Now with bolding for new material! This way, you always know exactly what additions you have yet to read! Terribly exciting, I know!
* * *
Now with a brand-new title!
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In real life, I’m a Pats fan. Haters gonna hate, bros.
* * *
So apparently the Smokin’ Jay Cutler Tumblr linked this, which is hilarious and wonderful. Just think – this all started with a joke about Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer on Twitter. SOCIAL MEDIA, BROS – SOCIAL MEDIA.
I feel as though I should assure folks, though, that this was written entirely for shits and giggles… although that hasn’t stopped me from adding to it…
By the way, bros, that Smokin’ Jay Cutler Tumblr is dangerous for one’s health; if you look at it long enough, Jay Cutler starts looking attractive. So be careful, bros.
* * *
Bet you were thinking, “Wow, this couldn’t possibly get any better!” But, bros, then I ran this through Gizoogle, and it became fucking amazing.
* * *
The madness continues, as now another WordPress blog has linked to this, that of a Green Bay Packers fan… and not even the one who has been goading this whole thing along! Although I think some of the other writers may’ve had an issue had that particular GB fan decided to link from there.
And, yes, I linked back only since the phrase “I linked it without their permission but just like the Chicago Bears, they won’t notice anything.” is unclear as to whom the “they” is.
* * *
Tony Romo was a jaded young man with bad confidence. Jay Cutler didn’t give a fuck. What happened between them in the NFL one season is the subject of SMOKIN’ JAY CUTLER X TONY ROMOE.
A great bestseller for almost five minutes – one of the most starkly moving parables ever about the dark forces that brood over the tortured world of NFL quarterbacks.
* * *
In an alternate universe approximating our own (but with ESPN and CSPAN combined as one unit), Jay Cutler and Tony Romo’s internet meme alter egos are drawn together by an unmistakable attraction. Also, Randy Moss joins the Dallas Cowboys and Brett Favre is naked a lot.
* * *
“Man the fuck up, kid. T.O.’s not here to wipe your fucking tears anymore.” Jay Cutler idly flicked ashes onto the turf, seemingly ignorant of the screaming member of the grounds-crew who was tired of burns on the field, “Cut the crying shit.”
Tony Romo looked up at him through a veil of tears, angered; it was a low blow, reminding him that T.O. was hundreds of miles away, written off by even Arena Football. It hurt to recall the betrayal of his own sports team in sending his best bro on the team packing – it was a lie when folks said that time heals all wounds. Jessica, T.O… was there anyone they wouldn’t take from him?
“You even listening to me, you fucking retard?”
Tony was snapped from his reverie, and scowled at the other man, “Would you just leave me the fuck alone? I didn’t ask for your opinion, asshole. And stop flicking ash on the damn field!”
Smokin’ Jay smirked, dropping the butt of his cigarette on the field before he crushed it under his heel, “Your house, your rules.” But Tony refused to bite, turning away, bitterness in his voice, “You have no idea what it’s like, anyway… getting everything taken away, being relentlessly mocked…”
“I have no idea what it’s like? Sure, they might jeer you, but I was run right out of the entire fucking town! But, you know what, kid? That’s the difference between you and me – you care. Whereas, me?” He chuckled, “I know I’m hot shit, and if the fucktards can’t figure that out, then too fucking bad for them.”
His hand went to his pocket, and he pulled out a pack of cigarettes, but the box was empty and he frowned before shrugging, chucking it into the stands, “I’ll see you in Chicago, kid. Assuming you last that long, that is.” He smirked again, and then he was gone, leaving Tony by himself, sitting on the bench, surrounded by the debris his so-called fans had flung at him in the aftermath of the game. Even the ball boy hadn’t bothered to wait for him, and the cleaning crew hadn’t set foot within fifty feet of him to clear the trash away. But if they’d cleared the trash, they probably would’ve carried him out to the dumpsters, too, he was sure. It’s where he belonged, after all – either there, or maybe someplace like Jacksonville. Some place where he’d just be another anonymous, blurred face in front of a crowd of 4,000, all of them tweeting pictures of cats, where he could slink off into eternity.
He wondered if T.O.’s arena team needed a new football player. Even if T.O. wasn’t playing on the squad anymore, it could be like old times, right?
* * *
“Tony, we got you a new receiver – we really think you’ll like him.” He’d been brought into the office for the news; he’d known something was up, because the staff looked a little too gleeful, as if they were about to introduce a mall Santa to a group of orphans. He sighed inwardly, but pasted on a smile, “Oh?”
“This’ll be a big upgrade for us, he’s exactly what we need to up our game.” The computer monitor was swiveled to where he could see it from his seat, and a man in a jersey labeled “81” beamed at him. His heart leaped at the sight of the digits, before everything crashed – he was wearing a New England Patriots jersey, and he knew in an instant for whom he was grinning. Randy Moss. They had signed Randy Moss.
