So I’m kicking it in D.C. the other day with Trina. We’re doing the museum thing, even though it’s pretty cold. We’re walking down 13th Street, and this giant eagle in a Nationals uniform approaches us looking for a high five. Trina goes to smack him with her purse, as she’s wont to do, but I stop her. I recognize him. Turns out it’s the Washington Nationals mascot, Screech. He just got a makeover, and he’s canvassing the city to promote the team.
“Hey man, you can drop the act,” I say. “Why don’t you take a minute off?”
Screech leans against a building. He pulls out a cigarette. “Thank you brother,” he sighs, clearly tired. “I can’t tell you how much I could go for some feed right now.”
“I’ve never talked to a sports mascot before,” I say. “What’s it like?”
He shakes his head. “It’s a hard-knock life, my man. Very brutal. By the third inning, they’re sick of me. They think I’m a joke. In the bird world, I’m the king of the castle. But at the stadium, I’m just a big fluffy buffoon that kids can throw nachos at.”
“Wow.” I’m taken aback. “You seem like the most regal of all the mascots.”
“You would think so, right?” he says. “Think about it: if I go out into the woods, I can hunt deer, man. Deer. I can pick one of those jokers up. You’re talking to an animal who is regularly straight lunching on some buck. That’s how powerful these talons are. Now, you drop me in the ballplayer’s world? I’m a dork. Last week Dmitri Young poured Gatorade on me while I was preening.”
“Wow…is it really that bad?” I say.
“Oh yeah,” Screech says, pulling out a flask. “It takes a toll on you. I have no social life to speak of. Last week I met up for drinks with a flamingo I met on FowlFinder.com, but that’s it.”
“How does the team treat you?” I asked, as Trina looked at her watch, exaggerated.
“Oh, worse than dirt. Usually, when you get injured on the job, you get workman’s comp, correct? Well, last week I fractured my wing when I flew into a mirror, thinking it was another room. Not only did I not get any benefits, but they didn’t give me any paid leave. I had to be back the next day to fly Nick Johnson to his 398th rehab session in Atlanta with Dr. James Andrews.”
“It sounds like you have it pretty tough,” I say.” What’s the least appealing part of the job?”
Here, he doesn’t hesitate. “Feeding the players.”
“Feeding the players. There’s nothing worse after an extra-inning, rain delayed game than having to regurgitate chicken carbonara for Ryan Zimmerman.”
“Oh my God!” I recoil in horror. That was a little much. Trina looks over at me. She’s starting to get frustrated.
“Hey!” she yells, exasperated. “Are we going or what? I want to get to the Air and Space Museum while I’m young. I’m trying to see some giant model airplanes up in this bitch.”
“You want to go while you’re young?” says a smirking Screech. “Hate to break it to you sweetheart, but you missed the boat on that one.”
“Allright now,” I say, holding up my hand. “Check your tone, Screech. I can’t let you disrespect my lady like that.”
“Disrespect her?” Screech scoffs. “I think you disrespected her when you let her leave the house in that purple hat.”
Out of seemingly nowhere, Trina’s purse hits him across the beak with a powerful thwack. She is absolutely livid. After a passing police officer and a Nationals official on hand intervene, the shouting match begins.
“Keep your trick in line, bro!” the angered eagle screams at me. “Keep that purple hatted trick in line!”
“Don’t you talk to my boo like that!” she bellows with Grandma Madea-like fire.
They both scuffle for a few moments in a heated bout. I’m helpless as the two tangle up and down the sidewalk, into the street. Passersby marvel at this incredibly bizarre fight taking place in front of them. What happens next amazes me: during a pause in the action, Screech grabs her and, quite unexpectedly, kisses her directly on the lips. My jaw hits the ground. I figured she would slap him silly out of loyalty to me.
Instead, she more than matches his enthusiasm.
Apparently, something about this disturbingly large man-bird had reignited the passion within her. Soon after, they left, arm-in-arm, to go check out the Air and Space Museum.
Many will ridicule Screech this season. Some already have. Some will find him adorable. Others will find detestable. But whenever I see him trolling the stands at Nats home games this year, all I’ll think is: there stands the bastard who stole my middle-aged black girlfriend.
Well played, Anthropomorphic Bird Who Will Give Me Nightmares for Weeks. Well played.