I haven’t updated this site in almost six months. The reasons are many. One of those reasons is I have been using the little writing time I get to try my hand at writing fiction. Below is my first crack at a short story. I hope you enjoy it.
“Maddawg” Mike McDowell walked into a sports bar called The Penalty Box in Clayton, NM. He paused just inside the door to let his eyes adjust to the darkness after being out in the bright sunlight. The place was deserted, there were more televisions playing a football game between the Minnesota Norwegians and the New Orleans Padres than there were people. The only souls in the place were the bartender and a waitress. It was just after noon on a Sunday in November. Maddawg, as he liked to call himself, was a little surprised. Back home a bar would be packed with rabid Chicago Grizzlies fans about this time.
Maddawg took a seat at the bar. After a few moments the bartender with a receding hair line and a pony tail moved down the bar to Maddawg’s location. While putting a cardboard Miller Lite coaster down on the bar he asked; “What can I get you?”
“Got anything on special?” Maddawg answered with a question.
“Depends on how long you’re staying?” the bartender said.
“How does that work?” Maddawg asked,
“Well, right now all draft beers are $1.50 and they stay that way until the late game is over. They go up to full price, $3, during Football Night in America, and back down to a $1 when Sunday Night Football starts. We close after that. It’s Sunday you know?” The bartender explained.
“That’s a little complex, do you charge a personal seat license, too?” Maddawg asked.
“Now you’re giving me ideas. $1 for a barstool, $5 for a table.” The bartender said while he winked and smiled at his only customer. The banter referring to professional and college sports teams charging money to season ticket holders just to maintain their seat in the stadium or arena, before they even charge for the actual tickets. Maddawg smiled and rolled his eyes.
“I guess I’ll take a Bud Light.” Maddawg said.
“Great, I’ll get that for you. Will you be eating too?” the bartender asked while grabbing a menu from underneath the bar. Maddawg nodded yes and the bartender handed him the menu and moved away to pour the beer.
After a few minutes the bartender brought his beer and Maddawg decided on twenty wings and a second beer. “Say, do you have NFL Sunday Ticket here? I’d like to watch the Grizzlies.” Maddawg asked.
The bartender’s face developed a sour expression for a split second before he grabbed the remote and changed the game over to the Grizzlies playing the Tampa Bay Pirates at Soldier Field in Chicago. “I take it you’re a Grizzlies Fan?” The bartender asked.
“Yes, been that way since I knew what a football was. I used to have season tickets until I started travelling a lot for my business.” Maddawg said.
“hmm, that’s unfortunate. You’ve had a rough go of it lately. At least no one can accuse you of being a bandwagon fan.” The bartender said.
“Indeed, it didn’t used to be like that though. It was great until the son of bitch Stacy Luke threw that interception in the Super Bowl against the Warriors.” Maddawg said as he got a little excited.
During the 2002 Super Bowl, Super Bowl XXXVII; the Chicago Grizzlies were down by four against the Kansas City Warriors during the closing minutes of the game. The Grizzlies were on the Warrior’s six yard line with nine seconds to go. Grizzlies quarterback Stacy Luke threw to a receiver in the corner of the end zone only to be intercepted by a Warriors Safety who ran the ball out of the end zone. Once the Safety noticed there were zeros on the clock he ran out of bounds and sealed the victory for the Warriors.
Describing this game as heartbreak for the Grizzlies and their fans was an understatement. The Grizzlies went 14-2 that season and were the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl going into the playoffs. Stacy Luke had authored a spectacular season, passing for over 4000 yards in a time when that was unheard of. The Kansas City Warriors on the other hand had a regular season record of 9-7, and snuck into the playoffs as a Wild Card via an obscure tie breaker. No one outside of Kansas City thought the Warriors should have been in the playoffs, and they most certainly didn’t want them in the Super Bowl. But Warriors walked away with a Lombardi Trophy and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Grizzlies Fans took the loss pretty hard. Despite being one of the leagues best quarterbacks Stacy Luke was harassed unmercifully by Grizzlies Fans, egged on by some in Chicago sports radio. While the majority of the fans understood that it was just a game a vocal minority made their voices heard. It even went so far as to put For Sale signs in Luke’s front yard. One fan even followed his wife to the grocery. An event that spurred National debate about how far was too far for fans to go in their fandom. By Wednesday after the Super Bowl Stacy Luke had had enough and he walked away from football and left $25 million dollars and two years remaining on a contract. Despite the proliferation of social media during the ten years since then; neither Stacy nor his family has been heard from since.
