ARTICLE #33 [First published in December 1990 Chicago Point]

The Hidden Opponent

It’s Sunday morning, the last day of the tournament, the time to check out. For me, it’s more. I still have another match to play. I’m in the finals against one of the very best. What more could you ask?

You see, yesterday, I could do no wrong. I was destined to be here. Even my mistakes turned into brilliant traps that ensnared my frustrated opponents. But now I’m going up against a backgammon god. I’ve become somewhat nervous. It’s as if a sudden strom has blown in. A dark could engulfs me with a terrible sense of dread. The rumbling within is turning me inside out. My knees are buckling from all the shaking. A tornado has sucked out the air, leaving me to gasp for what little is left.

This sense of gloom and doom comes from the possibilities of two potential outcomes. I will probably lose, but how I do it will matter a lot. Can I act like a gentleman, or will I let my ego turn me into a wailing baby?

Embarrassment concerns me the most. What if I should play my best and still be as bad as I fear? Would I mentally choke and withdraw back into a shell? could I face my friends? Could I ever look at another backgammon board again?

How can winning be a problem? My skills can’t be considered up to par with that of a “legend.” An unexpected victory will only be attributed to luck. Is this impression to be my pinnacle of backgammon prowess?

If my dice are miraculous and grant me victory, I’ll have to win another to prove the first was not a fluke. The image will be more important than who I really am. What if I can’t substantiate my worth? What will I become? Less than nothing. A worm underfood, crawling in the muck...

Fortune Cookie
The pressures of a match are often the things that a player brings to it.

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