With Leather Book Club: Jason Elam's 'Monday Night Jihad' Part 1

Way back in 2012, the With Leather Universe discovered Tank Abbott’s book, “BEFOR THERE WERE RULES: BAR BRAWLER” and I lost my mind to the point that I bought the book and recapped it. While we all wait for the second and third books to be released (They are both listed under the COMING SOON section, yay!) I found out that former NFL place kicker, Jason Elam, along with his pastor, had written a series of action thriller books centered around hero extraordinaire, Riley Covington. I instantly purchased all four books and will be recapping them on a very inconsistent schedule.

With that introduction, let us all dive into the first entry in the series, Monday Night Jihad (YUP, THAT’S THE TITLE, AND TRUST ME, IT GETS BETTER/WORSE FROM THERE)!

[Brief aside, gang, I just want to say that Elam is a dork because he keeps dropping flashback sequences in at random moments. It’s a mix of an incoming game in ReBoot, and the way Benjy Compson’s mind works in The Sound and the Fury. Right in the middle of some action about to go down, and whoops, time to reminesce about Scott Ross’s kindergarten year because the word “hat” triggered a memory.]

Dedication

Steve Yohn, Jason’s pastor and co-writer, thanks God and also his wife, Nancy. Jason dedicates this book solely to “The real Jesus” (Has Jesus been verified on twitter yet?) because I guess he hates his wife, Tamy.

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Prologue

1991

Adhimaya

Baghdad,Iraq

Hakeem Qasim (Isn’t that the Palestinian poop-powered rocket?), nicknamed “The Cheetah” by his now-dead uncle Shakir (Wait, there are cheetahs in any part of Mesopotamia, let alone Iraq?), has just finished an important task. He and his equally ten year old cousin, Ziad (“The Lion of Babylon”, which was the Iraqi nickname for the Soviet T-72 battle tank, go fightin’ Commies!) have removed the last rock from a dirt patch-turned new soccer field (I find it weird that he’s mentally referring to it as such. Shouldn’t he think-call it a football pitch? How deep has the Great Satan infected this poor child’s brain?), meaning they can actually play a game tomorrow without worrying about getting ripped to shreds on the debris brought on by the Great Satan’s bombing runs. The boys tease each other a bit while Ziad’s mother, Hakeem’s aunt, Shatha, calls them to dinner and afternoon prayer. Since it’s Friday (TAIF, am I right?), uncle Ali will be joining them for the meal, which excites Hakeem. Ziad’s a little sketched out by Ali, though, partly because there are rumors he has close ties to Uday Hussein, but also because Ali creeps on Shatha on the reg ever since Ziad’s dad Shakir died fighting in Iran three years ago.

Hakeem doesn’t really care about that, though, he’s thinking back to the time he took a ride in Ali’s Land Rover (Ditching the “friends” that always accompany Ali in their own vehicle in the process) when Ali presented Hakeem with a gift: a 7.62x39mm round threaded onto a gold chain that Ali claims was taken from an unexpended AK-47 “clip” (Argh, improper nomenclature, I must nerd-rage!) that Saddam Hussein himself had been firing (Wait a second. So Ali grabbed a magazine, removed a round, took out the bullet, dumped the powder, extracted the primer, drilled a hole, threaded it onto a chain, and then re-seated the bullet, all to give to his nephew? I need to step my Mother’s and Father’s Day games up, then, dang). Ali explains that the devious Jews and the Great Satan have always been trying to prevent the proud Muslim people from worshipping Allah, and that one day soon the Great Satan will try to destroy Iraq, but Saddam and the Republican Guard will save the country, though Hakeem may be called upon to fight for his homeland (Little did Hakeem or Ali know, but just four years prior, the youth of America had been informed of their duty to fight for an even more important cause by three righteous prophets, their right to party).

Hakeem is violently brought back to the present (Of 1991) with a soccerball to the head from Ziad, prompting more teasing and wrestling before Shatha calls out to the boys a second time. They prepare to race back to Hakeem’s house, and while on the start line, Ziad knocks Hakeem over at “set”, before dashing off on his own “go”. Other than checking the status of his teeth (All still in place, hooray!), Hakeem’s not too concerned, since he knows that as “The Cheetah”, he’ll be able to catch up with and overtake Ziad, no matter how big a lead the “Lion” gets.

