Under the bright lights of the Pismo Beach Man-O-Dome, tens of thousands of fans gathered to watch the two top teams in the Football League of America duke it out on the gridiron. The lights were bright, the cheers were loud, the crowd was out of control and high up in a cozy, temperature controlled glass press booth, two middle aged ex-football players turned sportscasters provided their own brand of sports commentary.
Chuck “The Flame” McGraw had maintained his ruggedly chiseled features over the years, though rumor had it this was the result of botox and the occasional off the books steroid injection here and there. Whatever he had done to preserve his hair, it was working, because his locks looked fabulous.
His cohost had seen better days. “Boltin’” Brad Wexler had embraced the aging process. His head was bald and smooth. His once muscular build had given way to a pot belly. Wrinkles lined his face. He didn’t care. He’d was widely considered the best player of his generation and no one was able to take that away from him.
Both men wore flashy suits and sported flashier smiles. Both had perfected a cheesy, over the top sportscaster style.
“Welcome back to the Man-O-Dome, sports fans,” Chuck said. “You’re watching the BBC, no not the one from across the pond, but the Big Ball Channel. That’s right. If you love watching big men throw around their big balls, then you’ve come to the right place. Haven’t our ball loving fans at home come to the right place, Bryce?”
“They sure have, Chuck,” Brad said. “And let me tell you, if you love big balls then you’re in for a treat tonight. The undefeated Walla Walla Weasels are about to take on the underdog Pismo Beach Manatees in what is shaping to be the Cinderella story of the season. The Manatees haven’t successfully moved enough balls across a football field to win the FLA Championship since 1969.”
“Oh, the Summer of 1969,” Chuck said. “Now there was a great song and also an even better time I spent groping your sister inside a dilapidated tool shed on your uncle’s crawfish farm.”
Brad pointed playfully at Chuck. “Uh oh. I’m going to have to watch this bad boy. He’s hot tonight!”
Chuck licked his finger, pressed it against his arm, then made a hissing sound. “They don’t call me the Flame for nothing.”
“I thought they called you the Flamer,” Brad said.
“What’s that?” Chuck asked.
“Nothing,” Bryce said. “Now, sports fans, we here at the Big Ball Channel have always been proud to make history. We’re the first channel to bring every kind of ball handling experience imaginable right to your television set. Tonight, we’ve got football, but we’ve also got baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf…”
“Whatever your preferred ball related sport is,” Chuck said. “We’ve got it, because we love balls, and you love balls.”
Bryce looked directly into the camera. “We love it whenever athletes compete over who gets to move a ball to a location that will allow a point to be scored first and we love bringing that action to you.”
“We’ve been doing just that ever since the inception of cable television,” Chuck said.
“But tonight,” Bryce said. “We’re going to introduce a new sports viewing experience. Yes, for the first time ever, tonight’s game will be simulcast with dual viewing experiences, depending on whether or not you, the viewer at home, selected the liberal sports package, or the conservative sports package.”
Both men grew silent. They lost their fake smiles. Their vocal tones went from faux elation to grim depression. They waited in silence for a few moments before they pressed on.
“Right,” Chuck said. “Because apparently, that’s where we are as a nation now. Divided as hell, and totally screwed. Am I right, Brad?”
“You sure are, Chuck,” Brad said. “It seems like it was just yesterday that, no matter what our petty differences were, people of all political persuasions could at least gather around the old water cooler and have a fun chat about how their favorite athletic mercenaries hired by the billionaire owner of the team located in their geographic location performed their ball handling duties.”
“But no more,” Chuck said. “Like everything else in this country, which, if you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, is most assuredly about to end it’s rich, vibrant 243 year history with a bloody civil war that will no doubt give rise to a post-apocalyptic hell scape where people will be forced to fight in ritual combat for scraps of food while wearing leather pants.”
“Everything has become politicized,” Brad said. “You can’t watch a late-night comedy show without having to sit through the host neglecting his joke telling duties so he can bore you with a twenty-minute public policy lecture, complete with graphs and flow charts.”
“Nor can you go out on the town and enjoy a nice meal without having some d-bag throw a drink in your face when he overhears you saying you voted against his or her preferred candidate,” Chuck said.
“It’s hell out there,” Brad said.
“Complete, total anarchy,” Chuck said. “We should just release the dogs of war and get it over with. Humanity’s done for.”
“Oh, the end times will come soon enough,” Brad said. “Because now, politics have even been injected into football. I wonder whose fault that is?”
“Gee,” Chuck said. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s you and all your coastal elite, brie cheese sniffing chode guzzlers who can’t stop babbling on and on about how great it is whenever a rich, spoiled celebrity athlete who gets paid millions of dollars to handle balls wants to take a knee during the national anthem, not only as a sign of disrespect to our forefathers who built this great nation, but to the many, brave service men and women who have fought, died, or been injured while supporting it?”
