Big Russ

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This is my old roommate, Russ Bengtson.

Russ and I lived together when I first came to New York back in the late months of 1996. We’d attended Delaware together, played lots of hoops. Russ was working for Slam Magazine when I arrived in Manhattan. I’d just been hired by Sports Illustrated.

Despite his beard and bloodied shins, Russ was the best roommate I’ve ever had. We shared an apartment above a Chinese restaurant on the upper East Side. Mouse sightings were common. So were mouse dropping sightings. Someone once broke through our window and stole his VCR. The water pressure was a bit sketchy. Still, it was really fun and really cool and really sloppy. Our pad was overrun with shit—Russ’ bikes, our collective jersey collection, newspapers, magazines. We actually made a museum out of our refrigerator—whenever we covered a sporting event, we’d pick up random locker room scraps and tape them to the metal door. The crown jewel was a discarded wrist band belonging to a Kentucky forward named Heshimu Evans.

Russ had a pet snake. One day, when he was away, the apartment got really hot, and I entered to the smell of rotting egg. Only it wasn’t rotting egg—it was burnt-to-a-crisp snake. Dead.

Truthfully, I have no great reason for writing this.

I just wanted to use the above photo.