Hakeem finally enters the race when an explosion devastates his house and knocks him to the ground. As with any youngster, Hakeem’s only thoughts are to reunite with his mother, who will make everything okay. As he scrambles through the wreckage, Hakeem falls into a hole, but manages to grab hold of a hand to pull himself out. Unfortunately, the hand belongs to a body that’s crushed underneath an enormous concrete block, and even worse, Hakeem recognizes the ring on the second finger of the hand as his mother’s. Distraught, bleeding, crying, and vomiting, Hakeem passes out (Welp, I’m really depressed now, anyone else?).

 

2003

Operation Enduring Freedom

Bagram Valley

Helmand Province, Afghanistan

Riley Covington, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) second lieutenant, is posted at a security point, counting boulders on lookout, while also day-dreaming about his future. He was a star linebacker while at the Air Force academy, earning three consecutive WAC/MWC defensive player of the year honors (Sweet, sweet WAC-tion, how I miss thee), in addition to being named the Butkus award winner as the top linebacker in the country his senior season (Suck on so many eggs, Rocky Calmus!). Unfortunately, his commitment to the military meant that despite his skills and ability to injure other players, Riley fell to the third round, thanks to the Colorado Mustangs taking a gamble on the man nicknamed “Pach”, after the AH-64 “Apache” attack helicopter.

Back to counting rocks, and it’s consistently been 36, but now he’s looking down from his hill at 37. He checks in with the other man on watch, Armando “Taps” Tapia, but Tapia’s northern position is fine. Thinking it must have been a mistake, Riley starts counting again, and this time he gets 38, and instantly realizes something is wrong (Gee, ya think, DiNozzo? *SLAP* Sorry, I watch way too much N.C.I.S. before Raw starts), just as one of the ‘boulders’ fires off a mortar round. Covington shoots back at the two new rocks, sending one back down the hill, and keeping the other in its position, compromised to a permanent end, as a militia force begins an assault on Riley and his team.

Riley scampers back to his team’s position to find several of his men down with shrapnel wounds. His second in command, Scott Ross, points out a Mark 19 grenade launcher near a Humvee, so Riley takes off to grab the weapon. Riley takes a grazing round to the hip, but he’s a leader, and bullet wounds don’t stop leaders. He gets to the Mk. 19 and rains down hellfire and brimstone (BAH GAWD!) upon the charging militia, putting them on a hasty retreat. Covington knows the reprieve will be short lived, so he turns to his remaining men to formulate a plan.

Riley Covington’s squadmates are largely ineffective and barely deserve to have names. Scott Ross is the brainy one, Skeeter Dawkins is a jacked-up Boo Radley, Kim “Tommy” Li is somehow not called Jet/Chun/Bruce (Oh, also, he’s got tattoos and an itchy trigger finger, which Covington internally chides him for) and Posada is Jason Elam being clever by not naming a guy ‘Brooklyn’ and instead going with a player for the Bronx-based Yankees at the time of writing. Also, Posada ‘does machines’, but outside of Ross and Dawkins, Riley might as well be slogging through Afghanistan with Stinky, Fatty and Topsy for all the characterization they get.

Despite his encumberence of idjits, Riley manages to lead a successful counterattack because he’s so good at reading the insurgents’ offense before they even begin their assault (I assume the second book covers the investigation and trial surrounding Riley’s unfair use of drone flyovers to learn the militia’s attack patterns before the operation began). Well, that and the appearance of two Apache helicopters (You know, like the thing he’s nicknamed for!), thanks to Riley telling Posada to call in an airstrike.

With the airstrike also comes a medical evacuation for Riley and the other wounded. As he’s getting loaded into the helicopter, football is the last thing on Covington’s mind (I guess that means he’s thinking about soccer) before he takes a little pain-induced nap.

Key Lines:

“You realize that this will be the site of your great humiliation,” Ziad taunted in the pompous language they used when teasing each other.

“Tomorrow, Ziad, your pride will be shown to be as empty as your mother’s purse!”

