You don't know Eddie DeScabb, but you soon might. Eddie is one of those guys who is going to play football in the National Football League if the NFL's real players go on strike. Eddie is one of those guys who sits by the phone the way a vulture sits on a rock.
Sometime next week, if the owners and players can't reach a compromise, Eddie DeScabb is going to be the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Or the center for the Houston Oilers. Or a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. When people ask Eddie what he does for a living, he is going to say: "I play pro football."
Eddie is a 26-year-old former walk-on from a junior college in Kansas. Eddie is a 290-pound ox who played on the specialty teams for two seasons at a small campus in Tennessee. Eddie is a runty running back who got cut in six straight NFL tryout camps because he couldn't run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds.
Eddie has been a complainer all his life. Eddie sits by his portable Sony on Sundays and Mondays and points at the Green Packers and Raiders on the TV screen and says: "I can play better than these guys." Eddie picks up his morning paper and can't believe the Seattle Seahawks have a rookie linebacker who makes more money in one football season than he will in 25 years down at the filling station.
Eddie can beat up any punk in any bar, and if he ever had a chance to line up opposite Randy White or Mike Singletary or Harry Carson, he would kick some serious butt. Eddie can outrun anybody on the block in the touch football games they play on Saturday mornings, and he still wears his raggedy old jersey from Northwest Southeast Louisiana Baptist Methodist Tech.
All his life, Eddie has been waiting for a chance. Those lucky stiffs who play in the NFL, they make all that money, and for what? Catching passes and tackling guys around the ankles and sticking their helmets into somebody's gut. Anybody can do that.
And now, at last, Eddie is excited, because he is going to get his chance. Eddie just heard that the NFL players are talking about walking out, just as they did a few years ago. Only this time, the rich dudes who own the NFL franchises aren't just going to sit there and count their losses. They are going to hire second-hand help.
They are going to go out and get 45 new football players for every team. They are going to keep on playing, Rams vs. Bengals, Bears vs. Lions, Redskins vs. Patriots, just as though nothing had happened. Only instead of the famous players being out there butting heads and busting collarbones, it will be a bunch of anonymous, no-faced, two-faced guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to play in the National Football League, if only for a few hours.
The owners believe the public won't mind. They believe the fans would rather have a bad game than no game at all. They believe the customers are sick and tired of athletes demanding more, more, more, and that no matter who is out there wearing those chinstraps and shoulder pads, they will pack up their Styrofoam coolers, their seat cushions, their binoculars, their brandy flasks and their "John 3:16" banners and keep on coming to the ballpark, getting their money's worth out of those tickets they bought. They paid to see a game, and damn it, they are going to see a game.
The owners believe nobody will mind what quality football is presented to them, so long as those guys running around out there represent Our Town. They have paid to see United States Football League football and they have paid to see the Arena Football League and they probably would pay to see Nerf football, if we could only put together a league and convince ESPN to give us some time.
Better to have bad football than no football at all, eh? No wonder Charlie O. Finley and a bunch of other guys are willing to shell out some bucks and start up something called the International Football League, with franchises from Canada to Chicago to England. Heck, even that USFL thing would have succeeded if that three-dollar jury had done the proper thing, wouldn't it have?
The football show must go on. Never mind that the NFL players want some say-so over where they spend the middle portion of their lives, or want some insurance that the hospital bills will keep getting paid 20 years later, when the gimpy knee that hasn't healed is authenticated as an actual football injury and not some chronic ache or pain that the poor soul must have had since he was a kid, but aggravated recently on a racquetball court.
Eddie DeScabb doesn't care. If the Pittsburgh Steelers want him to play quarterback, he is ready to play quarterback. Just call him anytime of day, collect. He'll even get an 800 number if he must. Just jingle that phone and Eddie will come running, ready to zip through that gauntlet of cheerleaders at noontime Sunday, and maybe shoot the breeze with Irv Cross for a couple of minutes right after the game.
"I'm DeScabb, and don't you forget it," Eddie said. "I got no time for other people's problems. I am in this thing strictly for myself. I look out only for Number 1. This is my chance to play professional football, so what do I care if some millionaire jock is trying to protest the system by walking out? I got no sympathy. I got no conscience. I got no principles. I cross picket lines the way other people cross the street. My main man is me."
NFL owners need not worry that a player walkout will halt the game. They can find a substitute player anytime they need one. They can always find DeScabb. They can dig him up whenever they want to, because all they have to do is dig a hole, you see, and he will crawl right out.