Near Seattle, Washington
The engine of the truck whirred to life as rain splattered it heavily. The windshield, windows, and sides of the truck had waterfalls cascading down them. The words on the truck, ‘TACOMA MOVING SERVICES,’ were barely visible in the heavy downpour. The raindrops beat down on the roof of the truck, making a barrage of thudding noises.
“Typical Seattle,” thought Danny Reynolds.
“Alright, mate!” called the truck driver. “You have a good one!”
“Thanks!” replied Dan.
He sighed and sauntered slowly into his new house. “Well, this is it,” he thought bitterly. “This is what it all comes down to.”
The last five years had been nothing short of hell for Dan. After being waived out of nowhere by the Baltimore Barrage, he had to spend a year with no actual form of income. The next year, he was signed by the Miami Coasters. Unfortunately, the team refused to respect Dan, or even listen to his opinions. After a horrendous playoffs loss to the New York Skyscrapers, he was immediately waived by his team. “Ah yes, this again,” he had thought, trying not to cry.
After going an entire season without playing in the league, he had to move into a smaller house in Seattle, selling his mansion, to keep himself fed and warm. To keep him with a roof over his head. The year after, he was signed to a non-guaranteed deal (1) by the Las Vegas Decks. Again, he had tried to be a leader and motivator to the younger players. This, however, was perceived by the senior team members as an attempt to take over the team. He was quickly let go of by the Decks as well.
Thus, he had to spend the last two years of his life with no job, no income, and no hope. Danny often felt that he could live without playing basketball, without a pay check, or without his estranged wife just fine. But he could not live with the new title he had been given by the league.
‘The Dressing-Room Cancer.’
Finally, he had sold his second house as well and moved into a tiny, one-bedroom house somewhere north of Seattle. The money would keep him alive. It would somehow keep him from becoming homeless. But it wouldn’t last forever. Danny knew he had to find work, and quickly. He had applied for two jobs: as a teacher in Lake Stevens Elementary School, and as a cleaner in the nearby Boeing Future of Flight Museum.
With a start, Dan realized his phone was ringing. He slid the answer button. “Hello?”
Danny Reynolds’ eyes filled with tears. It had been so long since he’d interacted with her, since he’d heard her voice.
Speaking to him was his baby girl, his daughter, Alice.
“Alice!” he breathed, sliding onto the unopened boxes of his belongings.
“Is everything okay, dad?”
“Everything’s fine, sweetie,” he lied. His hands were trembling and his lips were quivering with the happiness of hearing her speak again.
“My friends keep making fun of me, dad,” said Alice. “They say my dad is a cancer in the dressing room.”
Dan smiled weakly. “Your dad likes telling people what to do, maybe that’s why everyone thinks so. Maybe that’s why Eva left me…”
The last sentence slipped past his lips before he could stop it. He instantly regretted dragging his daughter into his marital mess.
“Mom doesn’t like talking about you at all, dad. She isn’t even seeing other guys. She just says her goal now is to provide a life for her children.”
“What about Ben, how’s he doing?”
“He’s doing okay, though he really misses you. Mom doesn’t like it at all,” said Alice.
“What about you, sugar? How’re you doing?”
“I’m about to graduate high school!” said Alice proudly. “I really want to go to college and study physiology. But mom keeps saying we have no money…”
“No!” said Dan. “You keep the dream alive! You’re going to college! Daddy will make sure of that!”
Dan’s interview for the teaching job at Lake Stevens Elementary School was an unqualified disaster. The interviewer had rejected him by saying that they didn’t want a failed, washed-up former NBA player teaching their kids.
Dan drove his second-hand Honda Civic back home slowly. He had once been the proud owner of an Aston Martin, which had to be sold to keep Dan alive.
When he reached home, he found an unexpected visitor.
“Steven!” exclaimed Dan. “What’s up? What brings you here?”
Steven Walker grinned. “Some news, buddy!”
Steven was the coach who was fired along with Dan by the Baltimore Barrage. After his firing, even he had been through much adversity. He didn’t have a stable job for almost a year. Finally, he had found a cashier’s job at his local Chipotle in Omaha. After six months there, Steven had applied for a coaching job at Nebraska State University. He ended up landing an assistant coaching job. This somehow ensured that he and his family got three square meals a day.
But he had kept tabs on his friend, Danny Reynolds. He knew all about the struggles. He knew about Dan applying to be a cleaner at the Boeing Museum.
He couldn’t imagine the man, Sniper Reynolds, sweeping floors for tourists!
He was here with a speculation, and an offer that could change both of their lives.
Dan poured Steven some wine. They talked about wives, kids, and their struggles for a while. Finally, Steven decided to come to the point.
“I’ll start from the beginning, Dan. Houston Spacewalkers’ GM (2) Mark Ronald, has decided to quit his position.”
“Oh, that’s sad. The only notable player he brought for Houston was Terry Parker. All of his other selections backfired miserably. “
“Yes,” said Steven. “The Spacewalkers’ new GM. His name is Marcello Rodriguez.”
“Hey, I know that guy!” said Dan. “He had a random desk job in the Spacewalkers’ front office for twenty five years! He even made headlines for serving the organization for more than half his life!”
“Well, he’s the GM now,” said Steven. “He started his tenure by firing the head coach, Gordon Spencer.”
“Isn’t he the same guy who kept taking unnecessary timeouts and jeopardizing his team’s chances of winning?”
“He’s gone now,” said Steven. “The Houston Spacewalkers are now looking for a new head coach.”
“Hope they find someone worth the position,” said Dan.
“I’m thinking of applying for the position, Dan.”
Dan felt a burst of happiness. “Go for it, Stevie! Houston deserves an amazing head coach like you! Maybe you’ll end the Spacewalkers’ Championship Curse!”
“Thanks, Dan,” smiled Steven. “But here’s the thing.”
“If I get the head coach job, I’ll talk to Marcello Rodriguez and get you a multi-year contract!”
Dan stared at Steven in disbelief.
“You can finally play basketball again! We can finally team up again!”
Dan’s eyes started tearing up.
“Let’s win ourselves a championship, Dan…”
“Wait, in Houston? With the Spacewalkers of all teams?”
“Let’s end the Spacewalkers’ Championship Curse, Danny Reynolds!”
“Let’s end it together!”
1. Non-Guaranteed Deal: Non-guaranteed contracts can be terminated at any point and the organization is no longer required to for whatever amount is remaining - that money is "not guaranteed.” Guaranteed contracts mean that the player will receive the full guaranteed amount even if he is terminated (waived) by the team early. That money is "guaranteed."
2. GM: General Manager.
A Small Message from the Author:
Before writing today’s chapter. I received a heart-warming piece of news. I heard that Indian sprinter V Revathi is going to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics. Her parents passed away when she was five years old, and she was raised by her grandmother. She will wear her country’s flag in Tokyo and represent a nation of 1.2 billion people. As a guy who is writing about athletes and their struggles to make it in the field of sports, I am so happy for Revathi and inspired by her struggle to reach where she is. I would like to wish her all the best for the coming Olympics. I dedicate this chapter, and all the previous chapters, to Revathi’s efforts, sacrifice, and eventual success. I would like all my readers to wish this wonderful daughter of India all the best, in their hearts.