Yonus Fitzsimons
Dec. 1st
I slowly pry my head off the desk, my pen still in place hovering over the crossword I’d been working on. Guess I got a bit further than I thought, as there’s only one letter left. X? Really? I fell asleep before I filled in the last letter….and it was an X? “Capital of Shaanxi province, China,” is apparently “Xian,” I’ll check it out later…it’s probably right, though.

Shit, what time is it…still dark, so early, I guess. Voices in the other room, though. Hoodlums again? Still can’t let go of that week-four loss to Michigan, I guess. They’ll just spraypaint “Fitzy Sux” or something juvenile on the wall and take off, though. At least that’s what happened last time. I guess they know if they do much more than that it’ll throw off the prep for the next game. Why bother? Idiots. Why do they let idiots into University?

Listening closer, it’s definitely Harry. And…..Ah, shit, the President of the school. What the hell is he doing here? Shouldn’t he be off pissing off the dean of some department or something? He did say he’d be stopping by at some point today, though, so I guess I should see what he wants.

“Knock, knock,” I say as jovially as I can muster, opening the door to Harry’s office, off to the other side of the film-room.

“The prodigal coach returns!” smiles Harry, leaning back in his antique desk chair…you know, the ones you see in those old detective flicks.

“See, James,” he says casually to the President of the school…almost flippantly, but not quite, “I told you that Fitzy was visiting one of the… erm… dorms… when you called, helping out one of his students with some…ermm… puzzling academics…”

“It’s good to see you taking such an active interest in the academic well-being of our students, Yonus,” says Crawford, turning around in his chair with a smile.

“Oh, cut the shit both of you…you know damn well I fell asleep here again. And you also know damn well that my boys’ education is of great importance to me. I’ve graduated every player I’ve had that didn’t go pro. What’s up, James?”

“Too right, too right Yonus… I had just come by to see if you had time to chat before the press conference,” says Crawford. “There’s a lot riding on this game, and I wanted to know if you need anything from me to give you a helping hand.”

“I think we’re okay, right Harry? Like he keeps telling me,” I point at my friend behind his desk, “We’ve got lots of time.”

“Well, time is a fickle thing – you know that… I bet you thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have time to finish a few lines of this crossword right before I head home’, just before your head hit the desk,” says Harry, then turns more seriously to the Prez, “But coach’s right – the team is the finest I’ve seen in years – I have the utmost confidence in Fitzy.”

“Hey, it’s not just me, Harry…the whole crew’s done a fantastic job. Except I don’t really like that creepy guy with the matted hair that keeps calling me “sir.” I don’t even know what he does here. Mail room, maybe.”

I gotta get home to get cleaned up for this thing this presser, so I excuse myself as politely as is necessary, as we’re a pretty informal group, “Anyway, can I take off to go get ready for this thing this afternoon? I could use a shower. Harry can answer any questions you might have.”

“Go, go!” Crawford says with a shooing motion, “We can’t have you looking like a Mail room attendant in front of the national media. Harry and I were just catching up on old times! Can you believe Harry used to be the captain of his Fraternity’s drinking team?”

“Doesn’t surprise me at all, actually. I could barely keep up with him after the Rose Bowl win last year…hope I get the chance to try again next month…now if you’ll excuse me,” I say and turn and head for the parking lot to go home and get into my duds for the presser this afternoon.

The streets are unusually empty, but I’ve got too much going on in my head to wonder why right now. I return home to find my Wildcat Purple golf-shirt and my best “Men’s Warehouse” black pants and suit jacket laid out on my bed. I have a quick “shit/shower/shave,” as my father used to call it, intending on grabbing a quick McMuffin on the way back to the school if they haven’t stopped serving breakfast yet.

I pull in to the McDonalds that’s close to my place, and place my order. I’m one car back from the drive through window when suddenly, a figure breaks from the snow-covered bushes nearby, streaks towards the window, grabs an extended bag, and high-tails it towards the main street.

“The fuck?!”

