JOHN THE AVATAR

I am five foot seven and three quarter inches tall. At least that’s what the tall rangy nurse at my orthopedist told me. I had heard that you lose one inch for every ten years after fifty years of age. So, if that is true, I was either five feet ten and a quarter when I started crunching my vertebrae together or that is just a bunch of caca de toro.

I was a full five feet nine at my tallest, somewhere around twenty years of age. I had a small growth spurt after I was sixteen. Since the giants that now inhabit the earth were not around then, I felt that I was just a middlin’ height person. It enabled me to get a rebound once or twice in a real basketball game and guard whatever opponent fate threw at me. Five feet nine was o.k. and so was I.

Dunking was not a big deal then. Sure there were tall guys, both black and white, who could do it, but it was not part of the game. Why dunk when you could stand in the keyhole and just turn around and put the ball in the basket, a la George Mikan? Then they went and changed the rules to three seconds in the keyhole and widened the key to a horseshoe. Then you really started to see guys dunking the ball.

In later years, as my body cringed at running the floor and taking jump shots, I began to place more faith in my nighttime dreams about being a professional basketball player than actually playing the game. If I could not run down the court with the kind of agility needed, I would create an avatar that would be able to do it. I named my avatar John.

John was six foot nine inches tall and could dunk backhanded with two hands and snuff any other ballplayer in the NBA with ease. His specialty was to follow the other team’s fast break, with a fast break of his own and catch up to the person with the ball and then snuff him as he went up for his shot or for a dunk. As you can see, John is a veritable kangaroo.

The papers were filled with his exploits. He could play any position on the floor, backcourt, frontcourt, or in the middle. He was a superb defensive player. Other teams would not pass the ball to any player he was guarding. The end would normally be an interception, or a snuff. It made the game for the opponents different than when they played any other team.

Being a figment of my imagination was no hindrance to what John could do. There was no sport that could really challenge him. Once he was interested in a sport, he could break any of their records. An example of his prowess came in the 2020 Olympics. There John shattered so many world records, that he may have destroyed the Olympics forever.

He not only broke the running records, he broke almost all of the weight and field events. His mammoth 400 foot javelin throw and his 95 foot shot put throw boggled the minds of anyone who saw him. He had no form, but immense strength. To this day, I am not sure that he realized what he was doing. He was always a calm and placid guy. He was friendly to a fault and loved his fans. He did not want a fan club, but was accessible beyond what was expected of him

As I look backward and forward to his accomplishments, I can see that he was a special person who combined all of the positive traits than one human being can have. For some reason that I cannot explain, John had no past and certainly no sure future. Since he was my avatar, he would not be around past my death. His traits, as a human, bore very little comparison to me. As I am aggressive and truculent to a fault, John is, or was, placid, laconic and violently introspective.

His daily routine was not to have a routine at all. Since he had no real friends, except those in my semi-catatonic state before going to sleep, I could not really dredge up a life for him beyond his participation in sports. That was really all I needed. I had him in every conceivable sport from UFC to soccer; to tennis (he won the Grand Slam in his first attempt). Since he needed no practice, he could jump into any sport and be its outstanding player.

John approached the general manager of the Mets in the spring of 2019. He had just won his 5th NBA title and was looking for some new fields to conquer. John wanted to know if the Mets might be interested in a pitcher who could go out every three or four days, pitch a complete game, and be ready to do some relief work. The general manager had heard of John, and had no idea of his skill in baseball. He accorded John a tryout at the Mets training facility in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

If anyone has thrown a baseball harder than John did, no one had ever heard of it. The major league record, although it was not official, was a fellow by the name of Johnny Cueto, of the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 who threw the ball 107 miles per hour in a regular game. John began his tryout throwing the ball at 110 miles per hour and he was only just starting.

The catcher that day was a veteran catcher named Rodriguez, who had spent fifteen years in the big leagues and was now a coach with the Mets. Rodriguez had to get some extra padding for his glove and still his hand hurt. He ameliorated the pain by catching the ball the way a first baseman might, in the webbing. The Mets manager could hardly believe what he was seeing.

John did all his own negotiating and became the starter for the first game of the season against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. Since John refused to sign more than a one season contract, the Mets were going to use him until it hurt. The first game began with John throwing nine pitches, all strikes and striking out the side. He continued to mow them down for the next eight innings. He was on his way to a perfect game with 21 strikeouts, when he appeared to tire. It was in the bottom of the ninth, when he gave up his first walk, followed by a single.