– DUDE, NOT COOL, HAKEEM! Also, Elam totally tapped into the youth culture and perfectly nailed how kids talk.

 

Riley preferred to call them the “nasty little black ones.” – Okay, he’s actually talking about scorpions, but until we get to the explicit racism, this out of context racism will have to do for now.

Page 2

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Chapter One

Friday, December 19

Parker, Colorado

Riley wakes up before the alarm because he’s got an internal metronome to rival George Michael Bluth’s, and looks out his window onto a fresh snowfall. He smugly boasts about how great it is to live in Colorado, especially during wintertime (Yeah, if you’re a rich asshole. I don’t think the homeless love the blizzards very much) and then hits the shower to work some of the kinks out of his body. Fresh out the shower, laced with baby powder (Probably), Riley catches some hard-hitting FOX NEWS while making his morning protein shake (Using soy milk, like some kinda sub-human hippie-woman) and discovers yet another “homicide bomber” has wreaked havoc in Israel. Riley rages about how the terrorists are horrible people for dragging women and children into the conflict (I guess he didn’t read the non-Riley Covington portion of the prologue).

A brief flashback to a meeting with his pastor, Tim, has the two men discussing the issue and coming to the conclusion that the big issue is these fundamentalists have wrongly bought into the lie that killing for your beliefs is correct (*Cough* Crusades, bombing abortion clinics and shooting abortion doctors, the Inquisition, Kirk Cameron’s systematic murder of American cinema *Cough*). Pastor Tim still believes in a loving hand to teach the Muslims the correct way to approach faith, while Riley is all about “an American smackdown” (DO YOU SMELL WHAT THE RILEY IS COOKING?! It is an apple pie with a football baked inside of it, the most American dessert ever invented.).

His shake n rage done with, Riley prepares to get ready to head to practice, but of course, must reminisce about how he came to the conclusion to enter the PFL draft. He still had several years left to complete on his initial hitch, but was given the option to become a pro football player and enter the reserves until he hit five years time served (Military and prison aren’t too dissimilar, then, huh?). His commanding officer moans about having to offer the option to Riley, since he’s so much better suited to leading REAL MEN than playing some dumb ol’ kid game. Too bad Chad Hennings, Chris Gizzi, and others opened the door for loafing officers to slide out of their commitments thanks to athletic talents. Also, I assume that Riley didn’t want to risk getting shot again, since I’m sure that sucked more than a Brent Grimes birthday cake.

Key Lines:

“Covington, I brought you in here to make you an offer I hope you won’t take. The higher-ups want me to give you the ludicrous choice of opting out of the rest of your full-time service commitment to the United States Air Force so you can go play in the Pro Football League. You’d stay in the reserves, and we’d have you in the off-season until your time’s up… I think it would be a shame for you to give up the chance to make a lasting difference for this country so that you could go play some kids’ game.”

– DAMN IT COVINGTON, YOU’VE BEEN SHOT ONCE AND SEEN FRIENDS EXPLODE INTO PUDDLES OF BLOOD AND GORE. DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GIVE THAT UP FOR THE CHANCE AT GETTING YOUR KNEES OR BRAIN IRREPARABLY DAMAGED WHILE MAKING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS INSTEAD OF STAYING HERE TO SHOOT AT IMPOVERISHED BROWN PEOPLE?!

 

Chapter Two

Friday, December 19

CTD Midwest Division Headquarters

St. Louis, Missouri

Scott Ross has just put the finishing touches on his signature cocktail, half Yoo-Hoo, half diet Mountain Dew Code Red (I think that’s a virgin Red Mocha Cooler), when his fellow Homeland Security Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) analyst, Tara Walsh, calls him to her desk. She shows him some choice snippets of chatter, “Hand of Allah”, “Heart of capitalism”, and “Allah controls the weather” that’s been popping up a lot recently and lets Ross’s weird brain kick into overdrive.

