Ever hear the one about the guy who comes home from work to find the final score of the Monday Night Football game and a male sex organ spray-painted on his lawn? It's a heck of a yarn: September 2009, first week of the season, Bills are 13 1/2-point dogs in Foxborough against a Patriots team they haven't beaten in their last 11 tries.
The whole nation knows what's coming. In their last five meetings, New England has outscored Buffalo, 155-33. The last time the teams met, the Patriots started Matt Cassel and attempted only eight passes against 47 runs in a meaningless 13-0 victory in Week 17. Now, Tom Brady is back for the Pats, and Trent Edwards is saddlin' up for the Bills, and, well, they play 16 of 'em for a reason, right?
But the road to beatdown city takes a strange turn. A football game breaks out. The Bills take a 14-10 lead into halftime, 17-10 into the fourth quarter, and with 5:32 left Fred Jackson scores to put them up, 24-13. The city of Buffalo readies itself for its biggest party since the hot sauce met the chicken wing.
And then it happens. Brady marches the Pats down the field for a touchdown that cuts the lead to 24-19, and, on the ensuing kickoff, a second-year cornerback named Leodis McKelvin fumbles on the Buffalo 31-yard line. The Patriots recover, and, three plays later, they're in the end zone celebrating their winning touchdown.
The next morning, McKelvin heads to the Bills' practice facility to survey the wreckage. When he returns home, he notices something different about his landscaping.
"I get out of the car, and I look at it, and I read it - they got the scoreboard on there, and it says Leodis this and that," McKelvin recalled Wednesday as he stood in the Eagles locker room after practice. "And they put a . . . "
He paused, searching his mind for a decorous word.
"Testicles," he said. "Right there on the lawn."
It sounds funny now, particularly when told in McKelvin's expressive Southern twang, but at the time he was a 24-year-old stranger in a strange land, a small-town kid from Waycross, Ga., coming off the worst night of his professional life, the No. 11 pick in the previous year's draft who had already been hearing whispers of regret.
"I laughed about it," McKelvin said. "I was, like, 'Are you serious?' The only time I've seen something like this is on TV. Then, after that, I was, like, man, they could be crazy!"
Given the implications regarding his personal safety, he finally decided to call the police, and shortly thereafter a couple of local high school kids fessed up to the crime. A neighbor brought his lawn mower over and reduced the graffiti to clippings, and, as the city of Buffalo subjected itself to a week's worth of soul-searching, McKelvin moved on. He told reporters he didn't want to see any of the perpetrators' lives ruined over the thing. They ended up facing charges, but after an apology and some community service, McKelvin graciously chalked it up to a lesson learned.
While it's a stretch to say there's a lesson in any of this - there are stupid people everywhere, I suppose - McKelvin's reaction to the whole thing does lend some context to the even keel he's displayed in the face of some intense (and legitimate) criticism of the Eagles' cornerback play. Since signing with the Eagles this offseason, the 31-year-old veteran has looked more or less like an aging version of the player he was in his eight years in Buffalo: not nearly the cornerback scouts thought he could be coming out of Troy, prone to moments of overaggression and lapses in technique, but a professional and a competitor who clearly has his defensive coordinator's faith.
At this point, McKelvin's Eagles legacy seems destined to be little more than a name. He's played most of the season with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of three games and hampered him throughout the rest. The Eagles will surely look to upgrade the position this offseason, though, with so many holes throughout the roster, it will be interesting to see the plan they devise. Earlier this week, Jim Schwartz acknowledged the obvious when he said that his cornerbacks have been among the primary culprits behind his defense's recent shoddy play, which has seen them torched by the Seahawks, Packers and Bengals in successive weeks. While McKelvin can sense the city's frustration, it doesn't come close to the worst that he's seen firsthand.
"You always got your yellers sayin' this and that," McKelvin said, "but nothin' like that."