Making video game characters with whom I can fall in love takes a cocktail of hard work, genius, luck and Jennifer Hale. It turns out that making video game characters I can hate takes practically no effort at all.
In this short series of articles a small collection of pixels, logic and random events will demonstrate that I am a terrible person.
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit
because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.
Third Place : Ralph Freeman. Front Office Football, 2007.
There are several holes in my ideal gaming life, the primary being that I am forced to interrupt playing games for 10 hours each day to earn money to give to Gabe Newell.
Somewhere very close behind is the lack of a decent American Football simulator of the type that Sports Interactive Gaming turn out every year for the spherical version of football.
I have a burning desire to start life as assistant to the Kicking coach at some tiny High School in Canada, knowing that with the right combination of luck and application I could rise to the position of largely meaningless puppet on the sidelines in Oakland, while the ghost of Al Davis commands me who to draft.
There are several pretenders to this vacant throne, with the most valiant effort coming from Solecismic Software’s “Front Office Football,” which contains the right blend of deep gameplan design, meaningful player ratings, solid enough financial model and labyrinthine UI for a game of its type.
Shortly after its release I started a game with the aforementioned Oakland Raiders that would turn into a desperate twelve year chase for the Vince Lombardi trophy – a chase that put forward several candidates for the sort of hate that warms a man’s dark soul, leading to cathartic article writing.
Strong and obvious front runners were Quarterbacks Tom Brady and Carson Palmer. Brady’s Patriots were secretly keyed by a ferocious pair of Defensive Ends drafted early in the game, but it was galling to hear the final gun sound year after year on another 31-3 Patriot victory, Brady marching off the field in a still-pristine white jersey, while a collection of my own passers had to be scraped off the turf and reassembled, Frankenstein-style.
As Quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals Carson Palmer put together a flawless 7-0 record against the Raiders over twelve years, including a week fifteen, one-legged, off-the-bench effort as a 39 year old backup, in which he led his team from 21-3 behind to a 31-28 win that denied the Raiders homefield advantage through the playoffs.
No doubt Palmer cackled loudly as the silver and Black subsequently suffered a road AFC Championship game defeat for the third time in four years.
But these choices would be too obvious, their annoyance too routine. Our winner comes from the much more mundane ranks of backup Offensive Linemen. He only played a single game for my Raiders and yet earned a degree of ire that still causes a bad mood years later.
Ralph Freeman was a three hundred pound offensive lineman out of the University of Nebraska. Selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos he subsequently spent three years on the fringe of their starting roster, earning playing time in 27 of the 48 games in that period, including two starts when more favoured players suffered injury.
And it was injury that brought Freeman to me.
The 2015 season suggested much promise for the Oakland Raiders. The virtual Al Davis had shuffled off his virtual coil, we stole the Superbowl-winning Saints’ Offensive Co-ordinator to be our new Head Coach and then the Raiders went 4-0 in the pre-season.
Everything was in place for a real return to relevancy for the Silver and Black when the big red injury rock fell onto my roster from a great height – by the end of week four of the regular season the Raiders were 1-3 with eleven starters sidelined by injury, including four of the five starting Offensive Linemen.
Desperately scratching around for replacements I came across the happy circumstance of divisional rival Denver’s release of Ralph Freeman. With his punchy run-blocking style he seemed to be the perfect stopgap pickup for the team that featured number one overall Halfback Philip “J” Fly.
To make roster space I sent Cornerback Kendrick Zulkowski onto Injured Reserve, (thereby disqualifying Zulkowski from playing again that season), and snapped up Freeman on a one-year deal that included a $400,000 signing bonus.
Freeman didn’t sign in time for the defeat that left us 1-4, but he saw some snaps in the following week’s 41-7 drubbing at the hands of a certain Mr. Palmer’s Bengals. With the season now on the line we needed all hands to the pump in a singular-minded push for recovery, so it was a little disturbing when Freeman didn’t show up for practice on Monday and was missing again on Tuesday.
Finally Freeman’s agent Randy Carlson called to inform us that Mr. Freeman was suffering from “severe anxiety attacks” and we should consider him injured.
Barely a week after we handed Freeman $400,000 he announces he’s not coming to work anymore! Because he is anxious.
After snapping the arms off my office chair in anger my first reaction was to cut the guy, (actually my first reaction was to pan him in the face with one of the chair arms. With nails through it), however, under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement cutting an injured player requires payment of an injury settlement. Freeman’s agent let us know that his client would accept termination of his contract for just an additional $570,000.
Somehow he said it with a straight face.
With the guaranteed $400,000 I had already handed Freeman this meant he was asking for very nearly one million dollars for his ten days on the team – Almost $100,000 for every play he had been involved in. Following release he would, of course, be free to recover from his anxiety and take someone else’s signing bonus.
Apoplectic with anger at this point I asked Mr. Carlson to inform his client to try sex and travel and went back to solitary fuming. There was no way on earth I was going to give Freeman $570,000 to go away less than two weeks after I’d given him $400,000 to show up, but placing him on injured reserve would mean having to pay him his weekly salary for the rest of the season while he sat at home playing XBox.
As I was right against the roster limits and needed to find a way to make space to bring in another offensive lineman I was forced to pick my poison.
After a while spent wondering if “murder” was viable I bit the bullet and sent the NFL confirmation that the Oakland Raiders were placing Offensive Guard Ralph Freeman on Injured Reserve and then signed street free agent Guard Todd Herremans in his place.
Two weeks later Freeman made a mistake when agent Randy Carlson informed me that his client was no longer suffering from anxiety and would be prepared to come back to work if only I hadn’t put him on injured reserve.
I’m sure this seemed like a tremendously funny joke to Mr. Freeman, except that now he was no longer injured I could cut him immediately without having to pay a settlement.
I called him on the phone…
“Not you, you ****.”
I hung up and then terminated his contract.
Four years later at Superbowl LIII on February 3rd 2019 my Oakland lined up against a Washington team featuring a certain Mr. Ralph Freeman. The game was effectively over by halftime and turned into a 34-14 canter for the Raiders.
By this point Freeman was little more than emergency depth and did nothing more than dirty a jersey as he didn’t take the field and retired immediately after the game. Even so, as I stood on the podium with the Vince Lombardi trophy over my head there was only one person I sought out to wave to and it wasn’t my family.