His mood sagged, but he kept calm. They babbled at him about when the team was going to make the announcement, about how Moss had already been watching tapes of practice to get ready for his debut, about when his first practice would be…
Randy Moss. Randy Moss. Taking that number 81, as if he could fill the void T.O. had left. Tony was positive that it would be pure torture to work with him; all Moss would ever talk about, surely, was Tom Brady. They’d been a dream combo, the two of them, shattering Peyton Manning’s TD reception record. They hadn’t won it all, true, but he wasn’t a fool – his play-off moments were of flubbing it all, while clock management was the death knell for the Patriots in that Super Bowl.
Brady and Moss, Brady and Moss…
They didn’t seem to notice his wandering attention. He recalled Cutler’s words to him – was it true that his problem was that he actually cared? But he was angry with himself for thinking of it; Cutler was a jerk with a bad attitude who’d never done anything, really, anyway. He couldn’t possibly have anything useful to say! But as the meeting moved to its conclusion, he found it impossible to dismiss him from mind…
* * *
He’d been wrong; Moss didn’t just babble about Brady. He also talked about Bill Belichick. A lot. And he said “homie” a lot, too. And he complained about laws and regulations governing driving a lot as well. In fact, Moss talked a ton, period. Tony grudgingly admitted that he had impressive range on the field, but it was also easier to admire him on the field since he was frequently much too far from him to prattle in his ear. Off the field, he did his best to avoid him, which Moss didn’t seem to mind – he didn’t need anyone specific to chatter to, any person would do, so long as they had a pulse… although Tony wondered if even the pulse was necessary.
* * *
He was already sick of the media chatter, and Randy Moss had been with the team barely more than a week. Sure, he’d reeled in a couple of tricky balls, but the media was practically blowing him. Already there was gushing about future possibilities, the sorts of future possibilities which involved college kids who had yet to go pro, with the current QB, well, elsewhere. He gritted his teeth at the memory of a particular story that had come on CSPN when he’d been in the team gym that morning, suggesting the five best college QBs for the Cowboys to draft, with the idea that they’d all work well with Randy Moss. He knew he should be used to it, but with all the myriad betrayals by his own team, he couldn’t help but suspect they were tracking these suggestions avidly. Was this what Ryan Fitzpatrick’s life was like? Although he was pretty sure no one had cheered on the chance of him breaking his own neck…
Meanwhile, Moss was gabbing away to anything approximating a microphone. Of course.
Worse, Jay Cutler’s words kept coming back to him, as did… well, all of Jay Cutler. His insolent attitude. The cocky grin. The cigarette butts littering the visitor’s side of Cowboys Stadium. He was obnoxious, but it was hard to deny that he seemed completely pleased with himself, professional success or no. If Tony was being honest, he, well, envied him, he supposed, envied the devil-may-care approach he could take to the vitriol spat forth by the fans, other players, the media… but he was unconvinced that such an attitude could possibly bring about things like Super Bowl rings. The proof was in the pudding; successful QBs who won titles and awards cared, and those who didn’t… well, didn’t. The Mannings, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner… they’d all cared a lot. And while they’d had their own flubs (he truly wished he’d never clicked on that link about Favre and Crocs…), no one could argue that they weren’t legendary. He didn’t want to be like the Jay Cutlers of the world – he wanted to be like the Kurt Warners.
But, oh, sometimes how he wished he didn’t care quite so much! To be able to go out, play a good game, and not feel stabs of displeasure when the TV morons nitpicked his every move! Even for just a day he’d like to know that feeling.
* * *
They were headed to Chicago. Tony felt a twinge, but he wasn’t sure of what. A reporter asked him a question, and Moss answered for him, “Straight cash, homies!” The reporter turned to him for confirmation, and he managed a smile, agreeing, “Straight cash, homies.” The woman looked mildly perplexed, as if she’d expected him to make some sense of Moss’s words. But he wasn’t going to bother this time, was he?
His smile widened, became real, and he repeated himself, “Straight cash, homies.”
The news reports said he was nuts. Moss approved.
* * *
“Well, here you are, kid, and you’ve still got that dumb attitude. How’s that working out for you?” Cutler took a step closer, and Tony stepped back, nervously. His heel hit the wall, and it only made matters worse – he was cornered, Cutler blowing smoke in his face. His heart spasmed at the proximity, and he looked away, mumbling, “And you’re still smoking like Jim Leyland…”
“What was that, kid? Were you trying to insult me?” The smirk was clear in his tone.
“I’m not ‘kid’, I’m older than you!” Tony snapped, peevishly, looking at him again. Wrong move, he thought. Cutler practically loomed over him now. He could feel his own face slowly reddening, and felt frustrated. His timing was terrible; it always had been, both on and off the field.
A derisive laugh, “Something wrong, kid? You sure seem upset.”
Tony set his shoulders, looking at him coolly, “I’ve had enough of this. I’ve got a game to play, and I don’t need pointers from someone whose claim to fame is being a quarterback at Vanderbilt.”
He started to move to slip away, but Cutler blocked him, pressing a leg firmly between his, practically pinning him to the wall. The nervous fluttering returned.
“So, that’s how you really feel, kid, huh?”
