810: There Is No Touchdown Here, Belichick

810: There Is No Touchdown Here, Belichick

810: There Is No Touchdown Here, Belichick


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

Recently I stopped myself mid-sentence when talking to a fellow poet after being asked what I was writing these days. They listened expectantly while I discussed my prospective collection of essays, waiting for me to continue, then said, “Are you going to finish?” I answered, half-apologetically, “I’ve become superstitious about sharing my ideas before completing them.” Once I narrated the full sketch of the book, I was happy that I did so because their suggestions rooted deep into the project.

Why my hesitance? Some years ago I went around telling everyone, I mean everyone, even my dentist, my mouth full of tools, my idea for a romantic comedy involving uninvited guests at a series of weddings. When several friends texted to congratulate me on seeing my imagined screenplay on the big screen, I immediately purchased a ticket then sat in a dark theater full of annoyance at its brilliance but, also, paranoid that my idea was stolen, even though I had no such evidence other than the flickering images before me. Then, several years later, one of the people to whom I had divulged wrote a bestselling book on the topic of weddings.

I suppose I’ve known the lesson of keeping “your cards close to your chest” since I was a kid. Father Dave Hagen, my basketball coach at Saint Elizabeth’s Elementary School, scolded me about telegraphing my passes during games, which always resulted in the ball being stolen by the opposing team for an easy layup downcourt. So I became the master of the look-away pass. A skill developed on the court but not in life.

For most of my life, I’ve been an open book, that is, not one to keep secrets. I’ve not been cagey about my journey on this earth nor my writing projects. I share, then at times, overshare. Maybe believing in the false sense of intimacy between me and others, I went all in, divulging like I was in a confessional. I’ve had to learn boundaries. Yet, there are so many works of art that reach people by taking down those boundaries. As a writer, this balance is hard to strike.

I like to think that we advance as a community when we drop the curtains and reveal ourselves: our personal stories, desires, mishaps, aspirations, and dreams. That our chances for collective well-being and success rise when we adopt a novelistic sense of ourselves. Both of which may be true. I choose to believe openness allows us to achieve greater levels of vulnerability which dissolve fear and increase trust in our society. I cannot imagine living during the Victorian or Puritanical ages when everyone, all buttoned up, pretended not to know what was going on with their neighbors and family members. The world must have been a lonely place…and a twenty-four-hour news cycle of whispers and gossips.

Today’s whimsical poem, “There Is No Touchdown Here, Belichick” by Vi Khi Nao, a gem of a fable, hilariously makes the point that sometimes living our lives as one big secret is beyond futile. Maintaining secrets is poisonous and harmful to our personal and collective health. It’s a deft environmental poem that knows personal stories can be empowering when shared openly at the right time.

There is No Touchdown Here, Belichick
by Vi Khi Nao

                            I love it when the head coaches of the NFL cover their
                                   mouths when they verbalize their game plans
                             I wonder if the ocean ever covers its lips whenever
                            the river opens its wide mouth to disclose its plan to
                         drown all the carps and catfish through plastic poisoning
I expect the carps to put on their football helmets to defend its life from plastic
                                         I expect the quarterbacks in the form of
                                       phytoplankton to lead the rivers out of hell
        When it is January again and the Superbowl hasn't fallen asleep on my lap
                                              I take the salmon to bed with me
                                       And press a warm hand on its cold body
                                                  While it dies slowly in my arms
                           I know fresh wild fish never makes a good face mask
I know I can't resolve my daddy issues by whispering all my secrets to a dead fish
                                   I know that even when I don't cover my face
                                       My life strategy can be read by everyone
                                Including those who are not even my opponents
                                              Because my secret is that all along
                                  I just want to die with that grill-bearing craniate
            In that bed of mine that no one would dare to say is anybody's riverbed

“There Is No Touchdown Here, Belichick” by Vi Khi Nao. Used by permission of the poet.