This Particular Champion

by Kyle SUNDBY

This Particular Champion didn’t become so in traditional ways but there were dangers involved. There were poisonous snakes and small animals with knowledge and taste for the flesh of man. There were tests of fire and, of course, ice. Contenders filled all imaginable spaces.

Contenders were limitless because all were once or more contenders. The desire to become This Particular Champion was in every one of us. Nothing could be done about it except challenge and compete, challenge and compete. Challenge and compete.

This Particular Champion is admired but hardly on a pedestal. When we see him in passing, we say, “Yo, TPC!” or “P-Champ, what’s up?” or “Good day, Steven.” Steven was the name of another Particular Champion - one from before that everybody battled and loved. When This Particular Champion talked about himself in the third person, as a Particular Champion is wont to do, even he sometimes calls himself Steven.

Fortunately, we place the majority of our thoughts on This Particular Champion. If we did not, we would likely notice how deeply we felt Steven’s loss. As it was, we delayed the process of challenges for maybe thirty minutes after we learned a new champion had been named in Steven’s place. It was an eternity referred to as The Era of Uncertainty.

The term of a Particular Champion has extended from a few days to a dozen or so years. There have been notable exceptions to this generality, namely during The Times of Great Burdens. In those hours we saw the turnover of two Particular Champions and the beginning reign of a third. The third was Steven — he remained for what seemed like moments but was closer to twenty years. That was perhaps too long a stretch. As he worked less to maintain the title, seeing that there remained little he had not faced, we backed off the more vigorous aspects of our challenges. Who of us wanted to become This Particular Champion by besting Steven, of all people? For Steven’s last five years, the title did not change hands due to goodwill and hero worship. When it did change it was a horrible thing to witness.

The lessened assaults upon the title left Steven nowhere near fighting shape. His skin, displayed in bare splendor according to tradition, was loose on his frame. The calluses on his once mighty hands and feet had sloughed off over time. Where we earlier chafed under Steven’s grasp, we of late welcomed his tender holds and arm bars. His eyes that pierced through a red sheen of bloodlust became cloaked behind a film of milky wetness. The war cries he once produced muffled, sounding like something loose and rattling in his diminishing chest. It was our inaction that caused the competition to occur as it did.

This Particular Champion, hungry for a turn at the top, saw well enough to concentrate on his training as Steven slid into complacency. In his remaining time he contributed to the voices urging a period of relaxation, as it had become distasteful to challenge a Particular Champion of Steven’s caliber. n that environment of complacency, he set upon Steven in ways not witnessed since the Round Robin Era.

When it was all over, Steven had been burned, beaten, and cut. He was shot and set to witness violence against his family. He was tortured to the point he asked for death and then released, only to be tortured again. He saw his monuments destroyed. His religion was mocked and his feelings were hurt. His flower garden was trampled and his high-shined dress shoes were scuffed. This Particular Champion went too far by half. We couldn’t celebrate the Exchanging of Titles anymore than could Steven’s prize Labradoodle, Mr. Sniffles, who could only mourn the hack job done unto him by the groomer in secret alliance with This Particular Champion. We wept, we argued, we became angry, and then we remembered who we were. We challenged.

Some stepped up immediately for a try at the title. But This Particular Champion was drunk with his new fame. He was still riding the high of his half-hour prior victory and the adrenalin and triumph coursing through his body would have measured off all possible charts, if we were a people of science or observation that created, maintained, and presented such things as charts. Others got into line and waited for their turn. They clutched their tickets and watched the LED readerboard. The rest trained. They saw the strengths of This Particular Champion and knew that, when their times came, he would still carry the title. They watched for weaknesses and adjusted strategies accordingly.

Several hours and two years passed. This Particular Champion has not changed in that period. He was opportunistic in the beginning but has proven resilient since. Some have thoughts of giving up. Some have thoughts of giving up as a tactic of sorts — to do as This Particular Champion did unto Steven. Others don’t wish to sink to that level. They feel that the title without the honor means nothing. But This Particular Champion means everything.

We have all, in our own ways, taken our turns. We have discharged firearms, thrown spears and large rocks, dug tiger traps, planted bombs, welded, created computer programs and simulations, knitted, and spoken words obscured by masks or the backs of hands. All but one, and his turn is coming in a week to a few more minutes to a month or two. We are all looking forward to some true entertainment. We will witness a classic battle as Steven makes his attempt at a comeback.

Depending on the outcome, Steven will be courageous or foolhardy. Either way, we will rejoice in the spectacle. Then we will again challenge. And compete. We will all want our shot at This Particular Champion. Every man, woman, and prize Labradoodle wants the one story we possess to be about them, if only for a time.

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