After what I’m assuming to be a Scrubs-esque daydream sequence (BANANA HAMMOCK!), Ross has made several leaps of logic to form a connection. Allah controlling the weather probably relates to inclement conditions limiting the number of people available to be terror-attacked. The heart of capitalism could be a financial center, or a factory of some sort. All in all, it’s not a bad string of connections, but call me when Ross makes a Batman on Super Friends-ian connection of the clue being ‘tube socks’ which means Lex Luthor is going to divert a magma flow into Indianapolis.

There’s a bit of an issue between Scott and his superiors, as he’s always had a bit of a rebellious streak. Hell, he stayed late one night turning one of his drawers at his desk into a mini-fridge to stock his beverages because the vending machine doesn’t carry Yoo-Hoo. Prior to that, he was a smart, if unruly kid, but before the interdiction of his librarian pal, Mr. Pinkerton (Of the detecting Pinkertons, I presume), Ross was eyeballs deep into The Anarchist’s Cookbook, The Big Book of Mischief and other tomes that would probably get a kid placed on a CTD watch list (I have a feeling Ross doesn’t see any irony in this). Luckily, Pinkerton put him on a better path through literature (Chucky Dickens will salve your troubled soul, Scott) and science (National Geographic gets name-dropped next to Einstein and Hawking. I’m sure teenaged Ross was only in it for the native ladies). Despite all of Pinkerton’s effort, Scott barely graduated high school and was kicked out of two colleges before turning to the military. But he cut the bullshit enough to pass Special Forces training easily, so all’s well that ends well.

Scott asks for a few more minutes to piece together a slightly more coherent theory, and then it’s time for him and Tara to visit Stanley Porter, the division chief. Porter’s a no-nonsense kind of guy that has frequently left Scott fuming and trying to think up ways to torment him (Prank tip: poop dollar)

 

Friday, December 19

North Central United States

Brothers Abdel and Aamir al-Hasani are stuck in a hotel (Since they are doing this to honor Allah, would it be a hotel, motel, holy Days Inn?), trying not to freeze in this strange land’s strange season known as winter. Aamir comforts Abdel, reminding him of the 72 perfect women waiting for him in paradise after their job is done. This perks up Abdel’s spirits a little bit as he remembers the epic journey they took to get where they are now.

A flight from Riyadh to Paris, with a car and fake passports in Clichy-sous-Bois (I hear there used to be a great sandwich shop there, but it’s been closed for some time now). From Paris, the brothers drove to Zurich (How do you say “terrorist” in five languages?), then got on a plane to Winnipeg (Home of THE Chris Jericho!), with a stop in Toronto. New Canadian passports made for an easy flight from Fort Frances, Ontario, to International Falls, Minnesota (There the ground is thick with the landed dingers hit by JIM THOME). After arriving in the states, they found a map and some keys taped under a car and began the WTRST 97.2 Scavenger Hunt. The final clue was located in the trunk of a 1988 Buick LeSabre (I wanted to make a joke about it being metallic mint green, but that’s the Skylark).

After gathering all of the packages, we return to Abdel and Aamir in the hotel, assembling the contents. There are two multi-pouched vests (TACTICAL VEST POCKET ACTION!), several pounds of C-4 explosives, and a large quantity of ball bearings. The al-Hasanis are molding the explosives into cylinders, taping four together, filling a pocket with a parcel, and then adding the bearings to the outer mesh. Abdel is having some second thoughts about exploding himself, and that came to light when he struggled with his martyr’s tape, mumbling and stumbling over his lines three times before getting it right (Good even, lades in gentlemen, I am of course, Abdel al-Hasani). He voices his concern to Aamir, who promptly slaps the taste out of his mouth and lets Abdel know that they have bee explicitly chosen for this by Allah, and to back down now would be to turn their backs on their people, struggling under the Great Satan’s oppression.

 

CTD Midwest Division Headquarters

Saint Louis, Missouri

Scott and Tara are in Stanley Porter’s office, discussing the grand leaps of logic Scott’s giant brain made to reach his theory. It all hinges on the North Central Division having recently picked up a “Yemeni guy”, Mohsin Kurshumi in northern Minnesota (Probably looking to blow up that back bacon pipeline in Canada, am I right?). Tara had just spoken with Jim Hicks, the head of ops for NCD, who was standing outside Kurshumi’s torture room (Elam calls it an interrogation room, where NCD was actively persuading to talk, so you know, torture).

