How do you put your teeth in a mouthful?” she asked.
“That’s a good question,” he said, nodding. He didn’t say what the answers were.
“What’s a good question?”
“That’s a good question,” he said again. “You just get it in there, and you move on to the next question.”
This is what my father did every day of practice. He asked his players what question they would ask him. If the answer was “I don’t think so,” he would tell them not to worry at dinner, when they were done cooking.
I never saw him smile, but I could tell he was tired. After practice, he would walk over to the dressing room, where the players were all taking their seats, and he would close his eyes and pretend to be asleep, sitting down on the floor and closing his eyes again. He would just stare at them, and it would be like watching a movie. Sometimes the players told me stories that were so funny and brilliant, they almost made me laugh. At other times, I could tell he was getting really cranky, even though I knew that the day would finally come.
That’s how I knew that practice was going to be tough. Just like my parents told me that one day, practice would test me, it was going to test every one of us.
My family had grown up in the Midwest, so I never saw the South or the Southwest, so it gave me a certain pride, as if to prove they were smarter and that they were better than us, that somehow we had it harder than them. I thought we were as proud to be white as anything else, but then we got hit.
We lived near Cincinnati, and we were born in St. Louis but moved to this big suburb, and that gave us pride. I saw the flag, and I wanted it to be flying. I still try to talk about those things I saw as a kid.
In the first month of my freshman year, I remember the way one of my coaches looked at me. There were only three words he wanted to say to me: you have everything in place now, and that was it. And everything he said was something that I couldn’t hear.
“You are everything,” he said, and it was as if he was saying they were his words. There was no question in his eyes, and even though I didn’t quite believe
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