Fourth and Goal

by Linaewen

A conversation with Boromir about American Football.

It is Sunday afternoon. Boromir enters the room to find Linaewen, Mr. Linaewen, and Son of Lin glued to the television set, watching a program that involves a lot of cheering and crowd noise. He glances at the picture as he passes, but he cannot tell what is happening. He sits next to Linaewen and attempts to get her attention.

Boromir: I understand you have been working on getting back into the inkling you were writing before the holidays. How is Chapter 4 coming? Is it ready for tomorrow?

Lin: Not quite. In fact, it's not even close to being ready, though I have made a good start on it.

Boromir: Then why do you not work on it? There is time yet before your guests arrive this evening.

Lin: Impossible! I'm watching the game; it's the Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs, and they have to win this one to move on to the next round.

Boromir: (frowning fiercely) A game? You are putting me aside for a game?!

Lin: Oh, it's not just any game! It's football, and it's Packers, and I am a Packer fan from way back. It is my duty to watch this game; but even if it were not, I would still enjoy watching it, because I really enjoy American football.

Boromir: (resigned) I do not fully understand what these Packers are or do, but I do understand duty, at least.

Boromir watches the game for awhile, a confused expression on his face.

Boromir: What are they doing? Is this a fight of some kind? Where are their weapons?

Lin: You could call it a fight, I suppose; it is more of a competition, really. One team has the ball, and the other team tries to keep them from advancing with it to score points. If they can stop them, then the other team gets the ball and has an opportunity to advance if they can.

Boromir: Ah! A competition! That sounds more interesting! Though it really does look like they are skirmishing. It seems a bit dangerous to be fighting at such close quarters with no armor to protect them... though I must admit, they all look strong enough for it; some of them look as big as Uruks!

Lin: Well, they do have armor, actually, under their uniforms. And surely you noticed they are wearing helmets!

Boromir: Oh, is that what they are?

Boromir looks closely at the screen, then looks sidelong at Linaewen.

Boromir: I suppose this "G" they wear on their helms must be some sort of heraldic device? It looks the same as the device that adorns your your shirt and your earrings.

Lin: Yes, it is the same; "G" for Green Bay.

Boromir: I am disappointed! Here all this time I thought it stood for "Gondor." (frowning petulantly) It seems a bit much to have it on all your clothing and your jewelry. It is, after all, only a game.

Lin: Look who's talking! You have the image of the White Tree on everything you own, even your buttons! It's the same thing here; loyalty to one's people expresses itself in the desire to wear their special device.

Boromir: (looking down at his buttons, and grinning) Well, yes, I suppose that is true.

Lin: Let me try to explain how it works. You are right to see it as a skirmish; these players are a lot like warriors, though they do not use weapons. See those men there at the front of the line? They are defending their leader from the attack of the opposition; that man with the ball is the key to their strategy and he must be protected at all costs. If they can hold back the line of the enemy, then their leader can do what he must to advance his company down the field to victory.

Boromir: (leaping up in excitement) Now you speak in a language I can understand!

Mr. Linaewen suddenly jumps up, his arms in the air; Boromir falls back in dismay, thinking he has said something amiss.

Mr. Lin: Touchdown!! Yes!!

Boromir: This is a good thing?

Lin: (jumping up and down alongside Mr. Lin and Son of Lin) Yes! That means the leader received enough protection from his men that he was able to advance the ball to the goal and make points. We are now ahead of the opposing team.

Boromir watches the game with renewed interest and enthusiasm.

Boromir: You are right, it is an exciting competition. It must take great stamina to participate in such a fierce, extended battle in spite of adverse weather conditions. Is that snow falling?

Lin: Oh, good, it's snowing! Wisconsin in January is the place to be if you like snow and cold. Snow is of no conseqence to the Packers, who excel at battling in bad weather.

Boromir: Ah! A people after my own heart! And the spectators? They do not mind the cold?

Lin: No, they relish it.

Boromir: What is it that those spectators are wearing on their heads? Some kind of protective helm? It does not look very warm.

Lin: It is a helmet of sorts; it is called a "cheesehead." It is shaped like a wedge of cheese, which is something our state is famous for producing. Fans wear them to show their support for the team.

Boromir: Cheese, eh? I like cheese!

Mr. Lin: Quiet, please! It's fourth and goal, and no time outs left.

Boromir: (in a whisper) What does this mean, fourth and goal?

Lin: (whispering back) Fourth down and goal to go; it means, essentially, that they have one more chance to get the ball past the goal line to score points. No time outs means that they have used up all their chances to pull aside and discuss their strategy, so they will have to decide quickly what is best to do, and then do it without the chance to confer.

Boromir is silent for a moment, watching the game. Then he leans forward and turns Linaewen to face him.

Boromir: Speaking of time outs, I will allow you one more time out in order to work on our next chapter. We have our own fourth and goal to deal with; my fourth chapter, which is your goal for writing tomorrow, to be posted on Tuesday.

Lin: Yes, my lord, it shall be as you command! (She grins and slaps Boromir on the back.) Thanks for the reprieve, Boromir. I promise I shall see it done... tomorrow! Now hush, they're going for it.

Boromir: Going for what?

Lin: The touchdown, silly!

Boromir: Oh, of course!

Boromir leans forward, expectation on his face, waiting to see what will come of the valiant attempt on the part of his team to pass through the lines of the enemy and claim their territory...

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In case you weren't tuned in, the game went into overtime and the Packers won by intercepting a pass and running it in for a touchdown. Boromir and the Linaewn family were overcome with emotion and excitement, and had to go eat copious amounts of cheese in order to recover. Boromir is counting the days until the next game!