A Late Night Phone Call...
Between Peyton Manning and Chris Simms.
A telephone rings in the darkened Simms' house.
A battered figure pulls on a bathrobe and hobbles to the phone, nursing his left foot and cradling his left hand. Ice packs are strapped to both his knees and his shoulders. The stench of Icy Hot fills the air.
"Hello?" grumbles the man.
"Chris?" A hayseed accent inquires from the other end. "That you?"
"Oh, uh, hi, Peyton," Chris Simms answers.
"Hey, Chris. I, uh, I saw your game yesterday."
Simms settles onto the sofa, cradling the phone between his bruised shoulder and a pillow. He readjusts the ice pack on his left knee. "You did, huh? Well, not one of the better ones, I'm afraid."
"Oh, it was all right," Peyton replies. "Them guys are kinda tough up there in New England."
Simms winces at the pain in his arm, "You can say that again."
"Plus," Peyton adds, "It's cold. And they don't got no roof. My daddy says that it's a sin to let them run around in the snow and all. He says football's a gentleman's game and gentlemen don't get dirty. Daddy says they ain't no need to be playing out in the elements. He said if God wanted us to play football outside, he'd a never given us Astroturf."
"Doesn't Eli play outside?"
Peyton pauses, "Daddy don't like Eli."
"Oh," Simms replies, "I see."
There's an uncomfortable pause.
"So, uh, Peyton," Simms continues, "I, uh, caught some of your game today."
There is silence on the other end punctuated by what appears to be quiet weeping.
"Uh, Peyton? You all right?"
Peyton sniffles, "I'm fine, Chris. I'm just fine."
"Well, hey, you can't win 'em all, right?" Simms shrugs.
"I, I guess not," Peyton sniffles. "But now everybody's talkin' 'bout how I won't never be as good as my daddy. It's just so hard. You don't know. Nobody knows."
"Actually, I do know." Simms replies.
"Oh, uh, right." Peyton says. "But, I mean, we was supposed to win it all this year, ya know? We was supposed to win all our games and finally beat them Patriots and win the Super Bowl. Your team wasn't supposed to be no good. But the Colts are God's chosen team. I mean, that's what God wants, right?"
Simms begins to get irritated, "How do you figure?"
"How else do you suppose they got a whole Pro Bowl's worth of players all busted up in New England? And they gotta play the tough teams. We been playing the likes of Houston all season long!" Peyton begins to grow animated and his voice raises. "How they doin' it? Must be black magic! That ain't right. Daddy says that ain't right!"
Simms rolls his eyes and shakes his head, wincing at the pain in his neck. "Peyton, you can still win, you know? This was only one game."
Peyton, near hysteria, starts crying openly. His words are choked with sobs, "BUT DADDY SAYS WE WAS SUPPOSED TO WIN ALL THE GAMES! WE WAS SUPPOSED TO!"
Simms sits up, preparing to hang up, "Peyton, look, it's going to be fine. You could still win. Look, why don't you talk to your dad about this? I'm sure he'll make you feel better."
Sniffling, Peyton replies, "Daddy won't take my calls. Momma says he's talkin' to Eli."
"Oh, well, why don't you just take some Ambien and try to get a good night's sleep?" Simms says, "I'm sure you'll feel better in the morning."
"Yeah, okay, that's probably a good idea," Peyton answers, "Except..."
"Except what, Peyton?" Simms asks, annoyed.
"Except it's just, I can't sleep too good. 'Cause whenever I close my eyes, I, uh. I see him. I see him coming towards me."
"See who?" Simms asks.
"He just keeps comin' and nobody can stop him. He just keeps comin'."
"Who keeps coming, Peyton?"
"THEY CAN'T STOP HIM! AND HE KEEPS COMING! AND HE'S LIKE A RUNAWAY FREIGHT TRAIN AND HE WON'T STOP COMIN! AND HE'S COMIN' RIGHT AT ME!"
"Peyton! Who's coming right at you?" Simms demands.
"Willie McGinest!" Peyton cries, "He's always comin' at me! WHY DON'T NOBODY COVER MCGINEST? I see him in my sleep!"
"Oh," Simms replies, lying back on the couch and cradling his sore arm, "Uh, me, uh, me too."