I leap from my car and take off after the hooded figure, who’s moving so fast, for a moment I’m convinced that it must be one of my boys. Tearing off my blazer as I exit the vehicle, and tossing it towards the front seat, but not taking the time to see if it made it, I bolt through the freezing cold, shrugging it off like I’ve shrugged off so many hits on the field. I really hope it’s not one of my boys; I’d hate to have to suspend one for the big game for being a hoodlum. Damn, he’s fast, though. If it’s not one of my boys, maybe I should recruit him. That would be a funny one to explain to the head of Athletics.

“Where’d you find this kid, Fitzy?”

“I don’t really want to tell you.”

Anyway, I coil and launch a full-out linebacker tackle at his midsection, and we both go crashing hard into the snow-covered pavement, the bag of McFood going flying into a nearby snowbank.

I tear off his hood to make sure it’s not one of my boys, and am relieved to be looking in the face of a middle-aged man who has obviously been homeless and cold for a very long time. There’s an intense hunger in his eyes, and he’s got about a year’s worth of unchecked beard matted to his face.

I stand us both up and brush us both off. “You know,” I say sympathetically, “there are better ways to get a meal. Come on, I’ll buy you something to eat,” and turn back to the McDonalds, hoping he’ll follow me back, intending on paying for whatever he ripped off, and getting him something to eat, as well.

By now a massive line has formed behind my car, and I am greeted by a chorus of honking, which quickly abates when they realize I have the culprit in tow – he’s following me, silently…dejected…pitiful. I can barely hear him move through the snow.

I approach the window of the “restaurant” and ask if I can pay for whatever was in the bag as well as my order and two quarter pounder meals for “this hungry gentleman here,” indicating the sullen man behind me. I also glare back at the drive-thru line, daring someone to honk or yell something

The cars go oddly silent, and the drive through attendant, Jilian according to her McNametag, gives me a strange look, but smiles and gets my request almost immediately.

I ask her for the total for all the orders placed by those in the line-up, and she gives me a total of around a hundred bucks, which I pay in cash, tell her to have a wonderful day, and go back to my car, pull on my blazer and take off for the school after telling the homeless looking guy that I hope things get better for him, and to trust in the goodness of strangers rather than steal for what he needs. “People might surprise you if you give them the chance to help.”

I pull into my designated parking spot at the school with time to spare, and enough presence of mind to wipe the crumbs from my McMuffin off of my blazer before getting out of your car. I find my Wildcat golf-visor in my trunk and toss it on before entering the building, heading for the area between the offices and the Media Center, looking for the rest of my crew.

I track my way to the Media Center through the myriad of corridors and arrive to find the place already bustling with activity. My assistant comes by and quickly dashes a bit of powder on my nose and cheeks. “What can I do for you sir?” she asks, panting like she’s been running sprints for me during two-a-days.

“What’s the crowd like…are they pissed that we’re back in the Rose instead of the National Championship again? Tell me that arrogant fuck from ESPN isn’t out there…And where’s Harry?

A short chortle from behind me answers the last question for her.

“The crowd is charged – they want you,” says Harry as I turn to his smiling face. The face he gives me every time something like this comes up. The “Now you know why I didn’t take the Head Coaching job when they offered it” face.

“They could care less about Nationals or the Rose. We’ll give them the show of a lifetime either way! But no, that guy from last year is in there… I tried to deny him entry, but a Press badge is a Press badge…”

“Yeah, I know…you want to take this one? I don’t really feel like it.” I pull a small crossword book out of the inside pocket of my jacket, and fill in a few spots to calm myself down before heading to the conference room, and podium.

Good thing I ooze charisma, I think to myself as I enter the bustling conference center. I approach the podium – looking over to find myself being eyed by that arrogant jackass from ESPN, eager to see me make some tiny little mistake.

“Okay. First, I’d like to thank you all for coming. I know there are many questions you have about the team, our season, our preparation for an excellent Ducks team, and whatnot, so let me first say that I’m extremely proud of the way we’ve performed this season, and I look forward to the challenge of the final game against Oregon on New Years Day in Pasadena…I’ll open the floor to questions, but try to keep them to the point, as I’d like to get back to the film room…....yes? the gentleman with the purple tie in the third row?”