Tony vaguely noticed ash falling at the periphery of his vision, Cutler’s smoking hand on the wall next to his head, the smoke curling between himself and the Bears QB. And, then, it happened. He instinctively closed his eyes as he was kissed, as he was pressed forcefully against the flat, cinderblock surface. He had, to his horror, begun to reach for the front of Cutler’s shirt for support, his legs jellylike, when Cutler broke contact, the incessant smirk instantly in place, “Win one for the fans, Mr. Hotshot. I’ll see you on the field.”
* * *
They lost the game.
He was crouched in the tunnel, staring toward the field, away from the flashbulbs and his team-mates, away from Cutler. He saw himself before the game, reaching out to cling like a lovestruck high schooler. It’d been a dirty trick… but it had worked.
As he sat quietly on the team bus to the airport, he was disgusted to smell tobacco on his clothes. And when he fell asleep on the plane, finally, he dreamt of the man who had smoked the cigarettes, and woke up angry. But, even here, Cutler had been telling the truth – he cared too much. Otherwise, he could’ve kept his cool, shrugged it off. Instead, he’d caved, and they’d lost the game. A bitter Monday was sure to follow.
* * *
“Tony, we’ve got great news!”
Back in the office again, supposedly great news again. They seemed genuinely convinced that it was not he, in fact, who was the issue at hand; new receivers would solve it! Or new routes! Or… whatever this new announcement was about.
“So, we’ve been thinking a lot, and we think that maybe Samuel L. Jackson isn’t the best fit as the QB coach. He was pretty helpful during that snake incident, but he doesn’t have much familiarity with the game… and it really did show at Chicago, you know? So we fired him.”
He felt like he’d been punched. Another one bites the dust. Jessica, T.O., Samuel L. Jackson… there was no way they’d ever manage to get someone as good as Samuel L. Jackson. Samuel L. Jackson had even offered to come read him bedtime stories when he’d noticed that Tony seemed disappointed after the Bears game earlier in the season. It was true that his football knowledge was a touch lacking, but he’d carved a steep curve. It wasn’t fair to kick him to the curb after all his hard work…
“Anyway, we’ve got someone else, Tony. We really think he’ll be a great addition, and he’s got the necessary know-how to catalyze some progress on the field.”
Who could it be? He considered out-of-work QB coaches, but came up blank… maybe one of the coordinators? He blanched as the possibilities trotted by his mind. Anyone good was already with a team this late in the season; would they stick him with some college guy?
He heard the door open behind him, and began to turn.
“Oh, Brett, glad to see you made it in alright!”
Tony wished he hadn’t turned as his eyes darted away, to find something, anything else to look at. Brett Favre squeaked across the floor in his trademark Crocs, and nothing else. He shook hands with the other coach, before focusing his attention on Tony, beaming, “Tough game the other day!”
He looked at his face, then away again, “Um. Where are… your clothes?”
Brett continued to grin, “My clothes? Oh,” And here, he smirked slightly, “I know, it can be a little,” He thrusted his hips forward, “intimidating sometimes! But I’m just enjoying this lovely Dallas weather, bit less brisk than what Green Bay and Eden Prairie were!”
“Now, Tony, Brett enjoys a good breeze, hell, he was famous for his nude runs back in Green Bay! We want him to feel perfectly at home. You’ll get used to it! Now, Brett, about Tony…”
He slumped in his chair, dismayed, staring at the acid green Crocs on the floor. What was the name of that Arena League team again? T.O.’s team. Their coaches probably wore clothes.
* * *
Tony was gritting his teeth, pumping hard, his shirt soaked. It had been a hellish week, and he was eager to try to put most of it out of mind. Images of Jay floated through his thoughts, as did the unfortunate memory of the naked Brett Favre that had been seared into his mind. His jaw was beginning to throb from clenching it, but it helped to distract him somewhat as he clutched at the handlebars of the exercise bike.
He was trying to envision himself throwing successful passes to his receivers, never missing a beat, never being off-target. Randy had told him that this sort of thing worked well, and although he could’ve done without the man having babbled about it for a solid 45 minutes, he couldn’t deny that it had apparently paid dividends to the loquacious ex-Patriot (and ex-Raider, and ex-Viking). It also seemed to work better than trying to distract himself from Jay and the loss with thoughts of T.O and Samuel L. Jackson, thoughts which only served to deepen his own gloom.
The door banged open abruptly, and he started, his foot slipping from the pedal. He angrily looked to see who it was – who on earth would do that in the training room at the stadium? Then he cringed – it was Brett, and he was, of course, naked. It was a bit dismaying that this didn’t seem to bother anyone else on the team or the staff. In fact, the only people who were bothered by it were the folks who worked at the Victoria’s Secret at the stadium, as Tony had discovered when he helped one of the women who worked there when her car wouldn’t start. Naked Brett was apparently truly terrible for lingerie sales.
