Pete Barrows

HEADLINE: Free agency

By Pete Barrows

[email protected]

10:23 a.m.: Late to bed, late to rise makes a man a writer. That’s a keeper for the file of dumb thoughts and stories that will never see the light of day. And by file I mean plastic box/fire hazard stored under my bed overflowing with papers. It’s a productive day already.

10:24 a.m.: Speaking of fires, never lean too close to a gas burner wearing a baggy shirt. No more need be said.

10:15 a.m.: All that filing tuckered me out. Just to be safe, I slide back into bed. How do the members of the normally functioning 9-5 crowd do it?

11:38 a.m.: Time to get up for real this time. Mmmmmmm…on second thought, better not risk it. The birds aren’t even chirpin’ yet.

11:42 a.m.: Alarms are pointless when you can afford to wait until you’re hungry. It’s basic survival. Good mornin’ life. Good mornin’ bowl of fake Fruit Loops. I disentangle myself from flannel sheets, shuffle my feet across the floor and check my phone. Not a single missed call or text. That can’t be right. It must be the shoddy service out here.

12:01 p.m.: Only two hours and 59 minutes until NFL free agency officially opens. Requests for my services should come flooding in any time now, but I decide to bide with time with a little Madden until they do. I wonder what Darelle Revis would look like in a Lions uniform?

12:36 p.m.: I glance expectantly at my phone again. Still nada from the NFL, but at least it’s nice out (relatively speaking). Just being able to see the driveway goes a long way toward my mental health. I let the dog out, and she seems to be enjoying the sun just as much as me. The only difference is that she prefers to hunt imaginary rabbits across the backyard, while I prefer to take naps on the couch imagining myself on a beach somewhere in the Bahamas.

2:12 p.m.: The only thing better than sort-of breakfast is sort-of lunch, and I just remembered I have leftover taco lasagna in the fridge. Boo-yah! I poor a sip of water out from my Matthew Stafford commemorative cup for Stu, and mosey on into the kitchen. There’s a slice of banana creme pie tucked away in there, too! Life is good.

2:13 p.m.: Having a microwave is a godsend. I mean it. Sure, there’s a chance it might give off a little cancer, but it’s worth it to not have to preheat the oven or risk catching on fire if you ever wish to consume hot to lukewarm food. Spend a year without one, and you’ll feel the same way.

2:14 p.m.: Chocolate milk is expensive, but I place it on a pedestal above all other beverages. So I buy the bulk mix Nestle makes and cut the cheaper regular milk to get my fix. As soon as the ink dries on that big contract I’m due, I’m installing a Mr. Deeds-style drinking fountain that exclusively dispenses chocolate milk. I also have visions for a rooftop skating rink, a la Lil’ Wayne, a basement basketball court, a real movie theater – not that fake Cribs crud – and an aquarium bedroom complete with an infinity pool. Nothing too lavish; just the basics.

2:16 p.m.: I turn off my phone, and restart it just to be sure there are no mistakes. Maybe that “Can you hear me now?” guy was on to something. It couldn’t hurt to take a few laps around the yard with my phone held aloft, could it? I should probably make a tinfoil antenna, too.

2:24 p.m.: After thoroughly baffling both the dog and the neighbor children by treading crop circles into the swampy mush that is my front yard with antenna and phone in hand, I make my way to the end of the drive to check the mail. No letters, no newspaper – just bills to take care of with my imminent new signing bonus. Does anyone still print newspapers anymore? I catch myself; this isn’t exactly a reaffirming thought for a wannabe sports journalist. I turn to Twitter instead.

2:35 p.m.: JJ Watt and Bryce Harper have this great Twitter schtick going parodying the mass hysteria that’s come to be associated with free agency. Watt reports that sources indicate that there’s a three-team, three-sport trade a’brewin’: Adam Banks to the T.C. Williams Titans, Henry Rowengartner to Mighty Ducks and Julius Campbell to the Chicago Cubs. Finally, a little action! Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez, Jesus Shuttlesworth, the Bash Brothers, Nuke LaLoosh, Crash Davis, Greg Goldberg, Kenny Wu, Louie Lastik, Julie ‘The Cat’ Gaffney, Rick ‘Wild Thing’ Vaughn, Ronnie ‘Sunshine’ Bass, Uncle Rico, Boobie Miles, Tim Riggins, Johnny Utah and Air Bud are all mentioneded in the conversation as Patrick Peterson and T.J. Yates join in, but the torrid wave of player movement doesn’t stop there.

