Previously, Joe Flacco’s Big Day Out.
It was just before dawn when Joe Flakko’s phone buzzed with a text message. Joe had already been awake for a couple of hours, unable to sleep. A pulsation had been building in his bones all weekend, he could feel it down in his toes since his agent had called him late on Friday to let him know how much money the Ravens were willing to offer him if he would remain in Baltimore as their starting quarterback. Sign the deal Monday morning. His phone on the nightstand vibrated again. He reached over and flipped it open, two messages from his agent. “Big day!!!” read the first message, the second message a mystery as his old burner Samsung phone couldn’t handle picture mail. Joe made a mental note to ask his agent — also named Joe, he liked that about his agent, he could blame his mishaps on him — how the hell he got his hands on the disposable phone number he saved for his side action.
Maybe he should go for a run, get his head right and tune in to competitive cadence that filled his soul. Big day. Joe threw off the covers and got out of bed, not worried about waking his high school sweetheart who was still asleep. She stirred and rolled over, worn out from the night before. He took one last glance at her still red ass, grabbed his shoes and bounded down the stairs. As he walked out the front door, he grabbed the paper. “JOE FLACCO TO BE HIGHEST PAID NFL PLAYER” read the headline. The new pulsation moved from his toes to his balls. It’s going to be cold, he thought. Better keep the boys warm. He grabbed one the purple and black striped beanies that had been issued to the team back in September from the front closet. He pulled at the giant pom-pom at the top of the hat and frowned. Goddamn silly pom-pom. No wait. Big day. Maybe the pom-pom was okay just this once. Let people know he has a sense of humor, or at least lead them to believe he had a sense of humor. Joe started at the pom-pom and realized the joke was he was about to pull in more money than the rest of broke-ass citizens of Baltimore made in a year combined. Outstanding.
Joe jogged his usual route around the neighborhood, eyes never leaving the horizon. Three miles down, four miles down, five miles down. Mile six, time to stop at the local 7-11 for his usual black coffee. But his feet kept going, running past the sign that shouted 79 cents for a small cup. His heart was pounding. Maybe, this time he would get coffee down the street. Starbucks. The pulsation had spread all the way to his fingertips.
It was barely six in the morning and Joe was the first one in the coffeeshop. Good. Fewer people to see him in wearing the garish pom-pom. Joe looked up at the menu board.
“Hi! What can I get you today?”
“Well, we have our light blonde, medium Pike’s Peak or a bold dark roast coffee.”
Pike’s Peak sounded like the wrong code word, so Joe immediately dismissed it in his mind. His high school sweetheart was a blonde and he liked her, but the pulsation reminded him, big day. Bold. Big day.
“Dark roast,” Joe said assuredly to the raven-haired barista.
“Would you like a shot of syrup? Hazelnut? Dolce de leche? Carmel? Vanilla? Chocolate? We still have pumpkin spice left if you want it.”
“Um, how much is a shot of syrup?” The pulsation had turned to a throb.
“All of them. I want all the syrups.”
“You want six different coffees?
Joe started to do the math in his head and then he realized he just didn’t have that kind of time this morning. “No, just put all the syrups in one cup of coffee.” This is how a big day was supposed to go, he told himself.
The barista just shrugged and grabbed a large cup. “Whipped cream?” she asked as locked the front door of the shop, leaving the two of them alone.
Big day. “Yes.”
A few minutes later Joe walked out of the Starbucks with his cup of flavored coffee. He noticed the barista had written her name and number on the side of his drink. Joey. Joey for Joe on his way to see Joe. The sides of his mouth started to curve upwards towards his eyes. He didn’t need a reminder of her name or her number and chucked the coffee in the trash.
“Joe! Big day!” Joe Linta seemed more like a guidance counselor than an agent, quarterback Joe thought as he met his representative outside of Steve Bisciotti’s office. What a sap, Joe thought. He had stuck with Linta because he liked being someone’s biggest client, but now he could walk into CAA tomorrow and be their biggest client. Joe had heard that when David Beckham signed with the Galaxy and went to their offices in Beverly Hills they had brought out every last employee to applaud the flouncy Brit and his twig wife when they walked in the atrium. Atrium. Linta had a room in Connecticut and a chubby secretary. The pulsation rang in Joe’s ears and told him it was time to fire his agent’s amateur ass, even if his secretary’s ass was quite forgiving. Wait. Not yet. Had to sign the contract first. If he dropped Linta now he could throw off the deal and the whole contract would be shot. Goddamn asshole would just ruin everything just before it was going to be perfect, damn hack with his shitty small office.
“Joe, are you doing alright? You’re shaking.”
“Oh, I had them put some syrup in my coffee this morning. Too much sugar, won’t happen again. ” He waved off Linta.
Linta looked at his client, unconvinced but not about to challenge the quarterback’s claim of a sugar crash. Did they even have flavored syrup at 7-11? That cheap bastard was probably trying to screw him. No matter, he was about to make his charge more money than even Tom Brady and it was time to remind him of that. “Did you get my text this morning? What are you thinking, Joe? Black or silver?”
