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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Justin Strzelczyk, burritos, and me

Hello, Deadspinners. Thank you for coming over here.

This story is entirely true.

As you might or might not know, I went to Pitt, and I used to live around the corner from Mad Mex in Oakland. Late one Sunday night, I sat at the bar by myself and ordered dinner and a drink. A gigantic, refrigerator-sized man came in, sat next to me, and started chatting me up. I had worked all day and I wasn't in the mood to be flirty (I was still in my work uniform) but I figured I'd be polite and talk to the guy. He says his name is Justin and I ask him what he does for a living.

"I was a football player."
"Yeah? That's cool. For whom?"
"The hometown team." He pauses, and says real viciously, "You know it?"
"Hey, give me some credit: I might be from Philly but I still know who the Steelers are. I live in Pittsburgh, right?"

So we talk some more. Mostly, he does the talking. He tells me about how he ruined his knees playing football, and how he's taking acting lessons now (he does a soliloquy from Henry V), and how he loves his little girl and boy, and he doesn't really get along with his ex-wife, and he's drinking and drinking and drinking and I just feel sorrier and sorrier for him. I don't even stop him when he reaches across the bar saying, "You don't need this" and stabs a forkful of burrito off my plate.

When he finishes eating my dinner and drinking a sixer of Coors Light, he slides off his barstool and slurs that he's going to walk me home. I'm no waif, but I didn't want this huge, intimidating guy to know where I lived, so I told him I was going to pay my tab and I'd meet him outside. I paid my check (the bartender, who knew me, comped my dinner since she knew I didn't eat it) and when I left the bar, he was nowhere to be found. I admit I was relieved.

Two summers later, I'm watching a sad segment on Inside the NFL about what happens to linebackers when their bodies are shot and they're no good anymore. The man being interviewed, himself a former Steeler (I forget who, you can tell me in the comments), mentions Justin Strzelczyk's fiery car wreck. I'm like, "God, that name sounds familiar." I put two and two together, looked him up on the Post-Gazette web site, and was horrified to find the story of how he died.


  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger HB said…

    !!!! I remember when that happened! And I heard about the car wreck, but didn't put it together. WHOA.

  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Melissa said…

    wow, you had an encounter with a person who happened to have problems. good for you. And now you can tell your interesting story.

  • At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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