11)  Sunday, January 29th – “Bowl on Ice!”


A week had passed.  America seemed to be getting back to an even keel despite the brutal weather.  Money was destroyed at Freecock.  Senators and Congressmen wrangled over the procedures for impeachment and the fate of the recess appointees.  Beer was poured and consumed.

Drifting, blowing snow had blanketed Purley and Dempstertown (as, in fact, the Metroplex and entire Eastern Seaboard) as a few dispirited regulars – Westy and Eric, among them - nursed their brews and crunched the cold, twenty-five cent chicken wings Leo had prepared in anticipation of a big Sunday crowd with the Right Reverend Ellsworth Godwin… still in his collar, having proceeded from the pulpit at Mt. Zion Baptist directly to Feargal’s in the hope that Washington and Green Bay would be allowed to play in the snow.  But, half an hour after the interim NFL Commissioner Radulovich announced an indefinite postponement of the late game, they were still at the bar, watching the Oakland Raiders dismantle favored New England and gobbling the half-priced wings that Leo has despaired of moving and, also, enduring AFC’s salt-and-pepper talking heads, Rafe Munson and Ervil Samms.

Like so many commentator pairings in professional sports, the former was Hollywood and the latter was NFL, Samms a defensive back who’d moved on to coaching for two seasons… one fair, the other disastrous… before trekking upstairs to the booth.

          First and ten for the silver and black on the New England forty,” observed the bleached-blond, cap-toothed Munson.  Kaepernick under center drops back… no, it’s a fake, he’s off and into the Patriots’ secondary, stopped on the thirty-one…”

          “That’ll bring up second and short, nice spot to be in for the Raiders…” Samms deduced.

          “A year ago, they were out of the playoffs by November, but after resorting to their wicked old ways by trading draft choices to the team across the Bay for the rights to Kaepernick and signing free-agents Ray Rice and Ricky Williams after an oh and three start…”

          “Not to mention Popeye Brewster…” Ervil reminded him, the big guy’s partisanship towards defensive players legendary…

“…these Raiders are headed from the Big House, straight to the Big Game in Atlanta in two weeks,” Munson concluded with a self-satisfied smile, “barring a Patriot miracle…”

          “Here’s Fuller straight ahead… first down Oakland!”

          And that inspired Westy to put down his beer to confront the Reverend…

“So, now, how do you explain to the kids how signing all these guys out of prison and rehab and whatnot makes them role model?  Kaepernick disrespects America, that other brother – he did twenty-six years cause this lawyer had a confidentiality agreement with the real killer… this is a sick country, man…”

“I’m not saying all the brothers are role models, all I’m saying is that they ought to be allowed to do their job, same as you or I,” Godwin replied.

Eric Hopper intervened on the Reverend’s side.  Gotta agree.  They messed up, and paid the price, but how long you gonna keep punishin’ the brothers, keep ‘em from makin’ a living…”

          Kaepernick completed a pass to Rice for another first down at the sixteen…

          “Hey, I like the flag, been in the service you know,” Eric kept the pressure on, “but how long you gotta keep the man down?”

          “They always pulling… well, the hard case,” Reverend Godwin pointed out, “…on the brothers.  Take away Barry Bonds’ records, but do they go after Clemens?”

          “Guess that’s true…” Westy said, “though they did come down on Brady, sort of.  And Pete Rose.”  He flexed one massive hand… huge and strong from feeding dollars into a slot eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year (holidays excepted).

          “That was ‘cause of his hair,” Eric scowled.  “Him and Colin.  Mostly, they let a brother get a little taste of the high life, true, but if he starts to stand out of the crowd, they find a way to cut him down an’ the same fools been proppin’ him since school be the first throwin’ bricks…”

          “‘Cept out in Oakland,” Soames grunted back, “…guess that makes ‘em winners now…”

          “Thirty-one to six says so,” Eric pointed a half-gnawed wing at Westy as barmaid Syria loomed up before the trio, waiting for their orders.  “The Lord helps those as help themselves…”

          Ain’t that the truth… Syria sighed..,

          “An’ the Good Shepherd ain’t no vegetarian…” added the good Reverend, looking up at the Mongolian plasma, face screwed up with disgust.  “A forty-four,” he shook his head.  Ol’ lady Weems, got money, she told me she got that same Tungway, but thirty-eight.  Why do all those foreign television sets have to have names like guns?”

          Nobody could, or would, refute the man of God on this, so all three nodded to let Syria wet their whistles, once more… not necessarily because the game or conversation was inspiring, but because it was damn cold outside… and, when General Westmoreland Soames glanced up at Leo’s new set, Kaepernick took the snap at the New England nine, dropped back and then bolted through the Patriot’s line to daylight…

          “That’s designer,” Munson exclaimed with no little admiration, “a keeper, all the way, and Colin’s in…”

          “Touchdown, Raiders and it’s thirty-seven to six…”

          “So, presuming that Oakland will convert the extra point, we’re going to be cutting away to Washington for a moment, where interim Commissioner Glenn Radulovich is said to have an important announcement regarding this afternoon’s cancelled Green Bay-Washington tussle,” Rafe Munson informed the world, and Feargal’s.

          “Looks like he used to play,” Reverend Godwin pointed a wing at the husky Radulovich, hunched over a podium like Snoopy, pretending to be a vulture.  Behind him was a wall of blattering subliminals… POWER!  RESPECT!  DIGNITY!  PRIDE!… Radulovich seemed nervous, but determined.  From another camera angle on another network, beamed to another television… one of many on sale in Giga-Plex where both staff and customers had suspended their haggling to watch… it was plain to see that he faced a roomful of reporters hungering for justification of their presence.

          “Thank you,” the Commissioner tried to work his crowd.  “I have great news from Green Bay… they’re working hard, up there, and expect to have power back by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.  Electricians from twenty-eight states have been airlifted into the afflicted area to make things right, and so I am rescheduling today’s Conference playoff game to Sunday, next, at three PM, Eastern, which would be… uh… two o’clock in Green Bay… question, yes?”

          “Sir… Tim leClaire, Milwaukee Journal…” a Neanderthal fellow in a light suit stood up.

          “Fine people, up there.  Working hard…” said the Commissioner, “and I know a little about bad weather,” he added, “from my time up in Ann Arbor…”

          “We all know of your career,” leClaire browned his nose before settling down to the meat in the matter.  “Thank you!  And thank you, too… I understand that there was consideration given to move the game to Washington, tomorrow night, or to a neutral site in, well… a warmer place…” the man from Milwaukee chuckled.  Half the room… those situated north of the thirty-fifth parallel… joined him.

          “Yes, uh… many options were discussed, but, once all is said and done,” the Commish intoned, “Green Bay did earn home field advantage by virtue of their record… including a sound thrashing of the Redskins in Washington, an achievement that’s important to me… so I think Commissioner Prater would have done the same, despite his affection for his home team…”

          “But sir…”

          “The decision stands.”



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