“Really?” Brad asked. “And here, all this time, I thought it was because of that unhinged, unchained junkyard dog of a president of yours, foaming at the mouth all over Lifebox, posting vitriolic hatred towards socially conscious young men who are just trying to point out the inequalities and injustices suffered on a daily basis by minorities who are just trying to make their way in the world despite a racially biased criminal justice system?”
Chuck rolled his eyes. “Oh, here we go again. Shit all over the cops even though you know good and well if you ever had to pin a badge to your chest, strap a gun to your hip and protect and serve for one day, you’d be shitting yourself like the pathetic little crybaby that you are.”
“That’s a pretty oblivious statement, Chuck,” Brad said. “Almost as oblivious as you, a wealthy, white privileged cis-male are to the struggles of the many historically disenfranchised, marginalized people who have been given the shaft for years.”
Chuck took a deep breath. Brad joined him.
“Brad,” Chuck said. “Really. Forget about the country for a second. How did you and I get so divided? We were friends once, you and I.”
Brad wiped a tear from his eye. “I promised I wouldn’t do this.”
“You’re my eldest son’s godfather for crying out loud,” Chuck said.
“You were the best man at my wedding,” Brad said.
“Remember that night in Puerto Vallarta?” Chuck asked.
“How could I forget?” Brad asked. “The breathtaking sunset. The white wine. The bottle of lotion that we used to take turns rubbing down each other’s hard, rippling muscles until they glistened like…”
The two manly men stared into one another’s eyes, moving their expressionless faces closer and closer, their lips parted, their heads cocked to opposite sides. Ever so abruptly, the men backed off and returned to their positions.
“I hate your guts, Chuck,” Brad said.
“Not as much as I hate yours, Brad,” Chuck replied.
“Seriously,” Chuck said. “All these years I thought I knew you, but then you went and cast your vote for Vinny Stugotz, the most hateful, racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobe…”
“Those are some great pieces of rhetoric to use to chop your political opponent off at the knees, Brad,” Chuck said. “But if your beloved Democratic party is ever going to win sustainable victories, they’re going to have to stop all the insults and start using their words.”
“Holy shit, I hate Stugotz,” Brad said. “The man’s a walking dumpster fire fueled by a thousand-pound bag of moldy pit bull shit.”
“That’s classy, Brad,” Chuck said. “Real, classy. You know, I didn’t vote for Obama and disagreed strongly with his political positions, but I dare you to find one comment I made that was half as rude about President Obama as you just made about President Stugotz. You’ll never find it because I never made it. Unlike you, I understand how our political system works. Every four years, the parties duke it out. The winning party gets to lead. The losing party gets to form the opposition. In four more years, everyone goes at it again. If you won’t have respect for the man, at least have respect for the office.”
“Why should I have respect for the office?” Brad asked. “Stugotz doesn’t even have respect for it. You want me to respect a man who cheated on his wife with the star of Mighty Massive Mammaries Part 56 and then paid her off to shut her trap?”
“Oh,” Chuck said. “Like you cared when President Wannadingle cheated on Corrupt Emily who, by the way, was the key player in helping her husband sweep his perverted behavior under the rug.”
“You take that saint’s name out of your turd sucking mouth, McGraw,” Brad said.
“Well,” Chuck said. “If you’re going to use that kind of language…”
“Your president uses that kind of language and worse every day,” Chuck said. “He’s an embarrassment this nation will never live down and by the way, let’s just get one thing straight. Former 1990s era president Fred Wannadingle wasn’t running for president. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Emily Wannadingle was and I’ll have you know, she won the popular vote.”
“Who cares?” Chuck said. “Learn how to play the game, numb nuts. You have to learn the electoral vote to win and maybe you people would have if you hadn’t treated everyone in middle America like a bunch of dopey hicks and hayseeds.”
Brad gritted his teeth. “God, I’d love to smash your face into hamburger meat.”
“I’d love to see you try it,” Chuck replied. “You know you’ll be spitting teeth out like chiclets if you do.”
The duo growled at each other like a pair of rabid dogs before getting lost in each others’ eyes once more.
Brad sighed. “The only thing that stops me from kicking your ass is that wonderful night.”
“Yes,” Chuck replied. “If it weren’t for that beautiful evening when we held our moist, supple, glistening naked bodies against each other and indulged a love that dared not speak its name, I would have stomped your face into road pizza by now.
The sportscasters returned their gazes to the camera.
“Anyway,” Chuck said. “For most of the game, what you’ll see on the liberal or the conservative package will be more or less the same.”
“All the stuff we all agree on will be available for everyone to see,” Brad said.
“The coin toss, the kickoff, the passes, the interceptions, the touchdowns,” Chuck said. “We’ll all enjoy that together.”
“For now,” Chuck said.