Key Lines:

“However, even though I know we’re promised seventy-two of those perfect women, I would be content with just seven – as long as they all looked like Areej, the daughter of Abdullat the butcher.”

– Whoa, Abdel, you mess with Abdullah the Butcher’s daughter and you’re liable to get a fork piercing your skull. Also, I’m sure your brother, Aamir, is glad you clarified which Areej you meant since I’m sure it’s like the Jennifer/Gynnefur of the Middle East)

 

Chapter Three

Friday, December 19

Inverness Training Center

Englewood, Colorado

Robert Taylor, the public relations director for the Colorado Mustangs is having a rough morning. His voice mail is full and there are over 250 player interview requests, and now the PFL Network’s Steve Growe is asking for a live interview with Riley Covington immediately after practice because according to whatever the PFL equivalent of Them Dirt Sheets is, Covington is a lock to be named to the All Star roster, and he’s a hotter property than Fire Ant. Taylor knows Covington will acquiesce, even if it’s not in his best interests, because he’s a Real Team Player.

Riley heads onto the practice field and is instantly bombarded with requests for interviews from the media in all directions. He ignores them all as head coach Roy Burton keeps the actual practice sessions closed to the media. Practice is just about ready to begin, and there are a few stragglers getting taped up, which isn’t a big issue, since anyone showing up late simply gets fined $1,500. The only man late to practice this day is rookie wide receiver, Jamal White, as the taping process is based on seniority, leaving White out in the cold.

As Riley drifts over to begin defensive drills, he glances at quarterback Randy Meyer lazily throwing balls to tight end Salvatore “Sal” Ricci. Sal’s an interesting case, as he began his professional career with A.C. Milan in the Italian Football (Futbol?) League before being offered a spot on the Hamburg Donnerkatzen (Hamburger Dinner Cats?) of the  International American Football League. Despite not being a kicker or a goalie (Which would kind of excuse him having good hands), Ricci flourished in Hamburg, and the Mustangs eventually came calling to get him into the PFL. Ricci apparently acclimated well, as he married his wife, Megan, a writer for the Denver Post, four weeks after meeting her, and she gave birth to their first daughter, Alessandra Bianca Ricci nine months after the wedding day.

Rex Texeira, the Mustangs’ linebacker coach goes over the gameplan with Riley and right-side backer, Keith Simmons regarding their upcoming opponent, the Bay City Bandits. The Bandits quarterback is fond of roll outs and bootlegs, so the LBs need to be ready to pounce. Riley and Keith discuss increasing the payout on the bounty system they have in place during the games to $75 per tackle (Okay, it’s charity, and Riley donates the money for each of Keith’s tackles and vice versa, but I’m still calling it a bounty).

After position drills, the team moves onto 7-on-7 scrimmage, with Meyer’s laser, rocket arm keeping defensive hands away from the ball on the majority of the plays. After some mild trash talk from Ricci, Covington VOWS TO MAKE THAT STINKIN’ DIRTY EURO TRASH PAY! Riley reads Sal’s eyes and jumps the route, netting a pick six to rub in Ricci’s face. The team then moves onto full scrimmage, and after that, it’s time for special teams practice (Elam manages to refrain from spending ten paragraphs talking about how dreamy the kicker is, so good on him for restraint in that department, I guess).

After practice, offensive lineman Chris Gorkowski asks Riley if the rookie linebackers have arranged the limos for the team’s big night out. Apparently it is tradition for the veterans to stick the rookies with an insanely high tab one night of the year, and it’s tonight. Riley confirms things are set up, and gets ribbed about being a teetotaler, but he’s dreading the evening, since he’s only going to keep an eye on Ricci and make sure nobody goes too crazy.

Key Lines: “Taylor was in his eight year with the Mustangs, and he still hadn’t completely adjusted to the frenzy.” – Maybe that means you are just bad at your job, Robert.

“The taping system in the PFL would certainly not pass ACLU muster.” – OOOH, SNAP! TAKE THAT, YOU DUMB LIE-BRALS! Y’ALL JUST GOT ELAM’D!

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