McDonough said he would call back when the deal was definite but told me to get packed in the meantime. It looked as if I would be going to London. I whooped loudly, but not as loudly as Rex did when I phoned to give him the news. "Don't get too excited," I told him. "It's not a sure thing yet." He ignored me and suggested I keep a journal.
Thursday, 6:50 p.m. EDT: I arrive at Boston's Logan Airport for a nine o'clock flight. I am confirmed and seated at the gate by 6:55.
Friday, 8:30 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time: I disembark at Heathrow Airport and am flattered to see that McDonough has come to meet my plane. I shouldn't have been. "Murph," he says, "have you met my girlfriend, Michelle? She was on the flight." WLAF spokespeople have claimed they will survive longer than the ill-fated USFL by holding down costs. How determined are they to be frugal? Very determined. On the way out of the airport, Terry leads us past the cab stand and into the London Underground. We're taking the subway to the hotel.
10 a.m.: My first and only practice. The long-snapping comes back easily. The WLAF ball is a tad narrower than the NCAA model and thus easier to control. After practice Barcelona coach Jack Bicknell, who had been my coach at Boston College, brings the team together at midfield and introduces me to my teammates, several of whom I'd played with in college. I say hello to Mike Ruth, the All-America nosetackle who had punched me in the kidney during my freshman year There's my buddy Eric Lindstrom, a balding linebacker who is dating a Dutch model. She understands very little English, which, as we see it, is a boon to Eric. There's Jeff Oliver, a guard who was on the field for one play in 1989 as a member of the New York Jets. Ollie took the opportunity to blindside a friend, San Francisco 49er linebacker Bill Romanowski, another Boston College alum. Tailback Jim Bell seems pleased to see me and shares with me his easy-to-remember slogan for pedestrian safety in London: Look right or die.
Friday evening: Bell is my guide on a tour of Piccadilly Circus. Dehydrated after nearly three quarters of an hour afoot, we duck into a public house for liquid sustenance. Behind the bar, an ornately carved tap seems to be beckoning me. It dispenses Murphy's Irish Stout. I order a pint, and the publican pushes a jar of what appears to be Mobil 1 toward me. "Tastes better than it looks," he assures me. He is right, but just barely.
Having mulled over the culinary options available to Londoners—sweetbreads, shepherd's pie, fish and chips—we make a beeline for the first Taco Bell we see and feast on burritos.
Saturday, 11 a.m.: I set out with a group of linemen to inspect the Tower Bridge. We find it not unlike other bridges. More impressive is the Imperial War Museum, which has old Messerschmitts suspended from the ceiling, tanks that were used to defeat Rommel in North Africa and a V-2 rocket that landed in London but never exploded. I decide to show off a little. "These V-2s are the chief metaphor in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow," I say. "You guys read that?"
"Give each of us 10 pounds immediately," says Oliver, "and we won't tell anyone else on the team you just said that."
Sunday, 10 a.m.: Team breakfast, though the kickoff isn't until 5:30. In between, the team owns you. The hours leading up to game time are always nerve-racking and empty—and that's with cable TV available. Today, the best fare that Britain's four over-the-air television channels can offer is a cricket match. The homeboys from England are taking on a side from the West Indies. Upon learning that the bowler is allowed to bean the batsman at any time, we watch the game with added interest. Time passes more quickly.
I am assigned jersey number 87, a receiver's number, a moderate embarrassment for any self-respecting "hog." Every time I go on the field I'll have to approach the line judge and say, "Eighty-seven ineligible." I'm snapping well in warmups, not serving up any of those wild pitches that plagued me in college and led to my becoming known as a very long snapper. I introduce myself to Brent, and we hit it off. Then the Moody Blues, looking, as my Uncle Gib would say, as if they've been "rode hard and put away wet," belt out God Save the Queen with surprising vigor. I think of their latest hit, which includes the lyric, "Once upon a time in my wildest dream," and I have to smile. Today, it speaks to me.