Purple Tie: “I know Kaepernick has been performing well beyond his means this season, but aren’t you worried that he’ll burn out against Oregon if he keeps playing the way he has been?”

“Colin is a fantastic leader for this team, I have no doubt he’ll step up and be ready to lead us. The team has great faith in him…trust me, he’d tell me if he wasn’t up for it…that kid was born for this. He shouldn’t have any problems adjusting to their defense, he’s in the film room just about as much as I am…..okay, well maybe not quite. Yes, you in the wierd hat?”

There’s a spat of laughter at that last comment, and the tension seems to have broken.

Wierd Hat: “If something… unfortunate… were to happen to Kaepernick… are you confident enough in Tuel’s ability to lead the team to victory, or are all of your eggs in one basket?”

“Jeff is great. He’s bought into what we’ve done here and been well prepared to take over. Yes, We’ll have to adjust the game plan a bit, but that’s my job…you don’t have to worry about that.

“I think it’s obvious that he’s a different kind of player than Colin, but I know he could step in and help us get the win if he were asked to do that.”

“Yes,” I point out to the audience again, “you in the Ducks shirt….I guess,” with a chuckle.

“What are you going to be doing to address your weak right side? It’s not like they’d be able to protect Kaepernick against even a half-serious Blitz…”

“You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, sir…” I interrupt, “Look, I’m here to address serious questions from members of the media who are at least have some knowledge about football.” and I point at ESPN guy…I was going to have to eventually, so I might as well do it while I’m in a groove, “Yes, you. ESPN, right?”

The asshole from ESPN, from behind a smirk, says, almost too casually says, “So what’s this I hear about your unchecked aggression, Yonus? I have it on good authority that you tackled a homeless man on the streets, not two hours ago. And what about the allegations that Kaepernick is doping before his games? Nobody can run that fast and perform that well… not naturally.”

The room goes awkwardly silent, and a new level of focus seems to be on the podium.

“Yup,” I say at least as casually as his question was offered, “I sure did tackle a homeless guy on the street not two hours ago.

“Did your source tell you he was a thief that ran off with a paying customer’s food? No?

“Did your source tell you that I tackled him, and brought him back to the restaurant and bought him food so that he didn’t go hungry? No? Really?

“Did your source tell you that there is a poverty problem in this country right now, and that there are people out there that don’t get to sit in comfy chairs behind a desk and write stories about sports?

“That some people have to scrounge what they can?

“And did your source tell you that Colin has a piss test almost every week…probably because of people like you that can’t recognize athletic talent without resorting to ‘must be doping’ allegations?

“Is there somebody from CBS Sports that I can talk to? You guys are at least kind of on the ball,” and I look around the room to surprised but admiring faces, trying to find someone willing to raise a hand.

I get more than a raised hand…I get a standing ovation. My smack-down of ESPN guy spawns a raucous round of applause from everyone, with cheering and chanting. Henry manages to calm the room down, but only barely. A handful of hands shoot up almost immediately.

“Okay…...settle down everyone. Are there any serious questions that you absolutely have to have answered before I get back to preparing for Oregon in Pasadena?”

One hand remains up, belonging to a blond haired woman who clearly looks out of place. She brushes her hair away from her eyes with her free hand, a leather binder sitting gently on her lap. I search my extensive media files in my head to see if I recognize her, but as far as I can tell, she’s completely new to the press-conference scene. She’s got a CBS badge clipped to her blazer, but she’s definitely not the regular CBS guy.

“Yes,” I acknowledge her hand, “...but make it good, it’s the last question today, and I’d hate for you to waste it.”

“Catalina Muroe, CBS Sports,” she says, lowering her hand and using it to brush her loose-flowing bang out of her eyes again. “Is your passion for fighting against Oregon going to be as fevered as your position on the homeless situation in Chicago?”

I laugh. “You know what, miss Muroe? I think it probably will. This, I do for a living…I only fight crime and feed the homeless on the side,” I smile a hopefully subtle ‘thank you’ to her, and turn to the rest of the room.

“Thank you very much for coming, I’ll see you next week…some of you should read up on your football before then, but I look forward to seeing the rest of you here,” I make a point of looking Catalina in the eye as I say the last ‘looking forward’ bit, and regally make my way off the stage back towards the offices.

