Chapter 2

THE CHAMPIONS

“You don’t look too good.” There were a lot of people around, but the large man
in the tiny T-shirt was talking to me.
“I’m fine,” I gasped through clenched teeth, “really. Let’s not make a scene.”
The large man didn’t agree. “C’mon, big guy, let me help.” He smiled and
rubbed his man-stubble with his hand while his giant man-muscles bulged through his
tiny T-shirt.
His shirt said “In Ball We Trust.”
I had to piss.
18
I shoulda just gone. There aren’t many situations where wetting yourself would
actually be less embarrassing than what is already happening to you, and I should have
taken advantage. But I didn’t. My arms burned and my chest ached and I just wanted to
get the hell outta there. But of course, I couldn’t get outta there because that would have
first involved sitting up, and I couldn’t sit up because there was a fucking bar with twohundred
and five pounds stacked on it firmly and painfully pressed against my chest,
crushing the life out of me.
Why two-oh-five, Paul?
You could have stayed under two hundred, finished your workout, and been home
by now, eating that spaghetti in the fridge and flirting with Cute Smoking Girl across the
street. But no, macho-man. You had to bump it up to two hundred fucking five and get
stuck and now there’s a fucking gorilla hovering over you, calling you “big guy” and
dripping his man-sweat all over your face.
I was about to tilt the bar to the side, dump the weights noisily onto the floor and
then run away like a little girl when the large man reached down and grabbed the bar with
his left hand.
No way was he gonna—
The big fuck lifted the bar—the same bar that a second before had been crushing
the life out of me—with one arm and gently—did he have to make it look so easy?—put
it back on the rack. I felt the blood begin to once again flow through my body; there was
plenty of room for it with the complete and utter absence of my pride. I sat up.
19
“Thanks,” I said meekly.
“No problem, big guy,” said the man. “So, you want me to spot you this time?”
“Uh, no thanks,” I said. I got to my feet and looked up at him. I’m six feet tall,
but I still had to look way up. “It’s getting late, and I have a full schedule of eating steak
and drinking beer and watching football. Maybe next time.”
“Sure, buddy,” said the man. He was grinning like an idiot and his chest muscles
were bouncing up and down at me. His grin was saying, “I know a pune like you could
never get a girl, but the second you do I will steal her and fuck her on your bed,” and his
bouncing pecks were saying, “Na na nana na.” I shook my head and got the hell away.
Man, I was gonna kill Greg for this. Stupid Greg. I hated lifting weights, but
Greg had said something about our bodies mirroring our minds. I never saw his scrawny
self in the gym though. No, I ventured into the gorilla cage all by myself while he was at
home working on the book with a body that mirrored a squirrel that had been run over. I
walked home and smoked a cigarette and I missed Delia because, if I still had her, I
would run over Greg.

Greg and I ended up going to the same college. Before we got here, we had a lot
of ideas of what it would be like. A place where free thinking was celebrated. Where
dreams came true. Where potential fueled future glory. Where hot girls abound.
We were very excited about college.
Then they took my car.
20
I had to get rid of Delia. Freshman weren’t allowed to have cars and my parents’
hands were tied—they didn’t want a rusty old Buick parked in the driveway for a year. I
couldn’t blame them, but I missed her and hoped that the new owners would respect her
enough not to take off that crappy sticker. I knew why I had to get rid of her. It wasn’t
because of parking or anything innocent like that. No no, they knew what they were
doing.
They did not want me out on the road, putting things in perspective and hearing
secrets and getting Feelings. They took my way to go out and sense the true nature of the
world because they didn’t want me sensing it. No, they wanted me on campus, blind to
the truth, ignorant of The Dream, guided by The System. For it was there, in the
hallowed halls of supposed intellectual freedom, where The System grew strongest,
lurking in the shadows, waiting to claim yet another victim.
That’s the dirty little secret. That’s what Greg and I discovered long ago, during
that freshman year. College will destroy your perspective. It alters your scope. You are
put in a dorm with hundreds of other students in the middle of a campus with thousands
more. There are clubs and causes and classes and love interests and exams and the list
goes on and on until, if you are not careful, all you can think about is college life and
your college becomes your life. Eventually, you mistake your campus for the world,
your classes for something important. And then… Well, then they will push you out.
And you have no choice but to start walking, even though you have no idea which way to
go.
21
But even though I had missed Delia I didn’t need her anymore.
I had found something else.
Freshman year of college, I began to understand it. Sophomore year, I put it into
action, and Junior year, I actually believed it.
Thanks to Greg, I walked the path of the Champion.
And I was safe.

