Behind The Mask: Eric Winston

The following is part whatever in a series of posts where our top writers for the Battle Red Onion tag along with our favorite players for the Houston Texans to learn about their lives away from the football field.  The content is raw, unedited, leaves us open to lawsuits, and will probably land us all in jail.  But it's a risk worth taking so we can learn more about the men behind the mask.

It had been a long day in Minneapolis for Eric Winston.  The Texans right tackle had spent hours discussing the labor deal with his fellow members of the NFLPA and all he wanted to do now was go to his hotel room and sleep.  What he really wanted to do was go to Hooters and Hoover down about 300 chickens worth of wings and wash them down with beer.  Since he couldn't, sleep seemed like the next best option.  When he got to his room, he could hear someone rattling around inside.  It seemed unlikely to Winston that housekeeping would clean his room at three in the morning.  Winston quietly unlocked the door to confront his intruder.

As he closed the door behind him, he reached for his trusty club, propped up against the wall next to the door.  He picked it up and held it over his head and charged inside.  The room looked immaculate.  There was no evidence to suggest that Winston's room had been tossed; the only thing out of the ordinary was the man wearing a black trench coat who sat on the side of his bed.

The man in the trench coat didn't bat an eye as Winston ran into the room, ready to smash anyone who got in his way.

"So this is how you greet guests, is it?"

"Guest?  What kind of guest breaks into a hotel room?"

The stranger chuckled softly, "I think if you check the locks, there's no sign of forced entry.  I hope you don't mind that I let myself in."

"Let your--give me one good reason why I shouldn't clobber you into another time zone with my club."

The curtains floated in the breeze coming from the open window.  "I wouldn't do that."

Winston raised his club high over the stranger's head when he felt some invisible force violently force the club out of his hands and bump against the wall before landing harmlessly on the ground. 

Winston made another move at his visitor when he saw a red dot appear on his chest.

"Are you done yet?  Try something else like that and my associate will have to resort to more...drastic measures."

The stranger held a walkie-talkie to his face, "Thank you, Agent OO-D, you may stand down now."

"Who the hell are you, anyway?"

"You're right, I should probably introduce myself, that mistake's on me.  You can call me Mr. K.  I--I mean, the people I represent need your help."

Winston snorted a laugh, "You sure have a funny way of asking for help.  Why on Earth should I help you?"

"If you don't help us, the labor talks will completely melt down and there won't be any football this year."

Winston cast a furtive side-glance at Mr. K, "How do you figure that?"

"We have reason to believe that one of the players is working in cahoots with the owners to cause dissension in the players' ranks.  We assume he intends to make the players look like villains by stirring the pot and demanding more from the owners; who will then act innocent as if they're the ones who want football and the NFLPA is preventing that from happening.  If you don't help us, there will be no football and fans will blame you for it."

"Why do you need me?  There's hundreds of other players you could ask."

"None of them have the unique skill set that you possess and we require."

Winston's eyes widened, "You mean--"

"I do," Mr. K said dramatically.  "That player is possessed."

Winston sat down in the recliner on the far side of the room, "I can't believe it.  How?"

"We don't know.  That's where you come in.  We want you to exorcise whatever is controlling this player and find out how it happened.  Will you do it?"

"Depends...can I sleep first?"

"Of course, but time is a factor, mind you."

"Fine, fine, I'll do it.  Now let me get some sleep."

The following morning was quiet, like most others Winston had experienced on days when labor talks were scheduled.  Player representatives from all 32 teams, including some players who simply had nothing better to do, gathered in a conference room antechamber in their recently chosen undisclosed location; which will invariably be discovered by non-imbecile sports writers.

Winston sat and waited for DeMaurice Smith to address the crowd. He could hear the other player reps talking about how this would all soon be over, finally.

"Of course it will...Smith's going to give the farm over to the owners.  Why wouldn't they end the lockout in that case?"

Winston turned around to see if he could hear the rabblerouser in the crowd.  No luck.  He turned back to the podium.

"We deserve more, damn it.  We take all kinds of abuse on the field, and now we're supposed to take it in the pocketbook too?"

The crowd started grumbling angrily about the owners...their disdain growing louder and louder with each second of Smith's absence.

"All we want is our piece of pie!"

Winston turned around quickly as the reps started applauding the instigator.  He could see who was whipping the crowd into a frenzy; it was an all-too-familiar face.

"Vanden Bosch!"

Kyle Vanden Bosch looked over at Winston coldly and bolted out of the room.  Winston pursued him out of the hotel and surveyed the crowd.  Vanden Bosch was nowhere to be found.  The bells of the nearby church pealed melodically.  The melody was interrupted by the piercing shriek of Vanden Bosch who was forced out of hiding by the bells' chiming.  Winston took off after him like a bullet, an impressive feat for an offensive lineman.  He closed in on Vanden Bosch until he closed and sealed the door to an abandoned warehouse, keeping Winston out. 