Henry dogging at my heels, I make my way back to the offices, followed by a roaring tidal wave of applause. “I’ll be damned, Fitzy! A superhero? You’re bulletproof! You took that guy from ESPN to the cleaners, old Chicago style! That was brass!”

“Who was that Muroe woman?” I ask, not slowing our pace. “Have you ever seen her before? I’m sure I’d have remembered a face like that.”

“No idea!” Henry says, almost as surprised as I am that we didn’t know someone at the presser. “I didn’t even know CBS Sports had someone coming to this… last I knew their guy was away sick! I guess they found a replacement pronto quick!”

“Well I could definitely use a few more like her, and a few less like ESPN…though he did give me a chance to tear him a new one, which was nice of him. You know what? I think I’ll take the rest of the night off. Do me a favor and sit down and watch Oregon’s defensive backs for a while and take notes for me? I’m going to go have a good steak somewhere, I think….maybe that place down on 133rd that I haven’t checked out yet,” I say, genuinely proud of myself, and thinking I’ve earned at least a nice dinner for my efforts.

“Sure thing… mind if I bring a bottle of wine to the tape room? It gets boring when you’re in there by yourself.”

“You bring whatever you want, my friend,” I say, patting him on the shoulder, “if you don’t want to go for a bottle of wine, I’ve got at least 6 beer in my mini fridge in my office you can go at…just get me those notes. I need to know how they move back there…inside, outside, bump-and-run, the whole scheme. Don’t worry, though, we’ve got lots of time, right?”

Henry starts laughing. “All the time in the world, Fitzy…go on, have a steak for me, will you?”

“What do you want?” I laugh as I head for the exit of the offices, back toward my car, “I’m thinking a nice eight-ounce fillet mignon. You want a New York? I’ll let you know how it was,” I say, not waiting for a response, and I make my way out the door to the parking lot…hoping I don’t see any more media today. I like the media, they do me a whole lotta good, but I need some me time just now.

I pass a few fans in the parking lot, but thankfully no more press, (though I wouldn’t mind that Muroe woman tagging along for dinner) and head for that swanky-looking joint on 133rd. I’m guessing they do a pretty good steak dinner, though it’ll be tough to beat the one I had last year on that recruiting trip down south in Harrisburg.

The Maitre ‘D recognizes me, I think, as I get a nice little table in a quiet corner immediately upon requesting if they have room for a single. I think I see him slyly remove a “Reserved” sign off it as we approach, though that could just be my imagination. I am, after all, pretty high on myself right now.

I ask for an eight ounce fillet mignon, medium rare, extra potato instead of the daily vegetable, as I typically do, and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. The steak is underdone, as is typical (I don’t know why places always do that…well, I guess I do, actually…they can throw it back on the grill if it’s undercooked, but they can’t un-cook it if it’s overdone) but I never send them back anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

I leave an overly generous tip for the server, as she’d informed me that the wine was on the house, and it was far better than the steak was, and make my way back to my car.

There’s some creepy looking homeless guy staring at me from across the parking lot as I approach my Jaguar. Oh, shit, I think, am I supposed to feed them all, now?

“Something I can help you with, sir?!” I call to him, standing at the door of my car, half open so I can get in if he for some reason gets violent. I’d like to think I’m generous and compassionate, but not stupid or naive.

He stands there for another half minute; then walks away, silent.

Weird. But not, really, I guess…I start heading home, but can’t convince myself to go there…after all, what’s there, really? An empty bed and a TV with no game film I haven’t already seen a couple-dozen times. I take a “wrong” turn and find myself angling back towards the University.

I park my car and make my way back to the film room. Harold turns his head as I enter and takes his feet off the coffee table (like I’d care that he’s comfortable) and tells me that “some scruffy UPS guy” dropped off a package for me while I was out.

“The Hell is the UPS guy dropping shit off at…” I look at my watch, and dismiss the question.

“I don’t know,” says Harold, “said it was some kind of express delivery or something. Didn’t stick around after I signed for it.”

