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Original Issue

See You in Court

Inspired by Bryan Fortay, scrubs everywhere will soon be suing the clipboards off their coaches

Ask us about benches. We know benches. In our abridged high school baseball career, we spent hours studying the subject. Blindfolded, we could sit on a bench and declare whether it was made of Georgia pine or Pennsylvania oak. While the rest of the team played on, we conducted scientific bench experiments. On a very cold day, would Melvin Stringley's tongue freeze to an aluminum bench? It would.

We pined to play, but the coach would not let us. He was a grouch who never liked our habit of letting fly balls get good and cooled down before we threw them back to the infield. So we sat on the bench. What were we supposed to do, sue?


Thanks to Bryan Fortay, a former University of Miami bench warmer, the Day of the Scrub has arrived. Fortay, the young genius, has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Miami and its football coach, a lunkhead named Dennis Erickson, who allegedly promised Fortay the starting quarterback job in 1991 and then chose somebody else. The fink. The somebody else Erickson chose was a stiff named Gino Torretta, who ended up being absolutely no good at all, except for getting lucky a couple of times, when he led Miami to the national championship in '91 and won the Heisman Trophy in '92.

But Fortay and Fortay's dad and Fortay's lawyers say that even a lunkhead could see that Fortay was twice the quarterback Torretta was, and that making Bryan sit on the bench was an extra-large injustice. And they say that the only thing that can make an extra-large injustice right is $10 million, which they say Fortay has coming to him because that's what he would have made in the brilliant NFL career he won't have.

The lawsuit says that Miami "traumatized" and injured Fortay and that because of Erickson's negligence, Fortay's "highly touted potential as a collegiate football quarterback did not materialize."

Of course a few twisted cynics might ask, "Well, if Fortay is so wonderful, how come he still can't win the starting job outright now that he's transferred to Rutgers, which isn't exactly Notre Dame? Furthermore, how come when Miami had Jim Kelly starting, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde both sat on the bench, and when Kosar played the next two years, Testaverde sat on the bench, and neither of their NFL careers was all that traumatized?"

A few cynics might ask that, but not us. We know what kind of mental suffering and anguish Fortay must have gone through. A kid can recover from a broken leg, but how is he supposed to recover from a broken promise? Besides, why shouldn't Fortay sue? If there is one thing the '90s have taught us, it's four precious words: It's not my fault.

If a woman on Long Island can sue an outdoor cafe for a bee sting, and Bill Shoemaker can sue the state of California because the roads it builds aren't safe enough for a man to drive drunk on, then football players should be able to sue coaches for everything up to and including the little balls in their whistles. Miami and Erickson say they never promised Fortay the first-string job and that they will fight the suit, but you can bet this football season will be different.

Erickson: Flanders, take a lap!

Flanders: Coach, I believe you know my attorney, Mr. Becker.

Naturally, we are filing papers immediately against every coach who ever cut us, benched us and/or yanked us out of a game. We're asking $11 million in the suit against our high school baseball coach, because that's the amount your basic .236 hitter can earn in a big league career, and we knew we would have been good for at least a .236 average if we had ever gotten into actual games. We're also filing a small breach-of-promise suit against our mother, who repeatedly assured us we would grow up to be President.

In fact, we like filing so much that we have decided to become legal consultants to other athletes who find that a good multimillion-dollar lawsuit will make them feel much better. This kind of thing will be our Fortay, if you will.

For instance, we are currently under retainer to a Mr. Chuck Wepner, who is suing a Mr. Muhammad Ali for willfully and repeatedly aggravating Mr. Wepner's sensitive skin condition. Mr. Ali was fully aware that Mr. Wepner's skin happens to bleed when struck. Not only did Mr. Ali's actions damage Mr. Wepner's boxing reputation, but they also destroyed his highly touted potential as a Ralph Lauren model.

We have also begun legal action for a Mr. Tom Weiskopf against a Mr. Jack Nicklaus, insomuch as Mr. Nicklaus continually and knowingly sank putts right in holes that Mr. Weiskopf was trying to putt into, thus distracting Mr. Weiskopf greatly and preventing him from walking away with about two dozen very heavy trophies stuffed with cash. And we're working on other complaints by the following:

1) Mr. Ralph Branca, who was done a grave disservice by a Mr. Bobby Thomson;

2) Mr. Fran Tarkenton against a Mr. Too Tall Jones, who repeatedly blocked Mr. Tarkenton's view during NFL games, making it very difficult for Mr. Tarkenton to see his receivers;

3) the citizens of Denver, who were promised that they would get a major league baseball team and instead got the Colorado Rockies.

We're also asking for a few million for Melvin Stringley and his tongue. Melvin figures he's out some big cash from what would have been a great trumpet career.