Front Office Fiction: The Highly Placed Source

Before my trip to Minnesota to commune with family and Walleye (and a shoulder re-construction surgery that followed), I wrote another installment of Front Office Fiction. It is a bit dated now with the lockout ended, so I thought I'd slide into the fanpost section. I look forward to posting more often now that I'm typing with two hands instead of one and the pain killers aren't occluding my mind. Hope you enjoy the piece!


"Could you hold on a minute... yeah, yeah, whatever...Just hold on," Derinda hit the hold button on her phone's control panel, blowing out her breath hard as she reached for her purse under her desk. "How much do I owe you?"

The odd looking delivery man held a tray of steaming coffee cups in one hand and a bag in the other. He watched the nice looking woman empty a small closet's worth of items onto her desk from her huge carry all. "$38.50...So this Ram's Headquarters? Is the owner here?"

"Thirty-eight fifty what... Yen? It's coffee right? What's in the bag, gold?" Derinda glared at the man for a second, then went back to sorting old lottery tickets from dollar bills. "Why the hell would the owner be here? He and his owner buddies won't get here till after I pay for their coffee." She noticed the delivery guy glancing back at the door, then down the hall to the right. "Billionaires... and I buy their donuts..." She started sliding all the money she had across her desk, hoping it was enough.

"So Mr. Kroenke is meeting with other owners here today? Which ones? Is anyone from the players negotiating team going to be here? I thought they were meeting in Chic..." He stopped mid-sentence when the frazzled woman began staring at him, a half grin on her face. "What?"

"You ain't a delivery man are you? You're from that Rooters or Yahoo Sports... Don't tell me you're a blugger. Do not tell me that..." She stopped mid-sentence as she turned from the suspicious man to her now fully lit phone face, all ten lines now blinking at her accompanied by a unending trilling sound. "Shut the hell up!" She screamed at the phone to no avail as the trill, trill sound continued unabated. Slumping her shoulders, she turned back to the new idiot complicating her day. Derinda reached for a copy of the standard press release, handing it to the now smiling reporter. "Keep smilin' blugger boy," she reached for her purse to throw at him, tripped and disappeared from the reporter's sight.

Peering over the desk, the woman he assumed to be the executive assistant for Ram's General Manager lay flat on her back, her over-sized handbag covering her face. He heard her mumbling something. "Are you ok?" He thought about helping her up, then decided against it. He watched her roll over and reach for the desk, then gave a small "uhh" sound as she as she pulled herself up to desk height, a mop of blonde hair covering her face and heaving shoulders the only parts of her body visiable.

"Hell no I ain't ok", she said as she swiveled her head from side to side, "where'd you go?" Derinda brushed her hair aside. Seeing the reporter was still there, she struggled to into her desk chair and blew out a long breath, then put her head down on her desk. "Just take my money and go!"

The reporter almost felt sorry for the nice looking woman. Almost. But he had a job to do and the person now half grinding her face into the desk top was a possible source. He'd heard rumors of a NFL owners cabal meeting in St. Louis and had flown in from New York to see what he could dig up. He looked at the name plac on the desk, "Derinda right?" His question was met with a wave of a hand, her head still face down on the desk. "I've come a long way to find a story. Come on, just give me something to tell my editor and I'll take you to lunch?" He put on his signature "trust me" smile and waited for the frazzled woman to look at him.

Derinda moved her office chair to the side so her head would pivot on the desk top toward the reporter, "Lunch?" When she saw the reporter nod through her mop of hair, she slowly striaghtened, leaning back in the worn office chair. Using both hands,she flicked hair from her face, then pointed to the chair in front of her desk. "Your payin' for lunch right? It better be a nice restaurant too. No drive- thru or taco wagon on the side of the road..."

"Lunch is on me and you pick the place." The reporter wanted to yell "YES!" He was about to pry information from someone in an NFL front office for the price of a lunch. While he quietly patted himself on the back, he missed a glint that had flashed for a second in Derinda's eyes.

"So what do you want to know scoop?" Derinda templed her fingers and smiled at the hapless reporter.

"I want the names of the owners meeting here, the purpose of the meeting and anything you can tell me on the NFL lockout situation. Is it close to ending? Heck, anything you can tell me would great!" He held his smile even though his jaw muscles were starting to cramp.

"First of all, I want to be one of those "un-named sources". Can you do that for me?" Derinda watch the reporter nod his head like he was in a pick-up truck on a bumpy road going 80 miles an hour. "Second, I want to be one of those "highly placed people." Can you do that too?" More head nodding. She thought the guy was going to be punch drunk before she was through. "I don't want anyone calling me "deep throat" either. That's sick and I have a gag reflex... Never mind. Anyway, if you have to take my picture, I want you to make it all fuzzy like, but my hair can look good... Shouldn't you be writin' this down?"

The reporter came out of his jaw dropped trance and dug into a pocket, producing a small recording device that he showed to Derinda. He had been almost hypnotized by this nutty lady. "I'll start recording now if you don't mind," he hit a small button on the device and set it in front of Derinda. He watched as Derinda put her mouth an inch from the recorder and scream: "HOW'S THIS! CAN IT HEAR ME?"

He reached out and moved the recorder back to toward him, "Just talk naturally. Ok, let's start with who's coming to the meeting..."