“Probably some kind of forms from the NCAA or something. Where’s it at? And have you gotten Oregon’s secondary figured out for me?” I chuckle, heading to the bar-fridge in my office for a beer.

“No idea about the secondary – their plays keep changing up every time I watch the tapes… it’s weird. Package is on the fridge – I knew you’d be heading there first!” he yells after me (as if he knew I’d be back tonight instead of going home) as I open the door of the mini-fridge, and see the small package on top of it. I grab a beer first and head back to the other room to take a seat beside Harold, crack the beer and tear open the package to find a slick-looking phone staring up at me from my hand.

I look into the padded envelope and see a piece of paper. Upon retrieving it, I read:

Dear Sir/Madam,

You have been randomly selected by the Consumer Research Panel to test the newest communications device, not released for sale to the public! You will be the envy of your friends, neighbors, and enemies! Congratulations!

This phone will receive periodic firmware updates automatically, to increase its functionality and user friendliness. This phone is yours to keep. Please enjoy it’s 10 MegaPixel camera, 4GB of On-Board Memory, Coupled with Unlimited Internet Access and a built in Bulletin Board service!

We will periodically collect small bits of information about the usage of the phone so we can better serve you. Do not be alarmed. This information will not be personal in nature, but rather detail how you are using the device. This is to improve its functionality.

Please feel free to use this device for any purpose you see fit. We have started a Bulletin Board Thread (BBT) to facilitate any questions you may have about this device.


The Management (CRP)

“Check it out,” I say, and flip it to my friend without waiting for him to pay attention. “I got some kind of trial version of a cell-phone for some reason. Wanna wake up the President for no reason? Or better yet, we should call Kelly…this thing can’t possibly have my name attached to it, right?” and I start looking through menus on the phone to try and figure out what number it has attached, etc.

It takes a while to figure out…I’m not really a technology guy, but I call Harold’s phone, and the number comes up as “unlisted” and he can’t call me back. Despite this, I decide it’s poor etiquette to prank-call the coach of the team you’re getting ready to play in the Rose Bowl…especially in the middle of the night. I know how tired he is, after all, and if he can manage to get some sleep….

“That’s just your luck Fitzy,” he says, “pulling in a demo of the latest and greatest of the technology world.”

“Yeah….lucky,” I say half-heartedly. “I get the latest and greatest sent to me for nothing, and it already doesn’t work right.” I toss it on the coffee table and hit play on the video to check out whatever Harold’s been watching…see if I can make any sense of their defencive coverages for a bit before I pass out…likely on my desk again.

“Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work?” Harry shrugs, and shows me several clips of Oregon’s defensive plays, and on re-watching them, he’s right…they don’t make a lot of sense.

“Dammit Kelly!” I say, frustrated, tossing the notebook I was poised to fill onto the table beside my new phone. “What are you doing!?” I stand up and pace a bit.

“Maybe we should call Goertzen at Oregon State. They put up a decent fight against them this year, maybe he’ll know something that can help us…God knows there’s no love lost between THOSE two schools. Kinda surprised they haven’t called US to offer their assistance.”

“Maybe they like their secrets? Maybe if we watch it a few more times it’ll make sense… Maybe it’s the wine?” he says as his foot clatters against the three empty bottles on the floor.

“Alright, let’s just shut it down for tonight. I’m just going to get frustrated, and there’s no point in that,” I say, clicking the “off” buttons on both the tv, and video player and take off towards the door.

“I’m actually gonna sleep in my own bed tonight, I think. I’ll see you in the morning….you’re either taking a cab or crashing here.”

“That’s why we brought the cots in! I’ll see you in the morning Fitzy!” he says, and stumbles a bit as he stands and wobbles his way to his office.

“Maybe I’ll try to figure out this stupid phone that they all tell me are supposed to be ‘smart.’ I’ll see you tomorrow. Colin should be coming in early to watch tapes…maybe he can figure out what’s going on with that defense…I’ll be coming in late.” I snatch up my new piece of technology and head for my car….and then my bed.

I’m out almost before my head hits the pillow…never really understood that expression until now.


The Dark Queen of the West RaseCidraen gaaran