Tuesday, February 5, 2008

James Thompson: Practice Squad Hero

This past Thursday was payday, and seeing that monthly boost to my bank account nearly brought a tear to my eye. I mentioned before that January is a rough month on finances, and being handed a paystub on the 31st is like crossing the finish line after a marathon. You may not have done as impressively as others around you, but at least you finished the race.

A wise man would consider his upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. and its high drinking expenses, and hold off on spending any of that paycheck until then. If you’re looking for the keyword of that sentence, it’s “wise.” I, therefore, decided to go out on the town with my friend Ashhad and some of his boys on Saturday night.

We met up at Ashhad’s apartment to pregame, and after two glasses of Hennessey and a glass of Smirnoff, I was feeling right. The five of us hopped in a cab and headed to Calico Jack’s, a newer bar/night club. The club’s name is a little misleading, given that it is also the name of a brand of spiced rum that serves as a discounted alternative to Captain Morgan. But there was nothing “discount” about the alcohol in this place. Allegheny County recently instituted a 10% “Drink Tax,” which has pushed the price of a domestic beer to $4 in the downtown nightspots. It’s not a big deal when you’re only buying for yourself; but when you’re buying a round of drinks for you and four other people, it adds up.

Given my state of mental lubrication, however, I quickly came to accept the new world order. This was my first visit to C-Jack’s, and I have to say I was impressed by the level of talent on hand. It’s located near Heinz Field and PNC Park on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, which is an up-and-coming area. And, being that it’s near the ball fields, it is often visited by both professional athletes and young women who dream of adding a famous name to their resume. Translation: the place is a groupie feeding frenzy. Hot girls were everywhere, most of them having chosen to wear the sluttiest outfit in their wardrobes. The bar in the back section of the club is a large rectangle, approximately 50 ft. by 15 ft. And nearly all the way around were girls dancing on top of it while scanning the crowd for any Pirate, Penguin, or Steeler that might be in attendance.

Ashhad and I were standing at the bar admiring these amateur performances (in between rounds of shots, which were being passed around like bullets in a warzone) when I spotted one lovely young lady at the far end. While the other girls were doing their best “look at me—I’m sexy,” baby girl was popping off with the “this p***y could be yours.” She was wearing a short skirt, and was bent over shaking her sincerities in guys’ faces. I called Ashhad’s attention to her, and at nearly the same exact moment he and I both said “She’s gotta be a stripper.” The clues were numerous: other girls were dancing in one spot, but she was working her way around the bar; she had a backless top on, and a large tattoo was etched across her back; and, without much suggestion, she pulled her top down to reveal her breasts, squeezing them to the drunken admiration of the guys below.

When she started dancing for one of Ashhad’s boys, she told him that her name was “Angel;” when she made her way over to me, I asked her the same question and she said “An—Jessica.” Our assessment proved accurate when she leaned over to my ear and said, “Come visit me at Club Erotica,” which is a popular local strip club. A female “friend” of hers then began rubbing Angel’s thigh while she danced, and offered to kiss her for our viewing—if we coughed up $5. I’m sure there were some inexperienced saps who fell for that offer at some point in the night; we, however, were not them. When the two girls figured this out, they began to kiss each other for the sheer love of the game. Bravo.

The best story of the night, though, took place an hour or so later. Some of my friends have this odd desire to pawn me off as a Pittsburgh Steeler when we’re out at bars and clubs. I have the stature, true. But, for some reason, they seem to care more about potentially landing a na├»ve groupie than they do about my desire to not have to lie to kick it. The only thing I hate more than the seedy, lying aspect of this ploy, are the Pittsburgh Steelers themselves. I hate them with a fiery passion typically reserved for villains in Shakespearean plays. Therefore, when one of my friends attempts to pass me off as one, I usually shoot a hole through the scam by quickly telling the girls that I am not now, and have never been, a professional football player. Usually. There have been a couple of notable exceptions, and the common denominator among these cases is intoxication. If I’m hammered, I’ll play ball. Figuratively. And literally too, I guess.

This was one of those nights. Ashhad found a girl standing by the bar, and quickly announced to her that I was a Steeler. I opened my mouth, about to shoot the lie dead, but he quickly countered with an adjustment to the story: I wasn’t on their travelling roster; I was just a practice squad player. I don’t know if it was this creative twist to a familiar shtick, the vague look of too-drunk-to-know-better twinkling in her eyes, or the six or seven shots coursing through my veins, but I decided I was game. It wasn’t about getting her sex, though. She was cute, but I wasn’t interested in slutting her out; it was just a game to play.

She asked me what my name was. I said, “Bob,” but not very convincingly. She challenged that I had made up the name, and I realized I needed to step up my game. I replied, “Yeah, I was just kidding. It’s James.” She bought it, and asked what my last name was. “Thompson.” Hook, line, and sinker. “What position do you play?” “Linebacker, but they put me at defensive end sometimes, depending on who we’re playing that week.” I’m firing on all cylinders now.

She told me that I was “so nice,” and not like the team’s stars. She had heard a rumor about Troy Polamalu, specifically. Apparently, he has been spotted around town picking up various slores at clubs, while his wife sits at home unawares. I don’t know the guy, and I really don’t doubt the validity of that claim. But I was in character. I was James Thompson, damn it, and no one was going to spread vicious rumors about my teammate. “Nah, don’t believe all of that hype, sweetie. People just like to make up stories. I know Troy—he’s totally committed to his wife" (in my head I suddenly regretted not knowing his wife’s name; using it right there would’ve been picture-perfect).

Now, to know me is to know just how big a deal this is. I told this story to TJ on the phone on Sunday, and he was awestruck by my commitment. Well, his exact words were “You must’ve been HAMMERED.” But I like to believe that what he really meant was, “That is a fantastic dedication to scene and character portrayal.”

Expect nothing less from James Thompson.


TJ said...

I've been begging Defi to do this for years. Trust, when he comes to Tampa next month, he's gonna be a Bucs practice squad player and I'm gonna be his agent. It's ON.

Spero said...

4 bucks for a beer is nothing. Come to Chicago, shit is crazy..8 bucks for a dam Miller Lite

The D.E.F.I. said...

True enough. I've met people at bars in Pittsburgh that go crazy buying drinks, b/c they're so cheap compared to whatever city that person is from. But when you've grown up around here, that $4 is a little shocking. You can still go to bars outside of the city and pay like $2.50 per beer.

TJ said...

I still remember 50-cent you-call-it night out there. Shit brings a tear to my eye. Only place I've ever been that can compete with Wisconsin on the booze-to-value ratio.

The Hero said...

Funny thing is I used to know Troy at USC and he's quite possibly the nicest man ever.

The other thing you should do is say you played for the Steelers, but just got traded and are on your farewell tour of all the bars/clubs. This will get it for sure fa sho.