Archive for October, 2016

The year was 1990, and Tecmo Bowl was my jam. I would take the rock to the house, spike the controller, and shake my ass all over my brother’s bedroom. This was my twelve-year-old version of the Ickey shuffle, and it was glorious. And if our Nintendo controller had to suffer because of this, so be it. It did so in the name of art.

Then came WCW Championship Wrestling. I would write out brackets on notebook paper, and inevitably get Rick Flair chest-chopping his way into a championship bout. After a successful title run, I would let out a “WOOOOO!” and shuffle out of the room. And occasionally, I could be heard hollering “Twelve pounds of gold, baby!” to no one in-particular.

Because that’s what WCW video game champions did. We shouted cool shit like that.

My teenage years brought with them games like Altered Beast (best when accompanied by Metallica on your Discman), as well as the NBA Live and Madden franchises.

Sports games were the last to hold my attention (even after women entered the picture), but my time spent button-mashing was quickly coming to an end. It also helped that video gaming went the online route, while I had begun to develop a case of tech-allergies (I blame 90’s public schooling).

That said, I still drank beers with buddies, while they argued with thirteen-year-olds. Thirteen-year-olds who viciously murdered them in video games, and called them “bitches” or “punk-ass bitches” over their headsets as they did so. Ah, those were the days.

Then came kids. The first seven (or so) years of child-rearing were mostly video game free. Sure there was Angry Birds, or some other iPad inspired silliness, but the console driven madness of first-person shooters and Hail Mary touchdown passes were still a ways off.

And then my kid was nine, and all he wanted for Christmas (Besides his front teeth and a BB gun) was an Xbox One. And being the exceptional, fantastic, and all-around swell dad that I am, I got him that Xbox One.

With one caveat, I pledged an oath to my wife that he’d only play age-appropriate games. And only for ten minutes each day. But soon after the pledging of said oath, other kids in the neighborhood started getting Call of Duty Black Ops.

And then everything went to hell.

Fast forward a few months, and we had an Xbox Rambo on our hands. He and his friends conducted clandestine missions in our TV room, while we yelled at them to “Turn it down”, or “Go outside!” Although I had to admit, the game looked pretty fucking awesome.

But I’m a dad, so I dad-watched from the doorway, and I shook my head dismissively. As if I wasn’t impressed by the insane graphics, and the cool, shooty-gizmos they were using. I said things like “Okay, wrap it up”, Or “Five more minutes, guys.” Or “Any of you kids ever hear of Golden Eye?”

But what I was really thinking was more along the lines of “Holy shit, dude! Is that a fucking flame thrower?!”, followed by “Holy shit that IS a fucking flame thrower!”

Then one day, my son asked if I would like to play him in Black Ops. And I was all like “Pfft, I mean I’m a really busy guy, but I’m also an awesome dad, so yeah, whatevs, I guess so.”

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a trash-talker. And yeah, maybe I spit a little bit of that old school trash-talking game in my son’s direction.

Stuff like “Kid, I’ve been playing video games since you were a gleam in my sharp-shooter eyes.”

“A gleam in your eye? What does that even mean?” He asked.

It was neither the time nor the place to try and explain the birds and the bees. That’s what a 6th grade field trip to the Robert Crown center was for.

“Er, nothing. Don’t make this weird.” I shot back.

“Speaking of eyes, you ever hear about a little game called 007 Golden Eye?”

“Jeez, Dad. No one knows that game.”

“Well, it was awesome and your old man left quite a few digital bodies in his wake.”

“Yeah, okay. You can pick your armor and weapons now.”

My god, all that armor and weaponry. I was a golden-armored god, with a machine gun forged by Ares himself. The world would have no choice but to bow before my unholy might, or it would be crushed beneath my shiny, armored boots… or so I thought.

After I finished outfitting my unstoppable bringer-of-destruction, my digital warrior king, I clicked save and awaited my son’s doomed character to appear.

My son, worried about his father’s new obsession with dressing up video game characters, tried to soften the painful lesson that was soon to come.

“It’s okay, Dad. I don’t need any armor, and I’m just gonna use a knife.”

“A knife? A KNIFE?! I have serious firepower, you don’t stand a chance, kid.”

