“Risk everything,” they said. “Sign this waiver form,” they said. “Play against Jacob Burns,” they said.
This past weekend, Nike held the finals of its “Winner Stays” tournament in Sydney. You may have seen the ad, where kids playing kickabout transmogrify into various players. Conveniently, they all nominate Nike-sponsored athletes. The Nike ad isn’t too shabby really, especially when you compare it to this abomination. (And, believe it or not, the FA has released a “making of…” video.)
“Risk everything” was the theme. “I’m more of a ‘risk 10%’ kind of guy,” I said as they asked me to sign a waiver. The logo featured a flaming die and football. Hmm. This didn’t augur well.
Before the fun began, however, there was a lecture and a written exam. We were drilled in identifying the different kinds of Nike boots. (There were the orange ones, the fluoro yellow ones, the silver ones and the other ones. Were they red? Pink perhaps? I didn’t do well on the exam.)
We were then put on a spinning disc (think of the Hawkmen’s rotating combat platform from Flash Gordon) and expected to duel to the death. Or belt the ball around for 60 seconds, pretending we knew what we were doing.
Having completed that trial, we were made to strip down to our shorts and run blindfolded down a darkened corridor while Nike employees beat us with sticks.
“I demand to see my lawyer!” I shrieked. “Forget it – you signed a waiver!” came the reply.
A whistle sounded, and the beating stopped. By this stage I was on the ground, curled up into a foetal position, whimpering. Strong hands gripped my ankles, and I was dragged over what could have been a gravel courtyard and into another room. The blindfold was removed.
The lights were bright. Someone tossed my shirt at me. Wincing as the open wounds made contact with the synthetic fabric, I hauled myself to my feet and looked around. I was in some kind of warehouse, perhaps one that was used to store wares at one time or another, and there were two indoor football pitches, each surrounded by chain-link fencing and topped with barbed wire.
“Two men enter, one man leaves!” chanted Adam Peacock. Bah! He was trying to out-do my Flash Gordon reference from earlier in the article! The cheek.
Teams were assigned, and I dragged my bloodied body onto court 2, where the humiliation would continue.
A Japanese Buddhist monk once said that suffering produces insight, and that it is only at the point when suffering becomes nearly unbearable that transformation takes place. Under those unbearably bright lights, as yet another ball fizzed into my groin, I became hyper-aware of my own innate athletic shortcomings. Bernie Ibini’s face appeared, floating above me. He said, “You are born to fail on the field. And you didn’t really pay attention while I explained how awesome the boots are, did you… Now go, and find the burrito van.”
Another blow to the face snapped me out of my trance. The burrito van! I must find the burrito van!
I staggered from the field, to the collective relief of my team-mates. The room spun. I had to find my soul-mate. Or was it the burrito van?
I sniffed. Hark! Paprika!
The burrito van served nachos.