Jenny Maguire Ch. 03bySomeGuyNamedKevin©
This isn't much of a stroke story. There is sex, but it takes a backseat to the other elements. Just something to consider before reading.
Special thanks to Linda62953 for the editing and input she gave to help make this story come alive. All mistakes are my own.
The sea of hulking naked men parted. I walked through the locker-room, unstirred by their grins and random comments. Football players have an arrogance about them, which is useful on the field because it fuels their competitive nature. However, it's that same arrogance that leads to most of them feeling like they are the most important person in every room. The 'elephant' in every room.
So there I was, walking into a room with 52 elephants, all competing for my attention in various ways. Some guys were intentionally dropping their towels so I could see their big dicks, and some making their chest and ass muscles jiggle. Most of them were wet and glistening from hitting the showers, all of them dripping with machismo. This was their way of flirting. It was about as subtle a mating call as an ape throwing shit in the zoo.
The first few times inside a packed male locker-room are always the most shocking. But I'd been around naked football players since my days as team manager at Duke, so I knew how to handle them. Never let them get under your skin and always look them in the eyes, never at their bodies. It lets them know I am above sexualizing them, and will not put up with them sexualizing me.
They get the hint after the first time. They accept you as just another person in the locker room - no different from the reporters or coaches - once you establish boundaries, respect, and your place of belonging. I belonged in the Duke locker-room and in the New York Jets locker-room, but this was my first time inside the Carolina Panther locker-room, so there was some proving to do.
I was in town to check out a potential client from the North Carolina State college football team, but decided to attend the Carolina Panther football game on Sunday to see my client Casey Ferris, a kicker I had signed three years ago. It was a close, action-packed game, but ended badly for Casey as he missed three field goals in the second half, one of them a potential game winning kick.
The Panthers lost the game by 2 points, and the home crowd showed their appreciation to Casey by hurling beer bottles and curse words down at him, essentially blaming him for the loss.
Casey was in the final year of his contract with the team. Judging by his performance, it might have been his last game with them. Kickers are rarely forgiven by fans or coaches when they have a game that bad. Casey was well aware of this, which is why I wasn't surprised when I found him laying down in the shower; naked, defeated, and depressed.
If a quarterback is the face of a football team, then kickers are like the buttholes. Nobody likes them. They are hardly even considered real parts of the body. Sure, everybody needs their butthole, but nobody likes to acknowledge that they are of any importance. I came in the locker-room to talk to this butthole and try to make him feel better about his shitty, skid mark of a performance.
"Casey, get up," I shouted to him, as I stood at the entrance on the large walk in shower, big enough to hold a few elephants. "You have an interview to give." He slowly turned his head to face me, looking completely defeated, with humiliated red eyes. "C'mon. Stop being a baby."
"My career is over, Jenny."
"So you had a bad game. Shit happens."
"They threw beer at me. Beer. One fan said he is going to kill me."
"Oh, boo hoo. You gonna let a little death threat turn you into a quivering bitch?"
"I'm done," he whined. "My life is over. I can't afford to be cut by the team. I have a mortgage, and-"
"Waah, waah, waah," I mocked like I was a baby. "Man up, Casey. You had a bad game. Stop acting like it literally is the end of the world."
"It is the end of the world."
"Can you please put your clothes on so I can get you to the podium? You have to address the media."
"What's the point? So they can ask me to explain why I am such a failure? So they can tell me how much I suck?"
"You do suck," I chuckled. "But trust me, Casey. If you stay in this locker-room crying, then you'd be a coward and a sucky kicker. I can work magic with a sucky kicker but I can't do shit with a coward. Don't be a coward. Dry off. Dry your tears. Put on some clothes and let's go address the media. Now."
He sat up slowly and allowed his arms to rest on his knees. "I really blew it today," he said before taking a deep breath and shaking his head. "I doubt I'll ever get another contract."
"Look. I'm promising you another contract if you do what I say. If I don't get you that contract then you can blame me. But if you stay here, then I can't help you and yes, it will be your fault."
I grabbed a towel from the rack and tossed it to him. He grabbed it as it became drenched with water, and then wrapped it around his waist.
