Prompt: Write about a person who made something more interesting
Matt Iverson would have been recruited by Divison I teams if he had been four inches taller. Instead, he started as quarterback for Platteville when he and I were both freshman. I didn’t go to any of football games that year or during the three that followed, but we had a mutual friend who kept me more informed.
“He yelled at the whole offensive line!” that friend said of Iverson after a game the year we still all lived on campus. “He’s this 5’ 9’ freshman, up in the faces of the entire offensive line, yelling at them for the way they’re blocking, and he’s so loud you can hear him in the stands. And the linemen are taking his ridicule like he’s the head coach.”
I knew Matt Iverson because of cribbage. He was uninterested in the board games that were played in the dorm lounge; and when he saw me playing gin with my roommate, Iverson stood over us and said “Gin’s alright, but the best two-handed money game is cribbage.”
“I play cribbage,” I said, “but not for money.”
“That’s going to change,” he said. “I’ll be back in a half hour.”
“You better not play with him,” My roommate said. “Last week a guy on second floor lost eighty dollars to Iverson, and when the guy said he didn’t have the money, Iverson just picked things from the guy’s desk and out of his closet until Iverson figured that he had eighty dollars worth. The guy didn’t try to stop him because you just wouldn’t.”
I played cribbage with Iverson that day and the rest of the freshman year, and we never talked about collecting debts or football or anything but the hands we were dealt. He always paid up immediately if he lost and so did I. After our freshman year, when he moved out of the dorm, we never played again. In fact, the few times I saw him on campus, he didn’t stop to talk, and I’m not even sure he recognized me without a deck of cards in my hand.
But despite the limited nature of our interaction–in fact, because of the limitations, the experience fascinated me, particularly the focus on the cards. He was the most recognized figure on campus; he was highly skilled at his sport; and he was dominant among his athletic peers, but none of that surfaced during the time we played cribbage. The act of playing cards suspended time and circumstance, and inside the isolation that bubbled up around the cribbage board, there was an odd kind of tension that felt like excitement.