We sent a Spirit of Jake Plummer reporter south of the border to interview former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell. O'Donnell recently contacted SOJP to discuss the recent controversy surrounding retired NFLers' pensions.
Jim Brown, Bart Starr and Dick Butkus have it made, not just because of their legendary NFL careers, but because they retired before 1977. Thanks to a recent league ruling, players who retired before 1977 will see their pension doubled. Great deal for rickety old players. Shitty deal for forgotten players who retired after ’77. The superstars of the last few decades sit atop Scrooge McDuck-esque money piles, but what about the other guys? Guys like Neil O’Donnell? Chokers like Neil O’Donnell?
SOJP met with O’Donnell in his native New Jersey to discuss the pension ruling. O’Donnell contacted us by leaving his business card – a piece of cereal box with his name and address scribbled down in pencil crayon – at our office.
Upon arriving at O’Donnell’s townhouse, I was sure I’d been duped or given the wrong address. An elderly woman answered the door and claimed she’d never heard of O’Donnell. Just as I was about to leave, a man burst out of a nearby compost heap and accosted me.
"Roarrrgh," the man said, coughing uncontrollably. "Stop the presses… Barbara Walters special, baby… one on one with ‘Real Neil O’Donnell… put the young ones to bed.’"
Why was this homeless man claiming to be O’Donnell? Still, there was something familiar about him – a sadness, a sense of despair in his eyes, along with a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey smeared with what looked like kitty litter.
I picked a pop can off the ground and tossed it to the hobo.
"OK, ‘O’Donnell,’" I said. "Throw this can to me. Prove it’s you."
The bum took a lazy two-step drop and hurled the can five feet over my head, landing it softly in the arms of a man jogging by. It was O’Donnell.
O’Donnell told me to "step into his office." He didn’t move. Standing in the middle of the elderly woman’s driveway, we were apparently already there.
After sneezing on me, he finally discussed the pension issue. He claimed the rule ignored the money a given player made during his career.
Take Jim Brown," O’Donnell said. "Think he needs the pension? Guy was a star, made good coin and launched a movie career out of it. Won an Oscar for Jerry Maguire.
"Then you have guys like Neil O’Donnell," he continued. "How many movies was I in? Who wants to make a movie about fuckin’ interceptions? A movie about my failed investment in Nerf toys? A movie about eating bags of Cheetos and watching reruns of Three’s Company?"
O’Donnell said pension should be determined by how much money a player made during his career; only players who made less than the league average would qualify. I asked O’Donnell if it would be fair for someone who made less than the league average today to collect pension upon retirement while someone who made top dollar several decades ago receives nothing.
"You’re talking the crazy talk," O’Donnell said. "Inflation doesn’t exist. It’s a myth. The U.S. of fuckin’ A created it during the Cold War to confuse the Nazis."
Almost as soon as O’Donnell’s tirade began, it ended. His expression grew grim and he dropped to the ground, writhing in pain. Here was a tortured soul; every Super Bowl interception stalked him like a demon.
I bent down beside O’Donnell and patted the back of his tattered denim jacket, which was several sizes too small.
"Neil," I said. "I’m here. I can help you. You have to let Super Bowl XXX go. You can’t go on in this kind of pain."
"Super Bowl XXX?" O’Donnell said. "What are you talking about? This pain comes from my gut. As in, I have a rumble in my gut. As in, I haven’t eaten since someone threw an apple core at me yesterday and I caught it. As in, what do you say we hit the KFC drive thru pronto, your treat?"
The interview was clearly over. I pulled a pack of Tic Tacs from my pocket and tossed it to O’Donnell before returning to my car, saddened to see another NFL retiree left to fend for himself.
As I pulled away, O’Donnell moaned loudly. I glanced at him and gagged.
He was masturbating.