12)  Saturday, January 23rd  “Forty One to Six!”


          As a few of the media gave sympathetic chuckles and many, many more clamored for attention, Mark Tenison turned away from the display of the huge, cardboard Romanian Dominators arrayed at the center of a circle of lesser… but expensive… screens stacked up before a wall of televisions reaching nearly to the ceiling of the gigantic store, snapping at his gawking employees…

“See!  See!  Achievement… that’s what counts!” declared the Manager, pointing at his display.  “The Commissioner says so…”

“The interim Commissioner…” Craig mumbled, toting another analog-digital converter box past Total Skinner in the tech booth and a forlorn-looking European student named Blick whose hopeless job was to try and sell a thirty-thousand dollar personal robot named Henry to any blithering idiot not seduced by the Dom…

“Synch!” Tenison bellowed, “…you have anything better to do than talk football with my tech staff… no?  Then go back and bring out a few more cartons of those hard drives… Honey, do you see that couple wandering the downloading aisle, go sell them something…”

          Honey Keissler - blonde, early 20-something and terminally bored with her job, her life and her business courses at the community college, tossed her hair, popped her gum as Blick pushed a button on a remote to make the robot bow stiffly, raise on arm and intone: “Good afternoon.  I am Henry, your cybernetic personal assistant.  How may I help you?”

          “I’m going, alright?”

          “Someday, someday…” Tenison promised, “I’ll be able to replace all you with robots…”

          “Like voicemail,” Skinner muttered to Thunder McHale’s weekend replacement, a part-timer and occasional musician who’d changed his name… legally, as he avowed… to Billy Obvious.  (It was left to others to insert two more letters after the first syllable… Billy was quite intelligent, after his own fashion, but often distracted.)  Satisfied that order had been restored to his domain, Mark permitted himself the privilege of turning to a ziggurat of bargain conventional HDTV sets… cheap twenty-eights from Paraguay or the former Burma or whatever they called it now, wherever crap came from… honing in on another reporter who’d caught the attention of the televised Commissioner.

          “Sir!  Sir?” shouted the unidentified pest.  “Is there any chance that the Conference Playoff site can be moved to... well, not Washington, but to some place neutral?  Some place warm?  Or if the blizzard in Green Bay forces the NFC Playoff to take place Sunday, next, uh… will the Superbowl take place on the 16th, as now planned following the national mourning day delay, or…”

          “Commissioner Prater was a firm believer in tradition and the integrity of the game,” Radulovich stepped in, “and I am, too.  The Packers, by virtue of their superior record, have an unassailable right to host the Conference playoffs, and Superbowl Fifty Six in New Orleans will take place February 23rd, affording the Washington - Green Bay conference winner the customary two weeks of rest and recuperation, so that both teams will be at their best…

          “But doesn’t that mean the winner of today’s AFC… Vegas, no doubt… will have three weeks between games?” the pest persisted before Radulovich corrected his mangled timetable with an embarrassed grimace…

          In Tom’s house in Dempstertown, where the Raiders’ dismantling of the high and mighty Patriots had been cause for grudging admiration, the boys chortled at the interim Commissioner’s dilemma… Lenny, Stretch and Nat… and Nat exclaimed…


          “Aww, give him a break…” said the host, magnanimously, “guy’s new on the job…”

          “Yeah,” Larry said, “but that’s… that’s the day after Washington’s Birthday, day before the real one.  Since we all get Monday off, I got vacation…”

          “Good!” Stretch nodded.  “You could start drinkin’ soon as you get off the shift, Friday night, and then stay bombed all week except for… wait a sec... the Presidents’ Day holiday is still on the seventeeth, meaning...” and without intention or even knowledge of the ubiquity of the words, “we’re screwed, dude!”

          Naah…” Larry waved him off, “Penny’s making me take her and the kids up to her folks’ place in Albany.  Break my ass on gas!  Fuck!”

          “They’re deliverin’ that set on Tuesday?” Stretch insinuated…

          “Yeah… I, ahh… I get to see the playoff,” Larry assured the boys, “but Super Sunday…”

          “They have TV up in Albany, don’t they?” Tom broke in, which was not the kernel of the problem, not at all…

          Lenny Witcher nodded while, on Tom’s fuzzy screen, Garoppolo, the replacement quarterback who came in after Patriots’ signal-caller had been crunched by convicted armed-robber and murderer (second degree) Popeye Brewster was sacked.  On second down, he was sacked again and fumbled.

          “Yeah but, like…” he mumbled out of the side of his mouth, “this means our Super Sunday party’s fucked… it’s gonna be Sober Sunday unless that snow stops...”

          The boys’ mouths sagged in unison as Kaepernick completed a pass to the Patriot twenty-one with a late-hit penalty tacked on and then, with three minutes and change remaining, was replaced by backup Matt McGloin… less an act of mercy than an understanding that things were about to get very, very ugly in Foxboro.

          McGroin time!  Hey… next Sunday, my place, we can watch the playoffs,” Lenny volunteered.  “I mean, the Skins… uh, our team whose name cannot be uttered… have been lucky, but what chance do they honestly have against the Pack in Green Bay?”

          “Yeah,” Nat said, though with a visible, and audible, lack of enthusiasm.  “Yeah, the playoffs on Lenny’s Mommumalator Hi-Def…”

          “Cool!” Stretch agreed - though it plainly was not that – and three of the four couch potatoes sat, steaming, while a rookie running back in silver and black plowed into the line for a hard yard or two.

          “Fourth and four…,” Rafe Munson informed the peanut gallery, “New England still has a timeout, but why bother.  Janikowski’s on for a gimme, it’s up… good…”

          “Forty-one to six,” his partner winced.  “And it could’ve been worse… a lot worse… but for the Raiders’ record hundred thirty-two yards in penalties…”

          “Record for the playoffs, that is… remember, they racked up one fifty-eight in the regular season finale against Denver…” quoth the authoritative Munson…

          “Didn’t hurt ‘em…” Samms replied.  “Offsetting flags on that sequence… celebration for the Raiders, personal foul against New England… someone might wanna check the combined penalty yards for a Divisional…

“So it’s Vegas against…” Rafe hesitated, “have to tune in tomorrow won’t we… think positive guys, and...”

He was silenced by a well aimed tortilla chip thrown by Tom, who leaned forward, pointing to his head…

“Think positive, my man?  Think positive!”



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