||02-07-2010 10:31 PM
The Champions Club
This is an old story first composed in 2003...
With a new ending.
Congratulations, New Orleans.
The Philadelphia Eagle (a champions story)
The Buccaneer was having a terrific evening. He nestled back in the plush armchair and, once again, took in his surroundings. The room was framed in dark ancient wood paneling, the furnishings all handmade, the oak bar gleamed brilliantly, the lighting was soft and perfect. Four discreet televisions quietly played ESPN and Fox Sports.... a perfect Club for Champions to relax and enjoy a drink before heading home to their loved ones.
The Buccaneer had a seat at the burnished center round table, although he must admit he felt a bit sheepish about it. Only the reigning Champion had a reserved seat, so even though he was a "one-timer", he got to sit with the greats....the "regulars" at the table. He looked around at his compatriots seated around him, laughing, playing cards, reveling....the Redskin, the Raider, the Packer, the Steeler....and of course the great ones, the Forty-Niner and the Cowboy.
Each one had won at least three Super Bowls; the great ones had five apiece. Looking to his side, the Buccaneer saw another "one-timer", the Raven, standing having a beer and sharing a laugh in the corner with the Dolphin. The Buccaneer and the Raven saluted each other with a tip of their glass and a slight nod. One-Timers, except for the current champion, had to rotate in and out of the Champion Club, and it was the Raven's night.
Suddenly the tranquility was shattered as the door to their inner sanctum was banged open and a scrawny, scruffy figure huffed in, preening, and screeching in a high, whiny voice "Whaaaa...I have arrived, I belong in here, I'm as great as any of you guys!!!!!" If one were to have noticed, they would have seen the Cowboy, the Redskin, and the Giant avert their eyes a bit for they immediately recognized the trespasser and were a bit embarrassed, as one is by an impudent little brother.
"Who is this?" asked the Bronco from his easy chair..."who has the audacity to come in without a Lombardi Trophy as their ticket?" The scrawny figure stepped into the light and everyone saw the dirty, ugly feathers of the Philadelphia Eagle . "I'm sorry, do we know you?" the Bronco asked. Neither the Dolphin nor the Raven could place him either. "I'm greatness....I'm a Champion...I'm so great right now!!!!" the Eagle screeched, his tinny juvenile voice causing everyone to wince.
The Raider pushed back his chair and stood, "wait a minute.....I recognize this fellow." The three-time Super Bowl Champion walked towards the Eagle, shaking the cobwebs from his memory. "Yes.....yes...this one was our second win, if I remember...a long long time ago....yes...that's right...my boy Jimmy Plunkett shredded them...we jumped out to a 14-0 lead and coasted....not much of an NFC representative that year, I'm here to tell you." By that time he had reached the Eagle's side. "Hell, boy, that was over twenty years ago, where you been, I thought your franchise had folded!!!!"
As discreet and generous as the Champions always tried to be, a titter did run through the room at that remark. The Eagle turned red-faced, "who cares, who cares, who cares, so what, I am great now, I deserve as much respect as any of you, nyaaaaaaa."
"You deserve as much respect as any of us?" the Packer asked from the table. "Why?" The Eagle screeched his answer "Aha...for I am the reigning champion of the NFC Eastern Division!!!!!!" Everyone's eyebrows went up and smiles creased a few faces for they knew what was coming next. "My dear boy", the Packer responded. "There used to be six separate regional divisions for a league of thirty teams. That meant one out of every five teams was going to win one. So what? This year there will be eight, for God's sake! You'll have to do better than that to demand respect!"
The room roared with laughter. "I don't understand this braggart", the Dolphin asked his friend the Steeler, "can you explain it?" "Don't look at me", the Steeler responded, "We win divisions and are in the playoffs constantly, but haven't been in the big one in seven years. Last year we won our 'regional division' again but lost in the playoffs. On our side of Pennsylvania, the fans are calling for the coach's head with those results, over in Philadelphia; they are such losers that simple accomplishments make them preen and call their coach and players great." "But that's pathetic", the Dolphin winced. Those within earshot silently nodded in agreement.
