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Knight’s Gambit: A Faulknerian Preview of Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss

“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” —William Faulkner

RCR’s Faulkner preview here.

We all saw the grimace at the same time: the forward motion of the arm, the rotator cuff coming around full speed like a gear and a piston and then the arm wheeling over the head and then the forceful closing of the eyes, the shudder, and the duck of the shoulder. That was the birth of Knight's injury in our collective consciences. Where it went from there is less definite.

Oh I imagine it started right then and there, a few whispers behind some clipboards, a few meaningful looks exchanged; the twitch of an eyelid or the fleeting touch of a visor brim. Men long-adept at silent and brisk communication spreading the edict: We Do Not Discuss This. And so as Knight was sent to the locker room to change into his everyday clothing, the shell of his football armor now again resting in the bowels of the baggage train, so too was the cold, dark secret at the heart of it boxed up and stowed away somewhere deep in the knowledge of the men who store the football secrets. The coaches, the coaches who never speak of them.

"Just rewind it and pause it right there, no go back, no too far, stop right there, see? See? Maybe that's where the shoulder rolled awkward on the grass and maybe his weight was on it for just a split second too long? And it tweaked something. Something not serious, but maybe it's been lurking there all season and now it made it worse and now we're so screwed." That's Joe. Joe is unraveling the mystery one frame at a time as he clicks diligently through the replay video. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Click. Click. "There!" Click. Joe's steady routine calms you and lets you know you're not alone in this drive for the truth, although unlike Joe you actually put yourself out there in the world, ready to capture some real information, a hint of truth or fragment of an admission, some string of detail buried amid some inane blurb somewhere. You'll grab that thread and hang on and pull out that golden bone of truth: shoulder bone or some other bone or hopefully no bone at all. Just a minor tweak. And all is well?

Out in the information stream. Plucking at words and phrases. "Throwing shoulder...pylon...Jake Hubenak...Hugh Freeze...tough decision..." and there it was, out of nowhere: The Other QB had gone down and the knowledge guardians had failed to conceal his ailment: torn ACL. Out for the season. Without Chad Kelly, was Knight even in the equation? Pawns in the matches of the masters. Could he afford to nurse the arm or shoulder or elbow that had thrown us all into such sudden panic and fright? Oh, we know he'd want to go, to suit up once again and stride forth upon that field of glory. But for the greater good, could he refrain?

The answer lies not with us. The answer floats upward, like a mote, circling the vast crenelations and battlements of Kyle Field Proper, drifting upon the winds, remaining a mystery this week entire, until the old bard Musberger takes the microphone in his spotted hands, revealing what only the privileged few purport to know: will the chance be taken, will the curse lift, or will he live to fight another day...and who will win the myriad wagers laced within these delicate tendons that bind shoulder to muscle to hopes and dreams?

Alas not, least not today. The Knight emerges from the stone chambers beneath the tower keep clad not in his armor at all, but garments of the street; head bowed slightly and a tremendous sadness in his eyes. A gallant and tormented soul with no more battles to fight. His season done and buried in that small furrow of earth near the end zone in Starkville: a resolute scar upon the face of the land to commemorate this wonderful campaign, where a Knight rode forth with reckless abandon, all biceps and smiles and clean-cut football fun as a hundred thousand silent horsemen stood ready to trample his dreams to dust.

Farewell, Dear Knight.