LAKELAND — It's called mystique. I got it.
You might look at me and just see a sock, but Tampa Prep, they see da feet.
After four state tournament losses over 10 years, you start to wonder: if we can't beat them with our best player ever, or our best shooter ever, or our best team ever, then it's gotta be something.
Like, say, me.
I tend to leave a lasting impression, the gold and purple stripes pulled up to the knees. Forget the players who wear them, you've already forgotten their names.
But me? Distracting. Daunting. Maddening.
It's called mystique. I got it.
Well … I mean, I had it.
Somehow, Joe Fenlon figured something out. He and his Terrapins get to go back to Lakeland today to play for a state championship, and I get to go back to the Panhandle, to be washed, lost in the dryer, eventually found and put into a drawer until next time the Sharks go to the final four.
What happened? I'm a Port St. Joe tube sock, for goodness sakes. I own you.
In 1997, '98 and '99, you had some 6-foot-10 kid who was going to Duke. Remember that kid? Casey Somethingoranother?
I beat you every time.
In 2007, you missed two free throws with just a few seconds left in overtime, and I beat you again.
It was, truly, the joy of socks.
You feared me. You burned Cat In The Hat books to avoid my very sight. You even burned the Fox in Socks book, just to be safe, though Knox had on socks in a box that weren't even striped, so whatever.
Socks are for feet, Fenlon, not inside some coach's head.
When I used to get together with Pinstripes and the Terrible Towel, we would get drunk on fabric softener and just laugh and laugh at how athletes quivered before us.
But Pinstripes had some bad moments with my third cousin twice removed, the Red Sox, and I'm not sure Terrible ever recovered from the Detroit Lions mascot wiping its paws on it before eating it this season.
I remember them saying, don't let it happen to you, you'll never be the same, and writers will stop glorifying you.
You will become a footnote.
I laughed. Footnote. Get it?
But they weren't joking.
I feel like rolling up with another sock and dyeing right now. All I had, other than my offseason work as a puppet, was beating Tampa Prep at state.
Oh, I knew I was in trouble this time. The faculty and alumni at Tampa Prep wouldn't let these Terrapins ever forget about me. They were willing to do everything and anything to stop me from turning them into a sad puddle of sadness again.
They almost had Fenlon convinced to break out his own striped socks, to try to shock and awe my Sharks in a psychological war.
But he said no, because it was Port St. Joe's tradition, and he's too classy a guy for that.
But that Brian Reeves character? The assistant coach?
Not so classy.
He wore a pair of red-and-black striped socks, and that kind of freaked me out, to be honest.
Threw me a little off my game.
Now, Reeves says it is time to move on. Easy for him to say; he doesn't have a bunch of booties at home depending on him.
But maybe he has a point.
Guess I'll just curl up in a laundry basket with the last remaining copy of Fox in Socks.
The ending gets me every time.
Fox in socks, our game is done, sir.
Thank you for a lot of fun, sir.