Derinda stared at the recorder, then looked at the reporter who gave her a twirl of his hand and mouthed "Go". She leaned across the desk and said, "Well there's Mr. Kroenke o'course and let's see... Mr. Spamus and Mr. Looney and that nice man from out west with the two first names. Paul Simon I think. Then there's that nice New York man... Mr. Mayor. Image the mayor of a big city like New York having a football team too! Then there's that Crap guy from New England... Exactly what's so "New", she made quote motions with her hands when she said "New", "about New England? I mean, they have been there for longer than anyone. Didn't they buy Manhattan from the Indians on EBay for like eight bucks and an old rock called Plymouth? It wasn't even a diamond..." Derinda snickered and could see the reporter was impressed with her grasp of history as he nodded slowly with his mouth hanging open.

"So Spanos, Rooney, Allen, Mara, Kraft and Kroenke are going to be at this meeting?" He saw a kind of glazed look come over Derinda's face.

"There are more people comin'? The damn conference room only seats twelve and I only got coffee for the..." She stopped at the reporter waving his hand.

"No, those are the names of the owners. You were just a little off is all. Who else is going to be there? Is Goodell going to..." Now it was his turn to stop speaking as he saw Derinda roll her eyes.

"Whatever their names are," she said with a wave and began to relax. "You almost gave me a heart attack. My butt would have been in a wringer if all those other guys showed up... What's in the bag by the way?" She grabbed the bag of breakfast baked goods, looked inside and sighed, "Scones... I hate scones. They pretend to be muffins but when you bite into them it's like your teeth are sliding through Styrofoam." She took a scone from the bag, smelling it as she hefted it in her hand. "This thing weighs more than a plate of pancakes. I bet I could bounce it off the wall and it would leave a dent..." She saw the reporter looking a little restless, "Commissioner Goodell is going to be here, but a little later in the day. He and a guy named Schmitt are working on some kind of speech..."

"Player rep Smith is working on a joint statement with Goodell to be presented to the owners later today?" He sat rigid in his chair and tried not to drool. He absently wiped at imagined spittle at the corners of his mouth.

"What the hell is a "playrup" and why would somethin' the owners asked them to do be a present. They already know what it is..." Derinda tapped her head, wondering about the reporter across from her. "Pay attention!"

"Sorry, please continue. Are any of the attorneys for either side going to be here? Any players?'

"Attorneys? No, I don't think so and why would the players show up? They weren't invited... Were you looking for an autograph? Vobora and Gibson are outside the office mowing the lawn and I think Gilyard is washing Mr. Devaney's car out back..."

His heart was pound so hard, he thought he'd have a stroke, "You're telling me you have players doing odd jobs around Ram Headquarters but they aren't invited to the meeting?"

"Sure!" Derinda snickered, "I have the new guys from Hawaii and Idaho painting my house.

Jaw dropped, he somehow mouthed "painting your house", then shook his head. "Back to the meeting for a second," he wanted to hear more about players doing odd jobs, but he had to focus for now. "Do you know the purpose of the meeting? Is there an agenda?"

"Hell yes there's an agenda! They don't take a crap in the NFL without an agenda... I have a copy here somewhere," she opened a couple desk drawers then slammed them shut. "Damn thing must still be in the copier, " she pointed down the hall. "I'll get it when we're done here." Derinda watched as the reporter looked with longing down the hall.

"You're going to give me a copy of the agenda...?" The reporter froze when a door behind Derinda's desk opened. The Rams General Manager Bill Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo stood just outside the office doorway staring at Derinda, who smiled and waved at them. "Hi boss. Got the coffee and them wart looking muffins..." She notice Bill and Steve watching as the man sitting across from Derinda made an awkward grab for his pocket recorder, then stuff it into his pocket. The reporter stood, smiled at the new arrivals and Derinda, then half ran out the door.

"Wait! What about lunch... Call me?" Derinda slumped her shoulders and frowned, then rounded on her boss and Coach Spagnuolo, "You guys just cost me lunch and a promotion to "highly placed source."

"Who was that Derinda?" Bill began rubbing his temples. Steve began to quietly chuckle. He knew Derinda drove Bill nuts.

"Just a reporter from somewhere wanting to know about the big owners meetin' here today and why you have illegal alien players mowin' your lawn..." Derinda looked out the window, then blew out a long breath as she turned back to her boss, who looked confused.

"What owners meeting? That was a reporter... You told him there was a NFL owners meeting here today? Why the hell... And scones don't look like warts..." He grabbed the bag containing his breakfast. Bill looked inside, made a face as he silently acknowledge the comparison, then offered the openned bag to Steve, who shook his head.

"O'course there ain't a owners meeting. Wouldn't I know if there was an owners meetin'? That reporter was going to buy me lunch damnit! Why aren't you guys playin' with your Xs and Os?" Derinda reached for her purse, then held out her other hand, "You owe me $38.50 for your dough tumors and high priced cold coffee."

Bill reached for his wallet, then stopped. He turned to his head coach "Stop laughing," then wheeled on Derinda, "Why are you talking to a reporter, let alone making up meetings that aren't happening?"

"Don't go gettin' all high and mighty on me Bill Devaney! The NFL makes up stuff all the time so why can't I if it means a free lunch? Like you guys couldn't end this lockout tomorrow if y'all want... Billion here, billion there... Can I file one of those lawsuits? Seems like everyones suein' somebody now a days... Hey you guys want to take me to lunch?" She brightened a bit, smiling until Devaney and Spagnuolo re-entered the office, closing the door behind them. She could hear the head coach laughing and Bill telling him to shut up or he'd transfer Derinda to his office.

"These football folks are wierd," she said aloud to the empty office. Then she grabbed her purse, put it under her arm like a running back taking a hand off and sprinted for the ladies room.

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