Was he patronizing me? He was definitely too sure of himself. Was he bluffing? Was he underestimating my merciless first-person shooter acumen?

Or was I about to step into a world of shit?

The game began. Our characters spawned on different sides of a bombed-out city. I ran through the streets, aiming and shooting at random stuff. Because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

After a bit, I stopped trying to blow stuff up, and decided to find my target. Through my gun’s scope, I finally spotted my son. There he stood, maybe a hundred yards out. A sitting duck (or standing in this case). He faced me, unflinching, with nothing but a knife. It reminded me of Jason Vorhees right before he brutally murders a bunch of teenagers, in any of the Friday the 13th movies.

The kid was toast. I hooted a war-cry and opened fire. A lot of things happened then. First, I realized it was really hard to aim my gun. Bullets bounced around him, and then he began to strut toward me.

Suddenly, he was in a full sprint, sliding and jumping and doing weird slidey-jumpy moves, as I continued to fire and miss.

“Hey man! No! Hey! I can’t— just stay still!“ I cried.

John Rambo’s words rang in my ears: “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.”

I was the oafish, stubborn-as-a-mule Sherriff Brian Dennehy, as I stood my ground and continued to fire and miss. Rambo-Son scaled walls and did those slidey-jumpy maneuvers again… and soon he was on top of me.

It was all so fast, violent, and efficient. He sliced through me like butter, and I was no more.

“AHHH! What the heck!” I yelled, as he plunged the blade into my chest.

A toothy grin was all he gave in response.

I respawned a moment later. Whole once more, and ready to continue the battle. His face still held the grin, as his character appeared before me like a demon summoned.

I suddenly knew the answer to a previous question: I hadn’t just stepped into a world of shit. I was dancing a goddamn jig in it.

I fired sporadically, while I ran in the opposite direction. He gave chase, and again I was cornered, and soon after that I was dead. This process continued for the next fifteen minutes. I shot at, and around him, then I screamed and ran, then he laughed hysterically, and then he murdered me.

The controller fell from my hand.

“Dad! Don’t throw the controller!”

“What’re you talking about?… It fell… from my hand.”

“No, you threw it down. Come on, let’s keep playing.”

“Kiddo, I think this is way too violent. You shouldn’t be playing this.”

“You’re just saying that because I’m way better than you.”

He was right, mostly. Something had shifted in our relationship. I was always the best at pretty much everything we did together. And now, he had surpassed me in something. At the age of nine.

I’d like to say my chest swelled with pride at that. But after watching him bury a knife into it for twenty minutes straight, I instead gave him a pat on his back.

“You got ten more minutes, then wrap it up.”

“Ten minutes?!”

“I’ll tell you what, when you’re done, we can go outside and shoot some hoops. Sound good?”

“Aww, yeah!” He said, with that toothy grin I loved so much.

He wouldn’t be grinning soon however, because I took him to the hoop. Repeatedly.

Some might say that last part was a bit harsh, and that maybe I’m a little immature. Hell, even just a tad insecure.

But I won that basketball game 15-5. And that’s what counts. I mean, not crossing him over and taking him to the hole repeatedly. Not that.

No, what counts is we had some honest-to-god, father/son bonding time.

Yeah, that’s what I meant. Jeez.



The motorcade of black Range Rovers gleamed unnaturally under the neon beams. Thousands of red, white, and blue lights flickered overhead. A fifty-foot sign stood high above them, it read Trump.

Vladimir Putin and his envoy of advisors and bodyguards, exited their vehicles and quickly made their way up the stairs and into this new White House. If one were to look closely at the Russian president just then, they would have noticed a smirk. No one did though, as all of his entourage were either shielding their eyes, or squinting as they went.

A disheveled man with haunted eyes, greeted the party at the door.

“Hey, how are ya? I’m the uh, the Secretary of Things. The Donald’s waiting in his circle room.”

“You mean oval office?” asked Putin’s advisor. A tall, well-dressed man.

The Secretary of Things began to cough uncontrollably. He pulled a cigarette butt from his pants pocket and proceeded to straighten it out and light the burnt end.

“It’s uh, more of a circle… but whatevah.” replied the Secretary, once he managed to take a pull from the mangled butt.

