Mike Muscala sat in his apartment, watching ESPN to unwind after a very successful game. The talking heads on the screen chatted about god-knows-what, and the only indication that the Hawks had just won a basketball game was the final score displayed for a few brief seconds in the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
Mike didn’t really care. He knew that his name probably was never going to be uttered on ESPN, but it was fun to dream.
Unexpectedly, there was an urgent knock at the door. Wondering if it was his crazy Mexican neighbors who always wanted to come over and drink beer, he grasped the doorknob and pulled.
In front of him stood two men in official-looking uniforms bearing the slogan “Македонија полицијата биро”. Mike didn’t know what the words on the front were supposed to mean, or even what language they were in. It looked like Russian, but he didn’t even know any Russians.
“Can I help you gentlemen?” Mike asked, attempting to sound relaxed despite an increasing sense that something not-right was going on.
“You Mike Muscala?” asked the bigger one in a gruff voice that matched his stubbly, round face.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Mike answered before he was abruptly charged and tackled to the floor. “Hey, get off me!”
“Why you take Pero Antic minutes?” asked the other one, a thin man with sunglasses and an 80’s-style mustache. “Why you hate Macedonia?”
Mike stopped struggling, knowing that even with his immense size, he did not want to argue with a pair of armed Eastern Europeans. “Okay, first, I’m not taking anybody’s minutes. Second, I don’t even know where Macedonia is, much less have an opinion on it.”
He winced as he was slapped in the face. “Don’t insult glorious Macedonia, идиот!” yelled the big one. “First Greek hate us, now American hate us too. Well, we hate Greek, and we hate American, and now we kill you, Mike Muscala.”
“Hold on, hold on,” Mike pleaded. “I’m getting fewer minutes than Pero is. I have games where I don’t even play. If somebody’s to blame for Pero not getting as many minutes as last year, it’s Al Horford.”
“Al…Horford?” repeated the small one stupidly, spitting out the name like it tasted of rotten fruit.
“Yeah, Al Horford,” Mike replied eagerly. “I’ve got his address in my phone if you want to go talk to him.”
“Okay, we do that, Mike Muscala. Sorry for tackling,” said the big one, as both Macedonian men got off Mike and helped him to his feet. Mike gave them Al’s address and breathed a sigh of relief as they left.
Hopefully Al could talk some sense into them. Still, Mike felt slightly uneasy as he sat back down on the couch to watch more ESPN.