Authors: Colin Alexander
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Space Opera
MY LIFE: An Ex-Quarterback’s Adventures In The Galactic Empire
Copyright © 1990, 2015 by Colin Alexander
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Cover art by Carl Graves
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author.
Always do sober what
you said you’d do drunk:
That will teach you
to keep your mouth shut.
i! I’m Danny Troy. Doesn’t ring a bell, does it? Think back a bit. Danny-boy Troy, veteran National Football League quarterback. The name still doesn’t grab you where it counts, huh? Well, it’s been a while, no matter how you measure the time. Anyway, I’m Danny Troy and this is my story: how I went from second-string quarterback in pro football to first-string as a space pirate—that’s right, I said space pirate, a real warlord, with the fate of galactic civilization in his hands.
If you’re interested, this will be one of the few books you’ll ever read by an ex-sports hero that wasn’t written by a ghostwriter. What you get is my story, from my point of view and told the way I tell it. That means you’ll follow me a lot better if you understand American and know something about football. If not, that’s your problem. You could learn. I’ve been called many things in my life, but academic isn’t one of them.
What I’m writing here is true. I realize that you have no way to check that, so you’re stuck with my word. It’s good, though. You have my word on it. Anyway, why would I lie? The days are long past when my reputation in the US of A mattered, and it would be hard to damage my reputation here.
If you’re still with me, you are probably wondering when I’m going to get to the point. Either that, or you’re wondering if poor ol’ Danny got sacked once too often. All right, then, here is the story of how I ran away from my troubles, rescued a damsel in distress and wound up with a whole lot more than I bargained for.
I’m going to gloss over my football career. I enjoyed it while it lasted, though, and it had more than a little to do with how I arrived here, so we’ll talk about it briefly.
Pro quarterback was not the career you would have picked me for had you met my family while I was in high school. Dad sold women’s apparel in New York and Mom sold stocks. They were both good at selling, so we lived in Westchester, land of the long driveway and two Mercedes. I was a multisport jock as a kid, but I also did fairly well in school. Yes, I was the starting quarterback on my high school team, an unlikely collection of rich kids that won our league title my junior and senior years. In addition to directing fifteen straight wins over those two years, I wound up with a bunch of school and conference passing records and the feeling that I had a gift for winning, no matter who was on the field.
A performance like that attracts college recruiters, and not the ones pushing “high achievement” programs either. In spite of that, the usual track for someone in my position would have been to go to Brown or Yale, my parents’ alma maters, make a splash in Ivy football and use the trophies to decorate my office when I went into business.
My grades were good enough for the Ivies; my folks had the cash. The problem was, those schools made you work. Not that I have a problem with hard work. No one who refuses to work will ever make it in professional football. It was just that I liked working on what I liked. Aside from sports, computers were fine, so was history. But some of the other stuff they teach! From my point of view, Dostoyevsky could be used in place of ipecac to treat poisoning. So, when the coach from Central Penn spelled out the “flexibility” (that was his word for it) that I would have in my schedule, I was sold.
Why Central Penn? For all the talk, I hadn’t received too many offers from schools with major football programs. Even though the recruiters had noticed my stats and came to the school, they don’t take students from rich-kid, suburban high schools very seriously. By the time it was definite that I would rather die than go to an Ivy League school, it was very late in the year. Central Penn looked like my best chance to play football, party and still come out with a degree. My folks didn’t agree. (In fact, they almost read me out of the family and if they ever see this, I’m sure they’ll finish the job.) Anyway, pressure just makes me dig in, so off I went to Central Penn.
The place was ideal for me. I’m six feet two inches tall, but there are only 205 pounds stretched over it. My arm is decent, or was then, but I could not, as they say, throw a rope. (I should point out that those pretty, hard spirals are harder to catch than a ball thrown with a soft touch, even if it flutters a bit.) As far as running goes, I’m not very fast. With those mediocre physical stats, I’d never have had a chance at, say, Notre Dame. What I could do was move a team. If I had a special knack, it was in seeing what the defense was giving, where it was weak, and then exploiting it. It’s a skill I have found easily transferable to my present field.
The football program at Central Penn was an absolute disaster when I arrived. The entire coaching staff had been fired at the end of the previous academic year. Something to do with that “flexibility” in the schedules, I understood. The running game was nonexistent and the starting quarterback broke his leg the first day of practice. I moved right in.
