Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | August 20, 2006

The Greatest Story Never Told

(Because I have nothing else to post today, a Sunday)

Red Smith. Grantland Rice. Damon Runyon. Shirley Povich. Rick Reilly. Forget those names. Commit mine to memory. Here was the mother of all scoops—sports or otherwise. And this would make me the greatest sportswriter in the history of the universe.

Ever.

You’ve heard of Heaven. Of the cottony clouds that surround you, of the angels that hum in sweet unison as you walk its pathways, and of the hallways lined with portraits of all the saints and martyrs you’ve read about.

This is where I am now. Heaven. And I’m actually going to live to tell people about it.

The entrance to Heaven is a large and endless brick wall that stretches seamlessly both ways and interrupted only by a silver-gray gate fashioned out of solid iron. A cobbled path fans out of that gate, one lined with wooden porches vandalized by souls who’d had to wait while judgment was being passed on them. (One of the graffiti on the bench I sat on read: “The Pope was here.”)

Strangely, though, I do not remember how I got here.

But who cares? I am in Heaven. Not only that, I am here on an invitation by a really Very Important Person hereabouts to write a story that will have the whole world kneeling before me.

The banging of metal against metal startled me. I stood up as the Gates of Paradise opened and out stepped a very old yet distinguished-looking man with a neatly-trimmed hair and wearing a bluish suit.

“You the sportswriter?” the man asked, rather gruffly.

“Yes,” I answered, rather meekly.

He stared at me with the look of a cranky land caretaker who had been roused out of sleep by an unwanted visitor. I could tell he didn’t appreciate my presence here.

“I hope you understand I don’t appreciate your presence here,” he said. Told ‘ya.

This was, without doubt, St. Peter, the Guardian of the Gates. I could tell he was St. Peter because not only did he have the aura of authority of someone who had guarded the Gates for—literally—an eternity, but also because the black nameplate pinned to the right side of his coat read “St. Peter.”

I followed him and we entered the Gates. We were walking through a narrow—what else?—path walled-in by lines of coconut trees on both sides and I was trying to think of something for small talk when he beat me to it.

“I still don’t know why He invited you here,” he snorted. I just smiled.

After a few minutes, he spoke again.

“He never invites just anybody here.”

I let that one pass, too, and smiled again.

After a few minutes, he spoke again.

“I mean, you don’t even pass the most basic criteria for a person to enter Heaven!” he roared. This time, I got hot under the collar.

“Listen, old man,” I said with a tinge of anger. “I may not have been a saint like you. I may not give to charity a lot and I may be scared to visit those in prison. But I am definitely not a bad person. How dare you judge me as undeserving of Heaven? I never killed a person. I never stepped on anybody’s toes. I never stole money. I never entered politics. What makes you think I should be hell-bound? What makes you think I’m undeserving of a visit to Heaven? What basic criteria haven’t I passed? What? WHAT?”

“You’re not yet dead,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Oh, thaaaat.

Finally, the narrow path forked into three more narrow roads. One led to another solid iron gate above which the word Heaven Village was engraved. I presumed this was where the good people lived. I pictured a whole village with rows and rows of townhouses and beautiful parks and gardens. One led to another gate. The heading on top of it read Heaven Palace. I pictured a huge castle where the Holy Family lived.
The third one—the one St. Peter brought me to (after gruffly saying “I’m glad he didn’t allow you a full tour.”)—led to another gate. Above it, the sign read: Basketball court. I pictured, well, a parquet hardcourt with goals on its opposite ends and bleachers around it.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. I’m here to cover a game. An annual basketball game so exclusive that it is only held in two places. One of them is here. And it isn’t just any other basketball game. It’s one that pits the best of Heaven against the worst of Hell.

Saints vs Demons. One is skippered by no other than Jesus Christ. The other by the Prince of Darkness himself, who happens to be a playing-coach.

I do not know why I was invited. I probably did something good that I wasn’t aware of.

The invitation came one morning with the mail, just as I had finished dressing up for work. I opened it, read it, thought it was a joke and dismissed it. But when I turned around, an angel with actual wings said this was no prank.

And when an angel with actual wings tells you that an invitation from Heaven is no prank, somehow, you just have to believe him.

I was halfway through nodding yes when I suddenly found myself on a bench outside a really, really big gate. I really do not recall how I got there. I just remember staring at the so-called Pearly Gates. Which had no pearls at all. Or wasn’t even the color of pearl.

And now, here I was, standing in front of a cushioned gymnasium door while St. Peter explained to the angel stationed there that I was cleared to watch the game.

A few seconds later, I was sitting in the front row of a jam-packed coliseum, right between Joan of Arc and King Arthur (mental note: Tell the world he’s real).

The Heaven team was dressed in white and blue uniforms. Hell came in black. Typical. All of them had jerseys with no names at the back, which was a problem.

Having slept through all my Religion classes in school, I could not make out the players of both teams clearly. Except Jesus Christ. The Hell guys looked all alike: Dark-skinned and with a pair of tiny horn stubs protruding from their foreheads. One of the court generals, though, bore a resemblance to Hitler. In fact, his teammates kept calling him Adolf (Either because he really was Hitler or because he looked like Hitler). Another one looked like Freddie Mercury.

Except for the players, the game proceeded like any other basketball game. Tip-off. Run and gun. Banging bodies. Surprisingly, the guys from Heaven dished off a few elbows of their own. Not surprisingly, the players from Hell complained about every foul slapped on them (the referees, I learned later, were from purgatory so they had to be honest. You don’t get Heaven passes for whistling in favor of the good guys).

I wanted to take game notes but then again, I was in Heaven. What better thing to do than to go stargazing? Princess Di was there. So was Mother Teresa. Pope John Paul II was there and he was really into the game (He was watching the game for the first time, so we were more or less in the same boat).