“But then,” Brad said. “When those American hating bastards wants to disgrace Old Glory, those who bought the conservative package will be treated to a live performance by sensational band Billy Bob Dugan and the Cornpone Crew, who will be bringing you their brand-new hit single, “America: Love It Or Eat a Bucket of Dicks.”
“OK,” Brad said. “And for all of you non-racists out there in TV land…”
“You know,” Chuck said. “You can’t just keep calling me a racist, Brad. You’ve known me for thirty years. You know I’m not a racist. Supporting low taxes, limited government, and strong borders doesn’t mean I’m a racist.”
“Sorry,” Brad said. “If you vote for a racist then you’re a racist. Anyway, for all you folks at home who don’t have freshly starched klan sheets in your closet, you’ll be able to view these brave young men take a stand against police brutality by refusing to participate in the glorification of a flag that represents a nation that has screwed them and their ancestors every step of the way.”
“Maybe if they hate this country so much, they should leave, dipshit,” Chuck said.
“Maybe if their ancestors hadn’t been clapped in chains and dragged here from their homeland only to be persecuted long after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, they wouldn’t be fucking up your precious patriotic jerk off time,” Brad said.
Chuck feigned a smile. “Oh Brad, your wife’s a whore and everybody knows it.”
“What’s that now?” Brad asked.
“Moving on,” Chuck said. “When it’s time for locker room interviews, conservative viewers will only see those players who respect our flag and its status as a beacon of freedom around the world.”
“And,” Brad said. “Liberals will only see interviews of players who don’t want to see people of color get shot in the face by armed goon squads whenever they simply dare to poke their faces out their front door.”
“You are a horrible excuse for a human being, Brad,” Chuck said.
“I hope you get hit by a bus and die on impact,” Brad replied.
“I hope so too,” Chuck said. “That will surely beat the over-taxed, under-employed, over-regulated, everyone on welfare because they’re too busy self-identifying as hamsters who want to marry pieces of cottage cheese smeared toast hellscape that you and your godless, atheist, Commie pals have cooked up. Damn it, you shitheads really will be the death of us all.”
“Chuck,” Brad said. “If you take a minute to stop planning your next cross burning and tell our viewers at home about the half-time show…”
“Right,” Chuck said. “We have some great half-time entertainment for folks of all political leanings to enjoy. Conservatives, Billy Bob and the Cornpone Crew will be back to perform, “My Pick-Up Truck Will Buttfuck Your Electric Car Any Day of the Week.”
“And for you smart, educated liberals, truly, the world’s betters that everyone should shut up and worship right now, you’ll be taking in a performance by rap artist Lady Cyanide, who will be performing her chart topping song, Die Piggy Die, which, no matter what inbred conservative rubes like Chuck will try to tell you, has nothing to do with wanting police officer to die, but rather, is just a protest against police brutality.”
“A demand for police officers to die is literally in the title, Brad,” Chuck said.
“Look, fart fume, if you didn’t pay attention in English class the day your teacher at whatever flyover country town’s high school you went to was explaining allegories, then I’m not going to explain them to you now,” Brad said.
Chuck and Brad stared at the cameras, doing their best to avoid looking at one another.
“Oh, when the end times come, I will enjoy feeding you your own entrails,” Chuck said.
“And I will enjoy the irony of cutting off your dick and feeding it to you, thus shutting your homophobic mouth once and for all,” Brad said.
“I’ve never once said a single homophobic word,” Chuck replied.
“You are the biggest homophobe around,” Brad said.
“I don’t care what two dudes do with each other,” Chuck said. “I’m just not like you. I’m not going to throw a ticker tape parade and put on a fireworks spectacle every time one dude sucks another dude off. Newsflash. It’s the current year. No one cares if you’re a dude who likes dicks anymore. Dudes who like dicks are old hat now.”
“Every time a dude comes out of the closet it’s a cause celebre,” Brad said. “You’ll figure that out when we take over.”
“I’d like to see you try it,” Chuck said.
“We own the cities,” Brad said. “We have the numbers.”
“We have the guns,” Chuck replied.
“Fuck,” Brad said.
“How do you like the second amendment now?” Chuck asked.
“Fuck your amendment,” Brad said. “Only cops should have guns.”
Chuck slapped his forehead. “You know…I can’t…I’m not even going to…”
On the right hand of the screen, a box appeared. It showed a happy little boy in a wheelchair just before the camera panned to a football player with ball in hand.
“You know Brad,” Chuck said. “We’re about to witness one of the precious few moments left in this sport that the left and the right can enjoy together. Little Andy Culpepper from right here in Pismo Beach long dreamed of growing up to become just like his hero, Pismo Beach Manatee quarterback Lawrence Collins, but alas, last year, at age eight, he was struck with a rare disease known as spinal flatulence recoil syndrome which, to put it in layman’s terms, means that whenever Little Andy cuts the cheese, there’s a high risk he might just one day blast his spinal cord right out of his tucas. His doctors believe that the precocious little tyke is ok for now due to an experimental pair of cast iron underpants that keeps his innards on the inside, but how this affliction will affect the young lad in his teen years is anyone’s guess.”
