Big, bad Bryan Cox, the spittingest, sourest cuss in the NFL, slumps in his bedroom chair at 2 a.m., crying. His wife, LaTonia, is asleep in the bed. She hasn't spoken to him in two days, not since he went absolutely Tyson in the Monday Night Football opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 1, getting into two fights, incurring three 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties, throwing one helmet and generally behaving like someone with very bad chafing.
His kids are asleep in their rooms, including his oldest, 13-year-old Lavonda, who told him, "Daddy, you looked stupid."
Back in his old neighborhood in East St. Louis, Ill., his mom, Nancy Williams, was asleep. When she had seen him acting so stupid on the television in the tavern that he bought for her and her husband, Otis, she broke down and cried. His sister, Pamela, wasn't exactly charmed, either, nor was the NFL, which tagged him with a $5,000 fine to go with the $10,000 fine his own Chicago Bears laid on him. What do you mean you can't sleep?
"Man, I was just struggling with it," he says. "I was thinking, Damn, is my wife going to divorce me? And, Damn, I got my mom crying about me. And all these fines, and the world's looking down on me and saying I'm a crazy idiot. And I'm sitting there wondering, Why do I do this stuff?"
Why? Maybe it's all in his mind.
Bryan Cox walks into his Northbrook, Ill., home to find his wife being raped by a man in a Packers jersey. Cox's four kids have been kidnapped, and the ransom note lies right in front of him, on Packers stationery no less. Across the room....
"Wait, wait," LaTonia says to Bryan. "Why do you have to use us? Why can't you use somebody else when you dream up these stories?" She won't look him in the eye. Three days have passed since the Monday-night game, and she's still mad.
"Because it's got to be something I care about," pleads Bryan, "something I'm emotional about."
LaTonia is pacing. She has her arms crossed and her baseball cap pulled low. "I don't like it—it's an embarrassment!" she says. "I get tired of people tugging at me all the time. 'Tonya, why does your husband act so crazy?' 'Tonya, you got to calm your husband down.' 'Tonya, why's your husband so mad?' Well, how can I have an explanation for it when Bryan doesn't give an explanation for it?"
Bryan throws his hands up.