“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-players, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in the NFL, it is condemned to do so after retirement. It is doomed to wander through the stadium — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared in Cleveland, and turned to happiness!”
The time is August 2007. Brady Quinn is at the Athletes’ Performance facility in Tempe, Arizona. He is running in 100° heat, working out and conditioning himself for his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns. His teammates are in Berea, Ohio doing the same thing.
In fact, the drills and exercises are studied by everyone, they both go online to watch film and study plays; there is no difference between the two except the 2,000+ miles and the fact that the players have a contract. Brady does not.
Brady eventually did sign a five year contract for over $20 million, ending an 11-day holdout and eliminating his chances to begin the 2007 as the Browns’ starting quarterback.He missed the first 10 days of training camp and the team’s four-day rookie orientation.
“He’s pretty far behind,” then-head coach, Romeo Crennell said. “We’re going to put him at the bottom of the chart and see where he is.”
The Ghost of Cleveland Past turned towards Brady and said,“ Why did you do this?”
“The business side of pro football is awful. To sit out that long from playing the game you love is horrible. I left all of that to my agent, Tom Condon.” Brady shook his head not believing what he saw.
“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me! ” And The Ghost of Cleveland Past whisked Brady back for the next spirit’s visitation.
Brady sank into a deep slumber but it was not a restful sleep for the other spirit, The Ghost of Cleveland Present had arrived.
“Look upon me Brady Quinn and see what has currently befallen you, ” and with a wave of its translucent hand, The Ghost of Cleveland Present transported them both to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Hovering over the chilly stadium they both watched as Brady ran the bootleg late in the game against the Chiefs. Gaining 24 yards, Brady watched himself get tripped up by Demorrio Williams. “ Here is where you injured your left foot. See how you limp going back to the field?"
After the game, Brady watched himself go immediately into the stadium for x-rays. He turned to the apparition and said, “Yes. Football is a physical game. I’ll miss the rest of the season to heal, but better to rest than to damage my foot permanently. That scramble allowed Jerome Harrison to run for a touchdown securing our 41-34 victory.”
“Yes, Brady Quinn,” the Spirit said,“but at what cost? At what cost?” The sound of a bell tolling twelve slowly compelled The Ghost of Cleveland Present to disappear. Before it was gone entirely, it reminded Brady of the arrival of the last Spirit.
Slowly, gravely, and silently approached the Phantom. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. Brady felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.
“I am in the presence of The Ghost of Cleveland Yet To Come?” asked Brady. “And you are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” he pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?” The only answer Brady received was the continued hand pointing straight out before them; then the Phantom moved away and Brady followed. “Wait. Show me what is to come. Lead on!”
The unmistakable POP of a champagne cork filled the air. Merriment and lively festivities filled Brady’s view. “What’s this? I know what is to happen. I know this story and it ends with doom and unfulfilled promises, but this is happy. Look at my teammates celebrate a great win!”
Indeed, the vision was one of revelry and great pleasure. The Browns rejoice in champagne soaked jerseys and the clamor of hoots and hollers of victory as player after player pass around a great silver trophy topped with a lustrous football.
“Where am I Spirit? I do not see myself anywhere in the locker room?” Brady, there and not there, had the sensation he had experienced this before. “This is… this is more like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life than A Christmas Carol .”
Finally, The Ghost of Cleveland Future turned towards Brady Quinn and spoke in a dry, raspy voice. “ You are not here because you are not with the Browns. The path that was laid out before you turned away from Cleveland and ended with another team . A LESSER team .”
Are these the shadows of what will be or what may be?
My apologies to Charles Dickens. Heal quickly Brady.
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