Christ stepped under center and began barking out signals, his long, lank tresses hanging out the back of his helmet. McMullen, the Raiders’ weak-side linebacker, was on his toes as if to blitz, but the Lord saw through this ruse and figured Oakland was probably going to drop into a Cover-2 zone.
That should open up the deep post, thought Jesus, and if the pocket breaks down, the underneath slant.
As the raucous Coliseum crowd chanted, “Six-six-six! Six-six-six!” Jesus made eye contact with his flanker, Mendenhall, who’d be the hot read if the quarterback got in trouble. Although physically imposing and fleet afoot, Mendenhall was not the bravest of souls when it came to going over the middle.
Jesus prayed, Father, if it be Your will, please grant Your humble servant, Prince Among Mendenhall, some courage.
At the snap, the Son of God took a five-step drop, careful not to trip over his long flowing robes, but before He could even look downfield, Robowski, the All-Pro defensive end, buried his helmet in Jesus’s ribs and drove him to the ground. The rest of the defensive line—and McMullen, who’d forgotten the play call and blitzed—dove on top of Our Lord as the whistle blew.
Buried under a ton of ill-tempered mesomorphs, Christ clutched the ball tightly as eager hands grabbed His facemask, pulled His hair, and tried to rip the football free. When one heavily-taped finger tried to gouge out the Lord’s eye, He bit it—ever so gently—and prayed, Forgive him, Father, for he knoweth not what he does.
When the pile of humanity had finally dispersed, one of the Raiders stepping on Christ’s ankle as he got up, Jesus rose from the soggy turf and handed the ball to the head linesman.
“Bill, the good shepherd doth not rest when even the least of his flock is threatened,” said the clearly-peeved Nazarene.
“What?” said the head linesman.
“You might want to keep an eye on Romanoff, before he maims someone,” said Jesus.
The harried official grumbled, “Christ, just play the damn game!” Then he spotted the ball and sprinted off to the far sideline.
Jesus limped back to the huddle—his bad knee was starting to swell—and glanced up at the scoreboard. Second and twenty-two from the Raiders’ forty, a minute-fifty to play, the Jets down by four.
There was time enough to pull out a glorious victory, however, the Lord could ill afford to take another sack.
“Guys, let’s try and get half of it back,” said Jesus, wincing as He knelt in the huddle. “Blue 67 double-go, wheel left protect, half-back draw on two.” Our Savior knew the Raiders’ D-line would be out for blood, His, and not worrying about staying in their lanes. And the Jets’ deep routes would take the safeties out of the play. It was only a matter of Blount, the halfback, being patient.
The Prince of Peace made eye contact with his halfback and said, “All doors, in their time, open to he who hath patience.”
“Say what?” said Blount.
“Don’t show early,” said Jesus, and raising His righteous voice, “Don’t forget, fellas—on two. Let’s go!” Everyone clapped, the Jets broke the huddle and strode briskly to the line.
Christ pretended to look up and down the line of scrimmage but in fact focused solely on Johnson, the middle linebacker. Although his feet were square to the line of scrimmage, Johnson had a tendency to show where he was going by dropping one of his hands. Sure enough, his right hand was low and balled in a fist: the middle linebacker was probably going to dog over left guard.
The Paschal Lamb placed His left hand under center and reached back with His right and tapped His right buttock, indicating to Blount where the play was going.
“Corinthians, three, twenty-six!” barked Jesus, “Hut-one, hut-two!” At the snap, the Son of God backpedaled and surveyed the rush. Perfect, both tackles were leaking wide and Johnson was caught up in the wash. The Lord stood tall in the pocket for one-one thousand, a golden glow encircling his helmet, then turned and handed off to Blount. That was the last thing Christ saw as a huge paw crashed into His aquiline nose, breaking it and driving Him to the turf.
Jesus spit blood onto the boggy sod and checked His incisors. Thank God they’re okay, He thought. The last thing I need is another root canal. Glancing up at the scoreboard, the Savior saw that the game-clock had been stopped with a minute-ten left in regulation.