"I'm really embarrassed right now," he said as he turned off the water. "That you had to come in here and see me like this."
"Casey, it's my job to rescue you, you big baby," I grinned. "Plus I have to make sure if you are planning to kill yourself, you have my next paycheck covered."
He laughed for a long time as he pulled himself together and got dressed. The Panther locker-room seemed amused by my intervention with their resident butthole, and gave me a small but sincere handclap.
Hearing Franklin's soulful voice made me nervous. Almost three years had passed since he fired me as his agent. Contact between us had been minimum, with us only speaking the few times I bumped into him at the New York Jets facility.
We could never look at or chat with each other for long before making up an excuse to walk the other way, but even in those brief encounters, I could deduce that he wasn't over how it all ended between us. From hot passion to a cold breakup. Years away from him hurt. Not only had I lost income by forcing him to fire me, not only had I lost amazing sex by forcing him to leave me alone, I also had lost a friend.
Hearing his voice on the other end of the phone re-stirred old emotions that hadn't dissolved with time. My feelings for him were always in competition with my professionalism.
"It's been so long," I said.
"Too long. How have ya been?"
"I can't complain. Working hard. Just left the Panther game not too long ago."
"That's right. You represent that kicker that lost them the game."
"That is factually correct," I sighed. "But let's not kill our conversation with talks of mediocrity. How does it feel to be the NFL's leading rusher for the second straight year?"
"It hurts like hell," he chuckled. "Leading the NFL in rushin' also means getting' hit more than any other player."
"I'm sure Mr. Frankenstein can handle it."
"I'll bet ya are sure, Ms. Jenny Maguire."
We shared a laugh. It felt good to laugh with him.
"So. What can I do for you, Franklin Smith?"
"I'm gonna be honest with ya Jenny-Jo. I need ya."
My throat dried and my heartbeat raced, hearing those frightening words. Words that flowed so easily out of his mouth but felt so hard for me to comprehend. After all of this, three years of me purging him, and now he was offering those words that he knew would kill me softly.
"Yes," I said, before wetting my mouth, and clearing my throat. "I'm just not sure what you mean. You need me."
"I need ya," he said again, matter of factly. "I have one more year left on my deal. The Jets aren't plannin' to give me a long term extension so I need someone that I trust to negotiate the deal I want."
I felt stupid. Then embarrassed. Then angry. I hated how easily he controlled my emotions, able to send me racing through the clouds with just a few simple words. Words that I wanted to believe had meaning beyond what he'd actually said.
"Oh. Well, what's wrong with your current agent?" I asked, trying to collect my thoughts and control my shaken emotions.
"He told me he wouldn't be able to get me the deal I wanted. So I fired em."
"You fired Sexton? He's one of the best out there."
"Yeah well, he'll have to be the best for someone else."
"You fired one of the best agents in the business, and then come to me? Why?"
"He told me no, Jenny," he complained. "Said what I wanted wasn't possible. I don't accept impossible for an answer. You don't either, so I thought I'd come to ya'll before I went to anyone else."
"What exactly do you want that is so impossible?"
"5 year, 100 million dollar extension. Half of it guaranteed."
"Ya tellin' me it's impossible too?"
"For a running back? Yes. That's 20 a year. No team, especially the Jets will even consider it."
"Same thing Sexton told me. Said it was impossible."
"And what did you tell him?"
"That I would get someone to make it possible."
"Franklin, I appreciate you thinking that highly of me," I laughed before turning serious. "But I have never negotiated something like that. Not with that many layers. Rookie deals are easy to negotiate. But an unprecedented long term contract extension for your position with that much guaranteed? No GM or owner would even think about doing that deal with someone as inexperienced as me. I don't have the clout or credibility to send that figure to a team without tarnishing my reputation for good."
"I'm not asking ya based on deals ya've done in the past. I'm asking ya because of what ya told me the first time ya stepped into my house. You think outside the box, right? You have a moxie that most of the agents out here don't have. It might be impossible, hell if I know, it ain't my expertise. But, I feel like if anyone can break the walls down...Look, I understand it's unprecedented. But dammit Jenny-Jo, you're unprecedented."