"Is there a problem, Eric?"

Winston turned around to find Mr. K looking over his shoulder at the warehouse.  "So you found the culprit.  Any idea how he was possessed?"

"Possessed?  I just wanted to kick his ass.  I still owe him a beating for 2009.  I don't think he's the one that's possessed, though."

"Why's that?  His eyes are red, how much more proof do you need?"

"Those are contact lenses.  He doesn't have red eyes!  You're wasting my time!"

Mr. K pulled a small box out of his pocket and opened it up, revealing a pair of amber-colored lenses.

"These are his lenses.  He hasn't worn them since the season ended."

"Fine, so it's him.  If that's the case, I can't do this alone.  I'm going to need some backup.  And I'm going to need you to bring some things from the hotel."

"Consider it done."

Time seemed to crawl by.  Mr. K demanded that Winston watch the warehouse in case Vanden Bosch tried to escape.  It was tedious work; he'd rather be watching paint dry or David Carr try to throw a football through the rungs of a ladder.  At least that would have been good for a chuckle or two.

As night fell on the city, Mr. K returned holding a briefcase and backed up by two very large individuals.

"Cush?  What are you doing here?"

"He's your backup, Eric.  You already know Brian Cushing, but I don't think you've met," Mr. K offered his hand toward the other, even larger man behind him, "him yet.  Eric Winston, this is Ndamukong Suh, Vanden Bosch's teammate."

Winston shook Suh's hand, "Good to meet you."

"Same."

"Also, here are the items you requested that I bring from your room."

Winston unsnapped the latches of the briefcase and pulled out a bullwhip, his club, a vial of greenish-yellow liquid and a book.

"Cush, I need you and Suh to break down the door.  After that, I don't know, just watch yourselves."

"Rock and roll!"

Cushing kicked down the door and the three of them entered quickly, looking for Vanden Bosch.  It was as quiet as a tomb inside.  Winston hoped the comparisons ended there. 

"Be ready for anything, guys."

"You should not have come, Winston," Vanden Bosch growled.

"What's the matter, Kyle?  Scared?  Come on out and show yourself!"

Vanden Bosch dropped from the ceiling of the warehouse and stood straight up, showing no signs of injury from such a jump.

Cushing took a couple of steps toward Vanden Bosch, "He's mine."

"Cush, don't!"

Cushing ran headlong toward Vanden Bosch, changing shape into a wolf-like beast.

"Awooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo," he howled as he leapt at Vanden Bosch.  He took a swing at Cushing and sent him flying across the warehouse, crashing into the wall."

"Suh, don't do anything until I call for you, got it?"

"Done."

Winston picked up his whip and club and walked toward Vanden Bosch."

"Kyle, you have been a cheeky little monkey.  But playtime's over now."

Vanden Bosch picked Winston up by his neck and flung him against the far wall.

"Okay, now I'm mad."  Winston flung his whip and grabbed the flask of water in his briefcase.  He pulled it over toward him, uncorked it and splashed it in Vanden Bosch's face.

"What the hell was that stuff?" Suh asked.

"Holy Gatorade," Winston said while watching Vanden Bosch writhe in pain, "blessed by Bill Walsh himself.  Purifies crappy assbag players."

Vanden Bosch stood up, his face scarred from the burns of the Holy Gatorade, "Et nobis perdidit annos, et avertet eam et quoties volumus possumus!!!"

"It's working, the demon is trying to maintain control of Vanden Bosch."

Winston picked up his caveman's club and knocked Vanden Bosch off balance and onto the ground.

"Suh!  Get on him and don't let him up until I say so!"

Suh pinned Vanden Bosch down as Winston threw open his book and poured the rest of the Holy Gatorade onto his head.

"Donec eget estipsum.  Fusce varius est in recta.  Cras convallis promissorio.  Quisque tempus bibendum, nulla regeneramur perdas cum, paulo moriemimi."

Vanden Bosch struggled to get out from under Suh's grasp, shrieking at the top of his lungs to avoid hearing the holy writ being shouted at him.  Stram, Halas, Allen, it was all just too much for the demon within to bear, and to finish it all was the back-breaker:  the words of Lombardi.

"Subigi non omnibus unum est!!!"

A blinding light surrounded Vanden Bosch, as well as Winston and Suh, for several seconds.  When the light faded, Suh stood up and away from Vanden Bosch and Winston leaned against a metal beam looking at an unconscious Vanden Bosch.  He groggily shook his head and woke up.

"Wh-where am I?"

Winston grabbed his hand and pulled him upright, "You're in a warehouse.  You were possessed by a demon.  Must of sensed the inherent douchebag within you."

"How did that happen?"

"I don't know, but I think I know who's responsible."

"Thanks, Winston.  You saved my--"

Winston pulled back and slugged Vanden Bosch in the mouth, sending him back down to the floor.

"That's for 2009."

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