Adapted from Andrew Bernstein’s Heart of a Pagan: The Story of Swoop.

But though his sauntering gait took him out of sight in moments, it was not that easy to forget him. His departing glance had lingered on me. But why? I was not one of the players. I couldn’t work out with him and contribute to his grandiose quest. It made no sense that he had asked me to follow. I told myself that it also made no difference, that I desired no part of either him or his pretensions, but for several days I couldn’t shake images of him from my mind. Though I bridled at his insult, it was neither his words nor his final glance that stuck in my mind. It was only the gliding motion of his departure.

Although the starters refused to work out with The Troop–then or ever–the story of Swoop breaking up the prayer meeting was soon all over town. What the town didn’t know, what its residents had no way of knowing, was the meaning behind his departing words that day.

Two days later, when the players walked into the locker room after their last classes, they found the wooden cross gone, taken down and replaced by a huge poster of Hermes, the wing-footed lord of the wind, depicted in soaring flight, sword drawn, head high. “The patron god of athletes,” Swoop said. “He’ll stand by us throughout our championship run.”

When he held workouts at Healey Park–replete with appeals to Athena for wisdom and to Zeus for strength, alternated with the pounding practice sessions of The Swoop Troop– dozens of townspeople showed up to watch.

And when he spoke before hundreds of thronging fans at Homecoming, a crowd including several Religion majors and a pair of ministers, proclaiming that “the gods demand of champions the two

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Andrew Bernstein

Andrew Bernstein is a philosopher and novelist whose latest novel A Dearth of Eagles will be released in May. Visit his web site at