All right team, ordinarily I’d tell you to take a knee right now, but given your performance in the first half, I am withholding my invitation for you to do so. Instead, I’d like you to not only remain standing, but take off your socks and shoes. The plantar warts and athlete’s foot you’ll contract from this locker room floor will serve as both your punishment and your reminder to play every game like your coach has six hundred bucks on the line with a credible threat that his legs will be broken if he doesn’t pay.

Did you forget everything we worked on in practice? When you came over to my vineyard? When you did footwork drills by stomping on my grapes? When you drank case upon case of my homemade wine and then practiced tackling the kid from the school paper trying to document yet another incident of me giving alcohol to minors? We looked poised for an incredible victory after that.

Now look at yourselves. Feet freshly infected with fungus, tootsies that are categorically unfit to stomp my grapes. You’re all rattled, as if you’ve just seen a ghost. But I think we all know it wasn’t the image of a ghastly specter that’s responsible for your lapse in confidence. It was the sight of me, your coach and mentor, kicking a dog through the goal post just before the game started. And you deserve an explanation.

First off, I didn’t know anybody was watching. I also didn’t know that my actions were being filmed on the jumbotron for something called the “Fucko Cam.” And never in a million years would I have guessed that the penalty for my transgression would be the loss of one hundred points for our team.

Next, I want to emphasize that the dog is absolutely fine. As soon as he hit the ground after clearing that goalpost in what was a fundamentally perfect kick, I saw him scamper off playfully. It’s true he was later seen in a neck brace, but that’s simply a ploy to get sympathy in our upcoming small claims court battle.

Explaining what compelled me to commit this act is a bit tricky. I did not intend to actually kick the dog, I was just practicing my form and the dog, unbeknownst to me, happened to be in my kicking path. The rumor that I mumbled, “Still got it” the moment my foot connected with the dog is simply untrue.

Admittedly, I haven’t been paying that close attention to the game because I’ve been texting my lawyer this whole time. The good news is he’s pretty sure the opposing team planted the dog on the field because they knew I wouldn’t be able to resist kicking it, which we’re confident any jury will rightfully recognize as entrapment.

That being said, the legal fees are going to add up quickly, and I hate to do this so soon after we went through this same song and dance with my divorce, but if you could spare a few bucks for your favorite coach, I’d really appreciate it. There’s no reason I should have to go to jail simply because I kicked a dog that was, let’s face it, perfect kicking size.

Anyway, now’s a good time for us to get our stories straight. I’m thinking we go with the old talking dog routine. Five or six of you will have to take the stand and testify that you heard this dog not only speak English, but use a myriad of slurs. Then just pepper in some first-person accounts of me telling the dog to knock off the hate speech before I delivered the now-infamous kick, and I should get off scot-free.

Let’s have a great second half. Do your best to ignore the negative energy of our cheerleaders chanting, “Dog kicker, dog kicker, sick, sad, man/We would like to end your lifespan.” I’ve been coaching for twenty-five years, so obviously I’m well accustomed to death threats from the cheer squad. Still, I’d be grateful if you could ask your parents to stop joining in.

Oh, and before I forget, just a slight uniform change. I’d like you all to wear these T-shirts that read, “My Coach is Perfect and Has Never Done Anything Wrong (Except Care Too Much).” I keep a ton of them in my trunk because you never know when you’re going to find yourself embroiled in a scandal. Now let’s get out there and win ourselves a football game!