(Legal disclaimer: you should not believe a single word of any of this)
One of the perks of being a Big Ten Blogger(tm) is that we're granted unlimited access to all Big Ten media functions, like this past week's Big Ten Media Conference. Sure, we're technically not members of the media, but I am an excellent string-puller (for future reference, readers, think long and hard before you agree to perform an unspecified favor for Jim Delaney. Long and hard.).
When JHC and I arrived in Chicago, we were awed by the luxurious set up for the coaches, players, and reporters. The tables were filled with media guides, posters, and other free memorabilia. We never thought we'd need a free 2" Purdue helmet, but you never know, right? Jebus mentioned that his flask was empty (note: it wasn't when we got on the plane at 9 A.M.), and after promising he wouldn't drive, he set out to remedy the situation. I, on the other hand, got my responsible journalist on.
The hottest interviews were, of course, with Jim Tressel and Lloyd Carr. That's no surprise. I wasn't able to get any meaningful questions to them, so I decided to pursue some of the less famous coaches.
After kibitzing with Bill Lynch, whose most common response to questions was "I told you my name's not 'Terry'," I asked a fellow journalist (hint: name rhymes with Dirk Werbstreit) where the Illinois table was. His face blanched in terror.
"Why?" he asked. I replied that I wanted to get a few quotes from Zook.
He stood in stunned silence for a beat, then burst out laughing. When he noticed I didn't laugh along with him, he settled down. "Did you stay here at the Regency this morning? What shampoo did you use?" he asked.
"The shit in the little bottles they give," I responded.
The well-coiffed journalist cackled with glee. "All right, man," he said. "Go talk to Ron. Let me know how it goes."
As soon as I sat down at the table, star tailback Rashard Mendenhall quickly excused himself. I naively saw nothing wrong with that and began asking Zook some questions.
I started with some softballs, like: "Do you believe the hype about Illinois making a bowl game in 2007?"
"We're getting better and better!"
"How about Isaiah, or as--"
"Yeah, uh, 'Juice'--"
"Juice is getting better and better."
I was about to bring up the absurdity of Williams' 37% completion rate when Zook's nostrils flared and he stared daggers into my eyes.
"You staying here this weekend?"
I waffled, perplexed. "Uh, yeah, someone else asked--"
"I can smell it, son! You think Swindle uses goddamn Suave?!" he barked.
Before I could respond, I was sent away from the table by security. As I wandered around in a daze, I felt a firm grab on my arm. It was Zook.
"There's a Whole Foods on West Huron," he whispered into my ear. Then he quite conspicuously sniffed me, which elicited a disdainful groan. "Your hair's thick," he needlessly reminded me. "Like a horse, or a dog. Pick up something to make it smell good."
If I was going to get my chance to ask the hard-hitting questions (how does someone get fired from Florida that quickly? whose member of Aurrelious Benn's family did he have to kidnap at gunpoint to get him to commit?), I figured it wouldn't be too much of a hassle to pick up some shampoo.
After the quick stop at the store, I showered quickly, and began dressing. As I was slipping on my shirt, there was a knock at my door. I opened it, and Zook stood there, eyes ablaze.
"Mr. Zook, I, uh," I began.
"You showered," he responded. "Good."
"Yeah. What are you doing here? Who told you what room I was in?"
"Shhh." He put his finger to my lips and walked in. "I suppose you want to do this interview."
"Well, yeah, uh--" I stammered. "I gotta get my notebook, I wasn't really planning on doing this up here, or you being in here at all. Ever."
Always the Casanova, Zook sat down on the bed, gently placed his hand on my notebook and said, "We'll get to that," which was more than mildly unsettling. "How much did you spend?"
"Oh, it was like $7. Don't worry about it," I said. "Please."
Undeterred, Zook took a $20 bill out of his pocket, folded it the long way, and put it on the night stand. "It's on the Zook," he said. As he exuberantly crossed the room to close the blinds, he smelled my hair again. "Organic shampoo? You dirty little bitch."
Part II, written by JHC, is here.
The horrifying finale of the Zook trilogy is here.