“Look, JaMarcus,” Dick Butkus continued with a quiver in his voice and drool dripping down his chin, “I know we’ve had our disagreements in the past and Lord knows I hate Lane Kiffin as much as the next guy. But what you just did to Don Shula gives me significant worry that you may pull a similar stunt to my noggin. And I am but a poor and helpless senior citizen who has no method of defending himself and am currently as vulnerable to attack as Sevastopol was to the allied forces during the Crimean War. I beseech you, JaMarcus, show some mercy to a doddering old fart such as myself!”
JaMarcus Russell slowly unwrapped the outer plastic wrapping off of a candy cane, stuck the candy cane in his mouth and began to cackle with glee.
“Richard, Richard! It’s truly unfortunate that my reputation seems to have preceded me. Come now! I do not mean for my sudden appearance in this seemingly quiet and unmemorable Fort Lauderdale Ikea and subsequent merciless beating of a Hall of Fame coach to be taken as a show of hostility. Far from it, in fact. I was rather hoping you would be available to sit down for a lovely chat over some tea, crumpets and sizzurp – I’ve had the sizzurp flown specifically from the East Bay, you simply CANNOT trust the quality of the sizzurp you find anywhere else to be at an acceptable standard. Can you believe that there have been occasions where I’ve found a LEMON Jolly Rancher included with my purple drank? My heavens, sometimes I don’t know if I can bear to live one more moment among these Philistines! Anyway, Richard, please say that you are available to converse – it would mean ever so much to me…”
“Well,” Butkus said with a slight grimace, “okay. You’re gonna have to give me thirty minutes to change my pants, though. You gave me quite a start there when you entered the room all Rambo-like.”
“Mmmm, yes,” JaMarcus said with a discerning eye in between licks of the candy cane, “I can see the rather unfortunate stain in the midsection of your trousers.”
“You haven’t seen the backside yet. It’s like the start of World War III down there.”
After a lengthy delay, the gentlemen reconvened in Russell’s purple limousine in the back alley of the Ikea. Butkus took one last long swig of cough syrup and shook his head in amazement.
“I still can’t believe you were able to flip that two-bedroom condo in East Oakland over for $800,000. The people who bought that place are aware there’s a high likelihood they’re going to die in that home, right?”
“Mmmm,” JaMarcus pondered while stroking his chin and reaching inside his coat pocket for another bottle of cough syrup, “it’s in the best interest of a real estate broker such as myself to keep those unsavory nuggets of knowledge under lock and key. I simply accentuated the positives of the property to the couple: a wonderful opportunity to get on the ground floor of an urban renewal that may or may not ever come to the area. A prime ‘buy-low’ market, if you will.”
“I’ve only been to Oakland once,” Butkus said, leaning back on his seat. “Last game of the ’72 season. Wore my helmet and cup the entire team I was in the city – Doug Buffone always told us this horror story about some poor schmuck on the Oilers who had his head and gonads cut off during a road trip back in ’65 and couldn’t ever play again because of it. Doug always loved telling tall tales, but that one always had too many kernels of truth to it for me to shake off.”
“Oh dear, I fear Oakland’s perception has perhaps gotten a bit too detached from reality,” JaMarcus said while shaking his head sadly and finishing off the bottle of cough syrup. “No, it doesn’t have the picturesque scenery of San Francisco. No, it doesn’t have the wealth and prestige of the Silicon Valley yuppies. If you know where the safe places are, though, and you avoid the bad neighborhoods, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to call home! Did you know that there are over 260 days of sunshine per year in Oakland? Or that the city is the #1 municipality in the country for getting its electricity from renewable resources?”
“I did not!” Dick responded with awe and wonder.
“See, that was my assumption,” JaMarcus nodded while reaching into his pants pocket to grab another bottle of cough syrup. “The vast majority of individuals I speak to on a daily basis don’t know these amazing facts about the city or that there’s a 97% chance that they WON’T get murdered while visiting. That’s the problem, though, isn’t it? Everyone is so fixated on the bad, unsavory aspects of life that they can’t let properly enjoy all the joyful, mirthful and downright whimsical qualities that Oakland has to offer.”
“It’s a shame – a damn shame!” Butkus said angrily, punching the empty leather seat next to him while shaking his head helplessly.
“It truly, truly is,” JaMarcus said with true sadness in his eyes and voice. With that, he finished the bottle of cough syrup and reached into the crotch of his pants to grab another. “While I’ve got your rapt attention here, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the limousine has been moving for the past twenty minutes.”
“I did not, but go on,” Dick said with wide eyes, his head held up by both fists supporting his chin.
“Well, as I’m sure you know, I am not just the third-leading real estate agent in the greater Bay Area. I also run an underground stuffed animal trafficking ring that puts more than 10,000 plush bears and lions in the hands of devoted junkies every day. Unlike my real estate exploits, however, business on this front has not been going so dandy. Lately, we’ve been forced to take the rather regrettable tactic of breaking and entering ordinary civilians’ homes and stealing every fuzzy doggy and lambie that’s in plain sight. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much luck in this regard because my henchmen consist of former Raider teammates. And though I love Ronald Curry and Johnnie Lee Higgins dearly as brothers and as men, they simply don’t strike much fear into the hearts of anyone, including four-year-old girls. This is where you come in, Richard. Your mere presence as the most fearsome player in league history will override the fact that you’ve turned into a weeping bucket of mush and will allow us to obtain the contraband we so desperately desire from unsuspecting homes all across America. Starting,” he said while rolling down the window as the limo slowly came to a stop, “with this one.”
Butkus peered out the window with confusion, not able to make sense of what he was seeing for a few minutes. Then the light bulb came on.
“WE’RE STEALING FROM GRUDEN?!”
To be continued…