's stadium. A full spread of grilled meats, vegetables, and several sides, was ready to go, enough to feed a small army.
"I thought we could all use a little perspective," Lance responded, once everyone had arrived. "I hope tomorrow is the last game of our series, but if it's not, win or lose, we've accomplished great things this season, and I'm proud to be here with all of you tonight.
"If you're feeling like I am, you're probably nervous, frustrated, and all around grumpy, so I wanted to remind everyone we're here because this is supposed to be fun. I know tomorrow is a big day, and there will be even bigger days ahead. But this is a reminder that at the end of this, I have had a blast with every one of you on the court this year.
"We always play our best when we just have fun out on the court, not when we’re worried about the outcome. So tomorrow, I want us to do that. No matter how our opponents play, how many elbows, or shoves, or fouls, or taunts they throw at us, just have fun out there tomorrow. And tonight, let's let loose and have a little fun on our own terms. And when we bring this feeling of everyone together to the game tomorrow, I know we'll have done our best."
Lance smiled softly to himself as he watched the team-- no, HIS team-- interact with each other. People were laughing and seemed much more relaxed already. Randy was animatedly discussing something while tousling his own hair; Diego was happily munching away at a grilled ear of corn; and Sluggy was discussing her most recent discovery from a nearby park. Tia had started hugging everyone and telling them how much they meant to her. Even Leon, who had started out the evening sulking, seemed to have lightened up a bit. The tension that he'd felt earlier that day had gone away, replaced by a much more welcome sense of determination.
It would be another good week.