I’ve been involved with the NFL for several years now, but I’ll never forget that fateful night I was brought to New York for an important “business dinner”.
Bob Smith* was seated there with several other player’s agents, and no wives were present. There was a strange little foreign man** who watched and listened carefully, occasionally attacking his steak tartare with flashing knife strikes, like a cobra defending its nest.
Heavy rains pounded the windows as this strange little man pressed the “play” button on a high-end cassette recorder.
The tape hissed and crackled, as a barely audible — yet familiar — voice filled the room.
“I once saw a snake,” it began, “crawling along the edge of a razor. “
I looked at Smith with horror. “My God,” I said, “it sounds like . . .”
He nodded. “Coach Bill Belichick. New England Patriots.”
Smith stood and walked to the window, as Bill’s eerie voice continued to fill the room. “. . . and there was a pile of over-sized arms near the fifty-yard line, where the defensive line had come through and was willing to cut off the arm of every offensive player, and I cried, I wept like a baby, but later I thought . . . the genius of that, to be willing to dismember the offense in front of millions, so that a blitz would be truly effective.”
I looked at these men in shock, as the recorder was paused.
“These transmissions were intercepted coming out of Foxboro,” Smith said. “And here it gets much, much worse.”
“This next one is very hard to get through,” another agent added, taking a long slug of his drink. “It was a post game press conference, just before the Pats broke every known NFL record.”
Bill’s distinctive voice sent a chill up my spine. “We only take one game at a time,” it began, as one of the agents gasped at the horror of it. “We try to work as a complete unit, or team, and focus on the task at hand. We can’t control people’s opinions or what the media says, so we really just try to do our job, and win games. We serve humble pie every day.”
The small foreign man stopped the tape, staring right through me. “Obviously,” he rasped, “the coach has gone completely insane.”
“Yes,” I said. “Obviously.”
Smith turned from the rain-spattered window. “Owner Robert Kraft hired Bill years ago to come in and do a job,” he said, looking off into space. “But things seemed to get away from him. First he drafted an entire tribe of Montagnard tribesmen, who never played a down of football and had no concept of ego, greed, or proper representation.”
“They became fiercely loyal,” another agent added. “They recruited men like Tedy Bruschi, who refuses to hire agents, or Tom Brady, who turns down commercial offers. They keep winning and winning, putting football ahead of player contracts. It never stops.”
“They speared a ref,” someone mumbled. “It was horrible.”
Smith produced a small, faded picture and slid it across the table. It depicted a tall wide receiver with a scraggly beard and tightly braided hair, towering above the Montagnards.
“Randy Moss,” Smith said. “Oakland sent this man to bring Bill home, but Randy never made it back.”
Smith sighed. “Now he breaks records and has this selfless attitude. He speaks of teamwork and humble pie and . . .”
“One game at a time,” an agent said, finishing the sentence. “One game at a time.”
“You can’t sell three-hundred dollar sneakers to humble teenagers!” the agent screamed. “You can’t sell flashy jackets to kids who want to help others, and not promote a “me first” attitude!!!”
Another agent sobbed. “My boy was serving the homeless in a soup kitchen last week!”
“There was hope,” Smith said. “We tried to nail Bill for filming the Jet’s signals, but it hardly slowed the ensuing onslaught. He’s gaining power.”
Smith leaned forward. “You have to stop him, with extreme prejudice.”
The small foreign man’s eyes flashed from across the table. “With . . . extreme . . . prejudice.”
I had been waiting for a mission, and now that if finally came, I would never want another.
Nor would I eat pastrami on rye before bed.
The horror . . . the horrorrrrrrrrrr . . .
* Certain names are fictional, including pets and various farm implements
** Probably from Jersey