He checked his watch for the third time in the last half hour. Pounding his steering wheel, he wondered when the tow truck he'd asked for would arrive, and avoided thinking about why his car decided on today to stop running. Billy Devaney reached for his cell phone as he tried to think of how he could cancel a press conference at the last minute without incurring the wrath of an already rabid media. The St. Louis Rams had finally won a game against a team that scored over 60 points the previous week... His team showed rays of hope Sunday and the last thing he wanted to do was miss the first press conference of the season that was actually going to be positive for a change. As Billy waited for his executive assistant to answer her damn phone, he opened his glove compartment and grabbed a plastic bottle of Tums antacid. On the tenth ring, his call was answered...
"St. Louis Rams Headquarters, how may I direct your call?"
"Derinda? Look, I'm having some car trouble, so I'll be a bit late. Can you get someone to go to the press-room and re-schedule the press conference for later today?" Billy looked in his rear view mirror as he spoke. The tow truck had arrived, its lights flashing. "The tow truck just got here. I'll call you back in a few minutes." He didn't wait to hear Derinda's response as he ended the call.
What he didn't hear her say into her now silent phone was that everyone in the front office was out of town for a meeting, and that she was a bit "under the weather" from partying all night long after the Rams win over the New Orleans Saints. He also didn't hear Derinda say that she'd be happy to take care of the press...
Bleary eyed, Derinda wobbled slightly as she made her way toward the press room. Her head was pounding from a headache that just didn't want to go away. Her eyes shut as she massaged her temples, the security guard opening the press room door for her went unnoticed. The camera carrying case laying on the floor was perfectly position for fate to launch her toward the stage when she tripped over it, "What the...?" She spun to see what she caused the stumble as she wobbled backwards. Next came the edge of the dais; only a foot high, it caught her mid calf and she fell on her back. Dazed, she looked up at the ceiling lights and wondered why there were flashes of light and whirring sounds? Grabbing onto the nearest piece of furniture she could find to help herself up, she slowly stood.
More flashing lights... More whirring sounds... "Why are these lights so damn bright?" Derinda said to no one in-particular as she squinted her eyes. Then the clouds started to part in her mind, and realization snapped her eyes wide open. "Oh my God..." The room exploded into a chaotic frenzy of voices. She would learn later that reporters only heard "Questions?" from anyone behind the podium. She could have said "puppy farts" and the press would have taken it as an invitation to begin the questioning. Still squinting, she could barely see the front row of reporters as the entire room seemed to scream jumbled words at her...
"Where's Billy Devaney?", a voice off to her side shouted.
"When will Bradford return to the line up?, a different voice from beyond the lights inquired.
"Who are you?" - "Kendrick's injury..." - "Is Gordy going to start when King returns?" It went on and on for a few more seconds as she looked side to side for an avenue of escape. A woman from the St. Louis Rams press relations office stood off to Derinda's right, her mouth covered in horror. To her left was head coach Steve Spagnuolo, he was bent over laughing so hard it spread to the players he had brought to the press conference. Steven Jackson and James Laurinaitis chuckled as they looked at their coach.
Fight or flight were her only choices. Seeing flight as no longer an option, Derinda spoke her first word to the crowd of reporters. "Oh what the hell... If you guys will unbunch your jock straps and quiet down, I'll answer your questions..."
Several miles away, the tow truck driver tuned in his radio just in time to hear Derinda's comment. He wondered why the guy sitting next to him, and whose car he was towing, started saying, "Oh no, no, no... Mother of God no, no..."
"You OK fella?" The look of horror on this guy's face had him concerned.
"I'll give you $1000 if you can get me to Rams Headquarter fast!" Billy had grabbed the driver by his shirt as he spoke.
Without saying a word, the driver smiled and nodded. Then he made a hard right turn that brought the wheels of the vehicle he towed's right-side rear wheel of the ground and a blaring of horns from angry driver. He had turned so quickly, Billy's phone flew from his hand and out the passenger side window.
"You want me to go back for it?" The driver asked as he concentrated on weaving between cars ahead of him.
"Hell no! Just drive!", he said as he reached to turn up the radio. "Can I use..." The driver cut him off.
"Sorry man, but company calls only. No exceptions. Anything other than 911 and I'm fired, you dig?"
Billy nodded, then began to sweat as he listened to the press conference unravel.
"What do ya' mean who am I?", Derinda glared at the reporter. "Just call me last hope in hell of answering your question! Next!" She continued to glare at the stunned reporter as she pointed absently off to her left at no one in particular. No one spoke, but the cameras continued to flash and whir. Turning her head, she pointed at a man in the second row, "Well ask me somethin'! I ain't got all day!" She crossed her arms in front of her as she waited for the woman to ask her question.
