Coaching the NerdSuper-bod meets super-brain
Coaching the Nerd
By Eli Easton and Tara Lain
Coaching the Nerd is a total makeover, opposites attract, My Fair Lady trope, bi awakening, campus romance – that grabs your flag.
Super-bod meets super-brain
What happens when marshmallow-bodied supernerd Sean volunteers to be on the jocks’ flag-football team? It screws Bubba’s fraternity’s chances at the coveted flag football title, that’s what.
Bubba is drafted to be Sean’s personal trainer. He has to whip Sean into shape and make sure he doesn’t F up their team.
Sean may be a supernerd, but to Bubba he’s funny, and wise, and kinda cute. He’s also the one person on campus who doesn’t see Bubba as a big, stupid jock.
One BIG problem. Sean’s motivation for getting into shape is to lose his virginity — and Bubba isn’t happy when guys start sniffing around.
But Bubba’s straight. Isn’t he?
Can a big, dumb jock from Nowhere, Wisconsin change his whole life for a genius who just wants to get laid?
Available in Kindle Format
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Easton Lain Publishing
Excerpt from Coaching the Nerd
“Go back! Go back! Go back!”
Go back to what? my brain queried. Simpler times? Home? The starting line?
Or perhaps to the moment before I volunteered to be on the Alpha Lambda Alpha flag football team. Yes, let’s go back to that, please.
I watched guys scurry around the large, open field next to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, baseball diamond but could discern no rhyme or reason to their movements, and therefore, they were difficult to emulate. There was so much stopping and then there’d be what looked like a random melee. I’d read the flag football rules online, so I knew the focus was on the football, but surely there must be more rules to this game than the three-sentence description that was given to me at—
The group scattered like a flock of birds startled into flight, and then they were heading right at me.
I turned and attempted to run away.
“Ooof.” I staggered as a body collided with mine. I turned to see the flag football team captain, Tray Blackstone, scowling at me.
“How the fuck are you always in the way?” he demanded rudely, his lip curled up. He ran on past me, half-backward, looking in the distance.
Well, if he was running in that direction, perhaps I should as well?
Wait. Wait. I saw the ball now. A guy named Rex had it and was weaving as he ran.
Should I go after him? Was he on the opposing team? Well, that seemed like relevant information, didn’t it? I should have been apprised of who was on what team. Printed rosters, perhaps, could be distributed at the start of each game. Or colored shirts distinctive enough to visually distinguish Team X from Team O? They likely had that for league games, but since this was a practice session, everyone wore ordinary clothes, mostly layers of sweats and thermals on this rainy, muddy January day. Still, surely it wouldn’t require too much organization if players wore either a plain white or plain black T-shirt even for practice games. Surely it wasn’t only newbies like me who would benefit from such?
Oh dear. I was the only person left standing in this entire part of the field. Everyone else was down near the goal at the south end. I jogged in that direction, trying my best to locate the—
“Sean! It’s Sean, right? Are you just gonna stand there all day, or are you gonna play?”
I looked at the huge guy jogging toward me. I knew his name was Bubba. Everybody on campus knew that. He was distinctive among the student body for his bulk—had to be at least 6’5” and closer to 300 pounds than 200. His head, with its closely-shorn dark hair and beard, loomed above everyone else on campus. I’d heard his booming laugh coming from the ALA’s front lawn on nights when they had parties over there and I had my window open while studying. He’d never looked at me before, though, and he might have been scary jogging toward me except that his brown eyes were friendly.
He stopped a few feet from me and put his hands on his hips. “Sean, dude, you gonna play?”
“Yes. Well. I was just trying to figure out exactly what I should be doing. To play the game, I mean. It’s rather fast-paced, isn’t it? And no one explained the, er, teams.”
He got a befuddled look and rubbed his palm over his hair. “Um. Okay.” He glanced down the field. He was sweaty and glowing in that robust, athletic way. He looked as if he belonged here—a cell swimming happily around in its host environment. Feeling as out of place as I did, I was envious.
“So, look, Sean, all you gotta do is prevent the other team from getting to the goal with the ball. Only instead of tackling them to stop ’em, you grab the flag out of their belt. If someone grabs your flag, you have to stop and you lose the ball. And that’s it.” His thick fingers flipped one of the blue plastic flags on the belt he wore around his waist. Everyone wore the belts with blue flags, even me, since I’d been handed one at the start.
I pushed up my glasses. “Yes, thank you. That sounds like essentially what I read online. But I’m unclear which of these players is on my team. What if I accidentally take a flag from the wrong person? I imagine they’d be quite put out.”
He blinked at me for half a beat, then laughed. It was a head-back full belly laugh that sounded almost musical “They’ll be quite put out! Ha ha! You’re funny, Sean!” He knocked my shoulder with one large fist. It would have sent me sideways if I hadn’t seen it coming and braced for it. “So funny!”
“Which team are you on?”
I looked at him blankly. “That would be another point that should have been made clear to me before the game started. But I think—”
Bubba held up his hands in a wait gesture. “Never mind. You’ll be on my team, okay?”
