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General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

So there I was at an ungodly hour, clutching to a life raft with one hand and frantically searching my pocket for Kevin Millar’s blood-caked championship ring with the other. It was the fourth, maybe third strangest night of my life. How the hell did I get here?

As I sat in my office at Grantland HQ only 18 hours before, there was no indication that the day was going to be anything but ordinary.

“Look Zach, you’re a solid writer, probably in my top ten, but if you can’t take some time to improve your podcast, you’re gonna get left behind. When I look back at your career, I don’t want your inability to develop your pod game define your legacy.”

“Bill I hear you, but it’s 2014, don’t you think-“

The phone interrupted him mid-sentence. “Hold on I gotta get this. We’ll finish this later.” I picked up the phone as he slunk out. “This is Simmons, whatcha got?”

“Bill,” I heard a female voice begin, with some trepidation, “…this is Denise. I need a favor.”

Christ, Denise- now that was a blast from the past. I knew her from my bartending days back in Boston. She was a regular, and she was a real catch in those days, a bit out of my league. We hosed just once, but that was enough to make an impression on me something like Penny Hardaway did in his pre-draft workout with the Magic. Last I saw her she’d moved over to LA. She’d come over with some rich boyfriend but things hadn’t worked out and she was waitressing now. Like Penny Hardaway, she’d faded too soon to a sad shadow of her former self.

“Look Denise, if it’s money I can’t help you much. I’d love to, but I’m afraid the Sports Gal would jump to the wrong conclusions.”

“It’s not money. I’ve got a sister back east, she’s dating this NFL player. Name’s [REDACTED], plays for the Bears. I haven’t been able to get ahold of her for a week. Phone, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, nothing. None of her friends have seen her either. I’m scared [REDACTED] has done something with her. I would call the cops but the two of them were involved in some pretty shady stuff, I’d hate to get her in trouble. Do you think you could use some of your NFL connections to see what this guy might be up to?”

“I’ll see what I can do, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Somebody falls off the radar for this long, you can assume they’re probably either playing ball East Europe, or they’ve assumed room temperature. Let me drop some lines, and I’ll get back to you if I hear anything about your sis.”

“I can tell you what this means to me, Bill. One more thing- in another life, do you think I could have been the Sports Gal?”

“Look Denise, you’re great - you’re a first ballot hall of famer, you’re on my personal Mt. Rushmore of lays. There’s only one way things went between us, and this time I don’t feel like spending 8000 words exploring how else it could have gone.”

I hung up the phone and considered who could I could get ahold of that might know something.

>Call Jason Whitlock
>Call Mike Lombardi

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General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

If you talked to anyone who knew Whitlock back in KC, they’d tell you there wasn’t a dead woman in the city that he didn’t know something about. I didn’t know if that knowledge extended to the entire Midwest, but it was a start.

I dialed him up and was greeted by silence accompanied by heavy breathing.

“Hey Jason, off the record, what do you know about [REDACTED]? He’s dating the sister of a friend, and she’s concerned he might be the type that subscribes to the O.J. school of ending relationships.”

“Well, I don’t want to reveal too much, but [REDACTED]’s old man swings a lot of weight out here in Indy. Word is he’s a big player in the skin trade, not that I’d know anything about that,” he winked audibly. “Probably runs a little smack too. As far as [REDACTED], I don’t know much about his off the field ventures. His old man’s big, but he’s not top of the food chain, I don’t think he could just hand his son Chicago.”

“Well, that’s not much but it’s a start I suppose.”

“I’ll tell you, if you want more dirt on the family, you ought to talk to Dungy. He and the local chapter of the Anti-Saloon league spent years trying to take him down. They didn’t get anywhere, but I bet they learned plenty about him.”

“Thanks Jason, maybe I can pull a few strings and get ahold of him.”

“Hey Bill, while you’re on let me ask you- when you were out trying to recruit writing talent for you site, did you have a lot of trouble with people throwing offer sheets in your face, calling you repellant and a bloated Uncle Tom and poo poo like that? I mean, I guess that just comes with the power right?”

