A preppy goes into a bar and walks up to an NFL star talking on a cellphone. The two men get into a heated discussion about health, integrity and the pursuit of Super Bowls.... If you're waiting for a punch line, forget it. This isn't a joke.
The preppy, who looks as if he stepped out of a J. Crew catalog, was a St. Louis Rams fan. The bar was J. Buck's, a hot spot in suburban St. Louis, on a chilly evening late last November. The football player was the Rams' future Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. The topic was quarterback Kurt Warner and the controversy surrounding his suddenly not-so-golden right arm.
"Yo, Marshall," the preppy said by way of introduction, pushing forward so excitedly that he spilled Grey Goose and tonic on Faulk's size-11 Pradas. "Warner's got to go!"
"Really?" Faulk replied, bristling, his phone call having been abruptly ended. "You think you know football, huh?"
"Yeah, I do, and he's killing you guys," the preppy continued. "The kid's much better."
Faulk, who argues with the subtlety of a White Stripes guitar riff, started to boil. "Look," he said, "Kurt wants what I want. He wants what you want. And that's for the Rams to win." He reminded the preppy that Warner had played hurt in recent years yet had won one Super Bowl, led the Rams into a second title game and won a pair of league MVP awards at the same time. "When he had two bad ribs and still got us that ring," Faulk said, "I didn't see you complaining then."
The preppy held his ground. "Yeah? Well if you want to win now, you'd better hope they give the damn ball to Marc Bulger," he said, "because Kurt Warner is D-O-N-E, done!"
What Faulk said next was littered with words that sounded suspiciously like his surname.
Recounting the incident months later, Faulk said, "Trust me, there were a lot of guys in a lot of bars who shared their thoughts on Kurt. I probably got into it with most of them."
Kurtis Eugene Warner does not go to bars, but contrary to popular belief he is not a total square. He and his wife, Brenda, do not spend every waking minute quoting Bible verses while consuming milk and cookies. Late in July, a couple of weeks after celebrating his 32nd birthday, the quarterback sat in the kitchen of his Chesterfield, Mo., home, sounding downright cocky about the upcoming season. "This is the best my arm has felt in years," he said, "and I can't wait to show everyone that the Rams are back."