All you people out there with leaky basements, or cars that won't start, or standing rib roasts burnt to a crisp because your microwave forgot to buzz when it should. All you people out there who woke up this morning with a splitting headache only to find out that your 3-year-old had fed all the aspirin to the goldfish. All you people out there who think you're having a bad day. This one's for you:
Last Friday afternoon, Bobby Beathard, the Redskins' general manager, flew to New York City to begin what he thought would be a glorious weekend. Beathard and his wife, the vivacious Christine, had their itinerary neatly planned. That night, they would have dinner in Manhattan with friends. Saturday, they'd relax in their hotel overlooking Central Park. And on Sunday, Beathard would run in the New York City Marathon -- his 32nd marathon -- come back to the hotel, change, and catch a cab to the Meadowlands for the Redskins-Giants game, to see Washington win.
Sounds great, doesn't it?
Okay, cue the Snafu machine; we're ready for it.
On Friday, night, Beathard and friends went out for spaghetti -- de rigeur for runners before a marathon -- and wound up in your typical Manhattan upscale joint. Everything a la carte. Spaghetti? Surely you mean pasta. Pricey? Look, pal, you ought to be grateful to pay $15 per plate. Usually in New York you're lucky you get silverware for $15.
On Saturday, Beathard heard the advance weather forecast and knew he was in trouble. Months ago he had told ABC, which was planning to focus on Beathard's progress during the race, he thought he could run a PR -- personal record -- of 2 hours 43 minutes. But recently he had been bothered by what he called "an alignment problem," causing him to cut back on his running. Only last month did an orthopedist "fix" him. "I hadn't run a 20-miler in three months," Beathard said. "I've been running pain-free lately, but nothing longer than 14 miles. I wasn't in any shape to go more than an easy, slow pace. Around 3:30. And hot, humid weather wasn't going to help."
On Sunday, Beathard wasn't feeling good about the race even before he left the hotel. "I told Christine I was taking $25 for cab fare with me; that's how much confidence I had."
At the Verrazano Narrows Bridge starting point, Beathard told ABC a PR was out of the question. The network gave him a beeper to wear, so it could monitor his progress and cut to him when desired.
"Why is he wearing a beeper?" a runner asked.
"He's a doctor," one of Beathard's friends said quickly. "He keeps it on in case he's needed for surgery."
"That's dedication," the runner said admiringly.
Beathard's marathon went badly. "I didn't have it, and I knew it. I didn't enjoy any of it. I was beaten. I went past 19 miles, and I was coming up on the bridge into the Bronx when I stopped. I didn't want to punish myself any more."
Beathard was in Manhattan, on First Avenue in the 120s when he walked off the course. "I don't know where exactly, but on the street everyone spoke Spanish." He tried to hail a cab but five or six sped by without picking him up. "I was in running shorts; I guess they thought I didn't have any money."
Finally, a cab stopped, and Beathard told him to head for the Essex House. "I still had my beeper turned on. Here I was going in the opposite direction of the race, doing three-minute miles in a cab. If ABC was tracking me, they must have thought I'd really picked up my pace."
Beathard returned to his hotel exhausted, and quickly doused himself in a cold bath. Christine, who had been waiting at the finish line, showed up a few minutes later. "I'd told her," Beathard said, "if she didn't see me, she should go back to the hotel at 2:30." The bellman flagged a cab and told the driver "The football game at the Meadowlands." Climbing in, Beathard repeated the instructions.
Beathard closed his eyes for a while, and the next time he looked up he saw a sign: "La Guardia Airport." Instead of New Jersey and Giants Stadium, the cabbie was on his way to Queens and Shea Stadium.
"Where are you going?" Beathard asked.
The cabbie, who spoke little English, said, "Football game. Shea Stadium."
"I said, "The Meadowlands!"" Beathard said.
"Yes, Meadowlands. Flushing Meadowlands," the cabbie said. A long day was getting longer. Beathard didn't know whether to kill himself or go bowling.
The cabbie turned around and went back through Manhattan, then into Jersey via the George Washington Bridge. When he got there, he asked Beathard, "Where's the Meadowlands?"
Somehow they got there and Beathard joined the assistant coaches upstairs, in the visitors' booth, having missed only a couple of first-quarter plays. Now, Beathard was actually in high spirits. "Physically, I started feeling better in the cab. By the time I got to the game, I was excited. I figured, now comes the good part -- the game. Nothing more could go wrong. It couldn't get worse."
Oh year? "It got worse and worse," he admitted.
Giants 37, Redskins 13, "an awful, terrible game. You sit there hoping for a comeback. But after a while you feel you're kidding yourself -- there's not gonna be a comeback. It was identical to the feeling I had after 10 miles in the marathon. I knew I was kidding myself."
Had the Redskins won, Beathard would have gotten big laughs on the plane to Washington, recounting his misadventures. But a losing squad is a tough room to work. Even Eddie Murphy would have bombed.
The last straw came just after landing at Dulles.
"Bobby," Christine asked, "where's our car?"
Beathard shrugged. "Geez, I left it at National."
Joe Gibbs drove them home.
Hall of Fame day, right?
"A personal worst," Beathard said, managing a smile. "A new PW."