“Uhh….”

“Hey man never mind it’s cool, I’ll holler at you later. “

I hung up and leaned back at my desk. Jesus, 10:30 AM and I already felt exhausted. Dungy could wait, I needed to clear my mind. Maybe I’d catch a movie.

>Call Wesley Morris for a movie recommendation
>Call Chuck Klosterman for a movie recommendation

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

I wasn’t feeling up to Chuck’s bullshit, so I decided to give Wesley a ring to see what he was bullish on these days. It was quite a coup when we managed to pull Wesley Morris away from the Boston Herald- he had a Pulitzer, a sharp fashion sense, a sharper wit, and sexual appetites nobody could quite seem to pin down.

“Hey Wesley, I was thinking about catching a movie over the lunch break, anything new worth seeing?”

“Well, you're kind of putting me on the spot, but I was surprised how much how much I enjoyed I enjoyed Get on Up, you know, that James Brown movie. I mean, nothing Chadwick Boseman showed in 42 really made me think he was going to be up to the task here, but he really managed to catch a kind of manic energy in this one that made him believable. I mean, he doesn’t have just the raw sexuality of James Brown, but who does? The guy was basically a walking penis.”

“Oh yeah I saw 42 with the daughter, we both enjoyed it pretty well.

“Yeah. Have you seen Boyhood yet? I think you’d really it.”

“Yeah, I haven’t gotten around to that one yet, but I hear good things. I’m kind of wondering if we might be seeing the beginning of an Ethan Hawke renaissance. He could be the next McConaughey.”

“Wellll… yes and no. I mean, the important distinction between Ethan Hawke and McConaughey-"

“Hey, great talking to you Wesley, gotta go.”

>Watch Karate Kid
>Watch Teen Wolf

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

I dabbed away tear as Scott drained the free throws and put the Beavers ahead for good. No matter how many times I saw it, it got me every time goddammit.

As I popped out the VHS, feeling renewed mind, body, and spirit, I figured it was time to get down to business. It was time to get ahold of Tony Dungy and see what he knew about [REDACTED]’s old man and his business. I talked to my people, who talked to his people, and soon enough he was on the line.

“Look,” he said in an ever so slightly elevated version of his characteristic monotone, “the only reason I agreed to talk to you is to give you a warning. I don’t know why you’re trying to pry the lid off this can of worms, but if you love your life, love your family, I’d urge you to stop.”

“Coach, I’m asking for a friend, she might be in trouble.”

“If she’s in trouble with them then she’s already dead. Me and the Indianapolis morality league spent good five years trying to get these people shut down. I thought I was doing the Lord’s work, I thought I was trying to clean up this city, to end the exploitation of people’s daughters, baby’s mothers. People said I was playing with fire, that I needed to keep my head down and focus on football but I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen, and it cost me my firstborn.”

“Wait coach, you’re saying…?“

“I’ve said too much! I’m telling you, inquire no further, for he who learns the secrets of the Legends Club will not live to tell them!”

“But coach, what is the Leg-“

But Dungy had already hung up.

The Legends Club. It was some fixture of the Indianapolis underworld to be sure, but what was it? A strip club? A brothel? Something worse? I knew a few people who’d spent some time in Indy who might know a thing or two.


>Ask Stephen Jackson about the Legends Club
>Ask Jalen Rose about the Legends Club

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

I dialed Jalen.

"Jalen, what have you got going today?"

"Nothing I can't drop, what's up?"

"I figure you were familiar with the, ahem, night life when you were at Indiana right? What do you know about the Legends Club?"

"I been there a few times. You gotta know the right people to get in, kinda creeped me out. FAlways got a wierd vibe, felt like some kind of illuminati poo poo."

"You think you could get me in."

"I figure I could try, though it doesn't really strike me as your kind of place. You sure Hooters wouldn't be more your speed?"

"I'm doing a favor, gotta ask a few questions for a friend."

