Jokers in Exile

March 7, 2008

McCrudden sat on the battered sofa, staring at the telephone. How the hell had it come to this?, he wondered. There he sat in squalor, surrounded by everything he had to show for a lifetime in sport, a career in commentary. A flickering TV in the corner of the room provided the only light, illuminating the pile of dirty laundry that lay between it and the doorway to the bedroom. From inside, there intermittently came a thunderous snoring.

McCrudden reached forward painfully, and picked up an empty beer bottle from the coffee table in front of him. He tossed it through the open doorway, shouting as it clattered against the nightstand, “Briggs, turn over or die or whatever, but shut the hell up!”

There was a snort, followed by a loud squealing eruption, and Mickey Briggs appeared in the doorway, one hand forcing the seat of his pajama bottoms deep between the cheeks of his backside, and the other scratching his tousled mop of hair. He wandered over to the window and peeked out through the torn yellowed shade.

Suddenly, he jumped back in horror. “Holy Christ, Crud,” he yelled, “It’s 1:39 and we have a meeting at the station at two o’clock. Why the hell did you let me sleep so late?”

McCrudden watched as Briggs stumbled back into the bedroom. He got up from the sofa, shaking his head, and walked over to the window, where he pulled back the shade to look across the street at the Exxon station. The revolving sign read 8:13 a.m. and 45 degrees on one side, and as it turned, it revealed the price of unleaded as $1.39 on the other.

“Moron,” he muttered, and sat down, changing the channel to ESPN.

A year before, Bill McCrudden and Mickey Briggs were at the top of their profession, in the 18th tower at the LPGA Invitational in Palm Springs. And then it happened. During a commercial, by a series of unbelievable coincidences, the microphones in the tower were left open, and the conversation between the two announcers bled out into TV land, as fate would have it, over a commercial for a weight loss drug. As the two looked out of the 18th tower, one of the players (a woman of not inconsiderable girth), was bending over to pick her ball out of the hole.

“Dear God,” said Briggs, “it’d be a pretty good hit to carry that ravine right there!”

“Yesss,” mused McCrudden, stroking his chin, “if you slapped her on the ass, I think you could surf to the clubhouse on the ripples.”

This, of course, caused a certain amount of confusion to the viewers, who at the time were looking at an image of an entirely different full-figured lady, who was rollerblading out of control along the boardwalk by the sea.

The switchboard at ABS lit up with irate fat people screaming for an explanation, not to mention the marketing director of one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, who wanted to know if the network was going to similarly deflate his erectile dysfunction campaign.

The careers of two of the best in the business hung in the balance for a while, until the genius Briggs, in an attempt to douse the blaze by coming clean, sent himself and his aging partner plunging over the edge and into the abyss of unemployment by uttering the immortal words, “Look, man, we didn’t even see the fat chick on the beach, ’cause we were looking at the 18th green!”

That did it.

Nine months later, they found themselves living together in a squalid apartment in East Podunk, Idaho. For all intents and purposes, they were unhireable, even by a network affiliate. Briggs, however, was not one to stop trying, and had come up with a plan he claimed would change the way sports were broadcast.

Unfortunately, as McCrudden had pointed out, Briggs had the IQ of a telephone pole, but even this left him undeterred, and he vowed to keep his idea a secret until the meeting he had arranged with Morris Flitcroft, the manager of KTRD, the local radio station.

A few moments later, Briggs stumbled from the bedroom, half dressed, and furiously brushing his teeth.

“Why the hell aren’t you getting dressed?” he gargled, white foam running down his chin.

McCrudden just looked at him.

“What?” Briggs asked incredulously. “Am I wearing something of yours or what? We have a meeting at the station in 20 minutes, old timer. You need to get ready!”

“What price is unleaded these days?”

Briggs looked at him and wandered over to the window. “Oh, yeah,” he said sheepishly. “Thank God for that!”

“Anyway,” said McCrudden, “I’m not going unless you tell me what your idea is.”

“But I’m afraid if I tell you, you won’t go,” whined Briggs.

“I might not, but if you don’t tell me, I’m definitely not going.”

Briggs looked at him and narrowed his eyes. “Let me think about that for a while,” he said, sitting down heavily on a shiny corduroy armchair.

McCrudden sighed and put his head in his hands. “Briggsy, my boy, I love you like a son, but if brains were dynamite, you wouldn’t have enough to blow the cap off your head. Now, unless you tell me about this harebrained scheme of yours, I am not going anywhere, okay?”

“Promise you won’t tell anyone?”

“Yes, Mickey. I promise.”

“Scout’s honor?”

“Oh, for the love of God, Mickey, just tell me!” McCrudden exploded.

Briggs jumped to his feet. “Okay, old man. You’re going to love it! You and I are going back on the air, but this time it’ll be on the radio!” He dropped to his knees in front of McCrudden and grinned. “Whaddaya think?”

McCrudden looked at him for a moment and said, “I think I’m having a conversation with a 175-pound dill pickle, that’s what I think. I am going to the kitchen now, I am getting my gun, and then I am going to shoot you in the ass in the hope that I might blow your brains out. Get out of my way!”

“Oh, come on now, Crud, you haven’t heard it all yet. Give it a chance.”

“A chance?” said McCrudden. “Mickey, I suspect that you haven’t quite thought this through. Has it occurred to you at all that you and I are golf announcers, and that golf is a game that people love to watch?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mickey, smiling.

“And it doesn’t seem at all unlikely to you that this idea just might fail, given the fact that the kind of picture you can get on even the most expensive radio today, is, at best, completely non-frigging existent?” McCrudden screamed, holding his head in his hands.

Mickey looked at him quizzically. “But why would you look at the radio when the pictures are already on the TV, Crud?”

McCrudden dropped his hands from his face and stared at him. “Excuse me?”

“Oh, yeah, I was getting to that,” Briggs said. “You see, I thought seeing that the networks already have the pictures up there for us, all we would have to do is talk about them. People at home could turn the sound down on the TV and use the radio instead. That way we could say whatever we want about whoever we like, and nobody could fire us.”

“But what about the sound? Wouldn’t it be a little sterile without the impact, the crowd cheering, and the sound of the ball landing?” McCrudden wanted to know.

“I thought of that, too,” Briggs replied. “All we need is a sound man, with a few effects, crowd noise, different impact sounds, things like that. We’d have to exaggerate everything, you know, make it funny. We could even do player interviews like a bad voice-over on an even worse Japanese movie. You be the interviewer, I’ll be the player. It’d be a hoot!”

McCrudden walked over to the window, and pulled the shade aside. He looked at the revolving gas station sign. “What time did you say that interview was?”