******* Now a Kindle eBook on Amazon.com *******
It was an abnormally cold night, even for FedEx Field in December. And unfortunately for one Daniel Snyder, the offices were no refuge from it. Ticket sales were down. Robert Griffin III jersey sales, once the cash cow of the franchise, had halted. The team name was seen as a slur, not only to the Native Americans they were named after, but also to the fans for normal football reasons. Old Snyder did the only thing he knew how to do as that cursed holiday approached: keep the books right. As he sat in his office, bundled in a Joe Gibbs era R-Words Starter jacket, Snyder liked the sight of the fog his breath emitted. It meant money saved. He was just finishing trolling the internet for any articles smearing his name, had just clicked “post comment” on his last obscure R-Words blog, when his office assistant emerged into sight in one of Snyder’s many office camera feeds next to his desk.
Kirk Cousins, formerly the R-Words’ starting quarterback just two months prior, was now doing anything he can to stay relevant to the organization, and was bundled so fully that his clean cut face popped out of his many jackets like a whack-a-mole head. He was frozen staring at his office thermostat with his hands raised. He knew better than to try and press the “up” button on it in an attempt to raise the temperature. Old Snyder had rigged the thermostat to drop the temperature of Cousins’ office by a degree no matter which directional button was pressed. This Snyder had implemented to teach Cousins a lesson, yet Cousins’ hands were still near it as he considered pressing it one more time. The fact that Cousins was prone to make more mistakes once he had made one annoyed Snyder.
“Cousins!” Snyder barked from his office next door.
Snyder saw Cousins’ head swivel left and right on the feed blisteringly fast as his body dropped to a sneaking position. He scampered off.
“Get in here!”
Snyder’s door opened slowly as if pushed by a snail.
“You called, sir?” Cousins mustered with his head poked around the door. He saw the z-key thermostat on the other side of Snyder’s desk, as well as the raging gas fireplace under it, and licked his lips. He considered diving into the fire for a moment’s warmth.
“Are you finished with the free agent quarterback evaluations yet?” said Snyder.
“Just did, sir.”
“Are they all over 30, Cousins,” said Snyder, “like I asked?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Former first round picks?”
“Why would anyone want one picked later, sir?” said Cousins, drooping his head, thinking of himself.
“Why would they, indeed,” said Snyder with the sound of one appeased. “I suppose you’ll want tomorrow off like the rest of them?”
“You mean, Christmas, sir?”
“Don’t mention it’s name, Cousins. Don’t mention its name.”
“Oh, Mr. Snyder, I wish you wouldn’t be such curmudgeon when it comes to the holidays. It’s a time for being with loved ones. Colt is at home with a bird in the oven for us, as we speak.”
“X-mas,” said Snyder, almost to himself, enunciating as if he hated every syllable as much as the thing itself. “Loved ones. Colt MickCoy. Bah! R**skins!”
“And it’s not just any bird, sir. It’s an eagle! After our sweet victory this Saturday past!”
Cousins’ smile seemed to glow brighter than Snyder’s gas fireplace as his hands were half raised in fists and his eyes were closed. This display was even the resulting of curbing his excitement.
“Well, that’s what we’re telling ourselves anyway,” Cousins continued. “It’s actually just a small chicken. All we could afford.”
The two were frozen in silence for a good minute as Snyder’s eyes danced in bitterness.
“And I suppose you want a… a… an X-Mas… bonus, like the rest of them? To support that boy in your charge with the bum leg? What’s his name again?”
“Tiny Robert Griffin III, sir.”
“Well, if I give you tomorrow off, I expect you all the earlier the next morn.”
“Oh, Mr. Snyder!” Cousins exclaimed.
“Your bonus is on your desk. Off with you, and I’ll not hear another word of that cursed holiday! Bah! R**skins!”
Cousins opened his mouth to thank him, but thought better of ruining his gift with another word. He put one foot behind the other and sneaked his way backwards out of Snyder’s office, and then sprinted away. He grabbed his Christmas gift off his desk as he jaunted, a used Metrocard with $1.76 remaining on the back.
Cerrato was fired. There was no mistaking that. The media had covered it with glee. They didn’t much like Snyder, finding his roster moves laughable, and they had considered his former Vice President of Football Operations as a combination of a puppet and a court jester. Seeing him “resign” after roster moves like the signings of Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Jeff George, Irving Fryar, Mark Carrier, and Danny Wuerffel, gave them all at least a morning of chuckles the day it was released. This is an important fact for the reader to acknowledge because there would be no explanation for what befell Snyder that Christmas Eve night, which had now led to Snyder trembling in his bed underneath the sheets. He attempted to talk himself out of it.
That was not old Vinny’s face I saw driving my limousine, couldn’t have been, he thought to himself. Vinny isn’t black.
He relit the candelabra that rested on his bedside and wondered how the wind had blown it out. Hadn’t he told Cousins to fix that draft before he left? Will have to dock his pay. He carried it out of his bedroom and cautiously checked all the rooms on this wing of his manor. He jumped and nearly caught his white night gown on fire, especially his night cap which hung to the side of his face. He had caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and the feelings of horror returned. He continued to walk as if the vision shed off of him with ever step.
