Offensive tackle Chris Hinton, first drafted by the Broncos and traded to the Colts as part of the John Elway swap of 1983, was a great addition to the roster. He was cool, smart, and draft-rich. It was a long-held tradition that high draft picks take some elder teammates out to a classy restaurant to celebrate joining the team. Instead of leaning on your new cubemates to discuss 401K options, we in the NFL liked to start off with a sizable hit to the wallet. Sure, it was nonsensical, but it generated new bonds and often a few good stories.
On that memorable night, Chris secured a table for our quarterback and ten linemen at the nicest establishment in downtown Baltimore. We were all dressed to the hilt sporting suits and even a few combing their hair. While we walked in looking like overgrown choir boys, groomed and sober, that did not last for long.
Seduced by the façade, the maître d' made a fateful decision. He sat us like showpieces at a large table in the center of the opulent dining room. All the polished patrons enjoyed watching us for the first half hour. Parents would joyfully eye their kids approaching us for autographs and photos. It was a scene straight out of a Hallmark special. But, with our courtesy welcome cocktails empty, it was time to get the night started.
As was customary, we ordered a dozen bottles of Dom Pérignon, without glasses. We would not need additional vessels to polish off this good stuff. Instead, a bottle was placed in front of each player in lieu of a water glass. As our volume began to pick up and more bottles were ordered, I was still coherent enough to observe the crowd. Like a temperature gauge in a sauna, their concern steadily rose. I got such a kick out of watching parents throw an arm around their kids to shield them from the cageless animals.
We downed steaks and piles of lobster as we sat at a feeding trough, quickly emptying our bottles of Dom to wash down the good eats. After we blew through the restaurant’s reserves of the best champagnes, I helped our fun-loving six-foot-nine-inch-tall Canadian tackle to the bathroom. He was starting to sway like a ship lost at sea as he cut a path through the fine china-topped dinner tables. By this point, the other patrons watched in horror as the manager and waiters endlessly circled our table in a feeble attempt to contain the mess. The staff was doing their best to speed us along, but shit was going south fast.
Our tanked Canadian emerged from the gold-trimmed restroom with barf plastered across his suit jacket and pants, stinking like a warm compost pile. In his stupor, he slipped on his puke and scrambled across the slippery bathroom floor to rise from the regurgitated feast. He was not overly concerned though, thanks to the booze. Instead, with a single-minded focus, he stood on his chair like a thick flagpole and proceeded to belt out his national anthem, O Canada. The combination of his antics, the mortified staff, and patrons gathering their coats and kids caused all the players to double over in laughter.
The night more than exceeded our expectations as the group bonded and shared the story with great amusement for many years to come. Our man, Chris, went on to be inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor with seven Pro Bowls. Meanwhile, our beloved Canadian headed back up north to complete a lengthy career with the British Columbia Lions.
More on this story and others in my forthcoming memoir, Aggressively Human, to be released on all platforms in November 2023.