The game itself boiled down to two crucial plays. With 33 seconds remaining, Team Hell had possession of the ball via a steal by the Freddie Mercury guy and had a chance to add to a one-point lead. But Jesus Christ stood in front of a driving Adolf look-alike and fished an offensive foul, falling hard to the floor in the process. The Adolf look-alike did not like the call and muttered something really politically incorrect about the Jews and their King.

Team Heaven then burned a timeout with 21 seconds left.

In the ensuing play, the ball went to Jesus’ hand and almost instantly, he was swarmed by a triple team. Satan, one of the guys who covered him, said: “If you turn the ball over, I’ll give y…”

Christ cut him off: “Oh give it up, you already know that doesn’t work.”

Jesus whipped a pass to a lumbering big fellow (Artie identified him as St. Christopher) who went up for a bank shot. He was fouled by a Ted Bundy look-alike as the buzzer sounded.

Christopher sank the front end of his free throws and all of Heaven exploded into one big roar. I was left to wonder what was happening back in Earth. He was whispering a prayer with the second when Jesus called out to him.

“Hey, big fella, stop that, your adding to the noise I hear in my head,” He said jokingly.

Artie couldn’t look.

“He’s the worst free throw shooter on this team,” said the king of Camelot. “Smart defensive move by those demons. You’d think their brains would have been too fried out to think of something like that.”

Christopher tossed his second shot and it bounced twice in Hollywood fashion before swishing through the net. Heaven won, 103-102. The crowd went berserk. Satan muttered every cuss word in every language before herding his team into the dug-out.

A little later, the gym was empty. An angel-usher led me to Team Heaven’s dug-out for a post-game interview with Jesus Christ. My heart was pounding as I sat on a chair and waited for Him.

He came out of the shower area dressed in sweat pants and a loose white t-shirt, his hair pulled back into a ponytail. He sat down in front of me with a towel wrapped around his neck.

“Hey, I see you made it,” He said. I realized He had a British accent and, strangely, sounded like David Beckham.

I nodded, not knowing what to say.

“Loosen up kid. This is a once-in-a-universal-lifetime thing so you better get on with it. Have lots of prayers to sift through and, well, you don’t have all the time in the world,” he said, smiling.

Okay. This was it. Here was a guy everybody had questions about. And I was the guy who was in the position to ask them all. I didn’t know where to start. Was the thing about him and the Magdalene true? When was he really born? When will the world end? Was Herod gay? Where is the Holy Grail? What is the Holy Grail? Will Dan Brown go to hell when he dies? I wanted to ask the smartest questions.

“Why do you sound like Beckham?” I finally said.

“You came all the way here to ask that?”

“No. Okay. Ummm. Do you ever lose in these annual games?”

“Yep,” He said. “At times, when Satan hosts it down in Hell.”

“But you could easily snap your fingers and they wouldn’t be able to shoot a single basket. The game a while back shouldn’t have been even close. How do you lose?”

“Well, mainly because we don’t cheat,” He replied.

Oh.

“How do you resist the urge to cheat?”

“Well, when you’ve faced death and have been offered an easy way out and not fall for it, resisting the urge to cheat during a basketball game should be pretty easy, right?”

Okay.

“What’s the court like in hell?” I asked.

“Pretty much the same as here. Except for the heat maybe. We do have a better design architecturally. Maybe it’s because we have better architects here,” He said.

“Of course you have. You probably have the best professionals here.”

“Not really. They’ve got better lawyers, politicians and rock stars,” He answered.

“Why’d you pick me for this?”

“Not to burst your bubble, chap, but there was no special reason. It was a cosmic accident. A random choice. Your name came up,” He replied.

Ouch.

“Pride, tsk, tsk,” he said. “What else?”

“You took a pretty hard fall for the team in the game,” I said.

“I took a harder one for you, remember?” he replied with a smile.

(Blush).

“Hey, don’t worry,” He said softly. “Any sacrifice for you, the people down there in Earth and the guys on the team is worth it. I take pleasure in it so no need to feel guilty.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“No problem. Any more questions before I send you off?”

“Well, there is one thing I want to know about your Father. Is he involved in these games?”

“Of course. He’s our coach.”

“Coach? How come I didn’t see him on the bench?”

“Well, duh,” Christ said, His eyes rolling. “When you’re God, you can be anywhere and still coach a basketball game.”

“Oh. Of course. How is He as a coach? Is He super serious and strict? ”

“Dad? Of course not. In fact, He’s got a really big sense of humor. He’s even a prankster.”

“God has a sense of humor? Really?”

“Of course,” He said. “He created man, remember?”

Funny guy.

“Besides, you, of all people should know that he’s a prankster. He set you up big time,” Jesus said as he stood up to take his leave.

“Me? How? Why?”

“Well, think about it. He invited you here so you could write the greatest scoop of all time, right?”

“Right.”

“And when you get back to Earth, you’ll start writing all you can remember about this trip, right?”

“Right.”

“And you’ll write about the game?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And when you finish it, you’ll submit it for the world to read, right?”

“Yup.”

“Now, ask yourself,” He said, an eyebrow cocked upwards and a hint of a playful smile on His lips. “Who’s going to believe you?”

(Moral of the story: When you’re invited to cover the next Heaven vs Hell basketball game, bring a video camera. The Hell team’s got these really luscious-looking cheerers…)

Advertisements

Responses

  1. loved it. =)
    how the heck do you ever get to conjure these kind of images and pile up the words in an almost effortless manner? spare me a drop of your creative genius.

  2. speechless.
    the greatest story ever read.

  3. galing! grabe po!!!

  4. thanks jei!
    hope you can leave your site too…
    drop by more often po!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: