“Anybody know what this place is?” Coach asked.
No one answered. Coach bowed his head.
“This is Gettysburg,” he said, with the sacred hum of a gospel choir. “This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. 50,000 men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we’re still fighting amongst ourselves today.”
The boys twitched. Each one was uncomfortable, as if the hallowed bodies of the fallen dead were reaching up through the dewed grass. Reaching out to them with long fingers, white and black.
Coach raised his head. He looked at the field, unflinchingly. “This green field right here, painted red. Bubbling with the blood of young boys. Smoke-and hot lead tore right through their bodies.”
Coach looked back at his boys. They were shivering from sweat and haunted air, their eyes all grey in the morning twilight.
“If we don’t come together,” Coach said, his voice so hard, it was a pistol crack,”Right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other, but you will respect each other. And maybe-I don’t know, maybe, we’ll learn to play this game like men.”
The boys nodded without thinking. They just reacted, the words like molten lead in their stomachs, making their necks jerk up and down. They weren’t quite sure what they were agreeing to, they just had to agree. Because Coach’s voice was strong and the field was layered in fog and tombstones.