The Silver Linings Playbook (Chapter 27)

As If He Were Yoda and I Were Luke Skywalker Training on the Dagobah System

When we finish discussing our Kubb tournament victory and Mrs. Patel's extraordinary ability to render an exact likeness of Brian Dawkins's bust on the hood of a school bus, I pick the black recliner and tell Cliff I am a little depressed.

"What's wrong?" he says, pulling the lever and raising his footrest.

"Terrell Owens."

Cliff nods, as if he were expecting me to bring up the wide receiver's name.

I did not want to talk about this earlier, but it was reported that Terrell Owens (or T.O.) tried to kill himself on September 26. News reports stated that T.O. overdosed on a pain medication. Later, after T.O. was released from the hospital, he said he did not try to kill himself, and then everyone began to think he was crazy.

I remember T.O. as a young 49er, but Owens was not on the 49ers' roster when I watched the Eagles play in San Francisco a few weeks ago. What I learned from reading the sports pages was that T.O. had played for the Eagles when I was in the bad place, and he had helped the Birds get to Super Bowl XXXIX, which I do not remember at all. (Maybe this is good, since the Eagles lost, but not remembering still makes me feel crazy.) T.O. apparently held out for more money the next year, said bad things about Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, was suspended for the second half of the season, and then was actually cut from the team, so he signed with the very team Eagles fans hate most – the Cowboys. And because of this, everyone in Philadelphia currently hates T.O. more than just about anyone else on the planet.

"T.O.? Don't worry about him," Cliff says. "Dawkins is going to hit him so hard that Owens will be afraid to catch any balls at the Linc."

"I'm not worried about T.O. making catches and scoring touchdowns."

Cliff looks at me for a second, as if he does not know how to respond, and then says, "Tell me what worries you."

"My father refers to T.O. as a psychopathic pill popper. And on the phone this week, Jake also made jokes about T.O. taking pills, calling Owens a nutter."

"Why does this bother you?"

"Well, the reports I read in the sports pages claimed that T.O. was possibly battling depression."


"Well," I say, "that would suggest maybe he needs therapy."


"If Terrell Owens is really depressed or mentally unstable, why do the people I love use it as an excuse to talk badly about him?"

Cliff takes a deep breath. "Hmmm."

"Doesn't my dad understand that I'm a psychopathic pill popper too?"

"As your therapist, I can confirm that you are clearly not psychopathic, Pat."

"But I'm on all sorts of pills."

"And yet you are not abusing your medications."

I can see what Cliff means, but he doesn't really understand how I feel – which is a mix of very complicated and hard-to-convey emotions, I realize – so I drop the subject.

When the Dallas Cowboys come to Philadelphia, the fat men's tent and the Asian Invasion bus are combined to create a super party that again features a Kubb tournament on Astroturf, satellite television, Indian kabobs, and much beer. But I cannot concentrate on the fun, because all around me is hatred.

The first things I notice are the homemade T-shirts other tailgaters are buying and selling and wearing. So many different slogans and images. One has a cartoon of a small boy urinating on the Dallas star, and the caption reads dallas sucks. t.o. swallows … pills. Another shirt has a large prescription bottle with the universal skull-and-crossbones poison symbol on the label and terrell owens written underneath. Yet another version features the pill bottle on the front and a gun on the back, under which the caption reads T.O., if at first you don't succeed, buy a gun. A nearby tailgater has nailed T.O.'s old Eagles jersey to a ten-foot cross, which is also covered with orange prescription bottles that look exactly like mine. People are burning their old T.O. jerseys in the parking lot; human-size dolls in T.O. jerseys are strung up so people can hit them with bats. And even though I do not like any Dallas Cowboy, I feel sort of bad for Terrell Owens because maybe he really is a sad guy who is having trouble with his mind. Who knows, maybe he really did try to kill himself? And yet everyone mocks him, as if his mental health is a joke – or maybe they want to push him over the edge and would like nothing more than to see T.O. dead.

Because of my poor throws, Cliff and I get knocked out of the Kubb tournament early, losing the five bucks my brother fronted me, and this is when Cliff asks me to help him move some India Pale Ale out of the Asian Invasion bus. When we are inside of the bus, he closes the door and says, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I say.

"You weren't even looking to see where your batons landed, you were so distracted during the Kubb games."

I say nothing.

"What's wrong?"

"You're not in your leather seat."

Cliff sits down, pats the bus seat, and says, "Pleather will have to do today."

I sit down in the seat across from Cliff and say, "I just feel bad for T.O. That's all."

"He's getting millions of dollars to endure this type of criticism. And he thrives on it. He brings it on himself with those touchdown dances and the hoopla. And these people don't really want T.O. to die; they just don't want him to perform well today. It's all in good fun."

Now, I know what Cliff means, but it doesn't seem like good fun to me. And regardless of whether T.O. is a millionaire or not, I'm not sure T-shirts encouraging anyone to shoot himself in the head should be condoned by my therapist. But I don't say anything.

Back outside the bus I see that Jake and Ashwini are in the final game of the Kubb tournament, so I try to cheer for them and block out the hatred that surrounds me.

Inside the Linc, all throughout the first half, the crowd sings, "O.D. – O.D., O.D., O.D. – O.D. – O.D." Jake explains that the crowd used to sing, "T.O. – T.O., T.O., T.O. – T.O. – T.O." back when Owens was an Eagle. I watch Owens on the sideline, and even though he doesn't have many catches yet, he seems to be dancing to the rhythm of the crowd's O.D. song, and I wonder if he is really so immune to seventy thousand people mocking his near overdose or if he really feels differently inside. Again I can't help feeling bad for the guy. I wonder what I would do if seventy thousand people mocked my forgetting the last few years of my life.

By halftime Hank Baskett has two catches for twenty-five yards, but the Eagles are losing 21 – 17.

