[Note: My encounter with Adrian Peterson occurred before his indictment for child abuse. He has hurt me deeply. I will seek justice.]
“Adrian! Adrian!” I shouted.
He was gripping my arm, his face buried against my shoulder, Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings star running back, my first pick, as we rumbled to the top of the Wooly Mammoth roller coaster at Coaster Country USA.
“Tell me when we’re at the top,” he murmured.
I tried to shake him off. “Come on, man. Open your eyes. Lift your arms!”
The cart slowed as we reached the peak. He let go. “Ah ahhhhhh!”
We raced down the drop, our arms waving and bending as the roller coaster curved and looped. The wind whipped through my hair and over his skull. Sunlight beamed on our foreheads.
As we exited the ride, Adrian hollered in excitement: “So much fun. Oh geez. So good.” But his arms were shaking, his eyes were red.
I knew that he was, in fact, very scared. Adrian Peterson hates roller coasters. Though he would never admit it. Not to his friends, not to his coaches, not to his fans. My plan was simple: to threaten him. He’d let me down last week. I’d lost because of him. I was never going to let that happen again.
I kept the pressure on. We ate funnel cakes drenched in powdered sugar and drank Mountain Dew out of Coaster Country USA souvenir cups. Our stomachs sloshing, I led him onto the Fumigator, Mouse Maze Circus, Devil’s Dive, the Atomic Anaconda. He shouted in feigned enjoyment at the end of each ride, but he couldn’t hide his pain and nausea. He clutched his head as we trekked towards the most extreme roller coaster at the park: The Grim Reaper.
“Last one,” I said, sipping at my Dew, my stomach as strong as steel.
He was breathing heavily. “Praise Jesus.”
“What? You want to go home?”
He pressed his cup, packed with ice, against the back of his neck. “No, hey, I would stay all day. I just need to, you know, watch some game tape.”
“Ah, I see.”
We joined the line for the Reaper. I could sense his nervousness as people crowded behind us. There was nowhere to go. We moved closer to the hulking coaster. Three fifteen-story drops. Four 360 degree loops. A backwards twist. A gust of fire. A thousand pounds of g-force.
Our turn. I placed our souvenir cups at the side. They locked us in. I could hear Adrian praying.
I grabbed his shoulder. “You ready?”
He covered his eyes.
The roller coaster shot forward like a supersonic jet. Adrian yelped in terror.
You might think that bringing him on this ride, on all these rides, was the extent of my plan to threaten him. But no, I was trying to create real motivation. I wasn’t going to stop at nausea and headaches. I waited for the perfect time, the ride’s only pause, right before the backwards twist.
“Hey Adrian,” I shouted through the wind.
He was clenched into a ball.
I gripped his harness. “Wake the fuck up!”
He lifted his head. I unlocked his belt.
“What are you doing?”
“Adrian, you listen to me.” I squeezed his arms. “You were the consensus number one pick. You only scored eight fucking points last week.”
I jerked him towards the edge of the cart. We were starting to move again.
“But, we won. Big. 34-6.”
I grabbed the back of his neck. “I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about me.” I dangled his head over the ledge.
“You need to get me more points.”
He pushed back. “Adam, stop, stop!”
I gripped his waist and shoved him forward. If I dropped him, there would be no more Adrian Peterson.
He screamed. “Please, please, I’ll do whatever you want, whatever you want.” I felt his stomach spasm as he puked his funnel cake and Mountain Dew a hundred feet to the ground.
Just before the cart bulleted backwards into the twist, I pulled him back and strapped him in.
He was silent for the rest of the ride.
When we stepped off the coaster, I apologized. I did not want him to be too rattled for this Sunday’s game. I refilled his Dew and let him keep my souvenir cup too. But as we walked into the parking lot, I pulled him close.
I stared into his soul. “Double digits. Every game.” I pointed at the steel skeleton of the Reaper. “Or I’ll tell everyone who you truly are.”
He nodded. The message was clear. From now on, I guarantee he will not disappoint.