"Where Billy Devaney? Why isn't he here to answer questions? Did he get..." Something hit him in the head. It turned out to be the only thing within Derinda's reach: a pen.
"Quit your blah, blah! Billy Devaney ain't goin' no where. He has some travel issues this morning and asked me to come by to say hi to you nice folks." Derinda had on her pageant smile as she spoke. She would learn later that there were TV cameras at the back of the room, and that her pen toss would not only be featured on ESPN's Sports Center, but flash around the world as it went viral through YouTube. "Next!" She pointed at front row of reporters, who all cringed. One reporter covered his head.
"What did you think of the game yesterday?" The question came from someone who decided to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
Derinda rubbed her temples as she spoke, "I can barely remember my name and you want... Never mind. The game was great! Super Bowl,blah, blah, does anyone have any Tylenol?" The laughter from Steve and his players was now so loud, most of the reporters joined Derinda in glaring at them. Another question broke the bizarre moment.
"Do you have a team statement to read? Anything to tell us at all or are you just some Barbie doll Devaney sent to avoid talking to us? The Rams were just lucky Sunday, and he doesn't want to admit it to my TV audience. " This question came from an out of state woman TV reporter who stood a few feet away holding out her microphone toward Derinda in a defiant pose. The entire room of reporters alternately swiveled their heads between the two women.
Two miles from Rams Headquarters, Billy slapped his forehead, "No, no, don't ask her that... Not that... Barbie... Run, run as fast as you can!" He screamed at the radio. No sound came from the radio except some muffled laughter in the background.
Derinda studied the TV reporter for a few seconds. Then she smiled warmly at her as she slowly moved to the side of the lectern. "A statement? Why of course I have a statement. First, let's all agree the Rams played one heck of a game Sunday," she nodded as she looked from reporter to reporter; each nodding as if being willed to do so by the beautiful, but rather crazed woman in front of them. "Second," Derinda lithely moved closer to the now sneering reporter, "we in the Rams family want you all to know how much we love our fans, and the city of St. Louis. This is the greatest sports town in America. We want to thank all of you who stood by us thru thick and thin..." Derinda now stood in front of the TV woman, smiling at here from her one foot high perch. "Third and finally, to people like you who came here to be all negative and smirky," She bent at the waist so she could look the now wary woman in the eyes. "If you're goin' to be rude, Barbie is going to kick your ass!" Derinda leaped from the stage at the woman.
As the tow truck screeched to a stop in front of the Rams building, all Billy heard from the radio was a woman scream. He flew out of the tow truck and ran toward the press entrance. The press room doors flew open, and a stream of reporters came pouring out of the building, some of them running, none of them recognizing Billy as they fled to the safety of their vehicles.
Billy entered the press room, and saw Jackson and Laurinaitis laughing as they tried to pull Derinda off of the reporter, all the while he heard his executive assistant yelling "Who you callin' Barbie?".
They separated the women, his two players holding Derinda in a chair. The TV woman's hair was a ruffled mess, her blouse torn at the sleeve. Steve Spagnuolo was telling the woman to get the hell out of the building, and she shuffled away shouting threats as she left.
Standing in front of Derinda, Billy waited for her to say something. She smiled up at him, "You're late Billy Devaney."
"I see that," he sat down next to her.
"That lady had it coming to her sir," Laurinaitis offered, "She was spouting all kinds of garbage before Ms. Platt got here.
Jackson nodded his agreement, "He's right Billy. The woman was a nut job. We're tired of the guff we've taken all year." He winked at Derinda. "The lady called Mr. Kroenke an absentee owner who didn't care about his team."
"...and I'm hung over Billy," Derinda chimed in, "and she picked on my kids. No one picks on my kids Billy."
Billy looked at her, then scanned the three men's faces standing there trying not to laugh as they defended Derinda. "I'm not sure how we're going to spin this... She really said that about Stan?" Everyone nodded, then Steve started to laugh again.
"You need to have her do all the press conferences Billy," Steve choked out. "You could charge admission?" His players began to bust up laughing as they nodded their heads.
Smiling, he helped Derinda up, told Steve and his players to go away, then began walking back to his office. Derinda didn't speak until she sat down behind her desk. "Do I get a raise for doing press conferences?"
Billy just groaned as he entered his office , closing the door behind him.
A few minutes earlier, 30,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, a man looked out the window of his private jet. His destination was St. Louis, Missouri and the headquarters of his NFL franchise. He had listen to the press conference of only moments before, and sat considering what he'd heard. Then he began to laugh...