“My quarterback, working hard!” Brett strode across the room, his penis bouncing merrily with each step. Tony looked away, “Its probably not safe to be around all this equipment while you’re naked…”
Brett stopped next to the exercise bike, grinning wickedly, “Aww, now, I know, I know, might be bad for the self-esteem of some of you boys is what you mean, right?” He thrust his hips, as he was typically wont to do, and Tony fought the urge to gag, trying to be diplomatic, “I’m the only one here, coach, you don’t really need to impress me…”
A look settled onto the other man’s face which passed for thoughtful in such a person, “Is that so?”
Tony stepped off the bike, putting it firmly between the two, “Did you need something?”
“Oh, well…” There was something unsettling about the glance, “Did you?”
He was puzzled at the older man’s words, and still felt wary, “No, I was, um, about to go find Randy, y’know, thought maybe some of his newer ideas on routes were worth trying out…”
In a distressingly fluid motion, Brett was now on his side of the bike, too, standing uncomfortably close, his penis still hanging out in the oscillating breeze of the fan, “Well, of course, Tony, if you’d like to have some new ideas for routes, I could certainly offer a few.”
Had there been a wink there? Mercifully, Tony’s cellphone sprang to life, the theme from Starsky and Hutch blaring in the concrete-enclosed space. He grabbed for it like it was a lifeboat and he was on the Titanic, “Oh, that’s probably my mom! Maybe another time, I’m sure they’re great ideas!” He ducked past Brett like he was on an opposing offensive line, and this time he was determined to not be sacked.
In the hallway, he slowed, and looked down at the phone. The caller ID read ‘T.O.’.
* * *
He’d been a little antsy before the game, but now Tony smiled as he gazed back out at the field, elated. It had been a good game – the envisioning Randy had recommended had helped out in a big way, and to-morrow he’d be meeting T.O. for dinner back in Dallas. The violently green turf almost seemed to shimmer in front of him, even as he could smell a slight odor of burning garbage drifting into the stadium from the Meadowlands.
He was fully enjoying the afterglow of the match against the Jets when it was cruelly shattered as he heard footsteps behind him, followed by the sound of Brett Favre’s voice, “Well, hasn’t really been the same since I left, not at all, I tell you!”
Tony frowned, “Didn’t they finish third that season and miss the play-offs? And you got busted for sexually harassing a staff member?”
It was somewhat less unsettling to speak with Brett on gamedays, as league rules forced him to put on pants and a shirt, although the man proved impossible to keep away from his Crocs. Nevertheless, Tony was less than pleased to have his introspective moment interrupted.
“Yeppp, surely hasn’t been the same since I left… I did help them with that kid Sanchez, really mentored him, taught him that a man just can’t wear any sort of jeans, but, well, you know, you can lead a horse to water, but…” He sighed heavily, “Heartbreaking, but what can you do?”
Tony continued to frown – he was pretty sure Mark Sanchez was drafted after Brett left for Minnesota.
“So!” An arm dropped around his shoulders, bringing him too close for comfort, “Forget that Sanchez kid, we all know he’s a lost cause, but you certainly aren’t… good game, but we really should go over those… routes…”
“Uh… I’m a little tired, I’m not so sure about that, coach…”
“Oh, come on, you can call me Brett… remember, I was a quarterback, too!”
As if he’d ever let anyone forget it…
“I’m pretty sure we’ve all got a curfew, the plane does leave pretty early…”
“Come on, Tony,” His voice faux-hurt, “don’t you want to keep building on this success?”
And somehow he was pressed flat against the wall of the tunnel, wondering if it was just a bad idea to go near entry tunnels in stadiums… maybe he could enter from the stands instead? Could play it off as a promotional thing in Dallas.
“Um, coach, I, uh, I do appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, but, well, you see, its just, uh…” Dammit, where was Randy when he needed him? He’d be able to straight cash homie him out of this situation, surely!
Suddenly, he could smell cigarettes, and he heard someone making a noise of disgust further down the tunnel. He turned his head as Smokin’ Jay Cutler walked into view, taking a drag on a cigarette before easing the smoke out into the air. Jay looked the scene over, “So, guess this is what you do to celebrate winning big, eh, kid?”
“No, you’ve –“
He was cut off by Brett, who was scowling, “What’re you doing here?”
Jay’s face resumed its usual expression, a smirk, “Why, I was just here to support my cousin, old man.”
Brett’s jaw tensed, “Who you calling old? I’ve never seen anyone be fussed about wanting you in a jeans commercial featuring plenty of butt shots.”
“Wait, your cousin?” Tony interjected, “Who?”
“Oh, he’s the quarterback.” He paused, “Or was.”
“Your cousin is Brady Quinn?”
“It’s Mark Sanchez? Y’know, I mentored that kid, you outta have a little more respect for your elders, especially when they’ve given your kin a hand…”
“No, its not Mark Sanchez.” Jay said, beginning to look annoyed, “Its…”
Tony cut him off, “Greg McElroy?”
“No, they released him.”
“What? No, why the fuck would I be related to him?” He puffed in an irritated fashion on his cigarette, “No, and it wasn’t Matt Simms either, you retards.”
“For fuck’s sake, Geno Smith’s my cousin… the guy you just played against? Do you even pay any attention?”