"Don't flatter me, Mr. Smith. 100 million. 50 million guaranteed. I'm not sure Jesus Christ could work that miracle."
"I ain't asking Jesus Christ. But look, I don't want to put ya in any hard position by trying to negotiate that if ya're not comfortable. So if ya're formally declining, I understand. I just want to be clear. Are ya formally declining to represent me for this new deal?"
"I'm thinking about it."
"How long do ya need to think about it?"
"Well can ya squeeze a lifetime into a few days? I need to really start this process A-S-A-P."
"I'll sleep on it."
"Call me soon, Jenny-Jo."
"Oh wait, Franklin?"
"Thanks for considering me. I really enjoyed hearing from you again."
"Enjoyed talkin' with ya, Jenny."
"Good luck Sunday."
"Thanks. Hopefully I hear back from ya before then."
"You will. I promise."
"Franklin is trying to humiliate you, Jenny. You can't see that?"
"He's not," I told my brother sternly. "I know you think you have to protect me but I'm not naïve."
"If you go to the Jets with what Franklin wants, we are going to end up as the laughing stock of the league. No team will consider paying a running back what a quarterback makes. And, half of the contract guaranteed? It's ridiculous."
"With or without your help, Matt. I'm doing this. I'd prefer doing it with you. But If I have to, I'm prepared to do it by myself."
"Tell me this," he said, staring at me as if he was trying to look past me. Past any possible deception. He grabbed my hand. "You're not over this guy, are you?"
I snatched my hand away.
"This has nothing to do with that. This is business."
"I've heard that before. This guy made it more than business last time he was around."
"I'm not telling you again. This. Is. Business."
"I know you're still sore at me because of how I reacted last time. But it needed to be done," he reasoned. "I just don't know about going back to him. He might be upset about what happened. He might be trying to drag your name through the mud by throwing you out there with a suicidal assignment."
"You don't know shit about Franklin. He wouldn't do that."
"I only know what you tell me," he said, his eyes firing accusations at me. "But didn't you tell me he doesn't care about the fame or money? If that is true, then why would the guy be trying to become the highest paid running back ever? This negotiation will be ugly. No way around it. How do you know that he isn't trying to fuck you over?"
I'd always looked up to Matthew for wisdom. He was good with calculations and even better with life advice and I knew he always wanted the best for me. For so long I felt like I needed him. But, as I stood up to look him directly in the eyes - my heels making me slightly taller than him -- I recognized a self-reliance inside of me that hadn't existed when I first asked him to come into business with me.
"Brother, I don't have time to defend myself from you anymore. I'm not going to let you hold that fling over me as if it was yesterday. It was nearly 3 years ago. I am trying hard to move past it. I'm not going to let you undermine my hard work because you're still thinking of me as a slut. Either you trust me or you don't. If you don't, then please stop punishing yourself and step off."
Matt must have recognized it too. I didn't need him anymore. Not the way I used to need him. Not the way a big brother wants to be needed by his little sister. He swallowed hard and adjusted his glasses.
"Are you asking me to trust you or trust him?"
"I trust you, Jen," he said, shaking his head and walking to the door. "But I don't trust him."
He walked out of my office and closed the door behind him.
The Jets owner was notoriously frugal. He would much rather find bargain players for cheap than pay premium price for stars. Negotiating the contract Franklin wanted was already a daunting task, but when Franklin tore his ACL in a playoff game three weeks after he signed a player rep agreement with me, the situation became a hopeless exercise in futility. We were never going to get this deal with the Jets, but because Franklin was my client, and I vowed to represent him, I had to keep my end of the bargain, even if my reputation was about to be compromised.
I'd always had a good relationship with the Jets. My brother had actually negotiated Franklin's rookie contract with the team nearly five years ago, but subsequent contact with the team had been through me. They thought of me as "easy to work with," and fair, which is why I was so nervous about calling them up to destroy that description. I was about to become a big pain in the ass.
When I got Greg Fisher, the GM of the Jets on the phone, I decided not to play any games, since this was bound to last several months before being resolved. The teeth pulling was going to be excruciating, so there was no use beating around the bush.
