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St. Louis Rams: Front Office Fiction - Food for Thought...

Joe Robbins

"What're you doing?" Kevin Demoff asked with a smile as he poked his head in the doorway of Derinda's office. The scream that followed made him reflexively back away; covering his head with his arms when he heard a crashing sound. He waited for a few seconds, then looked around the edge of the doorway.

"Spyin' on me?" She growled. Derinda peered over the edge of her desk. Blowing out a long breath, she stood and righted the chair she'd just toppled out of moments ago.

"I wanted to know what you're doing for lunch... Wait? I wasn't spying on you, though since I'm your boss I can if I..." He ducked just as a stapler flew by his head. He looked at the series of dents in the wall outside Derinda's office, then turned back. It was his turn to scream. Derinda was standing inches away from him.

"Quit your yowling and get back to the subject at hand, dammit! Did you say lunch"? She was smiling now. "Where're you taking me?" They both looked down at her stomach as it made a growling sound.

"Er..." He slowly looked up from her gurgling belly to her deep blue eyes. "I thought we'd join a few of the players who are having lunch with Sam...Uuugh!" He started to choke as Derinda began to drag him down the hallway by his necktie.

"Hurry up! Those guys will eat everything down to the tables before we can get there," she said as her paced quickened. Les Snead walked out of his office at that moment. He threw the papers he'd been reading in the air as Derinda grabbed his neck tie with her free hand and yanked.

Half stooped over as he was being dragged down the hall, he looked at Demoff, "This has something to do with food, right?" Kevin nodded...

The large, bustling Mexican restaurant was just this side of noisy. The music featured mariachi themes, with a heavy dose of accordion. Waitresses half ran between the tables with full plates of food balanced up there arms. The patrons' loud conversations blended in to a dull roar.

As a hostess led their little group to the back of the eatery, Kevin slapped at Derinda's hand each time she reached to steal something from someone's plate as the walked by. "Ouch! That looked good?" Les shoved her forward, as she yelled back over her shoulder at her - now glaring - potential food victim. "What is that?"

"I believe it's called: it's-not-your-food," Les waved at people ahead of them to cover their plates as they approached.

"That's what's wrong with the world... No one wants to share." She flashed a hand out and snagged a tortilla chip from the middle of a table without either of the two people sitting there noticing. She got another hard shove when she tried to go back of some salsa. The chip flew into the air, and landed in a woman's Margarita three tables away.

They were led into an alcove off the main dining room. The four people at the end of the long table looked up, and simultaneously made a kind of half-groaning-yelp at the sight of the new arrivals. Derinda broke free from Demoff's grasp, and bolted straight for the tall young man seated at the end of the table; his crutches leaning against the wall behind him. Reflexively, the large man seated to his right slid out of his chair as he squared himself between his friend and the woman rushing toward him. Harvey Dahl receive a hard slap to the left side of his head, and a shoulder to his chin. Off balance, he fell sideways into a food cart containing chips, salsa, and guacamole. The food all went airborne, and showered down of the still seated Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis and Chris Long. Unwavering, Derinda made a flying leap toward Sam, wrapping her arms around him as his chair gave way, falling over backward.

Les and Kevin laughed as they helped their injured quarterback and Derinda up. All the while James and Chris began to critique Derinda's form, and ridicule Harvey for being swatted aside by a 120-ish pound woman. Dahl growled something about "illegal blow to his head".

"You were the one who told me to bring her, Sam..." Kevin couldn't stop laughing as Derinda maintained her bear hug on Bradford. It was the first time she'd seen him since his season ending knee injury in the Carolina Panthers game.

Sam smiled as he slowly pried her arms from around his neck, "It's nice to see you too, Derinda..." He began to pluck tortilla chips from her long blonde hair as she beamed a smile up at him.

"How are you?" She said as she snatched the chip from he hands he was about to toss off to the side and popped it in her mouth. "Does it hurt?" She looked down at his heavily braced leg, and her smile faded to a frown.

"It's fine," Sam said, as James helped him back into his chair. Derinda slid into Harvey's seat next to him. She didn't notice Chris Long and Les Snead grabbing Dahl, and forcing him into the seat next to her. His anger faded when Derinda whirled around and hugged him.

"You're the absolute damn best Harvey Dahl! The way you went all nutty on them Panthers made me so proud of you... Are you going to eat that Taco?" Her eyes had turned from him to the plate on the table now in front of her. He sort of smiled, then shook his head. Derinda snatch the Taco, and began wolfing it down. Servers began to clear away the carnage, and one waitress tried to mop guacamole off of Chris Long's head. Minutes later, the group had settled into their seats, and new food orders were taken. Drinks began to arrive, and the small crowd that'd gathered outside the alcove dispersed; going back to their meals with something new to discuss.

Sam looked at the group, and smiled as he studied them for a few minutes. He watched Derinda showing Dahl how she'd been able to head slap him, and James laughing as he recounted her flying leap. Chris Long was Tweeting something about their lunch to his throngs of Twitter followers. Les and Kevin chatted in low tones, only glancing down the table at him every now and then. Even after the food arrived, Sam watched his friends. He didn't touch his lunch, but continued to smile and occasionally nod his head. He was brought out of his reveres by a soft voice next to him...

"Whatcha' thinkin' about?" Derinda said quietly.

He leaned a bit forward in his chair as he turned toward her, then motioned for Derinda to edge closer. " I was just thinking about all you guys, and I think we're going to be OK." He could see Derinda's confusion, knowing his team was about to face a tough division foe in Seattle without him at the helm. "Honestly, this little lunch was something I needed more than anything else. I needed to see my extended family was unchanged...."

"What, us change?" Derinda said with a huge smile. "That little ding you got on your knee will heal, and you'll be back to playin' in no time at all..." She had reached out and gave Sam's injured knee a quick slug with her tiny fist, making him grimace ever so slightly. "They're all worried about you, but I'll do whatever I can to help keep 'em from  forgettin' they're the damn Rams."

He began to chuckle, knowing that if anyone could keep up moral among his teammates, it would be Derinda. When he first met her, he'd wondered why she even had a job with the organization. Her wild, crazy behavior had become near legendary. "So how do you do it?"

She smiled, and grabbed a handful of re-fried beans off Harvey's new plate of food, then threw them across the table at James Laurinatis. Then she snagged a taco of Sam's plate, and threw it like a half-frisbee at Kevin Demoff. It hit him in the side of his head. Both men looked at her, as she calmly reached for her Margarita, taking a sip as she glanced over the rim of the glass at Sam, her eyes alight with a humorous glint. Sam began to laugh for the first time in days. Then he took a handful of enchilada off his plate, and threw it at Les Snead, who quickly shielded his hair. Chris Long began to howl laughing, but stopped when everyone at the table started pelting him with food. The food fight was on!

Derinda had just taken a mound of rice and beans to the face as she turned to Sam and said, "That's how!"