I did not just have a conversation with old Vinny in front of my fireplace, Snyder thought. I never actually talked to the man when he worked for me. Don’t know what his voice even sounds like.
“Danny, is that you?” a female voice questioned in the dark hallway, seemingly from one of the closed doors.
“No, mommy, it’s Danny Jr.,” Snyder said in his best high pitched voice imitation.
“Mommy?” said the female voice with incredulity. “Can’t sleep because of that AP exam tomorrow, honey?”
Snyder balled his fist in frustration. He had forgotten his son wasn’t nine years old anymore. He hadn’t spent much time on his wife’s wing of the house in recent years and didn’t like the feeling it gave him. He quietly snuck away from the uncomfortable warmth his cold heart had begun to feel.
“Bah!” Snyder shouted. “R**skins!”
Snyder reentered his bedroom, fully convinced it was his mind playing tricks, and quite exhausted from the tom foolery, fell onto the bed and into a deep sleep. His dreams were happy because they were blank. There was not the typical recurring dream of Jerry Jones embracing him and whispering, “I’m proud of you, son.” There was no trace of the horror he had experienced that night.
“Hail!” a voice screamed absurdly close to Snyder, breaking him of his blissful, emotionless sleep. He jumped up in bed to find his bedroom brightly lit and music playing from another room. As he arose and adjusted his night cap to stay on, a multitude of hearty voices joined the music in raucous song. They were muffled, but he could make out some of the words, as he entered the hallway to track the source.
Hail to the…
Braves on the…
…for old DC!
The song sounded eerily familiar to Snyder, but he couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps he’d heard it after a touchdown once, years ago. As he approached the dining room door, the song grew loudest yet and there was a sliver of even brighter light outlining the edges of the door. Snyder frighteningly reached out and turned the door knob. He opened it to find a feast spread on his table and over a dozen men laughing and passing around food to each other. They were all wearing Christmas sweaters, and their cheeks shined as if buffed with wax. One by one, they noticed his presence, and in true domino effect, their faces all fell. They stared at him silently.
“I was just…” Snyder tried saying something, but was cut off by mirthful cheering, clapping, and the collective raising of glasses. One of them stood up.
“Mr. Snyder, we are indebted to you,” John Beck said with a smile across his face, as he looked around at the other guests. “None of these men would have had the chance to start in the NFL if it weren’t for your graciousness and mercy.”
“Hail!” the rest of them shouted in unison. Another stood up.
“Mr. Snyder,” began Donovan McNabb, “I thought my career was over after my body was clearly failing me, but then I got that call from you with an offer for a five year, 78 million dollar contract, and I just…”
McNabb stopped, unable to continue, and covered his mouth with a fist, as his shoulders began to heave up and down. Mark Brunell stood up next to him and placed his arms around him.
“I think what Donovan was trying to say, Mr. Snyder,” said Brunell, “is thank you.”
“And I didn’t even have to play the other four years!” McNabb found a break in his crying to shout. “Because of this man!”
“Hail!” everyone exclaimed again with a jolt of their glasses forward, followed by a trail of clinking.
“It was nothing,” Snyder began to say with a grin, feeling his pride tickled as if by a feather.
“Surely, you knew no other team wanted us!” shouted someone from the area of Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman.
“But you knew what it would mean for our families if we would be unemployed!” came another joyful yell, which seemed to originate from either Tony Banks or Danny Wuerffel, Snyder couldn’t tell.
Another arose with an overflowing glass of beer. He stumbled a little as his chair fell over behind him. He glanced back at it with indifference just a little too late.
“Mr. Shhnyder,” Patrick Ramsey attempted to say, “I can’t… I can’t… even begin to think you. You gave me stabiliilility for yearsh.”
His hand waved in a circle to visually explain that he meant more than just a couple years.
“I wash on eight teamsh,” Ramsey said, raising up his fingers to show the number seven, “after I played for you.”
It was the last word that made him want to point at Snyder, and it was this motion that sent him to the floor as he threw too much weight into the point. Jeff George, mullet and all, bent down to help him up, and did so with only one arm as if Ramsey was a small child.
“Wow, what an arm,” said Snyder in astonishment. All of a sudden, Snyder shook his head at himself. He could tell something was off about this. These men were genuine, but he hadn’t acquired them as an act of charity. They were brought in to win, despite the reports.
“Sorry, he’s been over served,” said Jason Campbell, who then stood up. “But I echo his sentiments. Being another first round pick of yours, I truly thank you for my time of stability in Washington. Everyone else knew I was a backup, but you paid me like a starter. I hope now you understand why we’re all here.”
“Not really,” said Snyder skeptically, beginning to feel as if he was the brunt of some joke. “I don’t really understand how you got in here, actually.”
“We’re ghosts,” said Todd Collins from across the table.
Snyder’s face fell serious.
“Ghosts? Cerrato said it would be three.”