All throughout the second half, Lincoln Financial Field is alive; we Eagles fans know that first place in the NFC East is at stake.

With just under eight minutes to go in the third, everything changes.

McNabb throws a long one down the left side of the field. Everyone in my section stands to see what will happen. Number 84 catches the ball in Dallas territory, puts a move on the defender, takes off for the end zone, and then I am in the air. Under me are Scott and Jake. I'm riding high on their shoulders. Everyone in our section is high-fiving me because Hank Baskett has finally scored his first NFL touchdown – an eighty-seven-yarder – and of course I am wearing my Baskett jersey. The Eagles are winning, and I am so happy that I forget all about T.O. and start to think about my dad watching at home on his huge television, and I wonder if maybe the TV cameras caught me when I was riding high on Jake's and Scott's shoulders. Maybe Dad saw a life-size me celebrating on his flat screen, and maybe he is even proud.

A series of tense moments get our hearts beating at the end of the fourth quarter, when Dallas is driving, down 31 – 24. A score will send the game into OT. But Lito Sheppard intercepts Bledsoe and returns the pick for a TD, and the whole stadium sings the Eagles fight song and chants the letters, and the day is ours.

When the clock ticks down, I look for T.O. and see him sprint off the field and into the locker room without even shaking the hand of one single Eagle. I still feel bad for him.

Jake and Scott and I exit the Linc and run into the Asian Invasion – which is easy to spot from far away because it consists of fifty Indian men, usually clumped together, all in Brian Dawkins jerseys. "Just look for fifty number 20's," they always say. Cliff and I run up to each other and high-five and scream and yell, and then all fifty Indian men start chanting, "Baskett, Baskett, Baskett!" And I am so happy; I pick little Cliff up and hoist him onto my shoulders and carry him back to the Asian Invasion bus as if he were Yoda and I were Luke Skywalker training on the Dagobah System in the middle section of The Empire Strikes Back, which is – as I told you before – one of my all-time favorite movies. "E!-A!-G!-L!-E!-S! EAGLES!" we chant so many times as we navigate the crowds and find our way back to our spot behind the Wachovia Center, where the fat men are waiting with ice-cold celebration beers. I keep hugging Jake and high-fiving Cliff and chest bumping the fat men and singing with the Indians. I am so happy. I am so impossibly happy.

When the Asian Invasion drops me off in front of my house, it's late, so I ask Ashwini not to blow the Eagles chant horn and he reluctantly agrees – although when the bus rounds the corner at the end of my street, I hear fifty Indian men chant, "E!-A!-G!-L!-E!-S! EAGLES!" I can't help smiling as I enter my parents' home.

I am ready for Dad. After such a big win – a win that puts the Eagles in first place – surely Dad will want to talk to me. But when I enter the family room, no one is there. No beer bottles on the floor, no dishes in the sink. In fact, the whole house looks spotless.

"Dad? Mom?" I say, but no one answers. I saw both of their cars in the driveway when I came home, so I am very confused. I begin to climb the steps, and the house is deadly quiet. I check my bedroom, and my bed's made and the room is empty. So I knock on my parents' bedroom door, but no one answers. I push the door open and immediately wish I hadn't.

"Your father and I made up after the Eagles victory," Mom says with a funny smile. "He aims to be a changed man."

The sheet is pulled up to their necks, but somehow I know my parents are naked underneath the covers.

"Your boy Baskett healed the family," my father says. "He was a god out there on the field today. And with the Eagles in first place, I thought, Why not make up with Jeanie?"

Still, I cannot speak.

"Pat, maybe you'd like to go for a run?" my mom suggests. "Maybe just a little half-hour run?"

I close their bedroom door.

While I change into a tracksuit, I think I hear my parents' bed squeak, and the house seems to shake a little too. So I slip on my sneakers and run down the stairs and out the front door. I sprint across the park, run around to the back of the Websters' house, and knock on Tiffany's door. When she answers, she's in some sort of nightgown and her face looks confused.

"Pat? What are you – "

"My parents are having sex," I explain. "Right now."

Her eyes widen. She smiles and then laughs. "Just let me get changed," she says, and then shuts the door.

We walk for hours – all around Collingswood. At first I ramble on and on about T.O., Baskett, my parents, Jake, the Asian Invasion, my wedding pictures, my mother's ultimatum actually working – everything – but Tiffany does not say anything in response. When I run out of words, we simply walk and walk and walk, and finally we are in front of the Websters' house and it is time to say good night. I stick my hand out and say, "Thanks for listening." When it is clear that Tiffany's not going to shake, I start to walk away.

"Turn around, bright eyes," Tiffany says, which is a very weird thing for her to say, because my eyes are brown and very dull, but of course I turn around. "I'm going to give you something that will confuse you, and maybe even make you mad. I don't want you to open it until you are in a very relaxed mood. Tonight is out of the question. Wait a few days, and when you are feeling happy, open this letter." She pulls a white business envelope out of her jacket pocket and hands it to me. "Put it away in your pocket," she says, and I do as I am told, mostly because Tiffany looks so deathly serious. "I will not be running with you until you give me your answer. I will leave you alone to think. Regardless of what you decide, you cannot tell anyone about what is inside of that envelope. Understand? If you tell anyone – even your therapist – I'll know by looking in your eyes, and I will never speak to you again. It's best if you simply follow my directions."

My heart is pounding. What is Tiffany talking about? All I want to do is open the envelope now.

"You have to wait at least forty-eight hours before you open that. Make sure you are in a good mood when you read the letter. Think about it, and then give me your answer. Remember, Pat, I can be a very valuable friend to you, but you do not want me as an enemy."

I remember the story Ronnie told me about how Tiffany lost her job, and I begin to feel very afraid.