What Passes for Protection
Earlier this week, as we went off in search of story ideas, we hit our usual bookmarked spots -
NFL Network, ESPN.com, Pro Football Talk, even the odd message board. At that penultimate website, Mike Florio's PFT.com, Out-Takes came across a headline as totally in harmony with our current circumstances as we could ever imagine: Matt Hasselbeck compares playing in Seattle to being in the Witness Protection Program. For the uninitiated, when not slaving away on a weekly football column, Out-Takes spends a lot of time supporting that passion with our "day job," on the USA Network's Witness Protection program In Plain Sight. An IPS-inspired Out-Takes? Capital idea! And all it took was getting punched in the face with it.
On the show, we follow a pair of bright, quirky, sarcastic-but-lovable WitSec Inspectors in the Marshal Service, one named MARY, the other named MARSHALL. (Yep, "Marshal Marshall.") Each week they grapple with the challenges of securing this witness or that, all while fighting off their stormy personal lives - not to mention their complicated relationship to each other - with a whip and a chair. Sometimes the poor sap coming into Witness Protection is a criminal; in other instances he's just an innocent bystander. Either way, though, he's gonna be junking his photo albums pretty soon, bidding goodbye to his old life and saying hello to his inner schnook, RAY LIOTTA-at-the-end-of-Goodfellas-style.
So, in the spirit of synchronicity and worlds colliding, we figured, Why not shoot for every network bigwig's Holy Grail? Not mere "product placement" (Risky Business Ray-Bans); not even "product integration" (007 actually driving the BMW Z3 Roadster in Golden Eye). Let's aim high. Let's go for the full monty with a little "product fusion." (E.T. and his Reese's Pieces say hi, as do Harold, Kumar and White Castle, not to mention pretty much every last frame of Cast Away.) The first witness to enter into Out-Takes's very own WitSec, the man who made it all possible...
The Witness: MATT HASSELBECK
The Crime: His own frantic whining, despite being a millionaire athlete whose stadium and fans provide arguably the biggest Home Field Advantage in sports.
Relocation City: While it sounds like Seattle offers plenty of anonymity for the Seahawks QB, there are other options. Indy. Foxboro. New Orleans. Trust us, Matt - living alongside Peyton, Brady or Brees'll keep you scarce far more effectively than any geographic isolation or perceived East Coast bias ever will.
WitSec Job: His time spent in Green Bay and Seattle steers us toward sticking the guy in a Chuck E. Cheese or Starbucks, but that seems like overkill. After all, our witness is already staring down a life-sentence of listening to the nutty views of sister-in-law ELISABETH HASSELBECK every Thanksgiving. Pop Warner football coach? Done.
The Witness: PEYTON MANNING
The Crime: Not sure, but at some point over the years, just by the law of averages, he had to have witnessed shadowy ex-Colt MARVIN HARRISON gunning for someone, right?
Relocation City: Chicago.
WitSec Job: As we've mentioned before, Peyton's tough to beat when it comes to athlete-actors. TV spots, SNL - who's funnier, seriously, including the comics? Outside of KRISTEN WIIG, that MacGruber guy and the new kid's spot-on Denzel impression, we'd put Eli's big brother up against anyone, yuk-for-yuk. Second City Improv, anyone?
The Witness: BRETT FAVRE
The Crime: Setting aside his unconscionable selfishness, his mind-blowing mind-changing and those countless game-clinching picks, what is perhaps most criminal is Favre's blatant thievery of ROGER CLEMENS's "hubristic legend who keeps coming back until his legacy is shattered by scandal" shtick. (Criminal and hilarious, that is.)
Relocation City: Bristol, CT. Sure, the Mississippi native might acclimate more quickly to a new place in the Deep South, but it would be far too easy for someone to track him down and "Kiln" him there. And besides, what safer place to stash this guy than Favre Suck-Up Central? We figure #4's pretty secure over at ESPN's Bristol-based campus, as long as our medical experts continue to assure us that there are no known incidents of a person being ass-kissed to death.
WitSec Job: Favre can't decide. He's thinking maybe he might not even want a job. But it'd be good to have a job. Then again, he might be ready to kick back and relax. But, then, what would he do to fill his days? Okay, yes. No. Yes. He's getting a job. Something in photography...