“Well, only one of us was supposed to come,” said Tim Hasselback, “but here we all are. We are your ghosts of Quarterbacks Past.”
“And some of us are here to thank you for letting us go,” said Brad Johnson with a grin, who subtly clanked his glass with the ring on the hand in which it was held. It was his Buccaneers super bowl ring.
“How could we not take advantage of this opportunity to thank you,” said Kirk Cousins. And Colt McCoy. And Robert Griffin III.
Snyder screamed, grabbing his night cap. How could he not have noticed that one of the men at the table had three heads? Was it possible they had just appeared?
“The brilliance of it all…” said Cousins.
“…is being able to blame it all…” said McCoy.
“…on new coaches and systems,” finished Griffin.
“Cousins! What are you doing here?” shouted Snyder, beginning to feel a sense of terror for which he knew not what.
“We are your ghosts of Quarterbacks Present,” said the three in unison.
“And we’d like you to meet your ghost of Quarterbacks Future,” said Cousins.
“Come in!” shouted McCoy at the door.
At that moment, all the men stood up with their glasses raised quietly awaiting the entrance of a spirit Snyder did not want to see.
“No!” shouted Snyder, falling into the corner covering his face with both of his arms, “Please, spirits! I’ve seen enough! I cannot bear this any longer. Let me go!”
“Hail!” all the men shouted in unison. They began to clap and yip.
Snyder, in his fear, could not but help peak between his elbows. In walked Jay Cutler, currently the benched starter of the Chicago Bears. He was immediately congratulated by all the other ghosts. Ramsey was sleeping with his head layed on the table. Snyder as he saw Cutler, the same man the R-Words had failed to acquire years earlier.
Jay Cutler began to speak, holding up a small cane that must have been for a small boy.
“Gentleman, we celebrate later,” Cutler bellowed, “For now we mourn. Poor ol’ Griffin has passed. He didn’t get the medical attention he needed, didn’t get the rest he needed. He was too young.”
This sentiment was met with moaning and tears. The once three headed man was now two, and the two heads were leaning against one another with their eyes closed.
“Enough! Please, spirits, I’ll do anything!” Snyder yelled. “Cerrato, save me! Please, I’ll sell the team if I have to! Enough!”
Snyder was kicking and swiping with his arms at nothing in particular, except for reality itself. He knew to do nothing other than writhe in this horror he was witnessing. All of a sudden, in the middle of his tantrum, he felt the cold air he was accustomed to to save money. He continued kicking until he found himself tangled in the blankets of his own bed. He jumped up and ran to the dining room. It was cold and dark as he was used to it being, and utterly devoid of celebrating quarterbacks.
“Haha! It’s not real!” Snyder shrieked. He ran back to his bedroom and threw back the curtains. Light instantly drove out the darkness. It was Christmas morning.
“I can avoid it,” he said to himself, “Jay Cutler is still a Bear. The cycle need not continue!”
He ran down the halls as his white night gown flailed in the wind created by his speed. His night cap fell to the floor, unable to hold on.
“Tanya!” Snyder screamed, as he threw open his wife’s doorway. “Ah!”
Snyder screamed at how old his wife looked. He hadn’t seen her in years.
“No matter!” said Snyder.
“No matter what?” said Tanya.
“Give me your phone, Tanya.”
His wife unplugged her phone from its charger and Snyder snatched it out of her hands. He swiped and dialed frantically.
“Merry Christmas to you too, John Kent Cooke,” said Snyder quickly. “Do you still want the team? Uh huh. Uh huh. Yes, the R**skins! Yes, you can have it for the price I bought it for in 1999. You deserve it. I’m sorry I snatched it from you. It was your father’s and I just really mucked it all up. Uh huh. Uh huh. No! No, this is not a joke. I’ll have Cousins send you the details tomorrow. Goodbye! And Merry Christmas!”
Snyder began a drastic wind-up like a baseball pitcher and appeared to the throw the phone out of the window, but stopped himself. He dialed another number frantically.
“Cousins! Yes, yes, it’s me, Mr. Snyder. Merry Christmas! Look, I need you to do something. I need you to shoot down an actual eagle. You might have to take my jet to Canada to do so. Can you do that? It’s a surprise for a friend. Uh huh. Uh huh. Oh, of course! You are Cousins! Whoopsie Daisy, Cousins! Well, can you do it anyhow? And please tell that Griffin of yours, Merry Christmas! I’m sending a doctor over tomorrow.”
This time Snyder really did throw his phone out the window. He ran threw his own home, shouting for his family to come downstairs, exclaiming that it was Christmas morning. He hugged his groggy children and his aged wife with vigor, pleading with them to forgive him and could not be stopped in repeating how much he loved them. .
“No more of this R**skins business,” he told them, “I’m sorry I used to say it in response to everything good in this world. I was broken, I tell you. Tell you what, I’ll never say it again! I’ll even consider it a curse word. Starting today!”
And on that day, the Snyders, the R-words, and all their fans had a very Merry Christmas, indeed.