"Yeah that's what they all say," said Jalen. In a sing song voice- "Got to give the Sports Guyyyyyy, give the sports guy what he waaaaaaants"

Within an hour we hopped the Grantland jet and were in Indianapolis by 4. We took a cab downtown and arrived at an inauspicious enough sports bar with "THE LEGENDS CLUB" printed in neon lights across the front door.

"You know there's still time to turn back," said Jalen.

"Nah, now I'm curious."

We walked in to find the restaurant filled to about a quarter capacity. Dinner crowd hadn't really come in yet, and happy hour apparently didn't offer anything worth a special trip. We were seated at a booth near the back corner, and were soon greeted by a waitress- modestly dressed, but with full cans and empty eyes. "Will you guys be having an appetizer today?" she asked expectantly.

I looked at the menu.

"Choose carefully," warned Jalen.

Order the Onion Tangler with guacamole
Order the Texas Toothpicks with dewberry jam

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

“Think I’m gonna go with those tanglers,” I answered.

The waitress paled, and a look of terror crept across her face. “But sir, it is written…” she stammered before Jalen interrupted.

“My friend meant to say we’d take the pulled pork sliders,” Jalen quickly glared at me before turning back to the waitress, “and a half serving of the loaded artichoke hearts.”

“Ah, of course. We’ll get those going, and if you’ll follow me, we’ll get your orders for the -ahem- main course.”

Jalen- "Great, but also get me some crab legs for real."

Follow her to page 76

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

The waitress led us to a long passageway that seemed to slope downwards and narrow simultaneously. Until it was clear that we were well beneath the ground floor of the restaurant. After walking about 100 feet we came to a narrow door, probably only about 6 feet tall and a little under 2 feet wide.

“The path is so narrow, yet it’s only the giants who ever seem to reach the terminus,” Jalen whispered cryptically.”

The waitress knocked twice and the door opened, she slid her way past us and back towards the restaurant. Jalen ducked and somehow squeezed through the door effortlessly. I followed.

The Second Circle



We found ourselves in a small room with an improbably high ceiling. . It was lit only by a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling high above, and a neon sign hanging on the wall, casting an eerie pall over the room. In the opposite wall was a door more or less identical to one we first came in.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim, I saw figures sitting around a circular table. Around the table sat Antonio McDyess, Hank Blalock, Elvis Grbac, and Bronson Arroyo, all staring blankly straight ahead. Slowly, they drew their focus to me and Jalen. Actually just to me. In the middle of the table sat a .44 Magnum.

Cling to the notion that you control your destiny

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

Static suddenly crinkled from an unseen speaker above. Through the hum of the static came an unrecognizable but somehow familiar voice. “Bill Simmons, to go further you must accept the Legends Challenge. Jalen, you can come on in.”

“Jalen, what the gently caress is this?”

“It’s how you get in Bill, I told you they were weird like that.”

“Something a little more specific would have been nice.”

“Would you have believed me if I told you? I figured I’d let you see it and decide for yourself.”

“So you’re telling me the first time you came here, you sat down with a random assortment of retired athletes, put a gun to your head, and pulled the trigger with a one in six chance of blowing your brains out? To get into a club?”

“Look man I was with the team. If you haven’t been in the locker room you can’t really be expected to understand it.”

“Alright Jalen, that’s it, I’m out of here.”

“Look Bill you’re welcome to do with you want. I know you came here on some kind of favor, I don’t know how important that is to you or if you can find what you need to know somewhere else, or whatever. What I do know is this- I’ve read your poo poo, and I know that there are answers you’ve been looking for all your adult life. All your power rankings, all your pyramids and what ifs and Mount Rushmores come down to one question- who’s the best? Who are the motherfuckers who dominate in any time, and war you put them in, and who are the guys who were at the right place in the right time. What if I told you the answers to all of that were behind that door? What would you give for that? “

He shrugged and walked to the door on the far side of the room. “Go ahead and make up your mind. I’ll be in the next room playing craps.”