"Besides", the Eagle continued to rant, "you guys aren't so great anymore, look at us, we have a winning streak against the Cowboys...they suck!!!!!" The Eagle had hoped to get a laugh but was met with embarrassed silence. No-one treated a Five-Time Champion with disrespect. The Cowboy silently looked at the Eagle with the sadness of a father whose son thinks he's a man but has so much growing up left to do.
"Hell, you little snot-nose", all eyes turned as the Redskin spoke up for the first time. "My buddy the Cowboy had a winning streak going over me and you didn't see him crowing about how great his team is!" The Cowboy nodded and added "At triple 5-11s? Hardly. As we all know in this room, there's more to aim for than regular season streaks or even being satisfied with just making the playoffs." The room nodded.
"But...but...but", the Eagles stuttered, as he felt he was about to urinate in his pants out of shame..."we have a great quarterback and don't you say he's not, the great Donovan McNabb!!!!"
"SILENCE!" the voice boomed, and the whole room fell quiet. All eyes turned to the mighty Forty-Niner as he knocked his chair over while standing. "ENOUGH, YOU FOOL!" he shouted. The Five-Time undefeated Super Bowl Champion stood tall. "You throw around the word 'great' and have no understanding of it. Joe Montana was great. Terry Bradshaw was great, so was Troy Aikmann and John Elway, Champions all!!!" his voice thundered.
"My God, you little brat", he roared, "did you look outside when you came in?, we even built a junior clubhouse for individuals who were truly great but can never come in here. You'd be lucky to sit and drink out there with Fran Tarkington, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino. You have no idea what greatness is!!!!!!!!" And with that, the Forty-Niner snatched a football from the mantelpiece, the one blessed by Lombardi himself, and rifled it right into the misshapen head of the Philadelphia Eagle.
The Eagle staggered, but did not fall down (although much to the embarrassment of the room, his bladder did empty, and a stain spread down the pants of the brash, rude poseur). But the magical football had done its job, and as the Eagle straightened up, a sudden look of clarity and understanding came into his eyes. "Wait a minute" the Eagle said, his voice suddenly coming down a few octaves. "I get it...you have to earn being called great, right? Greatness comes by accomplishments, by winning Championships." "Yes my little friend," the Forty-Niner responded.
He walked over and threw his arm around the little shoulders of the Eagle. The Eagle continued to share his enlightenment, "I don't have the right to brag or preen or anything until I win something, like an NFC Title for starters, even maybe GET to the big game, right?" The room nodded and smiled now that the young charge got it.
"Well, I'll try, and I'm sorry if I showed you all disrespect," the Eagle added, "but perhaps I should leave and wait outside with all the others who've never won anything". "Yes, perhaps you should, young man", the Forty-Niner nodded, "But first you must do something." "Yes?" asked the Eagle. "Bend over and wipe up your ****, boy!" The room shook with laughter as the shamed Eagle did just that.
The Buccaneer thought this had been the most extraordinary night. He couldn't wait to tell the Jet, the Colt, and the other one-timers what they had missed. It did feel so good to be a Champion.
And the day came, some years later, when the Buccaneer opened the door to the Champions Club, and the Saint came in at last. For forty-three years he had been denied entrance to this room, and watched from afar year after year as other teams went in instead... one by one, he'd watched them all go in, from the Packer to the Niner to the Raven...
and finally, he came in, at last.
The Colt was waiting for him. He held the chair for the Saint. And as the Saint took his place at the table, all the other champions stood and the Steeler, holder of the chair for the past year, proposed a toast in honor of the Saint.
Still somewhat in a daze, the Saint accepted the toast and sat down in what was his chair, for a year.
It WAS good to be the champion.