With my cell phone back at the apartment and my away message giving no hint as to my current whereabouts, I had planned on little to no distractions while I focused on the 100 yards of freshly cut grass before me. Sitting beside Joe and Jane Hoya themselves, I “rah rah-ed” for Georgetown, booed at Colgate and decried the referees with the best of them.

Yes, I was completely absorbed in Georgetown football’s first home game. But not so absorbed that I didn’t notice him. He had been watching the game from the topmost bleacher, but now, after the whistle signaled an end to the first 30 minutes, he made his way to the bottom of the stands where he shouted to a particular player in gray as the teams made their way off the field. His voice was lost as throngs of students, parents and alumni shuffled past him towards the refreshment stands.

He cupped his hands around his mouth, hoping to amplify his cheer. His ears stuck out from under an oversized baseball cap. The paper held in his tight grip bore the names and numbers of Georgetown’s entire roster; but, there was only one name circled, starred and underlined twice. Today, he was here to see his brother play. His brother went to Georgetown, you know. His brother was all-star material. His brother could do anything.

When his brother held the controller, the boy never questioned who would come out on top in one-on-one combat with Sub-Zero. He knew just when to use the uppercut and how to play on his opponent’s weaknesses. Watching in awe, the boy would even sacrifice his own turn just so he could witness the next round: his brother vs. Scorpion. Secretly, the boy scoffed. For his brother, this wouldn’t even be a challenge.

He was the boy’s hero, and since he was his brother, his accomplishments were as good as his own. When the other kids in the neighborhood laughed at the boy’s feeble attempts to shoot a free throw, his schoolyard respect was saved with a quick retaliation that covered all the major points of a pre-adolescent argument: “Well, my brother is in college, and he’s the best one on the football team . and he can beat you all up.” And he could; the boy was sure of it.

Before his brother went off to college, they would play catch in the backyard for hours. They would go for bike rides or to the movies – just the two of them. And at night, when mom kissed his cheek and turned out the light, his brother would tiptoe in and the two of them would talk, man-to-man, late into the night. When yawns started to invade conversation and lids began to grow heavy, his brother would lean over and scruff up his hair. The boy never had to remind him to leave the door open a crack – he just knew.

His brother was, in short, his idol. When Georgetown’s season opener arrived, the boy could hardly contain the excitement of seeing his Superman in action. Armed with a larger than life foam index finger and a homemade sign glorifying his brother he and his parents arrived at the field long before warmups began.

Seated in the stands, his eyes scanned the playing field. The cheerleaders filed in and the boy had no doubt that each of those girls had her eyes on his brother. After all, he had to be the most popular guy at Georgetown.

When the game began, his stomach tightened. But, he soon relaxed, remembering that his brother could defeat Liu Kang without even breaking a sweat – this game would be nothing for him.

But his brother didn’t start. In fact, he didn’t even make it into the first half. Maybe the coach was saving him as a secret weapon, to throw off the other team later on. But the minutes came and went, and his brother became a permanent fixture, glued to the wooden bench.

Finally, the coach walked over and tapped his shoulder. At last, the boy in the stands thought, the game is about to get better. A low groan came from the group of student giants sharing the bleachers with him.

“No, what are you crazy? Don’t put that kid in.”

A wave of disbelief washed over the boy. These guys obviously had it all wrong. His brother? His brother was the best. No, they were definitely confused.

But, as he turned his attention back to the field, he noticed that the coach had only been asking his brother to slide over, make some room on the bench. What was this? Didn’t these people know anything?

The boy waited a long time after the game. When his brother finally appeared from the locker room, his parents tried only in vain to cheer him up. He shook his mom’s arm from his shoulder and threw his gym bag to the ground.

While his parents worked to console their eldest son, the boy reached into the bag, unnoticed. He pulled out a wrinkled, but not quite dirtied football jersey.

Wearing his brother’s number proudly, he approached his older brother with a football in hand. Long after the crowds had dispersed and the band packed up their horns, the two went out onto the field. The brothers played catch, late into the afternoon – the boy and his hero.

Polly Burokas is a junior in the College. Focus with Burokas appears every other Tuesday.

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