Johnny Unitas is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. No one could argue that fact, especially the drag queen, squeezed into skintight vintage Pucci and towering nine inches over my six-foot frame in the elevator of our hotel. Joe and I ran back to the hotel for something, something I don’t even remember although it was only a few days ago, and we found ourselves sharing the ride upstairs with a football fan of a different type. Even if she wasn’t one to have a painted belly in team colors or a giant foam finger, this gal knew her stuff.
I bought a baseball cap some months ago when I was at the harbor with Joe walking under the baby blue skies of Baltimore. It has 19 in raised white numbers sewn onto its front and it is a blazing tribute to the great Unitas. It’s also my favorite hat. I’ve found passersby giving me thumbs up or a quick, “Go, Johnny,” and I wonder how this man had touched so many people. Beyond his on-field career, was there something about Unitas that inspired worship?
“Oh, it’s awful what they’re doing with him,” she started, her hands moving with flamboyant punctuation, “I mean the NFL isn’t even paying for his rehabilitation. After he busted up his knees like that…” My mind started to wander as I thought Johnny had passed away sometime in the nineties. I was trying to do the math and avoid an out-of-control Lee Press-On nail at the same time. “It’s really unbelievable!” she said. Finished, her hands went to her hips as we rode the rest of way gabbing about gay pride.
Joe and I got out at our floor, said goodbye to our tall companion, and as we were walking toward our room, Joe said, “I thought Johnny Unitas had died.”
“I thought so, too.”
The next day as Joe, Scott, Vance, Craig, and Patrick made our way through the gauntlet of homosexuality, we saw our former elevator mate. I wanted a picture.
“Joe, take a shot of us.” I handed Joe my camera-phone. I walked up to her and her shorter, stockier girlfriend. “Would you mind if I got a shot with you two?”
“Oh. Johnny Unitas! I remember you. Of course, honey.” With that, she and her friend struck the perfect pose, a touchdown of a shot that would have made Johnny proud.