Island Packet – Though a proud and hardy bunch, we Vrabels are not, nor have ever been, what anyone could remotely call famous. None of us has ever invented anything important (with the exception of my uncle’s failed attempt to patent his long-in-production Taffy Pants), no one has ever been the king, emir or despotic ruler of anything (although I must say that I ran the Crown Point Hub Pool concession stand in high school with an iron fist), no one has starred in a movie (although I do have a brief cameo in the miserable 1993 comedy “Rookie of the Year” as Baseball Crowd Member #12,064). No, we are an understated and swarthy people, simple folk with simple means and simple goals, except my cousin Kevin, who wants very much to be a pirate.
So imagine our surprise, our thrill, our elementary-schoolgirl glee when we first learned about our collective tangential, fragile and probably fictional connection to Mike Vrabel, linebacker for the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots, who already owns three Super Bowl rings, who has caught two Super Bowl touchdown passes, who is according to the Elias Sports Bureau the only player to have two touchdown catches and a sack in the same game, and whose inclusion here will dramatically increase this column’s Google hits.
People ask all the time if I’m related to Mike Vrabel, and each time I immediately reply yes, for three reasons:
- My last name is Vrabel, so we’re closer to related than we are not related;
- It sounds cool; and
- Sometimes it gets you a free beer, if you’re in Boston. Also, if I keep saying it enough, I figure there’s at least a small chance he’ll send me a jersey (size Extra Waifish).
But in reality, I have no idea if we have the slightest bit to do with each other, other than the fact that he looks a little bit like my brother, if my brother were to put on 300 lbs. of sheer muscle mass and become extremely rich. But there’s no concrete evidence that I know of, which, of course, does nothing to stop me from routinely referring to Mike as my cousin, brother and sometimes father, depending on the crowd around me and how much beer I’ve consumed.
Now before you judge me for what admittedly amounts to a series of bald-faced lies, let me argue that for a red-blooded American male without any athletic skill that doesn’t involve Tetris, whose name is an ungodly gumbo of Eastern European consonants that apparently translates roughly into the extremely twerpy-sounding “little bird,” there are few thrills more thrilling, even if they have nothing to do with you, than hearing the words “Touchdown, Vrabel!” in the Super Bowl. It’s crazy, and the sheer, unrelenting joy of it the first time caused me literally to leap out of my seat and pump both fists in the air, causing all manner of chaos in the traffic behind me.
Besides, Mike has done great things for our family. Sure, our name still puts you in the back of the class alphabetically, as well as sounds like the sound you’d make if you were trying to consume a Yo-Yo without chewing it, but now, we no longer have to take 12 minutes spelling our names over the phone if the person on the other line is a football fan (“No, V as in VICTOR, R, A … no, no, V … VICTOR …” – seriously, at this point I’ve started a collection of Sea Pines passes that spell my name with Bs, Ds and Qs).
But mostly, he’s allowed me to get behind a winning sports team, which, having grown up as a Cubs fan for some reason, is no small favor. And the name recognition alone will make it much easier for Uncle Jim to get his taffy pants funding.