“Black or silver?” Was that the second text? Joe was really starting to get annoyed with Linta’s badgering to go buy a new car. Flakko wondered if his agent was angling for him to buy a car for him too as a thank-you gift for this new deal. Sure. I’ll thank you, he thought.
“Don’t worry, the Bentley dealership said they had both colors brought in for you. Let’s sign this piece of paper and get to the fun part.”
Fun part? This whole day has been the fun part and it was just getting started.
“Mr. Flakko, if you like you can take one these fine cars home to test drive for a few days if you’re not sure. I’m sure once you get behind the wheel though, you’re going to love the Bentley’s smooth ride.” The dealer didn’t quite know what to make of the NFL player standing in his showroom. He was used to the peculiarities of professional athletes, his dealership was a favorite of both Ravens and Orioles alike, but something about the 6’6 quarterback reminded him of stale saltines; just another white… person.
“Oh, I am sure I would.” Joe ran his fingertips over the curve of the hood for dozenth time. The new pulsation from the weekend seemed to jump right from the car into his body. It was starting to feel dangerous, intoxicating even. What would his high school sweetheart say if she saw him caressing a car? Probably nothing nice, Joe thought. Excellent. He liked when she got jealous. They had told the press they were at a family pizza night on Friday when news of his contract broke. The city ate it up, not knowing “family pizza night” just happened to be what they called getting together with other couples to trade pieces. Joe looked out the large glass panes of the showroom windows out to the open lot.
“What about that red car?” The pulsation took on a mocking sound in his head.
The dealer looked the window. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I have a model in red in stock. Are you perhaps looking for a Ferrari instead?”
“No, the red car over there. It looks solid. Reliable.” And it’s certainly not going to make anyone’s pulse rush, Joe quietly mused to himself.
“The late-model Volvo? I’m sorry Mr. Flakko, but that car belongs to one of the mechanics, Bruce. I don’t think it’s for sale. Besides, I think that car is a good six years older than you are. You need something more modern, fitting of a man of your stature.”
Big day. “Could you ask? I don’t mean to sound crass, but, I have money and this is the car I want. My agent collects vintage Volvos and I would just love to see the look on his face if I got him this exact car for helping me out after all these years.” It’s out there now. Joe Flakko has money and is willing to spend on those that have helped, he thought. Spending it on a red, solid “vintage” Volvo for his long suffering agent. The locals will build a statue of him outside of the dealership. Splendid.
As he drove away in the new red car towards Linta’s hotel, Joe realized the pulsation was causing his arms to flex around the wheel. He’d never screwed a guy like this before. Big day, indeed.
Joe was getting dressed for the big day celebration dinner with his high school sweetheart. He had stopped at the mall to buy a new pair of pants for the occasion, hoping the usual sales girl he could bring home was around. She wasn’t and Flakko ended up having to sign autographs inside the damn Gap for two hours and pretend that was just another bargin shopper looking for cargo pants. After years of controlling his repulsion for the general public, Flakko was a master at putting forth his best straight face. Celebrating with a box of chicken McNuggets. He knew he just had to put something in his mouth before he finally lost it and started laughing in all of their pathetic faces.
Bold coffee, the new car for his agent, Joe was revealing in the beats of his big day. Flakko planned on taking his high school sweetheart to the local Carrabba’s Grill. He had seen the late-night ads for the two entrees for… What did it matter what the meal cost now? He could take her to an Arby’s and tell her she had to share a junior roast beef sandwich with the dog and she wasn’t going to go anywhere. Not now, especially not with the new contract, he thought.
A beautiful, blonde petite woman walked into the bedroom. His high school sweetheart. She was honesty too pretty for Joe and he knew it, but she had stuck around all these years anyway. The womanizing, the drinking, the temper that no one else ever saw. Flakko had to admit to himself, this was her payday too and he was suddenly embarrassed about the thought about Arby’s. The women, the Volvo, a lot of things.
“Big day,” she said.
“Big day,” he replied, his voice faltering for the first time all day. Damn. She made him feel human when she was in the room, not like the quiet asshole his teammates secretly couldn’t stand. What was happening to him?
Joe’s high school sweetheart smiled, all the love in her heart ached for the terrifying new emotion which had overtaken her poor husband. She knew it was all new to him and the adjustment was going to take some time. She smiled her warmest smile she could muster. The high school sweetheart had him hooked.
“Joe, what you are feeling is respect. 28 years, a Super Bowl win, the birth of your child and you are finally experiencing the respect you said you wanted. $120.6 million bought you respect.”
Respect? This is what his teammates had been talking about all this time? This was supposed to be enjoyable? No more jogging out for coffee and family pizza nights? Staying loyal to his agent and not running to a fancy office with an atrium in Beverly Hills? Having to suffer though fans and their blasted autographs? Getting rid of his disposable phones?
Maybe it wasn’t too late.
Maybe the Ravens would take the money and their respect back.
Previously, Joe Flacco’s Big Day Out.