Coach Hurlock swept his eyes over his team.
What a bunch of disgusting pigs he thought.
Quite literally disgusting pigs; they were the Space Hogs F squad and their sense of personal hygiene had long since abandoned them after deciding it couldn’t put up with the smell. Coach Hurlock was not of the hog persuasion, he came from Jetpack City. It was a quite a radical new thing in the game of Slamjet, inter-region coaches. No longer did the team coach need to be from the same city, planet or species as the team.
Officially this had been done to encourage a new spawn of tactical thinking and to encourage strategies more in depth than I’ll-try-and-knock-that-guys-teeth-out-and-maybe-score-a-goal.
Unofficially, however, this had been done to build a better network of people involved in the sport and make it easier for things like bribery and match fixing.
In practice what was happening was that coaches were being kidnapped, tortured for information about the opposition and ransomed back.
So far Hurlock had managed to avoid all forms of brutal torture (if you didn’t count the smell). However, his team had lost their last 23 games. Another two losses and they’d set a new record. Hogs Squad F had been the talk of pundits and bookies everywhere for the past couple of weeks. Celebrity commentators were mentioning the psychology of a losing streak and how it can become a self fulfilling prophecy in that the players are worrying so much about losing that this causes them to lose. Coaches always come under fire in these situations and Hurlock was no exception; What was Hurlock trying to achieve? What’s he got against playing the I’ll-try-and-knock-that-guys-teeth-out-and-maybe-score-a-goal scenario? Or was Hurlock demanding too much from players? What were his credentials? Did he actually have any success with Jetpack City?
Coach Hurlock had another theory for the huge losing streak. It was because all of the players sucked. It wasn’t his fault. He’d tried his best to teach them the tactics he’d learned from his time with Jetpack City but it just wasn’t taking. And let’s face it, these guys were the F squad and the E squad wasn’t particularly good.
He’d had great plans before he came over. He was a great tactician, he knew it. And this was supposed to be his chance to prove that. But no matter what he did or how he tried to get through to the team it didn’t matter. He’d tried diagrams, and roleplay. He’d bought the Slamjet Stadium computer game to help them think about the game. The management had given him the budget to get a holographic projector installed to create 3d representations of the stadiums to better explain his plays. He even tried sock puppets one time. They didn’t know what socks were and spent the whole session trying to figure them out. Then during the game Braggers Rushog tried to wear the ball over his feet. He fell backwards off it and Newton’s Third Law of motion propelled the ball through his own goal.
He contacted an old coaching friend of his that had great success with a local kid’s team, the Fighty Bucks, and managed to lead them to victory in three separate years. Hurlock asked him what the secret was and he just said that at end of the second act a star player would suddenly join the team and a lot of the players would suddenly overcome the crisis of confidence they were having.
But no star players had suddenly appeared. There was no miraculous dawn of understanding from the players. They were just continually confused and bewildered trying to follow the coach's advice and messing up the game.
Tonight was going to be different. They were not going to lose this game.
He told them so.
They looked worried. To be fair the way he told them did make it sound kind of like a threat. Coach Hurlock stood before them. Behind him was something draped with a blanket to obscure it. Well as much as you could obscure the shape of a board on a tripod. It covered up what was on the board at least. And besides which, the Hogs didn’t have much in the way of cognitive capacity of spatial reasoning, as far as they were concerned that blanket could be hiding a chocolate bar or a spaceship.
Coach Hurlock had figured it out. He was a great tactician but he was still thinking like a Jetpack City team. He had to think like a Hogs team. Coach Hurlock pulled at the blanket. It fell away to reveal The Plan.
There was a sudden collective indrawn breath from the team. Which, due to their biology, was more of a snort. Their eyes lit up. They understood this. This would work. It made sense. Coach Hurlock could see from their faces as they nodded to one another that he had cracked it. This would lead them to victory tonight. And not just tonight but for many games to come. This tactic was going to define teamwork for the entire game.
On the board he had written “You-hold-this-guy-down-while-I-knock-his-teeth-out-and-maybe-score-a-goal."