He led Putin and the group further into the building. They navigated a maze of dusty corridors, adorned with garish self-portraits of various members of the Trump clan. The constant ringing of slot machine bells could be heard in the distance. The group finally stopped at a giant set of golden doors. Across the center of the doors, in letters made from blood diamonds the size of baby-fists, read one word: Trump

Putin and his group entered the oval office (or circle room). The décor was a hideous plaid laden 70’s vintage. A ten foot oil painting of the Donald stood over a freshly stuffed panda bear, on the far wall. Under it, President Trump sat at his desk. He was deep in concentration, as he fervently flipped through a copy of Star Magazine. Vice President Pence sat on the couch nearby, passionately devouring a taco salad.

The Secretary of Things began to cough uncontrollably once again.

“Jesus, Joe!” exclaimed Trump, when he broke away from his issue of Star Magazine, and finally noticed his guests.

“Oh. Hey V-diddy!” Trump stood and greeted the Russian President.

“Glad to see you could make it. Can I get you a coffee or maybe a voucher for the buffet?” Putin took a seat on the other side of the desk.

“I did not travel all this way to make, how you say, small talk.” replied Putin, coolly.

Vice President Pence, eyebrows raised, set the remains of his taco salad aside. “Um, if you’re not gonna use that voucher, I can—“

President Tump cut him off. “No! Goddamn it, Pence. You’re eating us into another recession!”

President Trump then fell into his chair, let out a sigh, and once again turned his attention to Putin.

“Let’s get to it. I promised the American people that things would start to change around here. And when I moved the White House to Atlantic City, they knew I meant what I said. Now, let’s talk business.”

“You’re speaking of Syria?”


“The sanctions?”


“What then?!” asked Putin, visibly annoyed now.

“Pooty… I need to build a wall.”

“I do not understand.”

“Well, ever since I got rid of all those undocumented workers, I’ve been getting gouged on pricing. My voters wanted a bigger wall, and I’m trying to give em the biggest fucking wall since an Irishman laid a brick.”

“But you have a wall already… and it is very large.” Putin said, confused.

“I know that Pooty. And it’s a great wall. The best. But I need another one… in the north.”

Putin shook his head in disbelief. “For Canada? But why? They are how you say, white.”

“Listen half my damn country moved up there. And I don’t want any of those traitors ever coming back! So I’m gonna build the biggest goddamn wall in the world to keep em out! It’s gonna be the best!”

“And, uh, I need to keep what’s left of us, in.” added President Trump, nervously. Trump leaned in closer now, and his demeanor softened as he continued.

“But I gotta be honest, these damn construction costs are killing me.”

“And what is this to do with Russia?” asked Putin, clearly enjoying where this conversation was headed.

“Look, I need some people that’ll be grateful for the opportunity to do some honest-to-god work. And not because they need more money, or benefits, or any of that other crap.”

“So you want undocumented workers?”

“Exactly!” Trump said, smiling back. This guy’s not so bad, he thought.

“But you had them.” Putin replied, confused once again.

“I don’t dwell on the past. I move forward. And I know if anybody has a line on some cheap laborers, it’s my ruskie buddies.”

President Trump emphasized the ruskie buddies part with a wink and a playful nod toward Vladimir Putin.

He did it again. And then one last time.

Putin began to chuckle, and then that chuckle turned into maniacal laughter.

He wiped away his tears as he spoke. “Ahh, yes. I can help you with this. Do you know of gulags?”

“Sure. It’s like a stew, right?”

At the notion of stew, Pence’s eyes lit up. He thought a stew would fit quite nicely into his now empty taco shell.

“Eh, not exactly. Let us just say it is where I like to keep a lot of my work force.” replied Putin

Trump smiled triumphantly, but Pence sighed and looked down once more at the empty taco salad shell that sat before him. Why was it never enough, he wondered. 

“So then you’re in!” exclaimed Trump.

“What does Russia get in return?”

“What are ya looking for, Pooty?”

Putin shrugged. “Hmm, maybe some border problems go away. Maybe we get some good PR for once, and—“

Putin stopped suddenly, as he realized what he really, really wanted.

“Oh! Maybe we can work out something with Disney or Nickelodeon? Russia has much love for the singing and dancing of the children.”