"Franklin had arguably the best season ever for a running back, breaking the single season touchdown record and setting all kinds of team records. He's been to three pro bowls and was the league MVP this season. He's due for a big contract extension, Greg. He wants to be paid like one of the best players in the league and quite frankly, he deserves it. He's the workhorse for your team. Hasn't he been everything you have wanted since you drafted him?"
"Yes he has," Greg said in agreement. "We'd like to compensate Franklin at a rate that is consistent with his position group. So let's get down to it. What are you guys thinking?"
I closed my eyes tight and spat out the number.
"We want 100 over 5 years. Half of it guaranteed."
He laughed and my eyes shut even tighter, as I placed my free hand on my head to try to calm my headache.
"Is that a joke?"
"That's our price."
I expected his dismissal, but even I couldn't have predicted that he would laugh uncontrollably for so long. I felt embarrassed and small, but knew I couldn't show any waver if he were to ever take me seriously.
"Are you finished?" I asked. "If you are, I'm ready to negotiate."
"I'm looking to do business, Jenny. But I'm not sure what stunt you are trying to pull if you are serious about that figure."
"I am serious and I want to get this deal done just as bad as you do."
"If you are serious about it then stop fucking around. Give me a real figure."
"We want 100 over 5 years. Half guaranteed."
"I don't have time for this," he said before hanging up on me.
I called Franklin immediately afterwards to update him.
"What did he say?" he asked.
"He hung up on me."
"What did he say before he hung up?"
"That I was wasting his time. But his tone said a lot more. Sounds like he wanted to say 'I can't believe this stupid cunt that should be fixing me a sammich is wasting my fucking time'."
"How did ya decipher all of that?"
"You'd have to be a woman to understand."
"So what are ya going to do?"
"I'm not going to back down. I'd look a lot weaker if I backed out now. This is just getting started."
Greg Fisher pouted like a little kid and went to the team owner to tell on me. I wasn't playing nice so he thought getting the billionaire owner of the team in the mix would intimidate me. What it really did was legitimize the negotiation. Now I was bargaining with the man writing the checks instead of his representative.
"Franklin scored 36 touchdowns this year, the most ever. Had over 3,000 yards of total offense, which is more than half of your team's production. Voted MVP of the league. Led your team to the AFC Championship game. Helped to boost season ticket sales 11%. He sells you more merchandise than any other player on your roster. And he's still in his prime at age 26."
"Listen here sweetie," the owner spat condescendingly. "We negotiate deals based on precedent. That is how we keep salaries from skyrocketing. The highest paid running back in the league is Adrian Peterson. His last deal only had 36 million guaranteed. And a salary of 11 to 14 a year. You are asking for 20 million a year, half of his contract guaranteed. And then, add that Franklin is currently injured and this whole charade you are pulling is an insult. I didn't think I had to explain this to you, but apparently you never learned how to work in the NFL."
"I don't need a lecture on how the NFL works but maybe you need a reminder of how much revenue your team brought you this year on the back of Franklin. He is your entire offense. Is that how you treat your star players? Run him into the ground until he is hurt and then don't pay him? "
"No running back is worth what you want," he said. "Only a handful of quarterbacks are even worth that much."
"Let's be serious here. You need Franklin more than you need your quarterback. Are you really willing to risk losing your best player to follow some payment model?"
"Are you threatening to not sign a contract? If that's what you're doing Ms., then say it, so I know what I am dealing with."
"If you are unwilling to pay my client what he deserves then trade his rights to another team."
"I can't believe how much of a cu..." he stopped himself in mid-sentence and hung up.
I called Seth, my friend from ESPN magazine, and told him that the Jets were unwilling to make Franklin the highest paid running back, even though he was clearly the best running back in the league. Seth passed the word to a writer that covered the NFL, and minutes later, it was leaked by the writer citing "anonymous sources". An hour later, it was the top story on Sports Center, being watched by millions of sports fans.
I called Franklin and told him that it was a strategic move. We needed to put the pressure on the Jets owner by turning public opinion against him.
"That move could backfire though," Franklin suggested. "What if public opinion is that I'm greedy?"