“But…” Tony felt puzzled, “I thought you said I paid too much attention!”
Jay shook his head, looking thoroughly irritated, “To all the wrong things, kid; even I notice who the opposing QB is, at least. Who do you think I am, Ryan Tannehill?” He breathed out a cloud of distressed-looking smoke, “Fuck it, kid, enjoy your night… sure looks like you will.” And he smirked again, hurriedly, somehow… synthetically.
“Jay!” He shouted after him desperately, wrenching away from Brett, “Jay, it isn’t what it looks like, I swear!” He tried to follow him down the tunnel, but it was as if the other man had dissolved into the air.
Brett stood staring after the two, “Geno Smith???”
* * *
Before meeting up with T.O., Tony had carefully rehearsed turning down an offer from the other man to join his Arena Football squad. He didn’t want to be needlessly cruel to the other man, after all, even if it was laughable to think he’d be up for suiting up for something other than the NFL. Sure, everything had seemed pretty grim a couple weeks before, but, well, that was before he’d realized and embraced Randy’s wisdom when it came to prepping for success. It wasn’t that he didn’t love T.O. still – he did – but maybe it was time to accept that there could be a different number eighty-one in his life.
When T.O. had suggested they go somewhere nice, he’d thought of Applebee’s, honestly, but T.O. had seemed fairly unreceptive to the idea. He’d made some comment about Talladega Nights, but Tony didn’t quite catch it. So it was that he found himself sitting across from T.O. at the recently renamed Naked Crocodile Steakhouse. Did T.O. know Brett Favre had bought it a month prior? Tony had frowned at the choice of venue, but figured there was little chance the man himself would be on the premises given that the food safety folks wouldn’t take kindly to a naked man prancing around the kitchen.
Either way, Tony was delighted to see his old friend. But T.O. had been strangely fidgety through much of the meal and it seemed they were stuck solely on small talk. He’d been so diligent in preparing to turn the other man down, yet it seemed to have been for naught – the Arena team had come up, but only briefly, and T.O. had only been interested in passing along details about a couple recent signings for the team as well as noting that he sometimes assisted with practices.
“Tony,” T.O. began, clearing his throat, “you know you’ll always be my quarterback, right? I mean, hell, I’ve got a quarterback on my team now, but you’ll always be my quarterback. Nothing’ll ever change that. You know that, right?”
Tony nodded, “Of course – I remember that interview…”
“Even when I was with the Bills and Bengals? You were still my quarterback!”
Tony nodded again, wondering where this was all headed… he felt himself blanching – it couldn’t be! Had T.O. somehow ended up with the Steelers?!
“Its just… well, Tony, I’ve got to tell you something.”
“Yes?” He was bracing himself for the worst. The Steelers… well… could he still be his quarterback, even if it was the Steelers?
“Y’see, its… well, Tony, its about me. And Jessica.”
“Wait, huh? What about the Steelers?”
“Wait, what about the Steelers?”
“Jessica? And you? What?”
“Yeah… wait, what do the Steelers have to do with this?”
Tony sat back. It was like getting sucker-punched. T.O. and Jessica. Jessica and T.O. How could they? Hadn’t it been enough for the cruel gods of football to have snatched both of them away from him? Did they have to add this, too? He thought he was T.O.’s quarterback! He thought she’d been chased off by overzealous Cowboys fans! Had it all been a lie?
“I thought I was your quarterback.” He choked out.
“You are! You always have been! Tony, we didn’t want to hurt you… we were both hurting, and, well, I’m sorry Tony, I really am, but we didn’t want you to find out from someone else…”
His words blurred to a drone. T.O. and Jessica. Jessica and T.O. How could they?
* * *
They won the next game, but it was against the Texans, and no matter how hard the other team tried to make it a rivalry, even their hearts just weren’t in it. The commentators would say that it was a solid effort on his own part, but that there’d been something “flat” about it. Randy had made a noble effort to cheer him up when the news hit the press about Jessica and T.O., but Tony couldn’t help but be paranoid about it – if his last number eighty-one had been so easy-going about stabbing him in the back, how could he be so easy to trust his current eighty-one? And it wasn’t uncommon to catch Randy glancing longingly at the footage of Tom Brady CSPN seemed so utterly fond of showing endlessly.
Tony gazed longingly himself at the field. He’d managed to evade Brett, who had expressed a intent to help Tony “regain” the “spark” he’d had in the game prior, and the stadium was nearly empty of all for the evening. He couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of something missing. Was it really only the fresh betrayal? It stung, but he wondered.
“What’re you doing, kid, looking like a jilted lover?” There was a chuckle, “Although I guess you are one.”
Despite the insult, he felt his spirits rise a little at the familiar smell of Pall Malls. There was only one man under the age of sixty-five who smoked those, and there was only one man who would’ve insulted him that way – and there he was, a cigarette burned almost to the filter, Jay Cutler.
Tony could feel his own facial expression begin to shift out of its gloom, but he quickly snuffed it – smiling was no way to react to having someone draw attention to cuckolding committed by one of his dearest friends! He scowled quickly, appropriately, he felt, “Last I checked, I was the one who did the jilting.”