President Trump slowly stood from his chair. “I’ll do you one better! How about I give you a tour of the labs where we make all those little weirdos.”

Vladimir Putin rose from his chair as well. A cold, wolf-like grin spread across his thin lips. President Trump extended his hand.

“Hell, by this time next year you’ll have a warehouse full of adorable song and dance bots.” declared Trump.

“And you will have another very large wall.” replied Putin.

The two men shook on it.

And that’s how Russia got Mikhail Mouse.


Tom Brady was in the middle of a story. One of those Tom Brady type of stories. You know the ones. Lots of name dropping and heroic feats. He finally took a breath. A toothy grin beamed on his otherwise expressionless face. His eyes were devoid of any thought or emotion.

Anyone else, and I might have considered it an impressive poker face. But we were playing blackjack, and Tom Brady was a moron.

“And then I said heck yeah I can act! Listen to this! Oi! Ows bout passing em sweet rolls, ya lovely bird! And that’s when Matt Damon passed me the bread.”

Tom Brady laughed triumphantly at the last part. As if Matt Damon handing him a basket of bread rolls was the greatest thing on Earth. And who knew, maybe it was.

Drew Brees cut in, “I don’t get it.”

His birthmark morphed like a Rorschach test as he spoke. Tom Brady eyed him impatiently.

“What don’t you get, DREW?”

“What you said. I don’t get it.”

“It’s an accent, DREW. An English accent, Dreeew. You know, like from England.”

Drew looked nervous. Real nervous. He shouldn’t have questioned Tom. We all knew that.

Hell, I was nervous too, but not because Drew Brees couldn’t understand Tom Brady’s terrible English accent. And it wasn’t because of Drew’s distracting birthmark (Although that was also becoming a problem).

No, I was nervous for one reason, and one reason alone. It was 1 a.m. on a Saturday night, in Las Vegas. And two of the three starting quarterbacks for my NFL parlay bet, were currently sharing drunken anecdotes at my blackjack table.

If I didn’t play my cards right (pun noted) I was going to lose a lot of money.

“Oh.” Drew finally sighed. “Yeah, okay.”

“Fucking right it’s okay.” Tom Brady shot back.

“It’s more than okay! I’m gonna be in Matt’s new movie. He said so himself… Me and Matt are boys.” Tom’s chest swelled with pride, as he proclaimed that last bit.

He really liked Matt Damon. And who could blame him?

We all nodded in agreement, and the game carried on. As is usual with the dealer, I was cleaning house. By my estimation, Drew Brees was down six grand. Tom Brady was down at least fifty.

Tom stared at his pair of kings, and then curiously glanced over at my nine of clubs. We locked eyes. I knew what he intended to do. And it was very dumb.

I softened my expression, trying to telepathically implore him to wave his hand. The same hand that had thrown a thousand touchdown passes. How was it possible that such a gifted hand could be connected to such a broken mind? Of course, his hand did not waver.

“I wanna split them.” Tom Brady barked.

“Sir, are you sure you—“

Tom cut me off. “Dude! I’m sure. Okay?!”

“Okay” I sighed, hoping he would comprehend the unspoken disappointment in my voice. The more this dummy lost, the longer he would play. The longer he played, the longer Drew Brees played. Because of course, Tom Brady made Drew Brees do stuff. All kinds of stuff. Everyone knew it.

And if I couldn’t get them out of here, and on a plane back to their respective cities, in the next couple of hours, I was going to lose a lot of money.

“Split em already, DUDE!” Screamed Tom.

Drew Brees and I both flinched hard.

He doubled his bet, and I split his kings. He nailed aces on both hands. Because he’s Tom Brady. And for the briefest of moments, I was actually happy for the dumb quarterback.

Just then, as part of his celebration, Tom Brady licked his finger and stuck it in Drew Brees’s ear. Drew squirmed away and wiped himself off. Tom laughed jovially, while Drew’s birthmark shapeshifted into a single tear. This was getting hard to watch.

Suddenly, the lights went bright. Too bright. I was blind.

I stepped back and rubbed my eyes. When my vision returned, I glanced at the area of the table that had blinded me. Where once there was only emptiness, now sat a glistening man. A man made of what seemed to be tiny silver lights.

