"He said he was feeling more pain than usual," Siegel told the press in the conference after the game. "I did a diagnostic on the threep and there was nothing that showed up as a problem." Siegel then pinged Alton Ortiz, Chapman's care provider, who was watching over his body in Philadelphia. (Chapman, unlike most of his teammates, did not have his body travel to events, due to autoimmune issues. He piloted his threep remotely using dedicated connections to minimize lag.) Ortiz reported nothing unusual on his end. Chapman returned to the field for the next play, on offense.
When asked why he didn't sub out Chapman after he reported playing in increasing pain, Pena said, simply, "He didn't ask."
Why didn't he ask? There are several possible reasons. The first is that Chapman, like many journeyman athletes, had performance bonuses he was aiming for to pad out his standard contractual rate. Although this was an exhibition game, and its stats wouldn't go to the season records, they would go to Chapman's contractual quotas. He was getting an early start at a salary increase, in other words.
The second reason was why the Bays and the Snowbirds were playing in the capital in the first place: The NAHL was expanding into Washington, D.C., as well as Philadelphia, Austin, and Kansas City, and would have an expansion draft at the end of the season. For a player like Chapman, an expansion draft could be a chance to move up into a key role at one of the new teams. The Washington game had the entire NAHL brass at it, along with several potential new franchise owners and investors, including Washington, D.C., favorite son Marcus Shane, as well as their prospective management and coaching teams. Chapman might have thought that staying in the game was the best way to come to their attention and make an argument for being in their expansion draft selections.
And then there's the third reason, as Kim Silva said, after the game: "You play through the pain. Always."
This is a mantra for every athlete in every sport, of course. But it's even more so for the athletes of Hilketa. They know they are both more and less than your average athlete—they are also Hadens, that small percentage of citizens whose bodies are inactive while their minds move freely through the world, both in the online venue of the Agora and in the offline world, through which they navigate in their threeps.
It's these threeps—machines designed arguably better and more efficiently than human bodies—that have led many, including non- Haden professional athletes, to state that Hilketa athletes aren't athletes at all, but something along the lines of glorified video game players.
This naturally rankles Hilketa players, the game's fans, and many Hadens. At the minimum, if NASCAR drivers can be considered athletes, so too can Hilketa players. But ask any Hilketa athlete and they will tell you that there's physicality to the sport. Even if their bodies are immobile, the effort required to pilot their threeps for the ninety minutes of each game (not to mention practices and other related work) takes a physical and mental toll. They work hard. They feel aches and fatigue. And when the hits come hard and fast, they feel the pain. Real pain, for real athletes.
But they know how many people would deny that pain 'is' real. So they play through, more than they might otherwise, more than non- Haden athletes might, to make the point.
For some or all of these reasons, Chapman went back onto the field.
Seasoned observers of the game could see right away that there was something going on with Chapman. ESPN commentator Rochelle Webb pointed out how he started to hang back on the Bays' next offensive drive. "Chapman's keeping to the backfield, which isn't where you usually see him," she commented. 'Washington Post's' Hilketa reporter Dave Miller noted on the site's live simulcast that Chapman picked up the crossbow as his weapon for the play. "He's done that maybe three or four other times in his career," Miller noted, "probably because he can't hit the broadside of a barn." Miller was right; Chapman shot his bolt at the Birds' Sonia Sparks and missed her by a country mile.
On a normal night, Chapman's lack of engagement might be the top story of the game—or at least enough of a reason for Pena to finally bite the bullet and take him off the field—but right around the time Chapman decided to loiter in the background, Silva made it clear why the Bays were paying a premium price for her, racking up twenty points in the next two offensive plays and single-handedly thwarting Elroy Gil's upper-goal attempt.
Almost no one was looking at Chapman during this remarkable run, and those who were confined their comments to asides, minor color commentary filling out the edges of a star turn.
And then Chapman became the goat for the third time.
At first it looked as if Chapman was doing what he always did when he was goat: ducking, weaving, evading, running the field to run down the clock.
Then the Post's Dave Miller saw it. "Chapman is calling a time- out? There are no time-outs in Hilketa."
"Chapman's putting his hands out at Rayburn," Webb said on ESPN, as the Toronto star bore down on him. "He looks like he's trying to say Don't hit me."