The Witness: THE CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Crime: According to a quick skim of their roster, there are too many crimes (and, presumably, too many witnesses) to count. Also, it's starting to look like CARSON PALMER has been stealing millions in recent years, claiming to provide services as a - quote - "top-tier NFL Quarterback."
Relocation City: We hear Seattle's lovely and, according to Hasselbeck, no one's likely to find you there. And, hey, who knows - maybe they can get counseling from PETE CARROLL. Given his experience with rules infractions and skipping out of town, he's a natural fit.
WitSec Job: Highway Beautification. (Free ankle-cuffs - and they get to keep the orange unis!)
The Witness: BRANDON MERIWEATHER
The Crime: Helmet-to-helmet contact.
Relocation City: Anywhere but Baltimore or the hometown of TODD HEAP.
WitSec Job: Head Hunter, Corporate or otherwise.
The Witness: DESEAN JACKSON
The Crime: Just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What, is that a crime? For our purposes, let's just say yes. Moving on...
Relocation City: Vegas, baby. He'll be surrounded by stumbling drunks and gambling addicts whose minds are as addled and jumbled as Jackson's was, coming off the field Sunday. The key here is to blend.
WitSec Job: Inebriated Blackjack Cooler. Comp his room and feed him a steady stream of ice-blended Mojitos. (Bonus: Betting tips can be passed on - through proper WitSec channels, of course - to former Eagles teammate and Labrador Boxing aficionado MICHAEL VICK.)
The Witness: REX RYAN
The Crime: Being Himself. (Also, eating goddamn snacks, which goes without saying. Little known fact - Rex was David Fincher's #1 choice for the "Gluttony" victim in his '95 thriller Seven.)
Relocation City: Corpus Christi, TX (Men'sHealth magazine's "Fattest City in America.")
WitSec Job: P.A. Announcer at the Corpus Christi Rodeo - his unique skill-set combines talking a lot of bull and staking out future double-cheeseburgers.
The Witness: CLAY MATTHEWS
The Crime: Being the steal of the 2009 draft doesn't quite constitute a "crime" per se, so put it this way - we eagerly await any follow-up to the NCAA's final report on those USC shenanigans.
Relocation City: In Plain Sight's very own ALBUQUERQUE - or as we call it in cop-show dork lingo, "ABQ." (Men'sHealth magazine's "Fittest City in America.")
WitSec Job: Muscle-bound linebacker-cum-sketchy counter-guy works the register, skimming product at a local GNC. He moonlights as "this dude I met over at Bally's, let him know whatever you need, wink-wink.")
The Witness: JAMES HARRISON
The Crime: His deadly combo of cheap-shot artist and drama queen. Devastating hits on various Cleveland Browns receivers were followed by league fines, which were followed by the Steelers pass-rushing LB threatening to retire if he's not allowed to play football the way he needs to. A day later he had his little "take my ball and go home" moment, skipping team meetings and practice to "think seriously" about retirement. Take a breath, Medea.
Relocation City: Honestly, who even cares? Just go.
WitSec Job: Scarlet O'Hara Impersonator. Someone get this guy an ante-bellum, lace fan and a well-dressed man to catch him when he faints.
The Witness: DANNY WOODHEAD
The Crime: Extortion. This kid's gotta have pics of someone way, way up in the universe hierarchy to pack this much talent and charisma into that little body mass.
Relocation City: Pick 'em. He's shrimpy enough to hide in even the tiniest metropolis. Hell, we could place him in Mayberry, he'd be golden.
WitSec Job: Professional Football Player. No one'll believe him; he'll just get laughed off and tagged as some crazy (12-year-old) drifter to be humored but never truly trusted.
One last word on the latest King of New England, that OWEN MEANY-ish running back straight out of John Irving. We're still barely into the Woodhead Honeymoon period, so folks might want to ease up on all the "Kevin Faulk 2.0" talk that's been making the rounds. It's fair to wonder how the sudden spotlight will affect the kid's game, mental and otherwise. Let's see how he's doing...
After the Patriots defeated Baltimore, thanks in part to Woodhead's 100 yards from scrimmage, the tiny playmaker out of tiny Chadron State was asked if he'd ever been part of as big a win as Sunday's. Here's what the 5'9" (ha!) ex-Jet (HA!) had to say:
"I don't look back really on this win or that win, just because I'm a very present guy in the present time. This is a huge win for us because it was the game that we had this week."
Something tells us he'll fit right in.
John Cockrell is a writer for USA Network's "In Plain Sight," and a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)