They flagged him as the next best thing.
He read about it in the paper and believed he had it made.
From now on, he would rest on his laurels and let it all happen.
He still played, but he didn’t think he needed to practice, as his innate ability would carry him through.
That’s when it all began to go pear-shaped.
He missed goals; he found his game sunk from the best to a ‘good player out of form’.
But bad luck persisted. He laughed it off initially as every aspect of life had its highs and lows.
But in the back out his mind there lingered the doubt that what if his ability was fading, that he wasn’t ‘the next best thing.’
Privately it got to him. He found resentment in everything around him.
He’d go home and take it out on his wife, his kids; even the dog began to hide from him.
He changed from the excited participant to the nervous, anxious player who maintained his competitive face but underneath was falling to pieces.
His harsh reality made him face his demons, who made more and more noise in his head each day.
His family suggested he get back on the practice circuit, but he scoffed at their suggestion saying he was ‘the next best thing’, that he had skills and ability and all he had to do was play at the level he had played at before he read the paper so he’d appreciate it if they all got off his back.
One day he played terribly; he came last and felt humiliated. Lesser players had succeeded where he hadn’t.
There was talk, gossip, reasons for his downfall, financial issues; marriage issues his arrogance contributing to his continued decline.
At home, he buried himself in his study, surrounded by trophies and accolades from the past. It was here he took comfort in what he once was.
It came as a shock to everyone when he drove his car off a cliff and when they retrieved him, and the vehicle found it filled with all his awards. But in his hand, scrunched into a ball was the newspaper article flagging him as the ‘next best thing’.