The fall of 2013 was a difficult one for my youth football team’s defensive coordinator, Coach Drake. Georgia started off the season with championship aspirations and an explosive offense led by Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley, but those hopes fell apart in October with embarrassing losses to Vanderbilt and Missouri. The Auburn game in November provided one last opportunity for Georgia to score a signature win and ensure the season wasn’t a total loss. The Auburn game is particularly important for Drake, because half of his extended family resides in Dothan, Alabama. Though no one in Drake’s family has ever so much as darkened the doorway of a college classroom, the Dothan-based Cuomos are rabid Auburn fans. The Northeast Georgia-based Cuomos, including Drake, are Georgia fans. They gather every July at a roadside picnic park in Enterprise, Alabama for the family reunion. The reunion almost always ends in a fistfight, usually due to an argument about the previous Georgia-Auburn game. Evidently, ten coolers full of Natural Light consumed in ninety-degree heat by three dozen people with maybe seven high school diplomas between them isn’t a recipe for the most civil behavior. The game of full-on tackle football they play doesn’t help either.
In any event, the loss to Auburn in 2013 sent Drake off the deep end. We were watching the game at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, and when Aaron Murray’s final pass fell incomplete, Drake just stood up, walked to the parking lot, got into his LeBaron, and peeled away. I spent the rest of the night and all Sunday trying to find him or get some confirmation that he was alive and well. None of my texts or phone calls were returned, and by Monday, I was growing concerned.
Shortly after 1:00 p.m., my cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but answered.
“Good afternoon. Is this Mr. Letterman?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
“This is Officer Larry Jennings from the sheriff’s department. Are you an acquaintance of Drake Cuomo?”
“Yeah, why? Is he okay?”
“Sort of. We arrested him about an hour ago at Hardee’s for driving under the influence and public urination.”
“Oh, Christ. You’ve got to be kidding me. How the hell did that happen? It’s only 1:00.”
“Well, we got a call around noon from a Hardee’s employee complaining about a man who seemed to be sleeping outside the restaurant,” Officer Jennings explained. “When we arrived, we saw Mr. Cuomo passed out face-down in the bushes. His pants and underwear were down at his ankles, and there was nothing covering him. After a few minutes we were able to finally rouse him, but he was incoherent and clearly intoxicated. He started shouting about wanting to fight some guy named Gus. Does that name ring any bells?”
“He must be talking about Gus Malzahn. Auburn’s coach. Drake was really upset after the game on Saturday.”
“Ok. That makes sense. Anyway, we tried to administer a field sobriety test in the parking lot, but while walking the line, Mr. Cuomo fell face first into the squad car and urinated on himself. A bunch of school kids who were eating lunch at Hardees during a field trip saw the whole thing. We had no choice but to arrest him and bring him here to the station. When he finally started making some sense, he asked us to call you. I’ve got him right here. He wants to speak with you about his bail.”
“Ok. I can come bail him out.”
“Oh, one more thing Mr. Letterman,” he continued. “Just so you know, we also could’ve charged Mr. Cuomo with public defecation. We decided not to do that because we didn’t want to embarrass him any further. They publish these arrests in the paper.”
“I appreciate that officer.”
“Here’s Mr. Cuomo.”
“Hey man,” Drake said, choking back tears.
“Drake, what the hell happened to you? I haven’t seen you since Saturday.”
“I really don’t know man. I don’t remember much after the game. I just started drinking everything in sight and got on one of those Greyhound busses. I didn’t even know where it was going. Next thing I knew, I was in Macon. Got kicked out of a Subway there after I got in a fight. Then I hitched back here and next thing I know, those cops were waking me up. I don’t even know what day it is!”
“It’s Monday, Drake. You went completely AWOL after the game. I’ve been trying to find you for two days. You can’t do shit like this.”
“This just isn’t right!” He began sobbing. “Murray didn’t deserve this. Gurley didn’t deserve it. I just fuckin’ hate Auburn so much! Goddamn cheaters! That whole game was bullshit. The refs were going to screw us one way or the other. You know it. Fuckin’ Penn Wagers!” A loud, repetitive banging sound suddenly came over the phone. “Mr. Cuomo, stop that!” I heard Officer Jennings say in the background. “Do not hit the phone on the wall again or I’m ending this call.”
Drake’s voice returned to the line. “The fix was in! It’s a fuckin’ conspiracy man, I’ve been telling you. Malzahn. ESPN. Saban. Obama. Romney. The assholes in Birmingham. Even Grantham. They’re all prejudiced against us. They’re all in it together. I swear to god man, the second I get out of here I’m going to drive to Birmingham and fight Mike Slive. Nothing’s gonna ever change if I don’t do something about it.”
“No you’re not Drake.”
“Yes I am!” he screamed.
“Then I’m not coming to bail you out.”
“But I don’t have any money! I don’t even have a bank account!”
“I know that. So either you give me your word you won’t go to Birmingham, or you sit in jail.”
“Fine. I won’t go.”
“Ok. Good. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes to get you.”
“Thanks man. Gus Malzahn can go straight to hell.”