By the time I graduated, we had a respectable program. The team won more than it lost. I had learned to scramble and throw from all kinds of unusual positions because, for the first three years, I had to supply most of the offense. The scouts who saw me thought enough of my performance that I wound up as a third-round draft choice for Philadelphia. For about twenty-four hours, I was in ecstasy. Then, I started to worry.
If I went pro, there would be no possibility of walking into a wide-open situation as the only viable candidate for the job. There would be plenty of competition, all from people who had also succeeded on the college level. My parents were making noises about not caring where my degree was from, as long as I went into the business world. I like to think I chose football because I don’t quit on anything until I have to be carried out. I may have been a rich kid, but I’d studied hapkido and Krav Maga since junior high school (and spent enough time in the wrong kind of bars), so I figured I was tough enough. It is also possible, however, that I simply liked being a jock.
You could have looked at the situation and figured that I was going to be odd man out since Philadelphia had two veteran quarterbacks, and had taken a quarterback in the first round already. However, the fact that they took two quarterbacks so high said something about the two they had. About two weeks into camp, Earl Deheny, the veteran number two, took the hint and called it quits. The offensive line then completed my job for me (not intentionally, mind you). They were just horrible. Pass protection for them was a contradiction in terms. The coach put our vaunted number one choice in for the first half of our first exhibition game and Chicago blitzed the living daylights out of him. He threw five interceptions. He was so rattled; I think they gave him some vitamin V after the game. Me, I don’t like throwing those long, arcing bombs anyway, though I can when I need to. I like short ones that don’t take so much time. Also, I don’t rattle. Whatever the reason, I made the team as a rookie and became the starter in my second year.
For that season, I was on top of the world. There’s nothing like being a starting quarterback. The money is great, the attention is fabulous and the girls are available. I had the equipment to take advantage of it, too, courtesy of my “soft, brown eyes,” “almost blond hair,” “strong jaw line” and “dimpled chin.” I was “ruggedly handsome,” at least if you believe the ladies’ mag that turned out this description. My features proved to be equally suited to magazine covers and television commercials.
My dreamworld came to an end in the off season when I heard that I had been traded. The next year was hard on my ego. I was clearly number two on that team and, after an early season run at the starting job, it became apparent that I would stay that way. It took most of the year, but I adjusted. I am nothing if not adaptable.
Once you get used to it, being a second-string quarterback is a great job. Oh, you don’t get the endorsements, the super-high pay, the radio show that Number One has. So what? You still go to the same parties. You still get the same girls. You get an awful lot of money for only working in practice, and you don’t get smashed into the ground every other play by hyperkinetic 280-pound crazies. So, when you go to those parties, you’re ready to dance and screw without having to swallow a pharmacy to forget where it hurts. Let me tell you, having a spaceship’s shield break down during a battle is a lot less painful than having the pocket break down on third and nine. (Well, perhaps I exaggerate a bit.) I really settled into the role a year later, when I was traded to Dallas.
Dallas has a tradition of great quarterbacks and Tommy Odell, who was number one when I arrived there, fit the mold. I had a great time striding up and down the sideline with my clipboard and headset. For doing that, I have a Super Bowl ring identical to Tommy’s. I did have my moments of glory, though, and that Super Bowl was one of them. We were down 17 to 3 in the second period when Tommy had his bell rung so bad he thought he was in church. It was me, Danny Troy, who came in and had us even at the half. You don’t remember, of course. What everybody remembers is Tommy coming back in the second half and Dallas winning 27 to 20. I ask you though, where would we have been without my fourteen second-quarter points? Enough of that. This is not a football memoir.
Management remembered, at least, and handed me a nice contract for the following year. It was great money for the eight passes I threw over the entire next season. What I should have remembered is how short management’s memory can be. They cut me during the off season, and that’s where my story really starts.
In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. I was a seven-year veteran with a very fat contract, playing behind one of the premier quarterbacks of the day. At my age, I was hardly their quarterback of the future, and they could easily find someone else to do what I was doing for a lot less money. Had I seen it coming, I might have tried to catch on with another team. Instead, it really shook me. I had always been a winner, up until then, and being rejected (I was cut, not traded) was very hard to take. I ran away from it by partying until my liver and balls were ready to fall apart. The anesthetic haze lasted until a phone call, about three weeks later.