That smirk again, “I don’t think it counts when its the fanbase that did it, kid.”
Tony frowned, “What’re you doing here, anyway? Don’t you have your own games to be at?”
“Monday Night Football – surely you’ve heard of it?” Jay’s tone was bored, almost, and he crushed the cigarette against the bottom of his shoe before flicking it away, “Cousin of mine plays for the Texans – Earthwind Moreland.”
“Didn’t he have a bunch of missed tackles?”
“Yep.” An unexpected sigh, “Look, come on, kid…” He withdrew a pack of cigarettes from a pocket, and proffered one to Tony, who stared at it before hurriedly shaking his head no. Jay shrugged, took two cigarettes from the package, and lit both for himself. “Look…” He said, again, sounding slightly wearied.
Curious, Tony couldn’t help but ask, “Yes?”
“Alright, kid, just, well, fuck it, you know? Fuck it. Stop worrying about that stupid shit with Jessica and T.O., alright? You can’t look like a jilted lover, all the jilting already happened ages ago. She moved on, he moved on, right? He doesn’t even play anymore! And that’s why it didn’t work with her, right? Because you play football, kid. You think she wanted to deal with that all over again?” One drag per cigarette, in rapid succession, “Stop mooning over it, get on with your fucking life. Don’t you have some football games to win? Shit, here.”
Tony found one of the cigarettes Jay had been smoking suddenly in his hand and he stared at it as if it had fallen out of the sky.
“Just smoke the damn thing, kid. Smoke it and be done with all that shit. There’s another game next week. You want them to replace you with someone less mopey? ‘Cause all you seem to do is mope around.”
Tony continued to stare for another thirty seconds, but he knew it, he had to smoke it, he understood the wisdom that Jay had imparted to him, and with that he enthusiastically jammed it into his mouth and inhaled. Almost immediately he began to cough.
“Aww, come on, kid, you don’t even know how to fucking smoke?!”
“I just, I just…” He coughed more, his eyes tearing up.
“For fuck’s sake, are you crying on me?! Last time I let you have one of my cigarettes, holy shit!”
“No, I just, Jay, I…” He stopped short – had he ever used his first name before? Jay had been slapping his back in some misguided attempt to loose the cough, but now his hand had stilled, and Tony resisted the urge to nervously swallow.
They looked at each other quietly, smoke continuing to curl from the cigarettes, but even Jay seemed to have forgotten what he held. Tony felt himself begin to move toward the other man, but his phone suddenly trilled. It was as if lightning had suddenly struck, as Jay instantly moved away. Tony awkwardly grappled for his phone – he had a new text. He cleared his throat, purposefully opening the text. Jay had resumed smoking.
Tony frowned as he read the text – “We got Tim Tebow!”, and when he looked up again, only a small quantity of ashes remained to mark Jay’s prior presence.
* * *
He’d learn to expect the worst whenever the words, “You’ll love this!” or “We’ve got a great idea!” were uttered. The press had swarmed and salivated over Tim Tebow in a manner that seemed wholly unsuited to a back-up quarterback on his third team in as many years. When asked for his opinion, Tony breezily made some comment about former University of Florida quarterbacks and the attention they got versus former Eastern Illinois quarterbacks that was interpreted as a sign of his own sense of insecurity. He’d only been tired of the flashbulbs, although, he supposed, he couldn’t quite count himself as a Tebow fan.
On the other hand, Tebow did a good job of distracting the media away from everyone else, which made for a decent vacation. And, as it turned out, he shared Tony’s opinion that clothes-free!Brett Favre was not remotely an acceptable part of the coaching landscape. But here was the one item on which the team seemed distinctly disinterested in jumping to Tim’s every whim – Brett would grudgingly slap on a pair of gym shorts when the cameras were around, but he otherwise remained unencumbered by cloth.
Tim had a twin crusade going as a result. He wanted to be the starting quarterback, and he wanted to save Brett’s soul from eternal damnation. Persistent nudity was apparently grounds for eternal damnation. Every time Tony turned around, Tim was either loudly praying for Brett’s salvation from nakedness, or pressing Bible tracts upon the other man while, patiently telling and re-telling stories, allegedly biblical in origin, that indicated the awful abomination that was a lack of clothing.
As a result of the circus, Tony found little time to think on his most recent encounter with the infamous Smokin’ Jay, even if it floated through his thoughts on a daily basis. Between the belting of (alleged) Bible verses and the babbling chatter of the press, even with a bye there was nearly no time for reflection. Even Randy seemed a bit perturbed by the state of affairs within the football stadium, his trademark phrase seeming an attempt to divert people from trying to force him to gather his distracted thoughts instead of the surety it usually was.
In an attempt to get some quality practice time in, Tony was out on the field at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, the stadium lights lending the only illumination in the pre-dawn. It was chilly, the roof was open, but there was no media, no Brett, no Tim. He’d stretched a bit and run easily down the field and back a few times, breathing deeply. He kept his mind carefully clear; he was feeling a bit peaceful and was wary of considering T.O., Jay, Jessica, Tim…
“I’m praying for you.”