As the umpire walked off fifteen yards for unnecessary roughness against Oakland, the Good Lord got to His feet and pondered the bizarre chain of events that had thrust Him—a career third-stringer who worked construction in the off-season—into the limelight. Only this past Monday, Luke Chavez, the Jets’ starting QB, had held a news conference to announce he was leaving the team to pursue a career in modeling. And then on Wednesday, Bower, the back-up signal-caller, had torn a tendon while genuflecting in practice. The desperate Jets had turned to the scrawny little Jew sitting on the end of their bench and said, “Jesus, save our season!”
The umpire finally spotted the ball at the Oakland twenty-two and signaled for the play-clock to start. God’s only Son entered the Jets’ huddle, took a knee, and glared at his O-line. “C’mon, you guys! I got better protection from the Apostles, and there wasn’t a one of them over five-nine. Now let’s go!”
Christ called a pass play, a quick-hitter to Simmons over the middle, and the Jets broke the huddle. The crowd noise was absolutely deafening, forcing New York to go with a silent count.
Our Savior took the snap, dropped back, stepped up to avoid Robowski and hit Simmons right on the numbers. Simmons, however, couldn’t hold on as he was drilled by Umbatwe, the hard-hitting safety, and the young receiver went down in a heap, howling and clutching his knee. Jesus knelt down next to his fallen comrade, saw Simmons’s grotesquely distended knee, and laid His hand upon it.
“It is only a mild bone bruise, my son,” said the Lord. “Arise and walk.” Like that, Simmons got to his feet and jogged to the sideline, wiping tears from his eyes as he left the field of play.
The Redeemer then called a sweep, figuring He might catch the Raiders off-guard, and Blount made a nice gain to the thirteen but inexplicably failed to get out of bounds, forcing the Jets to burn their final time-out.
Christ trod gingerly to the visitors’ sideline to face a livid Coach Burns.
“Jee-zus! What the hell’re ya doin’ calling a running play?” the Jets’ head coach fumed.
“What can I say?” said Christ, shrugging His shoulders, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Our Savior sipped wine from a Gatorade bottle—He hated sports drinks—and stared past His coach at some Raider fans who were giving Him the finger and spewing obscenities at the top of their lungs.
In a fit of pique, Jesus sent each of them a thirty-day trial of painful anal warts. Grinning, the Lamb of God pulled his helmet back on—careful not to bonk His swollen nose—and turned to His apoplectic head coach.
“Coach, consider the lilies of the field,” said the Lord, stroking His thick auburn beard. “No glory or riches do they seek. They neither toil nor fret.”
“What’s that s’posed to mean?” said Coach Burns.
“Relax, Burnsy, it’s just a game.” God’s only Son winked at His head coach, then trotted back onto the field.
With twenty-five seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, Jesus addressed his teammates in the huddle. “We’ll have to throw for the end-zone,” He said, “and we’ve got two shots at it. Make sure you run your patterns deep enough and let’s pass-protect like tigers; we cannot afford a sack.”
Christ looked each player in the eye, a beatific, albeit bloody, smile on His divine countenance, and said, “Remember, men, through God, all things are possible. Let’s go Fifty-five Oklahoma, offset left, double wide read on two, on two. Break!”
The Jets moved crisply to the line and got set. Jesus called out signals, took the snap and dropped back to pass. Reading a full-out blitz, Our Lord threw a perfect fade to the corner but the split-end, Smith, got caught up in traffic and the ball sailed harmlessly out of bounds.
Christ could only shake His head. “Father, why have You forsaken me?” He muttered, looking up to the Heavens.
“Okay, fellas,” said the hirsute Messiah in the huddle. “This is it. Twenty-seven slot right, max protect, skinny post on three. The long count should slow down the rush, and Reiser, when you turn, the ball’s coming hot—got it? On three. Let’s win this thing!”
