A few days after Kirk Cousins signed his precedent-setting contract with the Minnesota Vikings, I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize.
Like any normal person, I didn’t answer it. Because duh who doesn’t screen their phone calls these days, amirite? Yet, the same number called again just a few minutes later, and this time they left a voicemail. When I hit ‘play’, a nervous, almost scared voice was at the other end.
“I’m risking a lot by leaving this voicemail, but your new QB isn’t who you think he is. If you want to know more, meet me at the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, MI, next Wednesday. 3 PM sharp. I’ll find you. Quit screening your calls, and DELETE THIS MESSAGE!”
I returned the call, and the number had already been disconnected. But there was something about that voice, the desperation in it, maybe, that intrigued me. I mean, who DOESN’T want to go to the museum about the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Battle Creek MI, just for giggles if nothing else? So, I headed out. My life was about to change forever, and things I felt certain about I now question. But before I can tell that story, I must tell you this one first.
Who could think everything you’ve ever come to question would begin in a place like Battle Creek, MI?
As I’m walking through the Adventist Center, looking at the painting of that dude that looks like a bald Col. Sanders, I was thinking ‘man I hope this town has a Kentucky Fried Chicken because I’m hungry af right now’, someone came up to me from behind.
“Keep walking, and whatever you do, don’t swear”, said the voice.
“Because it’s a museum about the Seventh Day Adventists, you idiot.”
The word ‘idiot’ drew half a dozen cross looks from the staff that made this Missouri Synod Lutheran proud and I smiled just a little bit, although all the subterfuge and cloak and dagger stuff was making me a bit uneasy. But I complied and my contact led me outside, and once there we walked about a block with no words being spoken.
Holy crap I really wanted some KFC right about now. I kinda had to pee, too. I have to pee when I get nervous.
“Okay”, he said. “Turn around. We’re safe here.”
I turned to meet my contact. An unremarkable person, in an unremarkable town, in an unremarkable state. But what a remarkable story he was about to tell me.
We introduced ourselves, and I promised this person that I wouldn’t reveal their identity. Your secret is safe with me, Frank. I’ll take it to the grave.
“Look’” he began, “I know you guys are pretty happy with Kirk Cousins, your new quarterback. But let me tell you, he’s not the guy he’s made himself out to be. Not even close.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “He’s more ‘aw shucks’’ than Joe Mauer. This is a big nothing burger, which is probably what Cousins puts on his. Because God Forbid he do anything wild and crazy like put ketchup on a burger”, I said more than a bit sarcastically.
I turned away to head back to my car because MAN I WANT SOME ORIGINAL RECIPE IN MAH BELLY RIGHT NOW, and my source, who I’ll call Sparty Throat, yelled “but I have proof!”
I stopped, and turned to meet his gaze.
“Proof, you say? Let me see.”
“Plain hamburgers, huh? Take a look at this.”
Sparty Throat opened the
man purse European Shoulder Bag he was carrying, pulled out a picture, and handed it to me. At first glance, it was Cousins eating a burger. But...there was more.
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“That’s not a plain burger”, I said. “That looks...loaded. Dragged through the garden loaded. Tomato, onion, lettuce, and a ketchup and mustard bottle, too. Damn, man. That’s pretty nuts. It’s a lot of things, but ‘plain’ is the last word I would use.”
Then I noticed...it.
“Mother of God...”, as my voice tailed off.
“A fried egg? Yes it is. And cheese.” Sparty Throat was smiling now as he saw the look of revelation come across my face. “And I have more pictures like this. Lots more.”
All of a sudden his desire to meet at a Seventh Day Adventist museum was clear—he was sending a message. And he was doing so in kind of a smart ass, ironic sort of way, which I can fully appreciate.
“Okay, you have my attention. Let’s see where this takes us.”
“You don’t know the half of it. This squeaky clean, boring guy image he protrays? No. Not even close. Kirk is nothing like that when the cameras aren’t rolling. Are you sure you want to keep going?”
“Yeah, let’s do this.”
He brought out another picture.
“Take a look at this one”, as he thrust his smelly Michigan paw towards me.
I looked, and didn’t really see anything.
“I don’t see the big deal with this one,” I half muttered. “It’s just a picture of Cousins eating a bowl of plain oatmeal, probably made right here in Battle Creek.”
“Look closer,” Sparty Throat said, almost mockingly. “Next to the bowl. And then look closely at the oatmeal box.”
I blinked, then stared. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I closed my eyes, rubbed them with my thumb and forefinger. Sighed, then opened them. Looked again. Harder this time. What was I missing?
Then I saw it. Are you sure? Yes, I was sure...it was unmistakable.
“Sugar. He put sugar on his oatmeal. And it looks like the oatmeal is a made in China knock off brand.”
“Yes!” Sparty Throat exclaimed. “Do you see now? He’s a fraud! His whole image is a fraud, a persona.”
He quickly spun his head around, like he was looking for something, someone.
“What’s the matter? Are you waiting to meet someone else, get us in to a bidding war? Because let me tell you something, I’m a blogger. I don’t make shit. I mean, I write shit, create shit—terrible, awful shit (Ed note: AHEM), but I can’t pay you the kind of money you’re probably going to be asking for.”
“No. No no no, it’s not that. Kirk has spies everywhere. If he knew we were talking, my life would be over.”
“Wait, Kirk Cousins would have you killed?”
“No. But he would sabotage my life in ways that I can’t begin to describe.”
“Well, at the next church social, we have to all bring a tater tot casserole (ED. note: It’s casserole, not hot dish, you Jacobins) of some kind. It wouldn’t be above Kirk to swap out my award winning sausage and cheese casserole with a tuna noodle casserole...with no potatoes or tater tots in it at all. Just noodles.”
“Jesus Christ. Tuna noodle casserole? That’s heinous. With peas, too?”
“Two cans instead of one.”
“What kind of monster is this guy?” I asked as I let out a long, low whistle.
“There’s a good chance he wouldn’t have even cooked the tuna all the way through, and would have pulled the noodles out of the water a few minutes early, so they’re still just a little bit crunchy.”
“My God, you’d be ruined.”
“Yeah. I could never show my face in that church again, and I’d probably have to move, too.”
Sparty Throat got quiet, pensive. A look of sadness came across his face, and I felt sympathy for the man, and the situation he was in.
“That’s Kirk, though. He’s got a personality, and a sense of humor. Look, go to Ypsilanti. There’s a Midas shop there, ask for Bob. He’s worked on Kirk’s conversion van for years. He’ll tell you a story or two about Kirk. And you do with that information what you will. I have to go. His spies are everywhere.”
And with that, he was off.
And I was off to Ypsilanti, because I had to get the truth,* the whole truth,** and nothing but the truth.***
*If you guys haven’t figured out this is a parody, don’t take an IQ test. You’ll be disappointed.
**Seriously, completely made up.
***Tuna casserole is the worst casserole though, that’s 100% true.