2:59 p.m.: We’ve reached a point where rumors merge with reality. I’m ready, and as giddy as Ndamukong Suh after liberally grinding a quarterback’s face into the turf.

3:00 p.m.: Speaking of Suh; hasta la later, man. WHO NEEDS YA? YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BE HERE! BE GONE! BEAT IT! LEAVE ME ALONE!

3:01 p.m.: I’m sorry, babe – I didn’t mean that. I just yell sometimes ’cause I get so scared. Why don’t you just come back and sign with the Lions?

3:02 p.m.: It’s not official yet, but Suh is as good as gone. I know it, and he knows it. He’s taking his talents to South Beach (where have I heard that before?), and that’s all there is to it. GVSU alum Dan Skuta will be joining him in the Sunshine State by inking with Jacksonville. Don Shula and Brian Kelly are smilin’ somewhere.

3:05 p.m.: It’s quiet. Too quiet. The Eagles already made waves by swapping fantasy football star LeSean McCoy for the Bills budding linebacker Kiko Alonso earlier in the week, but that just whet my appetite for more.

3:10 p.m. – 4:10 p.m.: The flood gates swing open. Dinner is served.

Jimmy Graham is traded to the Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks for star center Max Unger and a pick, just as fully matured studs Andre Johnson and Frank Gore sign on with the Indianapolis Colts. The rich get richer, and Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson exchange joyous texts.

Oft injured Sam Bradford is swapped for Nick Foles; the Philadelphia Eagles get a quarterback (not Marcus Mariota) to run Chip Kelly’s offense, and the St. Louis Rams get a quarterback who might stay healthy enough to play in a few games.

Haloti Ngata is flipped from Baltimore to Detroit for a fourth and fifth round pick to help supplant the loss of both Suh and Jarryd Hayne. There’s no replacing Suh in the trenches or Hayne on the practice squad, but there are Ngata lot of  (that’s why they pay me the big bucks) 330-pound men athletic enough to play rugby. Haloti’s one of them, and he’s not bad at football, either.

The Arizona Cardinals sign guard Mike Iupati, inside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Corey Peters, as well as former University of Michigan star Lamar Woodley. The Jaguars jump at Julius Thomas, and begin scouting Marshall Manning. The Kansas City Chiefs grab wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as the exodus of skill players out of Philadelphia continues, and Drew Brees is shopped…


4:12: And my head is spinning. I can’t keep track. It’s the most I can ever remember the NFL player pool deck of cards ever being shuffled in one day. And it’s exciting to ponder the possibilities, which, of course, is what Madden is for. But Madden doesn’t always cut it, even when the player I created in my image excels. Time for some meditation.

4:19: Where was my call? My text? I performed at GVSU’s pro day with current NFL players Charles Johnson and Tim Lelito just as defensive lineman Isiah Dunning, nickel Deonté Hurst, cornerback DeVonté Jones, defensive end Matt Mosley, punter Chris Picano, running back Chris Robinson and tight end Joe Wirth participated this year. Did scouts not see my article?

I even slammed burritos with Laker place-kicker Marco Iaderosa in preparation. I have a bag full of intramural football championship T-shirts, years worth of Lanthorn clips stored away in my firebox under the bed and a video of me throwing a football over them mountains. My resume speaks for itself. Surely, there’s a need for more NFL writers to shovel hyperbole on the hot stove, right?

But yet here I am, sitting on a couch in Allendale typing away, well-rested, well-fed and slowly but surely integrating myself into the real world. Being a free agent isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be – believe me – and becoming one is a near inevitable stage for the fresh out of college demographic in today’s market. Why not embrace it? You might not be able to swing the chocolate milk fountain right away, but do what you love and stay ready long enough, and the smart money says your call will come. Better yet, make the call yourself. Until then, enjoy the perks of a day in the life – whatever those might be for you – while you still can.

I wonder if there’s still another slice of pie left in the fridge?