He started, finding that the second-string quarterback had managed to materialize abruptly and practically under his right armpit, “Excuse me?”
“It’s ok, Tony, we all struggle with sin. But I’m praying for you.”
“Uh, thanks.” Maybe if he started doing jumping-jacks…
“I just wanted to let you know – you’ve got a brother in Christ, right here. I’ve never experienced the wickedness and cruelty of homosexual temptation myself, but, well, we are all sinners, and I want you to know that I stand with you regardless. You can count on me, Tony!”
Tony had stopped mid-jumping-jack, only half-registering that exercise had not driven away the prayer-prone younger man, “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.” Had he seen him talking to Jay? Had he… had he gotten the wrong idea? The wrong idea…
“Tony, you don’t need to pretend.” Tim’s tone was soothing, patronizing, “I understand it can be a little confusing at times, you look up to someone and the popular cultural noise leads you astray, makes you think there’s something else it could be, too. You don’t have to forge this path alone.”
“I know Brett has a very impressive record as a quarterback. He really is one of the greats! But he is just human, Tony, and he is a man. You can’t let wickedness tempt you like this.”
He looked at Tim quietly. It was a bit like being hit in the head with a frying pan, or told that one has a fifteen year old bastard child they’d never heard of before who is named Luxxe. Tim thought he had the hots for Brett.
“We can pray together, Tony! And you know, I’ve been starting up a Bible study for all the boys, I’d be honored if you attended, too. Now, this doesn’t have to be open knowledge, don’t get me wrong, its just between you and me – but I do think that the Bible study would help you out a lot. I care about you, Tony; you don’t have to face this alone.
Tony still considered him quietly. He looked so eager and bright, so sure of the validity of what he believed to be true.
“Straight cash, homie.”
Tim looked bewildered, then sad, “Tony… oh, Tony, you don’t have to be ashamed! I’ve had my own personal struggles with evil of the spirit.”
“Straight cash, homie.”
“Tony, it’s ok, well, we don’t have to get into the meddlesomeness of homosexual attraction yet, I can understand it’d be hard for you… but,” A sort of laugh, “denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, you know!” It was punctuated with a wink.
“Straight cash, homie.” Tony turned away and started jogging again.
* * *
Randy appeared to be having the most difficulty adjusting to the arrival of Tim. For a man who had himself inspired so much controversy, he was surprisingly thrown off by the plethora of pen-wavers that had made the stadium their preferred home. Tony had a hard time recalling the last time he’d seen him when he didn’t look dazed. That Tim tried to utilize Randy as an additional prop for evangelizing did little to help the situation, especially as what he alleged to have been the result of taking Jesus into his heart (Randy didn’t mime wiping his ass on goalposts anymore! Randy didn’t accidentally hit traffic cops with his car anymore!) were really the result of having taken Bill Belichick into it.
He improved slightly when the media presence receded a few inches when Joe Flacco declared himself the most pissah quarterback in America for the sixty-eighth time. The statement was discovered to have come come about based on a combination of sales figures for risque calendars and ability to chuck the football large distances, although it was unclear if accuracy of those thrown missiles was factored in at all.
But the bold statement shuffled away whimpering feebly when it was revealed by the 49ers that Colin Kaepernick’s sales figures dwarfed Flacco’s, before curling up and dying when Reddit revealed that sales figures for an illicit, black-market calendar composed entirely of shots of Jake Delhomme’s bare ass from that one game with the ripped pants incident had sold better than the Flacco or Kaepernick calendars combined. That the photos had the granular quality of Youtube screenshots seemed to have been of no deterrent to the determined hordes.
So the journalists were back on the Tebow beat, and Randy was wandering across the field toward Tony, looking bewildered. Tony had seen that Tim had somehow cornered him and had been speaking excitedly at him for about half an hour, practically bouncing in his enthusiasm. Randy’s general air had had much in common with that of a mole that had been suddenly tossed under a spotlight.
“Are you alright?” Tony asked him when he’d finally reached his side.
Randy’s forehead crinkled, “He told me that Al Davis is the Wandering Jew.”
Each time Tony thought he was used to whatever absurdity Tim could possibly come up with, he managed to be stunned all over again. So it was that his only response could be to make a stupid noise while blinking.
“I mean… homie, Al Davis? He’s still out there. He’s… waiting.” Randy squinted up at the sky, frowning, “And not, like, in heaven. I mean – he’s OUT THERE. But, homie? He ain’t the Wandering Jew.”
“No, he probably isn’t…”
“No, homie, not probably – he AIN’T.”
“Of course not.” Tony had to admit to himself that he was actually beginning to be mildly concerned – Al Davis still alive? Waiting? Waiting for what? The Raiders to win again? That would be a bit sad, Tony decided, if it were true. He hoped it wasn’t true. And then he had to stop himself from kicking his own left ankle, because it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be!