“Yes,” Brad said. “If only President Stugotz hadn’t screwed with Obamacare, this young man might be able to fart with dignity, but alas…”
“Damn it, Brad,” Chuck said. “Must you ruin every moment with your leftist bullshit?”
“For as long as you Nazis are willing to ruin life itself with your non-stop assault on mankind’s unassailable right to healthcare, then yes, I will…”
“Maybe if a few of those flag hating millionaires you love so much would take five minutes out of their busy off-field schedules of getting arrested for bringing guns to night clubs and fucking strippers, they might hold a few fundraisers for sick kids like Little Andy and then the already overburdened taxpayers won’t have to…”
“Chuck,” Brad said. “If you could shut the filthy, stinking sewer you call a mouth for one minute so we can watch Little Andy catch a pass thrown by Collins, it would be appreciated.”
“Right,” Chuck said. “And Collins has the ball. Oh, he just pointed at Little Andy and gave him a wink. By the way, I’m told that the ball was signed by Collins himself and win, lose, or draw, Collins has already publicly announced that this will be his last season so he can explore his newfound career of acting in action films poorly, so I’ve got to assume that ball’s got to be worth something.”
“Maybe Little Andy can sell it so he can afford a new pair of blast resistant underpants so you and your rich Republican friends can save a little extra on your taxes and buy yourselves a third or maybe even a fourth house in Aruba, you self-centered pack of miserable skinflints.”
“That’s all well and great, Brad,” Chuck said. “But I’ve never seen you donate a single cent of your fat paycheck to charity and yet, you always have plenty of money to give your wife a new titty upgrade every year.”
“You leave Elaine’s titties out of this!” Brad shouted.
“Back to the action,” Chuck said. “Collins is going back, back, way back and oh! He’s thrown the ball! Damn, Collins has still got it! His arm is like a cannon! Why he’s retiring in his prime this sportscaster will never know! And the ball is moving through the air and its about to land in the stands and Little Andy can hardly contain his excitement. Why the smile on that boy’s face probably means a lot to his parents, that’s for sure. Here it comes! The ball’s on a downward arc and it’s about to be…what?!”
“What was that?!” Brad shouted.
“Did you see that?” Chuck asked.
“I did,” Brad said.
“Viewers at home, we’re going to put the replay up on the screen,” Chuck said. “As you can see, the ball was about to land in Little Andy’s hands when a chubby, goofy looking doofus just reached out and intercepted the ball.”
“Wow,” Brad said. “The crowd does not look happy. Whoever that tub of lard is, he’s in big trouble.”
“Given the looks on the angry faces on and off the field, I’d say this idiot just signed his own death warrant,” Chuck said.
“The players are pounding their fists together,” Brad said. “An indication that this moron is in for a bonafide ass pounding, and not the fun kind, like the one we had in Puerto…”
“Let’s focus on the gruesome spectacle that’s unfolding before our eyes, Brad,” Chuck said. “The fans are grabbing any blunt objects they can get their hands on – umbrellas, rolled up newspapers, hell some of them are ripping arms off of the absurdly overpriced yet ludicrously small seats.”
“One can only assume those arms will be used to bash this dimbulb’s brains in,” Brad said.
“Now, if I were this guy, I’d hand the ball right on over to the kid and run,” Chuck said. “If the get kids the ball, that will at least settle the crowd down but…no! He just tucked the ball under his arm and he’s making a break for it!”
“He’s running up the rows!” Brad shouted. “He’s pushing row ten, row twenty, row thirty!”
“Some old broad just tried to intercept his face with her pocketbook!” Chuck said.
“Swing and a miss!” Brad said.
“But will he miss the hot dog cart the vendor is rolling right towards him?” Chuck asked.
“Whoa!” Brad said. “This guy just avoided being squished like a pancake. You know, for a portly fellow, he does have some moves, I’ll give him that.”
“He’s got some fancy footwork, indeed,” Chuck said. “And boy, this crowd looks worse than the villagers who stormed Dr. Frankenstein’s castle. The ball thief is going back, back, back and he’s gone! He’s gone to the bathroom! Will he find refuge in a stall, Brad?”
Brad and Chuck stood up. Each man pounded his respective right fist into his respective left hand.
“I don’t know, you right wing fascist lunatic,” Brad said. “But what say we call a truce and come together in the spirit of peace and harmony and help that crowd beat the ever loving shit out of this butt goblin until he pisses blood and shits out his spleen?”
“Sounds good to me, you whiney little libtard snowflake.”