I feel like I know Cleatus the Football Robot so much better now after reading these wonderful stories below (I also contributed my own, humbly.) I had a difficult time choosing a favorite: I liked the hope of Sarah’s tale, the ominousness of Todd’s, and most especially the theory of Kyle’s (I too have wondered what’s up with all the pointing.) But I think I’m going to have to give the coveted Car Talk mug to Cullen, for truly telling a tale in a few carefully-chosen words. As they say in creative writing class, he showed without telling. Haunting stuff, all of it. If you missed your chance to send in your own Cleatus fan fiction, feel free to leave your own contributions in the comments. Great job, everyone. You are all uninjured first-string quarterbacks in my book.
From Sarah Davidson:
Cleatus F. Robot was born in the FOX marketing offices one day long, long ago. A young member of the team dreamed him up and the team agreed he would be a welcome member and so a scientist was brought in under the cover of darkness one night to put him together. He was to be your standard robot, doing robot-y things, but it was late one magical Sunday night, under a full moon. In the background, the NFL theme song wafted through the halls. All the stars aligned and when he sat up, not only did he have all the football moves and standard robotic programming, he also had a WONDERFUL personality! Skeptics say this was programmed just like the rest of it to bring the ladies into football, but the believers know the TRUTH.
He went about his job, getting warmed up, doing touchdown dances, pumping up the crowd. He was cute and friendly and awesome. The people loved him, though he definitely had his naysayers. There were heated Budweiser-fueled debates about his relevancy and his manliness. There were even questions about his possession or lack of certain man parts. But overall he was a crowd favorite. A beloved hero. There were action figures, fan sites, t-shirts and rumor has it a movie in the works.
And then. One stormy day, an angry marketing executive was hired by FOX. He marched in on a Monday morning on the dawn of a particularly “dark day in sports” — footnote: credit for coining this phrase goes to my father, which, as it indicates, is when ALL of his teams lose in one day and his vocal chords are sore from yelling and my mother is not speaking to him… but I digress… The angry executive took swift action — “Cleatus is either fired or he needs to more accurately reflect the true nature of the sport as it exists today. You decide.” The team had grown to love Cleatus as a son and was beyond distraught. In order to keep him alive and not sent off to some robot farm up north, they made a few adjustments to his programming and he became the cold, menacing Cleatus you know today.
But everyone knows that football is fun. And as aggressive as those players are, they also do adorable and funny dances in the endzone. They jump into the crowd to get their heads patted. They take ballet sometimes… I believe that the real Cleatus is still in there and I believe, when no one is looking, he gets that twinkle in his robot eye and hopes for the day when the angry executive is overthrown and he can get back to his friendly, crowd-pleasing antics. Maybe it’ll be soon. Maybe in time for his snowball-throwing and scarf-wearing… One can only hope.
Oh, and I almost forgot. The “F.” stands for Football’s FUN.
From Todd Totale:
Because nothing good can come from any of the Fox networks, Cleatus is an evil creation from the executive branch of Fox Sports to continue the conglomerate overthrow of America’s free will.
Step one: send a message to the humanoid players of the National Football League that their days are numbered. No more talk about concussions, late hits or fair catch signals. Play with reckless abandon and risk your body in the name of higher ratings and better MMA lead-ins. And if these humans fail to entertain us sufficiently, we have a roster of robots to take over.
Cleatus cracks his neck during the warm-up sequence, suggesting a programmed vulnerability to get us to believe that his limbs are breakable and a retirement of Oxycontin and local AM affiliate pre-game shows are waiting down the road. But Fox doesn’t tell Cleatus the reality that his titanium skin and carbon fiber tendons will all be stripped clean, like copper plumping in a great recession. There will be no call-in shows, no “Cleatus’ Clinch Picks” and no Buffalo Wild Wings giveaway gift cards for the trivia winners.
He will be gutted like any other Fox talent that has overstayed their welcome.
That is why the eyes are beginning to glow.
Cleatus is starting to notice less zeal in Fox’s programming efforts involving him and his calculating the infinite possibilities of Fox’s exit strategy for his character. The glowing eyes signal an acknowledgement of a potential threat and they may even be part of Cleatus’ own defense mechanism.
In any event, I don’t think he has the engineering marvel that could lead him to defeat the executives at Fox.
Wake up, Cleatus. Time to die.
From Kyle Wilcoxen:
What is Cleatus pointing at in such feverish manner? Have you seen him follow up his mild calisthenics and jumping around between commercial breaks with some fast-paced finger pointing? What is he pointing at and why is he doing it in such a forceful manner? I imagine he actually grew up as a nerd robot. He once worked in a library as a card catalog system or as an early beta version of Google, but he was eventually marked obsolete and discarded. Now he has hit the gym and ever since he started his job at FOX, he gets all the robot ladies with his big shoulders and piercing blue eyes. I believe he is pointing at all the nay-sayers out there who said he couldn’t do it and there was no way he could reinvent himself. After a few “Workout for Dummies” books and some serious scrap parts from the local junkyard, Cleatus landed the sweet corporate gig as FOX Sports Robot. Now he gets all the latest upgrades and even runs SAP (the best Sports Robots run SAP, just like the best midsized companies). Cleatus is a force to be reckoned with and his determination to prove everyone wrong is why he points so feverishly.
From Cullen Crawford:
It was a cold Monday and Cleatus watched the sun rise over his farm’s western hill. He sipped some coffee. It was too hot and it hurt, but he made no sound. He was alone. He stared out at the tall grass of the yard. Tall enough to obscure the posts’ rotted bottoms. He sipped again. It was cold. He took his daily glance at the doorway. Crambo’s little titanium sneakers, no bigger than a human size 10, lay scattered by the doorway. Servette had left them there. Three weeks ago. They were all she had left. Those and the guitar which sat dusty in the corner of an unmade bedroom. He turned away from the tiny, luminescent shoes. She had left them there on accident. He hoped. He looked back out the window. The papers sat unsigned on the patterned steel kitchen counter she had bugged him for. It was cold. He was going back to bed.
It’s hard to say whether one should truly pity Cleatus the FOX Football Robot. He’s in enviable shape, he’s watched by millions on television, he’s a hero to many red-blooded sport-loving beer-swilling men (note: if you love football and beer, even if you have a vagina you are still technically a man) and judging by his Twitter feed, he’s a happy-go-lucky sort of bot. But look closer at the lights where his eyes should be. Do you see something there? A sense of emptiness? It’s not just because his eye-lights have been replaced by energy-saving but less-soulful halogen bulbs. It’s because Cleatus is not living the life he wants to lead. After graduating high school, Cleatus yearned to attend the University of Iowa to get his degree in poetry, but unfortunately, he was built to promote football, and went straight to the pros. Like Lady Gaga proclaims, he was born (or rather, built) this way, but he cries out in zeros and ones, was he meant to be built this way? Cleatus would rather be composing sonnets back in the Midwest in a small snow-covered house, a cat-android on his cold metal lap, but this is the life he is doomed to. The next time you compose a haiku, dedicate it to poor Cleatus, because while you may not be as famous or invulnerable as he is, at least you have your own free will.