“You know, the Grizzlies haven’t had a quarterback better than Luke since you guys ran him out of town.” The bartender pointed out after pondering for a moment.
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. But that whole things still makes me mad. What kind of name is Stacy for a guy anyway?” Maddawg said.
“If a guy was a quarterback in the NFL, he can call himself whatever he wants to be called. What makes you mad? The interception, the fact that Luke quit football, or the reason Luke quit football?” the bartender asked.
“All of it I guess? That Super Bowl was there for the Grizzlies and they blew it. It’s the last time any of us have had anything to cheer about.” Maddawg said.
“Yes, I’m sure been tough for all of you. But that’s what fans do. They stick with their team right?” the bartender said.
“Damn, straight!” Maddawg said.
“Look guy, I got to get your wings going, I’ll be right back.” The bartender said. Maddawg nodded in acknowledgement and the bartender left.
Maddawg sat and watched the Grizzlies game evolve into a defensive struggle. He got out his cell phone and checked Twitter. He followed many Grizzlies fans like himself and he wanted to see what they were saying about the game against the Pirates. The mood among the Grizzlies Fans was foul in the twittersphere like it had been since there were enough Grizzly fans on Twitter for the group to take on a life of its own. Maddawg couldn’t think of anything to original to say. Instead of actually commenting on the game he thumbed out a tweet from his handle @Grizdawg85: This is all Stacy Luke’s Fault. #grizzlies
The wings and second beer arrived and Maddawg put his phone away. It was hard to tweet and eat wings at the same time. Grease and wings sauce would cover the phone other wise. As much as Maddawg wanted to stay in the bar, drink, and watch football all day he needed to get to Sante Fe for a Sports Memorabilia Trade Show. He finished his meal and requested his check. “leaving so soon?” the bartender asked.
“Yeah, I need to get to Santa Fe and get set up. Got a trade show this week.” Maddawg answered.
“Well, good luck. Next time you’re in Clayton. Stop by.” The bartender said.
“No problem.” And with that Maddawg got up and left the bar.
Maddawg realized he had a big problem when he got to his Suburban parked on Main Street right in front of the bar. He had locked his keys inside. Maddawg broke out into a light sweat as he tried all the doors in the fading hopes that the electronic locks had failed to lock one of them. No such luck. Not sure what to do, he went back inside the bar. Looking like a lost puppy Maddawg explained the situation to the bartender wondering if he knew anyone in town who could help him. “You’re in luck son. This thing happens quite a bit to our bar patrons. I bought the stuff the professionals use and I keep them right here under the bar.” The bartender said as he bent down to retrieve his tools.
The bartender grabbed what looked like blood pressure pump attached to a balloon, and an oblong pole that had rubber wrapped around it. Outside in the mid afternoon sun, the bartender slid the flat balloon between the door and the frame of the car and began pumping it up. The balloon separated the door from the frame and allowed him to thread the oblong pole through the opening and hit the unlock button on the door. The bartender opened the door, removed the balloon and tool, grabbed Maddawg’s keys, and tossed them to him. The entire operation took forty five seconds. “Bingo!” The bartender said.
“Thanks a bunch. Do I owe you anything?” Maddawg asked.
“Nope just a courtesy service of The Penalty Box.” The bartender answered.
“Well, thank you again, I didn’t catch your name. I’m Maddawg Mike McDowell.” Maddawg said while offering his hand to the bartender.
“My name is Stacy Luke. Maddawg. But there is one thing you can do for me. Don’t care more about football than the players do.” Stacy said as he shook Maddawg’s hand. After the hand shake Stacy Luke turned around with his Unlocking Kit, and walked into his sports bar that he had owned for the past ten years.
After climbing into his Suburban and buckling in; Maddawg thumbed out a tweet: @Grizdawg85: Stacy Luke is greatest QB in the history of the #NFL. I’ll fight you if you disagree. Upon sending the tweet Mike McDowell turned off the scratchy ESPN Radio feed on a faint AM Station and headed toward Sante Fe in silence.
Copyright Lee West 2013