>Play Russian Roulette with Antonio McDyess, Hank Blalock, Elvis Grbac, and Bronson Arroyo
>Return to your family

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

In the end, it really was a no-brainer. Jalen was right- there was another 800 pages of material waiting for me behind that door. There was no way I was leaving that on the table. “Let’s do this,” I told men at the table, or the voice on the intercom, or whoever was in charge around here.

Wordlessly, Blalock picked up the pistol. I don’t know much about guns, I just know it looked like one of those big cowboy six-shooters. He placed a single bullet in one of the chambers, then spun around the wheely chamber thing and put it back in place. Without a flinch, a blink, nothing, he put the gun to his temple and pulled the trigger.

-Click-

He passed the gun to McDyess.

“What the hell are you guys getting out of this? Are you trying to get in too?”

A voice crinkled over the loudspeaker once again-

”These have been weighed, and found lacking. All have achievements of note, but each in their own way have fallen short of greatness. Now they are but chaff for those who come after them to prove their mettle.”

“But what’s keeping them here, why do they keep risking everything if they can never get in?”

”Gotta get them paychecks.”

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

McDyess placed the gun against his temple.

-Click-

He handed it to Grbac indifferently.

-Click

Grbac handed it Bronson Arroyo.

“Wait, aren’t you still playing?”

”He’s done, whether he knows it or not. But if you’d like him to skip his turn, you’re more than welcome.”

It was a strange feeling, praying for a player that meant so much to me to blow his brains out. Sure, he wasn’t a vital part of that 2004 Sox team, but still- the cornrows, the lovely music, the play where A-Rod interfered with him- all of those were threads in the rich fabric of that team, that season.

-Click-

poo poo. I didn’t need Nate Silver to tell me the odds were against me.

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

Arroyo placed the gun in front of me on the table. For a second, I thought I almost caught a trace of pity in his eye. Then it was gone. I picked the gun up. It felt surprisingly light. The muzzle felt cold against my temple as I pulled back the hammer.

I hesitated. Should I put it against my temple, or under my chin, or in my mouth? It seems like the temple always did the tricks in movies (wasn’t that how Robert Sean Leonard did it in Dead Poet’s Society?), but you always have to take that with a grain of salt. Could I trust these guys to finish the job if I blew out the front of my brain, but not the part that does the heart pumping and breathing and all that? Surely Jalen wouldn’t let them leave me a vegetable or retarded.

I’d had a good run. Gone from bartender to media impresario in the span of 15 years or so. No regrets. I pulled the trigger.

General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend

-Click-

I exhaled. The gun clattered to the table in front of me.

"There," I addressed the voice on the loudspeaker. "Are we done now?"

"The doors to the third circle cannot be opened to newcomers without bloodshed. You must spin again, or you will not come in."

"I'm not an expert, but I don't recall this being how Russian Roulette works."

There was no answer from the loudspeaker.

For the first time, Arroyo spoke. "We typically reverse the order if there's a round 2."

I spun the cylinder. Had Nate Silver been around, maybe he could have told me the odds, given me a few tips, pointed out a few market inefficiencies, something like that. It didn't seem like a good time to make a call though, so I placed the muzzle under my chin. Then against my temple, because that worked last time and it didn't seem like a good idea to change what worked. If that makes me Grady Little, then so be it. Sports Gal, Sports Kids, I'm sorry.

I pulled the trigger.

As you may have guessed, it didn't go off.

I handed the gun to Bronson Arroyo, and he shot himself in the temple and died.

"Bill Simmons, you may enter the third circle. Please take a token appreciation for your patience."

McDyess plucked the World Series ring from Arroyo's hand and offered it to me. I was too stunned to do anything but take it from him, dumbstruck. The door to the next room opened. Blinded by the flood of light, I staggered forward.

Jalen greeted me.

"Welcome to the party."

>Shout at Jalen for leading you into this ordeal
>Hug Jalen

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General Dog
Apr 26, 2008

Everybody's working for the weekend


1977-2014

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