The Mets had scored 3 runs. If the next batter for the Braves connected, it could tie up the game. However, that did not happen. He threw nine more pitches and chalked up three strikeouts, giving him 24 for the game and shattering the strikeout record, formerly held by Tanaka, Clemens and a number of others, including Nolan Ryan.

The Mets gathered round John in the clubhouse and congratulated him on his accomplishment. The catcher for that day, Sonny Diggs, had his hand in bucket of ice. He was smiling through the pain. The Mets had finally gotten a pitcher like Doc Gooden. They were thrilled at the prospect. John was his old lack of affect self. He never really cracked a smile. He was pleasant to talk to, but showed no emotion. He appeared to be satisfied with what he had done.

The season began and ended in the same fashion as the first game. John was able to win 32 games, the first in the majors since Denny McClain to win 30. His ERA was closer to 1.00 than it was to 2.00. He led the league in strikeouts, and catchers. No one could catch John for the whole season. The Mets had a number of young catchers in the minors and brought one up every month. Sonny Diggs had lasted one full month when he requested a substitute. The Mets’ manager understood and began the rotation of catchers.

Once in a while, John does do some relief work. The Mets management was worried that he might throw out his arm and never pitch again. John assured everyone that he was built differently than most pitchers and his arm could handle much more stress. Since he appeared to throw many less pitches than most pitchers, management let him go on his merry way.

Since I have so little control over my avatar, once he is in full thrall in his activities, I can relax and have him do his thing. I notice that he seems to get tired of what he is doing in a short span of time. I cannot tell you how long that is, because I am not paying attention. With my head resting on my pillow, I can let my mind wander to other parts of my brain. I have always had a devilish plan to distribute large sums of money to various people and entities. When I was younger it was one hundred thousand dollars. Now it has reached one billion dollars. The cost of inflation.

I have my billion dollars invested conservatively. However, with so much dough, the interest, even at this time, helps pay for many things. I first send a bunch of money to my children for their kids’ college education. With costs for college ballooning, I cannot take a chance that there won’t be enough for them to go to school. I also give my children substantial amounts so that they won’t have to worry forever.

Of course, I fulfill most of mine and Carol’s dreams. She wants a place that our children and grandchildren would love to visit. So, we buy a villa in Italy, right on the coast, a place at Bethany Beach and a house in Chautauqua. That should do it for a while. I also buy myself a really fancy sports care- a Maserati or a Bugati (if they still make them).

The bulk of my dough goes to rural school districts that need help. I am sure that one part of my mind thinks that’s crazy, while the other part remembers how much I owe these folks for their support over the years. I have thought about how to do it, and I have developed a system. Since I am a school finance freak, I will surely know who really needs money.

By this time, I am back to my avatar. John has completed his season with the Mets and is thinking about either going back to the NBA for a season, or beginning a new adventure in another sport. He does not age, so whatever he chooses will not affect his body in any way. At six feet nine, there are certain sports that will be difficult. He certainly does not want to do team luge or anything that he has to fold himself into.

He decides to play hockey. Although he has never skated before, he is expert the moment that he dons the skates. His first thought is to play goalie. However, all of those pads give him the willies. He contacts a number of teams who have never had the privilege of hoisting Lord Stanley’s cup. Chief among them are the Vancouver Canucks. John has never been a fan of hockey teams below the frost line. Out go all of the southern U.S. teams like Florida, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, L.A., Nashville and so on.

It is appropriate for John that a Canadian city has his skills for a while. In his discussions with the Canucks, he has to be examined by the team doctor and go through a tryout. His tryout consists of skating and shooting a puck through, under and over and to the side of goalie Jacques Lemieux. Lemieux is a twice Vezina Trophy winner and a record holder in many areas. John has no trouble putting the puck almost anywhere he wants.

Lemieux is mad and the coach is ecstatic. John is signed to a one year deal again and goes to training camp with the Canucks. Since none of John’s exploits follow him anywhere, he is free to enjoy each sport as it comes to him. Having an avatar means that John’s life is not structured the way real life and time is. Time moves backwards and forwards despite the current scientific theories. Of course, with John setting scoring records (way beyond Wayne Gretzky) Vancouver wins the Stanley Cup, winning all their games in the playoffs. Vancouver goes crazy.

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