Randy had moved on, though, and was looking thoughtfully at Brett, who was squirming like a child in the jeans he supposedly loved and a Cowboys polo shirt, the Crocs looking somehow menacing partly hidden by the boot-cut cuffs.
“Maybe Brett is, though.”
“The Wandering Jew, homie.”
Something had to give.
* * *
What gave, surprisingly, was Brett. Well, and Randy, too, albeit in a much stranger way. When the man failed to show up for practice one day, he was discovered in a tree in the parking lot clutching a large rock which he stated was for Al Davis. Tim was banned from talking to Randy anymore without a chaperone.
But that was far from the only necessity for a chaperone. No one knew what exactly had triggered it, but Brett had punched Tim square in the jaw in the middle of the locker-room with reporters present. He’d also proven to have better reflexes than any of the players by managing to stuff the wailing young man into his own locker before anyone could stop him. Admittedly, only the journalists seemed particularly interested in rescuing Tim from Brett’s clutches, anyway, which may’ve accounted for their lack of speed compared to their elder statesman.
The immediate result was that Brett was forced to make a public apology and claim that it hadn’t been a punch at all but a misguided effort to kill a mosquito that had landed on Tim. West Nile was quite a problem in the Dallas area, surely everyone was well-aware! He’d had the second-stringer’s best interests at heart but he’d panicked and hit him much too hard. The team released a subsequent statements assuring the public that Tim Tebow did not have West Nile Virus, nor, for that matter, malaria. Only one reporter asked if Brett was playing favorites by not having done Tony the same favor when a mosquito had been observed to land on his neck during a press conference earlier in the season.
Tony observed these developments, though, in a firmly desultory fashion. Sure, he was happy that Tim was leaving Randy alone, especially since the disappearance of his attention seemed to have snapped Randy out of his bizarre Al Davis-focused paranoia. And, yes, overall Tim being unable to speak much due to a swollen jaw was quite pleasant. But he felt somewhat distracted, and he knew it wasn’t just T.O.’s requests of him as his Best Man (although he had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to tell his original #81 that having his AFL players all serve as flower boys in the wedding was probably not a good idea). No, it seemed to be that as they made their way through the dead zone of the season, traveling to the likes of Tennessee and Tampa Bay (everyone suited up at the hotel and didn’t touch a thing in the locker-room), hosting the Redskins (who had started the season optimistically with a brand new logo featuring a red-skinned potato only to stumble when RGIII had a severe allergic reaction to the new red-skin potato wedges being trumpeted at their concession stands), he felt himself slipping into a perfunctory if successful routine.
Although, if he were honest, as he stood in his apartment with his hand hovering over the power button on the TV as he gazed at a certain man with an uninterested look on his face after getting sacked for the eleventh time in one game, well, there was probably another reason as well. A pair of former players could be heard bickering in disgusted tones about just how much Smokin’ Jay didn’t care about his performance in the game of football. The picture abruptly cut to a sequence of Smokin’ Jay pausing to light up before he sauntered out onto the field after the lackluster game ended to shake the hands of the opposing team. Much was made of him daring to flick ash on Rob Ryan, although it was clear it had simply been a matter of Rob daring to be standing in the trajectory of Smokin’ Jay’s cigarette ash. Brother Rex was delighted, though, as it gave him something to puff up about on camera and to any sports’ writers willing to (or not) listen to him during a quiet bye week.
Smokin’ Jay had not been playing well in the previous few weeks. Even as he tried to ignore it, a little voice in Tony’s head kept whispering that, maybe, maybe, perhaps, maybe he had something to do with it. They’d shared that cigarette, after all, and things had gotten a bit awkward, and, well, then that stupid message about Tebow had interrupted and he’d… disappeared.Did he feel as mixed up about it as Tony did? Or maybe he still thought that Tony actually liked the way Brett had behaved toward him all those weeks ago in the Meadowlands? Maybe – and the idea made him shudder terribly – he even thought Brett had punched Tim for his sake!
This last thought had nearly driven himto get in touch with Rex Grossman to try to get him to give him Smokin’ Jay’s cell number. It was a pretty poorly-kept secret that Grossman had Smokin’ Jay’s number and had had it for ages as he enjoyed “prank” texting him. That screenshots of all these texts kept getting leaked to some Twitter account entitled “Rex Grossman is a Loser” immediately did nothing to deter him. A lot of them were dick pics with a penis emblazoned with “suck this cutler” on it in washable marker from different angles. Grossman didn’t understand why everyone in Chicago and a lot of the rest of the country knew exactly what his penis looked like.
He’d managed to steel himself against it. He’d have more chances in-person anyway, right? It wasn’t worth screenshots of Grossman jeering to the smoking man that Tony wanted him to suck his dick, too. The press hadn’t bothered him in such a long time and he didn’t want to encourage them to try to talk to him outside of the post-game conference or the quick comments on the sideline immediately after the game. Brett always interrupted to hit on the sideline reporter, anyway, even though he’d been pepper-sprayed a couple of times.
No, Tony would just have to be patient. Good things come to those who wait, right?