My eyes further adjusted to the glare that beamed from the man. And now, I saw that it was just a shirt and top-hat made from a strange form of silver sequin, which apparently brought about temporary blindness.

There before me sat Cam Newton. The quarterback for the third team in my NFL parlay. Lady Luck was a heartless femme fatale.

Tom and Cam exchanged cold head nods, as Cam patted Drew on the back.

“Nice shirt.” Tom snarked.

“Sorry if it’s deflated your game.” Cam shot back.

Drew chuckled, but Tom shot him a look and he quickly quieted down.

It was too much. I had to say something. They needed to listen to reason.

“I, uh, I thought you guys were all playing tomorrow. Shouldn’t you get some rest or something? You know, for your big games?”

Judging from the stone-faced silence that sat across from me. I had spoken out of turn.

“Who the hell do you think you are, dude?!” Tom asked.

“I, um, was just—“

“No.” Tom said, cutting me off. “No. I don’t need an explanation from you, okay? So shut it. I’m Tom fucking Brady. I’m gonna be in a Matt Damon movie. So don’t you fucking lecture me.”

“Yeah.” added Drew, chiming in like one of Biff’s buddies from Back to the Future. Maybe the one with those weird sunglasses.

Cam just shook his head, nonchalantly. “As long as I don’t hurt myself making shitloads of money at this table, we gonna win no matter what.”

He flexed and kissed each bicep.

It was a little weird, but I smiled at the gesture. Sure, Cam was wearing the ugliest hat and shirt I had ever seen, but the man was confident. And that counted for something.

Maybe this was just business as usual for these three. Maybe I was looking too much into it. Maybe even, that hat and shirt actually worked when paired together.

And that’s when I noticed Sarah, our table’s waitress.

It was too late though, she had already looked directly at Cam’s shirt. Her eyes glossed over, like a doomed lover turned into stone, in one of those old Greek myths about really ugly outfits that turned lovers into stone.

She stumbled forward, uncontrollably. Her drink tray flew from her hands, as she braced herself for the fall. The tray now spun through the air, heading toward a seated, and still unaware Cam Newton.

In that same moment, as if the change in the air pressure was enough to alert him, Cam jumped to his feet, and spun to face the flying tray of glasses. With cat-like agility, he hurtled sideways and dodged the tray.

Drew turned as well, but it was too late, and the tray of glasses smashed into his face.

The table was silent for a long second, before Tom broke that silence by laughing maniacally and pointing at Drew.

“YES! That was in your FACE, Brees!”

Cam’s eyes lit up, and he stared at me expectantly.

“Did you see me dodge that shit, bro?! Did you?!”

He reenacted the move, with a quick juke step to his left… the move was followed by a strange popping noise. Cam Newton had blown out his knee in celebration.

He instantly clutched at his ruined joint, and crumpled to the floor in pain. Meanwhile, Drew Brees wiped the beer and blood from his face. His birthmark was now a bloody smear and it was growing.

Amidst the chaos, Tom Brady had moved onto the slot machines. He began chatting with Linda, at the Pirates of the Caribbean machine. This was Linda’s favorite slot machine, when she wasn’t turning tricks on the strip.

Cam crawled toward the exit. The blinding illumination from his outfit lit the way, but also blinded any good-hearted bystander who tried to get close enough to help him up.

Drew Brees stood from the table, and shot me a hard look. He was a man transformed. His birthmark had somehow continued to grow, and now covered his entire face. Drew was angry. And I liked him even less when he was angry.

With one tiny hand, he clutched the blackjack table and flipped it over. Brees threw his head back and let out a guttural roar.

He was promptly tackled by security and repeatedly tazed. It took four three-hundred pound Samoans to keep him down. Saints fans everywhere would have been proud.

Tom Brady had disappeared. So had Linda. I quietly pondered who out of the two had the more exotic STDs. But in my heart of hearts, I knew Tom was a heavy favorite on that bet.

My parlay was as broken as the blackjack table that laid before me.

It was true, the NFL was a cruel sport. Crueler still, was the fate handed out to those foolish enough to try and profit from its unforgiving nature.

And somewhere out in that steaming Las Vegas night, walked Tom Brady, in a warm pair of Ugg boots. Without a care in the world.