With nine seconds left in the game, the Coliseum crowd was on their feet, screaming and waving their beers and various home-made weapons. As He looked across the line of scrimmage, Christ could see another red dog coming, but it didn’t matter; the ball would be gone before the pocket collapsed. Reiser, the tight-end, was a big, tough kid, and glue-fingered to boot. As long as he got off the line cleanly, the play should go for six.
As the King of Kings called signals, the defensive line jumped and had to re-set, so that they were slow getting off on the snap. Jesus had plenty of time, good vision, and He threw a dart to the tight-end for the potential game-winning touchdown. But before He could even crack a smile, Our Lord saw the yellow flag and heard the roar of the approving crowd.
The head referee walked to the middle of the field, fiddled with his mike, and announced, “Holding, number sixty-six, offense.” He waited a beat for the loud ruckus to subside. “By rule the game cannot end on an accepted penalty. New York will get one more play from the Oakland twenty-eight.”
Finding an open receiver’s gonna be tough, thought Jesus. The Raiders are going to rush four agile, hostile steroid-abusers, and all seven of their D-backs will be camped out in the end-zone. It would be easier to sneak a hedge-fund manager into Heaven.
The muddy, bloodied Nazarene knelt in the huddle. “Boys, it’s schoolyard time! I want the backs in to block and my receivers to head for any open patch of green you can find in the end-zone. I’m gonna put it up high and pray one of you comes down with it. We’ll go on the first sound. Let’s do it!”
The Jets strode to the line of scrimmage, the heavy-legged lineman kicking up pieces of sod as they walked. Our Lord licked His fingertips and prayed, Mother? I don’t want to seem chintzy here, but I believe you still owe me one from that wedding. Deliver me from evil and lead me not into double coverage.
At the snap, Jesus sprinted back, ducked under the nose tackle’s vicious attempt to decapitate Him, and stepped into the throw. The ball felt good as it left His hand, and as Christ was being driven to the ground, He heard the most amazing sound one could ever hear in another team’s stadium: the sound of silence. Followed by the sound of forty-five green-and-white-clad behemoths squealing like little girls—little girls who were going to the Super Bowl!
With a wave of His hand, Jesus shed hundreds of pounds of humanity, as if cleaving a silver-and-black sea, and slowly floated to His feet. Despite a long, brutal game in swamp-like conditions, Christ’s spikes were still white and immaculate, and the glow surrounding His helmet was eclipsed only by the radiance of His divine smile.
The Good Lord’s teammates and coaches all flocked to His side but seemed happy just to kneel and touch the hem of His garment. I wonder where they got that from, mused Jesus.
“Christ! J.C.!” called out Kandi Krakauer, the popular sideline reporter as she elbowed her way through the crowd, her silicone-enhanced breasts bouncing up and down like buoys in a riptide.
“Jesus,” she said, thrusting a mike in the Lamb of God’s face, “You just pulled off a miracle to send your team to the Super Bowl. How’s it feel?”
“Well, it was a team effort, Kandi. It took great coaching, lots of faith and hard work, and really, everyone just doing their job.” Our Lord smiled at the heavily made-up reporter, trying His best not to stare at her cleavage. “That having been said, I must give thanks to God the Father for granting me strength, the Holy Spirit for giving me courage, and I guess…to me, for making it happen!” Jesus frowned. “It’s kinda complicated, Kandi.”
“Yes, I’ll bet,” said Ms. Krakauer, providing the kind of in-depth analysis for which she was famous. “So tell us, J.C., what are your thoughts on the Super Bowl?”
“The fact is, Kandi, when it comes to Super Bowls, many are called but few are chosen,” said Jesus. “Personally, I’m thrilled the Jets are finally back in the Super Bowl, and I guarantee we’ll cover the spread. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get some ice on my knees and be with my teammates.”
“Of course,” said the bleach-blond commentator, turning and smiling vapidly at the camera. “Back to you, Marv.”
As if on cue, the dense, glowering clouds parted and a heavenly light shone down upon Our Lord as He gimped off the field, His helmet dangling from one hand, the other hand pointing skyward to tell the world, We’re number one!
I was amused! Nice work, Pete.