I frowned. “Is Tray on your team? Because he told me—”
“Look, just forget who else is where. You’re on my team, got it? And that’s our goal.” He pointed down the field to the north end, which was the opposite of where everyone else was currently clustered. “If you get the ball, you head that way with it. If someone else has the ball and is running toward the opposite end, you run after them and grab the guy’s flag. And that’s all there is to it.”
“Yes, but how do I know if the person who has the ball is on my team?” I repeated, feeling like I was missing something obvious.
His brow furrowed. “Dude. If they’re running that way with the ball, they’re not on your team,” Bubba said, pointing again to the enemy end zone.
“Ah, yes, I see! That’s completely understandable.”
I felt like someone had just explained the theory of relativity to me for the first time. It made sense people running in that direction with the ball must be on the enemy team.
Unless, of course, that person was confused. But it was likely they were all experienced. Surely I was the only confused player on the field. Therefore, as Bubba said, I should be able to safely assume that people heading toward the south goal line were on the opposing team.
But what if they were standing still? If they weren’t going one way or the other, I wouldn’t be able to tell which team they were on.
Never mind. There was a workaround for that. I resolved to ignore such a person and only take the flag from a player when I could clearly tell the direction of their motion. That was sound logic.
“So let’s—” Bubba began.
“Hang on. One last question,” I interrupted. “What if a player is heading toward the opposing goal line, but it’s just a feint? That happens, doesn’t it? Perhaps they’re running that way to dodge around another player and then they’ll run back toward our team’s goal line. Or what if they’re trying to psyche out the other team? In such a scenario, I could incorrectly assume they’re not on my team and take their flag erroneously.”
To my consternation, Bubba threw back his head and laughed again, loud and hard, like I’d just made the funniest joke. “You’re a card, Sean. Seriously, man!” Bubba hit me in the shoulder again. “So you’ve got it, right? We’re all clear?” His tone was a little patronizing.
I frowned. “Well, I’m not stupid.”
Bubba grinned. “I sure as hell hope not.” He looked me up and down. “Because if you were stupid on top of that, you sure would have been dealt a raw deal in life.”
“Hey!” I glared at him, knowing an insult when I heard one.
He just chuckled. “Come on! Let’s go get ’em!” He ran off toward the cluster of players near the south goal line.
I was a little miffed, honestly, but perhaps he was teasing me. His manner hadn’t seemed cruel. I shook it off and jogged behind him. The other players were momentarily stopped, most of them with hands on knees, waiting for something. Ah, yes, it looked like they were preparing to hike the ball. I’d seen that on TV.
Not sure what else to do, I ran toward the southern goal line. Perhaps it would be best to position myself near there and try to stop anyone who attempted to cross the line with the ball. Rather like a goalie? I wasn’t the only one with this idea, however, as there were a half-dozen ALA players already in the area. I found a hole toward the left and took up a position facing the play.
There was a whistle and a scramble. Tray ran backward, holding up the ball and scanning ahead.
There. He was running backward, toward the north end, yet he appeared to be intent on the southern goal. That was exactly the sort of scenario—
“Sean! Catch!” he yelled. He sent the ball sailing right toward me.
Oh. Oh shit.
I held up my arms. Perhaps I should have informed everyone beforehand that I’d never played ball before. I’d never caught a football in my life. Oh fuck.
The ball sailed over my outstretched arms and struck me, the pointy end slamming into my sternum. There was a bolt of pain and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I managed to fold my arms in and hang on to the ball. I was quite proud of myself for that, even as I gasped for air.
“Run!” someone was shouting. “Run, Sean!”
I paused only a fraction of a second, half turning toward the goal line shortly behind me. But then, of course, I remembered. I started running, hugging the ball, toward the north end.
Dear God, it was far away. Did I really have to run all that way?
For a moment, everyone just looked at me. And I wondered if, perhaps, because I was the new guy, they were giving me a head start? That was sporting of them.
Where were the boundaries? My instinct was to curve left, to escape what would surely be an assault at any moment since I was holding the ball. But going out of bounds was an offense that earned a penalty, according to the rules I’d read online. But the lines, on this practice field, were not marked. How far left was too far?
“Sean, what the fuck are you doing?” shouted Tray.
And then everyone ran at me all at once. The disgust in Tray’s shout told me I was doing something wrong, but I was committed now and also really wanted to avoid the dozen people heading my way. This must be what a rabbit felt like when it’s released from a cage in front of a pack of hounds. My lungs were working again, thankfully, and I sucked in lungs full of air and ran as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast on the slippery wet grass.
A multitude of hands reached for me. I tried to dodge and stepped into a skid mark slick with mud. I flailed, losing the ball as my arms waved for balance, but it was no use.
As if in slow motion, I felt flags being yanked off my belt even as I sailed through the air. I tried to grab onto someone’s arm to stop my fall, but they pulled away and my effort was in vain. I landed, spectacularly, in a thick ooze of mud.