THE CHAMPION’S CREED

To bask in the glory of being a true Champion is a modest thing

1. Believe
2. You’re only young once, but you can always be immature
3. Be humble and polite, but don’t let anyone push you around
4. Zakenna Yo
5. See a cookie, eat the cookie

-Gregory Short

Gregory Sturgeon Short was a Champion. More specifically, he was an
Undefeatable Champion. That was as high as it got. For the sake of comparison, I was
merely a Fairly Consistent Champion. We were the only two Champions in
Edwardsville, and Greg was the only Undefeatable Champion in the entire world. We
were good people.
22
Being outranked by Greg didn’t bother me at all. He was the inventor of
Championism after all, so he had much more practice. Instead, I had a feeling of pride,
of humble honor, at having the opportunity to follow in Greg’s momentous footsteps.
Greg was working on a book, THE CHAMPION’S GUIDEBOOK. The
book’s full title will be How to Live, Love, and Then Live Some More the
Undefeatable Way: Official Rules and Regulations For the Aspiring
Undefeatable Champion—A Guide to Championism and How to Live The
Dream. He planned on selling his masterpiece for lots of money so he could quit
school. He said that school will always be in the way of the true Champion. He will
surely go down in history as a man far ahead of his time, but then again, for a Champion,
that’s inevitable.

ON FAITH

An Introduction to Championism

In the following pages, you will find the keys to an unimaginable
power. To become a Champion is not easy, nor is it exclusive. Anyone
can do it. Please keep in mind that, just like any belief or religion,
blind faith is unnecessary and hazardous. If you do not wholeheartedly
believe or agree with what you are reading, do not hesitate to return
this book. Get your money back and don’t waste another thought on
this guide. If you do believe, congratulations. This is going to be fun.


-THE CHAMPION’S GUIDEBOOK

23

Greg and I were one day away from beginning our senior year at William Taft
University. The school was pretty small, but I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The soccer
team is really good. William Taft University is located in the aforementioned town of
Edwardsville, Indiana. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that William Taft University is
the aforementioned town of Edwardsville, Indiana. I guess there were like two or three
houses in the town that weren’t considered “on campus,” but dude.
Taft U, as the kids called it, was overall a pretty crappy school. Greg and I were
there because we were pretty stupid in high school. Not like book-stupid, and not like
stupid-stupid. No, we were stupid because we didn’t do any work and ended up having to
come to a crappy school.
Taft U was about forty-five minutes away from Pioneer High School. Pioneer
High School was where Greg invented Championism.
Greg invented Championism during our freshman year after realizing that there
was more to life than the adults in his life were letting on, more to life than most people
knew. Actually, Greg’s parents are completely insane.
I didn’t really know what being a Champion was all about in its formative year,
the year before Greg and I became biology partners. As I said earlier, I didn’t interact
with Greg back then. I was lost in my own little life.
When I wasn’t driving around in Delia, I spent my time playing frisbee with
24
Matt Gross and dreaming about Skye Perch. I spent a lot of time dreaming about Skye
Perch. I had known her since the third grade and loved her since the fourth. True, I had
never actually spoken to her, but I had pushed her down a couple of times on the
playground. If I could have gotten away with that at Pioneer, we might have been
something.
Skye was smart and funny and cute and I just knew back then that this girl was
everything I wanted or would ever want. Senior year at Pioneer we actually became
acquaintances, and I treasured those precious moments when I would tell her what she
missed in class or asked her if I could borrow a pencil or shook her hand. Unfortunately,
I was a practitioner of the No-Game Game*, and Skye was immune to its affect. Rumor
was that she lived somewhere near Edwardsville these days, but as to what she was doing
I had no idea. I kinda lost touch with Matt Gross after high school. Last I heard, he was
at some art school in Ohio.
As Greg and I grew closer, he would reveal more and more of his creation to me.
Of course he had recognized my Feeling. He was very impressed that it had come to me
without any formal training and he had explained it to me. After I knew what it was, I
knew why I couldn’t shake it.
From the very beginning, Greg had been a good teacher. He was detailed and
patient and he shared everything with me. I didn’t grasp it all at first. For instance, as
someone who had always studied hard and done all his work, Greg seemed like such the
complete slacker to me. I knew that he was a smart guy and he could have pulled off
25
some good grades, but damn, that boy never did any work.
Ignorant as I was at the time, I didn’t realize that Greg was simply carving out the
Way of the Champion, figuring it out as he went along, the whole time rebelling against a
system that he vehemently opposed. He did not want to be assimilated into that system.
No no, Greg wanted to beat the system, to manipulate it, and Pioneer was merely a
laboratory in which to test his theories.
Since Greg was my friend (and since I had discovered the joys of doing as little
work as possible), I began doing things his way—except that my ignorance of his
motives led to me getting the same bad grades without the added bonuses of spiritual
growth and caustic social commentary. I didn’t begin to truly understand what he had
actually been doing until we began college.
Needless to say, Greg and I had a much different experience, and I pretty much
wasted those first two years of Championism at Pioneer. It was like trying to have sex
with thin air: I was going through all the same motions, but dude!
Anyway, Greg was my roommate and my teacher and my best friend, and I was definitely going kick his ass when I got home.

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