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I guessed he was fooling around, but the Detroit coaches were full of pranks, and it would be just like them to do such a thing.
"Honest, Aldo," I whispered shrilly into the phone, "you can't do that. The commissioner'll have a fit if he has to read off my name. He'll start suspending people and slapping fines around."
"Let him," said Forte. "You've hung around long enough to know how we do things out here. You learned five plays when you were training with us. That puts you ahead of someone else we might pick."
"Honest, Aldo..." I said.
"The big thing," Forte said, "is that we don't lose you to the Kansas City Chiefs or the Oilers, those guys in the other league." He hung up the phone.
I sat there for 10 minutes, waiting. Drafted, I thought. What a great gesture, the epitome of the superfan's dream—his allegiance recognized by being picked in the draft, even if it was the last round.
It was a prank. When the time came they picked someone else. Their last choice was George Wilson Jr., the head coach's son, a tall young quarterback from Xavier, a natural, they all said of him.
I suppose I was relieved that I didn't have to face down Commissioner Rozelle with a slip of paper with my own name on it. But not really. I was put out somewhat. What a shame they had to think of George Wilson Jr. Why him? They had some perfectly decent quarterbacks. Rank nepotism! Walking home in the bright sunlight that Sunday afternoon, I found myself kicking sulkily at the pavement. And then in the pangs of absurd self-pity it occurred to me—with a groan of dismay—that as a superfan I was still as hooked as I ever was; while there might be a brief respite from time to time—a week or two during the off season, perhaps in the early dog days of August—the disease had me thoroughly in its throes. Absolutely hooked.