Sports Hell chapter 1: The bandwagoners
College Contributor Network
It was about halftime in the great game of life, and as I traveled down that long and weary road, I came upon a dark gate.
Abandon all hope, ye who support the Chicago Cubs.
A chill ran down my back. Is this where I was meant to go? The way forward seemed nothing but bleak, and yet, there was a light in my heart that spurned me onward. Whatever lay before me, I had to see. I passed through the gate, and descended into Sports Hell.
Things weren't as hot as I thought they would be. Indeed, the air of Sports Hell was almost akin to a musty, time-worn locker room. Dank and wet and dark – always dark. As I stumbled forward, I heard something splashing up ahead. Groping blindly I ventured toward the sound, but before long a small white light emerged from the blackness before me. It was a lone lantern, illuminating a small boat, and in the boat hunched a solitary figure. There were no oars and there was no sound of a motor, yet the craft glided across the water, purposefully and without noise.
As the vessel drew up to my small spot of shore, the hunched figure straightened and stood up. The boat never rocked.
"Hey, you're Pete Rose!"
The man smiled a weary smile. He nodded ever so slightly. "Welcome, son, to Sports Hell. The Master told me you were coming, and he tasked me with being your guide through our desecrated land. I must warn you, however. Our path ahead is lined with brutality and despair, and as we go deeper, it will only grow worse. Every step we take will bring more pain and suffering than the last."
"Kind of like Derrick Rose's career?"
"Exactly like Derrick Rose's career."
Yikes. I was afraid, but I knew what I must do. Pete Rose held out his hand and I stepped into the boat. He sat down across from me and, without so much as a whisper, the boat left the shore again. The caverns and caves of Sports Hell must have been enormous. I never saw a wall or a ceiling. Just empty, boundless darkness all around, and nothing but the water below.
My initial spot on shore had only just vanished from view when Pete Rose turned and grabbed the lantern and held it aloft. "Look here, wanderer. Look on the first group of sinners."
I rose and followed the light of the lantern out to an island far away. Faint sounds of whinnying and yapping and churning could be heard. The glow of the light expanded, and at once I could see more clearly.
"Is that – is that the Sooner Schooner?"
Indeed it was. Drawn by two dark horses made of smoldering fire, the Sooner Schooner was running amok all over the island. Black dust spouted from the wooden wheels and a demon made of smoke and ash had the reins. He whipped the horses on and on and they pounded the ground faster and faster.
As we watched the runaway wagon, another sound made itself known to me – screams. Howling, screeching yells of pain echoed out across the water. There seemed to be hundreds of voices, perhaps thousands, letting out a piercing cry that went on and on and on. As I stood and watched with Pete Rose, I saw that behind the Sooner Schooner were scores and scores of bodies being dragged and thrown and whipped about by the wild rampage. They were bound to the wagon's rear with thick black cords, and the bodies ricocheted off of each other, bouncing and breaking and cracking. It was a grisly scene.
"Who are these people?" I asked.
Pete Rose looked at me solemnly. "Can you not tell? These are the bandwagoners. Their allegiance to their team is based solely off of that team's success. They are fickle and weak. They avoid all manners of regression or suffering. Thus, in this life, they must suffer indefinitely. The Master demands it."
The Sooner Schooner rounded the shore closest to us, and several of the sinners whipped out over the water, bouncing on the glassy surface like concrete. They were dressed in jerseys and shirts of all colors – Miami Heat outfits emblazoned with the number six, Seahawks jerseys of the number 12, even a couple pink Tony Romo uniforms – and the wagon dragged them over the harsh earth with no discrimination.
The harsh earth...hold on, there was something about that, too. Previously I had taken it for more of the ashy, barren terrain of Sports Hell, but now, this island had a certain dynamic to it. Was it glowing?
"Coals," I said. "They're being raked over the coals."
"Precisely," Pete Rose said. "Every loyal fan longs for this to be done to the bandwagoners. They want them to taste defeat. They want them to weather the storm of losing season after losing season. They want them to understand the price that comes with victory."
Something uneasy lurked in my stomach. "I've seen enough," I said. "Can we move on?"
Pete Rose took his seat again and set the lantern back in the boat. The light receded, and the Sooner Schooner and the horses and the cackling demon faded into the wall of blackness. If you listened hard, you might have been able to hear the cries of the bandwagoners, but only just.
The boat traveled onward. The looming darkness dominated us once more.
For a look back through the entirety of the trip through Sports Hell, check out the previous chapters below:
Sports Hell chapter 6: The end
Sports Hell chapter 5: Death row
Sports Hell chapter 4: The puppet masters
Sports Hell chapter 3: The choke jobs
Sports Hell chapter 2: The ball hogs
Sports Hell chapter 1: The bandwagoners
Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz