33 Yards and A Cloud of Smoke

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The fans in Denver’s Mile High Stadium were already in a foul mood on this Thanksgiving Thursday. Their Real Football Corporation team, the strongly favored Colorado Buckaroos, was getting thoroughly waxed by the visiting Cleveland Brunts, 21-7, when that guy added fuel to the fire. Actually, not just any fuel, but some tasty, kind kindling.

That guy, no shock if you’re a football fan, was of course the infuriating, irrepressible, All-Pro wide receiver B-Wack, who had just scored another touchdown against their beloved Buckaroos. (Born Brevard Jackson, the braggadocious scourge of the RFC and embattled Commissioner Royal Helm had landed in Cleveland this past off-season only after napalming nearly every other bridge in the league during the past decade-plus.)

At 34, the silky smooth B-Wack had been thought by most RFC experts to be on the downside of his career, but apparently something about the Cleveland situation reinvigorated him. Maybe it was kick-started by the press conference announcing his signing that summer. In typical hand-biting, sound-biting fashion, B-Wack lamented having landed in a “flyover state” and vowed to spiff things up to “Concorde quality” as soon as possible.

The Ohio outcry to those haughty comments had been predictably shrill— but for B-Wack, conflict and publicity were the very stuff of life. In this case, the blowback had seemed to work like time-released adrenaline, producing the gridiron equivalent of the best make-up sex ever. Hauling in at least one TD pass and gaining over 100 yards in each of his first 7 games, the receiver already had those Rust Belt-haters wrapped around his Born Again, blinged-out little finger two months into the season. The Brunts were 5-2 and shockingly in playoff contention, and this surprising beat-down of the Buckaroos would only further cement their status as upstart contenders.

The touchdown itself had been impressive, but nothing out of the ordinary. On a 3rd and 6 play from the Denver 33-yard line, B-Wack ran a quick slant and found a seam in the zone. The Buckaroos secondary had been overplaying, because a first-down conversion would almost surely enable Cleveland to milk enough clock to ice the victory. So once B-Wack hauled in quarterback Kip Singer’s 12-yard gut-thumper in stride, and then his phantom footwork deftly created a collision between the converging defenders, cornerback ParKay Stuggins and safety Ike Zeitgoss, the game was pretty much a foregone conclusion. At that point, the “Diva Receiva” iced it by putting a little hesitation-juke-spin move on some knee-locked rookie linebacker and pranced untouched into the Denver end zone.

But that’s where the celebration went next-level, even for B-Wack. Even staunchly anti-sports Americans know about the Broadway-meets-Hollywood production values of his on-field shenanigans:

• In Tampa two years ago, on the occasion of his 100th career touchdown, he’d unleashed 100 white doves from three pre-rigged sideline Gatorade coolers

 

• In Philly, he’d dirty-danced with a cheerleader pal whose nip-slip cost her a job on Dance Til You’re Viral and cost him $100,000 in fines

 

• And in Chicago, he’d “celebrated” a score and rebutted his smart-ass Ivy League GM boss, who’d earlier that week speculated that B-Wack “needed to get to practice on time and probably needs therapy, too,” by reclining and venting to a Sigmund Freud lookalike he’d planted on the sidelines with a fake camera and real press pass.

 

So on this day in Denver, nobody batted an eye when he streaked all the way through the end zone, didn’t break stride, and leapt up into the stands like he was a Green Bay missionary toting straight cheddar to the Lambeau lepers. (Yep, even in a parallel fictional universe, the Green Bay Packers are still the Green Bay Packers. That’s how damn populist they are.) Ordinarily, such a brazen breach of boundary etiquette in enemy territory would get you catapulted back onto the field like a rotten pumpkin, but this is B-Wack we’re talking about-- the multi-media, multi-tasking mercenary football star who’s always got all the bases covered.

The first two rows of the corner section he’d leapt into were, not coincidentally, stocked with people on his payroll (or petty cash at least). The tableau had all been set up by DeJuRaun Media, his infamous “PMA” -- personal media ambassador, the first-ever 24/7 individual sideline reporter (born Jared Cohen). The PR maestro’s staff had Stub-Hubbed the 16 seats for less than $4K, and then used Craigslist’s “gigs” section to cast his contingent of sympathetic seat-fillers with an assortment of local community theater actors and hippies, who were only too happy to score some free weed and thumb the nose of the monolithic Real Football Corporation.

These extras had all been inconspicuously garbed in the garish purple and green of the Buckaroo Brethren, but as B-Wack approached them on a dead run, the 16 accomplices rose as one and ripped off their Velcro-ed team merch (built out at the cost of another $2K). Thusly, they revealed their customized sweatshirts ($800 for all 16), one capital letter per person, which spelled out, “B-W-A-C-K I-S M-I-L-E H-I-G-H-!”

Like Ginger Rogers to B-Wack’s Fred Astaire, the burly, red-bearded fellow in the center of the front row was in perfect sync, as his temporary dance partner ascended toward him in the Denver chill. Grinning maniacally as his seatmates reached out to grab and hold aloft the Brunts’ star receiver, the face-painted ginger-bear reached under his seat like a hyper-efficient flight attendant and donned a stupendously ingenious Rube Goldberg-esque souvenir football helmet.

We’re talking the type of helmet that normally has mounted holders for two beer mugs, with straws protruding toward the wearer’s mouth. However in this case, modifications had been made ($350 paid to a UC-Denver engineering major who said he was going to use the photos in his senior project). Teetering off the top of the helmet was a monster bong, which a grinning B-Wack took a healthy rip from just as the oblivious ZOG network cameraman squared his close-up. Most of the control room bellowed in horror, while the rest risked hernias trying to conceal their belly-laughs.

The red line in the room rang, no doubt a furious call from Commissioner Helm, nanoseconds after B-Wack held up two peace signs and expelled a glorious plume of smoke into the chill air from his tight-lipped grin. When the score graphic flashed on-screen, the stylized RFC logo twinkled merrily under the cloud of smoke and a hand-lettered sign that said “B-Wack Is Mile High,” and blowhard announcer Bill Fisher simply muttered “Oh brother, he’s done it again,” as the broadcast vaporized to commercial.

***

Section 113 and its neighbors went bananas as they realized what was happening. All manner of smartphone footage was taken as B-Wack nonchalantly ripped his glorious hit. Immediately after he did, his red-bearded accomplice prized the glowing clump of bud out of the firing chamber, dropped it into his cup of beer, and chugged the whole 20 ounces as his ad hoc cast-mates and random potheads throughout the stadium cheered him on. For his part, B-Wack simply mimed toking an imaginary blunt, before hopping back onto the field.

Every ref, linesman, back judge and scoutmaster in the building heaved yellow handkerchiefs skyward once they realized the very unsportsmanlike conduct (enroachment?) that was taking place. Referee Paul Karis came over and personally ejected B-Wack and his cannabis sommelier from the premises no more than 30 seconds after the bong had been ripped.

The burly quarterback Singer, a good ol’ boy by any other name, threw up his hands in disgust, complaining once again to stoic head coach Rondo Guenther, whose silver hair and silver crucifix around his neck were totems of all that he had seen and endured in this league. Especially since he held the dubious distinction of being a 35-year Cleveland Brunts employee (12 years as a second-string safety, 19 as a scout and defensive assistant, and two as the head man).

Singer’s gestures of frustration at B-Wack, just 10 games into their first season together, were quite possibly motivated as much by petulance (having his “cock of the walk” spotlight stolen by the interloper) as by annoyance at any perceived disruptions. Granted, Cleveland was going to have to kick off 15 yards deeper in their own territory, but B-Wack had essentially iced this game, just as he had done with a good handful of victories already in this surprising season. The rest of his teammates either shook their heads with silly grins or pretended it didn’t happen.

By the time the game broadcast was back from commercial break, the polarizing player had been ushered through the byzantine corridors of Mile High Stadium. He entered a guarded conference room where his lawyer was already waiting with two low-level RFC officials, facing a giant screen where Commissioner Helm was Skyping from New York.

***

“If you wanna quit the RFC, you can just QUIT THE GODDAMN RFC, Jackson,” said Helm (refusing, as was his custom, to acknowledge B-Wack’s legally changed name). Comically, the head man’s lips didn’t quite sync up to the vitriol, because of the delay. “Are you one of those weak-minded deviants that doesn’t have the balls to off themselves, so they waste taxpayer money and good government ammo by forcing our sainted police officers to kill them? No need to pollute the minds of our young viewers with your asinine behavior, and now your nationally televised drug abuse?! That’s an automatic five-game rip for a first offense, you know, and I think I can even get the Players’ Union to throw you under the bus on this one. THE SHORT BUS.”

“Hey, I raise an imaginary tumbler of Goose to you, Roy-Boy,” responded B-Wack, coolly and calmly, indicating to his $800-an-hour lawyer that he had it under control, and by all means the counselor should continue his Words With Friends game. Across the table, the RFC suits sat stone-faced, searching B-Wack’s eyes for signs of redness. “And of course, I yield to your discretion as chief executive officer of this fine ‘non-profit’ corporation to blow all the proper smoke up the butts of the American consumers. However, DeJu and I will have some pertinent public statements to shed a different light on the situation, so you might want to tread, you know, a little lightly.”

Helm smiled. He and this unfairly talented reprobate had done this dance a number of times before, and now, finally, he felt sure that it was coming to a close. So he summoned up what he felt to be some powerful, yet restrained rhetoric, perfectly suited for the moment:

“Lightly? Lightly?! I will bring my boot down on your ass with authority, and with a level of thumpity-thump so GD loud it will make the speakers in your Bentley turn bitch and cry uncle.”

B-Wack fought back a smile of his own. Dumb-ass commissioner had bitten early on his double move, and he KNEW he had acres of unpatrolled green in his path. Just then, two security officers and a couple Denver police officers came in, with the helmet-bong sealed in a giant clear baggie. While the badge boys asked the giant Skyped face of Helm for his guidance on the matter of the evidence at hand, the receiver turned to his lawyer and nudged him, mouthing the words “drug test.”

“I’m sure these fine officers aren’t possibly taking directions from you, now, are they Mr. Commissioner?” asked the lawyer, M. Jackson Berman. As the police officers left with the bong, Berman cleared his throat and raised the matter of a drug test. At nearly the exact moment he did, a Tweet went flying out to the 5.7 million followers of @B-Wack, and the 2.2 million followers of @DeJuRaunMedia, which simply read:

------------------ Big LEAK in the B-Wack Mile High case. Watch for STREAMING video soon. #BWack22 #silenceisgolden ----------------

That’s what they were about get, all right. In glorious, golden color.

Of course, the RFC was dead set on getting B-Wack’s urine test, pissed-haste, so they capitulated to his lawyer’s unorthodox and instant demand-- that his client get to visually record and publicly distribute the “contribution” of said bodily fluids. In other words, they maintained ownership of the broadcast rights to his piss test.

Part of the deal, non-negotiable, was agreeing to let Team B-Wack dispatch DeJuRaun’s college intern Blank Sheck, a pudgy deadpan comic strapped with three body-mounted GoPros, to accompany the Mile High Urine (“Tastes 30% better than BudLight!,” crowed B-Wack in a later video, tweaking an RFC sponsor with a claim that seemed like it could be accurate) all the way to the lab, where he was to keep rolling and webcast the urinalysis results, live.

Although B-Wack’s “urine-donating device” was tastefully obscured in the Vine and YouTube videos, he wasn’t at all shy about sharing his excuse. “I got a note from the Doctor!” he said, waving it gleefully to the camera, in a pithy speech about piss that aired on Periscope and lived on his YouTube channel, piling up 21 million views, 35K likes and 47K thumbs-downs.

“I know some people think I Illegally smoked marijuana, but guess what?? Wrong as Royal on a number of levels. It’s legal in Colorado, of course. Plus, I’ve got a medical marijuana card from the golden state of California.”

“But you seem so healthy,” chirped DeJuRaun, setting up his boss with pre-scripted q’s in their tried and true casual infomercial style format. “How on earth did you get one of those cards? I thought there needed to be a good-bad reason, like glaucoma, or something.”

“Oh , you know… Chronic and persistent symptoms, including headaches and muscle trauma that come from the daily workplace conditions of the RFC! Kids, maybe one day you too can get a job with the RFC, a family-friendly entertainment outlet if ever there was one.”

DeJu chimed in seamlessly, reading from prompter: “Never mind that we’re cranking out a steady stream of zombified, disenfranchised ex-players, shuffling through the streets of your fine cities with anguish and mayhem in their clouded minds. Clearly, it’s marijuana that’s the problem. And of course, my boss’s Free Speech rights.”

B-Wack wrapped it up. “Just keep watching and paying and supporting the sponsors of our fine, upstanding, profit-making corporation. Because this is ‘Murica, y’all, where might makes right and !”

***

Fourteen hours later, the truth was partially revealed. B-Wack’s urine came up clean. He and DeJuRaun Media released a video showing organic oregano being packed into the bowl by a smirking Whole Foods employee, who was fired by the corporation and then hired by B-Wack as a personal shopper.

But nonetheless the RFC flexed its massive muscles, and their rogue superstar was fined $250,000 for “bringing an incendiary device” to a game. He was also cited by the city of Denver for violating a “smoking in a public venue” ordinance.

The RFC’s ratings went up .1 over the kerfuffle. Royal Helm got a $27 million dollar bonus. The beat went on.

Michael X. Ferraro is a TV writer and producer. His debut football novel CIRCUS CATCH features the controversial character B-Wack and received rave reviews from Dave Zirin and Dennis Miller, among others. It's available now on Amazon

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