Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Zach Thomas Story

In the fall of 2001, weeks after 9/11, my buddy J-Rod got comped for a free room at the Atlantis Resort and Casino in Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I went along with him and our first night there was very memorable.

J-Rod was playing blackjack somewhere, and I wanted to play some craps. I was at a table with a few people, and a familiar face comes up next to me and starts gambling, wagering A LOT more than the $10 minimum. It was Jay Fiedler, the then-starting quarterback for the Dolphins. The Fins were on a bye week and I figured he decided to come to relax.

I didn't want to be geeky nerdy Fin fan fawning over Jay, so I played it cool. I pretended I didn't know who he was while I figured out how to sneak in an ice breaker. We played next to each other not saying anything for about 5 or 10 minutes, then the shooter rolled a "9" (Jay's uniform number), and I had my break. I turned to him and said "YOU of all people didn't play nine?" -- he started cracking up and slapped me on the back. I told him I was a big fan, and I think he appreciated I wasn't a drooling idiot who was pestering him for autographs as soon as he came by.

Right after that Zach Thomas walked by and Jay called him over. He told Zach to play with us, and Zach did, both of them betting with black or purple chips (100s or 1000s) and me with my tiddly wink red $5 ones.

The momentum of the table died and, as craps tables are prone to do, the table broke up. Jay & Zach wanted to play blackjack and to my shock wanted me to play with them. They were calling me "Big 6" because I kept playing 6 on the craps table. "Come on Big 6, come hang with us and play blackjack". I had like no money left but I said ok. I told them I'll be right back as I ran to the ATM and took out the max I could (I think $500) and grabbed J-Rod (me: "The Dolphins want us to play blackjack with them, come on!" Jrod: "I'm a Jets fan") fuckin' Jrod. But we went to play with them.

We sat down with Zach & Jay at a $50 table (I was fainting, I only had enough for 10 hands). When we sat down, Zach gave the cocktail waitress $100 and said keep coming by to refresh us (she did). Zach regaled Jay, J-Rod, and me with hilarious stories. When I told Jay and Zach that J-Rod was a Jets fan, they both did the "J-E-T-S! JETS JETS JETS" chant, and Zach said something like "great, now it'll be in the papers that Zach Thomas and Jay Fiedler did the fuckin' Jets chant". He told us of his last trip to Atlantis with his buddy Larry Izzo, Izzo having lost a lot of money at the roulette table. He told Izzo that he'd win it back for him... Izzo replied that if Zach was able to win that amount back, he'd {bleep}Zach's {bleep}. Zach, the consummate winner he is, did win the money back for Izzo but declined the repayment.

I was down to my last $50, and put my last chip down, and got an 11. I didn't even have $50 in my wallet to double down on my hand. Jay Fiedler gave me $50 out of his own stack and insisted I take it (I protested, I didn't want his money, but he wouldn't take no for an answer), and sure enough I got a picture card, giving me a twenty-one. I distinctly remember Zach high fiving me and letting out a whoop of glee. Here he was betting hundreds (at least) per hand and he was glad I won $100 bucks.

They were so down to earth and treated us so kindly, we were two fans in our mid 20s and they acted like we were lifelong friends.

It is a sad day to see Zach, one of the all time great Dolphins be released. I said before I hope he retires for his sake, but if he plays I hope he has a great healthy season and wins a Super Bowl. As great a player as Zach is, he is a better person. I wish him all the best.

1 comment:

World's Largest Cross said...

Gambling? Zach Thomas gambling? And swearing? Zach Thomas gambling and swearing? Say it ain't so!