Have you ever seen that video of milk droplets forming a veritable crown as a drop falls into a pool of milk in slow motion? That was probably what it looked like as I face-planted right into the thick of it, and the mud splashed up all around my head.
It was disgusting—cold and slimy and gritty. I managed not to breathe it in, but I could taste the dirt and feel it in my mouth as I sat up, spluttering. My knee hurt badly—probably skinned—as did my wrist and palm where I’d tried to catch myself.
People were laughing and someone—Tray, I think—berated me using the word fuck liberally. But my glasses were covered with mud, so I couldn’t see. Shame and humiliation burned through me as I sat, the mud now soaking through my sweatpants to coat my butt. I removed my glasses to attempt to clean them, but the mud still stung in my eyes and my shirt was soaked. I wouldn’t cry. I would not cry.
Someone squatted down in front of me as I attempted to wipe slime out of my eyes with my sleeve. He took the glasses from my hand. Even though he was a little blurry, I could see it was Bubba. I blinked to clear my vision and watched as he cleaned my muddy lenses on his gray sweatshirt. His tongue poked out in concentration, and when they were clean, he looked at my face and carefully put the glasses back on, tucking each end behind my ears with utter focus. Then he met my gaze and smiled at me sheepishly. “Um… turns out you were on Tray’s team. Sorry. My bad.”
A silly bubble of warmth bloomed in my chest at his kindness. “Oh,” I said. “Yes, I thought that’s what Tray said at the start. I should have been more insistent.”
Bubba’s smile widened. “Yeah, it’s pretty much always a good idea not to listen to me.” He shrugged, but there was something in the self-deprecating remark that made me wonder. He held out his hand. “Lemme help you up.”
He pulled me to my feet. I winced when I put weight on the leg with the skinned knee and my hand hurt. With my lenses clean, I could see Tray standing there with his arms crossed, looking at me with what could only be termed disgust.
“It’s my fault.” Bubba told him. “I told Hedgehog—er, Sean—he was on my team and he should run that way.”
“Bubba, what the fuck!” Tray said loudly, but then he rolled his eyes and the tension eased, like maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.
“Yeah, well, Bubba strikes again,” Bubba said with another shrug. “Anyhow, Sean needs to go home and clean up. So fuck off, dudes.”
Bubba put his arm around my shoulder and helped me limp off the field. At the far end, I could swear he gave me a little pat on the rump as he shooed me off toward home like a child. “See ya, Sean,” he said, a little downheartedly.
“It’s not your fault,” I said. It absolutely was his fault, but he’d been trying to be helpful, which was more than I could say for anyone else on the team. But Bubba was already jogging away, back toward the game.
I managed to get upstairs at the Sigma Mu Tau house without encountering anyone or having to explain why I was covered in mud. I took a shower using soap to clean a scraped area on my knee and palm, applied antibiotic from my first aid kit, and put on some comfy PJs.
Then I sat on my bed. My roommate, Dobbs, was out. I should study, but I didn’t.
It had started to rain again and I stared out the window, unable to get certain words out of my head.
“Well, I sure as hell hope not. Because if you were stupid on top of that, you sure would have been dealt a raw deal in life.”
That being my body, which was woefully pale, weak, and pathetic, like the guy who gets sand kicked in his face in those old Jack LaLanne ads. That was the objective truth, so why should Bubba’s words hurt me? He hadn’t even been mean. He’d been nice to me, in fact.
Did that make it worse? Possibly.
Well, of course I was out of shape! Why did he think I volunteered to play ridiculous flag football in the first place? Yes, I wanted to help my fraternity meet Dean Robbert’s ultimatum. The dean told my frat, the Sigma Mu Taus, that we had to have two of our guys on the Alpha Lambda Alpha flag football team, and two of their guys on our Quiz Bowl team, to prove we could all work together. It was either that or face the disbarment of both our houses. Of course, I didn’t want that to happen. But mostly, I volunteered because it gave me a chance to get in shape. I mean, those ALAs were buff. They were cool and good-looking, and I figured some of that could rub off on me.
I was a senior. It was January. I only had a few months left of my undergrad years. And I was still a virgin. I’d spent my high school years taking advanced classes and having no social life. My social life now consisted of role-playing games, video games, and watching Jeopardy with my SMT housemates.
I knew where I was going in life. My parents were both geneticists. They worked for the same company—that was how they met. Genome sequencing. They were dedicated and worked long hours at their research and didn’t do much else. That would be my life too. But before that, until then, I wanted to… to….
To live a little. I wanted to step outside the box, do something un-Sean McKinney-like. I wanted to party, to ride in fast cars, to have wild-and-crazy casual sex.
Or any sex!
I wanted to get into better shape, so maybe, before I graduated, someone might want to have sex with me.
My palm stung. I pulled back the dressing to peek at it. I felt my stubborn streak kick in.
Screw you, Alpha Lambda Alpha, you A-hoes. If you think a little scrape is going to discourage me, you’ve got another thing coming. I will play flag football. And I’ll get in shape too!
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