Secrets of Boys Will Be Boys
I’ve never met an author who doesn’t place little pieces of himself in a book; who doesn’t get quirky with analogies or include a reference only three or four readers would ever pick up on. I know … I knowâ€”that’s weird. But, as my mother has told me quite often, “Boy, you are weird.”
In other words, writing and researching a book is a loooooooooong, painful process, and a writer sometimes needs something to keep him energized and alert. For myself, that something is comes in the form of obscure references and baffling tidbits. Having just read through my book for the 105th (and lastâ€”for now) time, I’ve made a glossary.
Welcome to my world …
PAGE 51: “Aikman seemed as likely to guide the world’s most famous football team as Mindy Cohn was to win an Oscar.” I’m a child of the ’80s, and all children of the ’80s surely know that The Facts of Life, a mediocre NBC sitcom about life in a boarding school, was carried by Mindy Cohn‘s complex, layered portrayal of Natalie. Editors at HarperCollins suggested Cohn might be too obscure. When I offered Meeno Peluce as a compromise candidate, they said, “Actually, Mindy Cohn is quite fine.”
PAGE 55: â€œJohnsonâ€™s eyes focused on the tall, handsome kid with the most breathtaking spiral this side of Steve Bartkowski.â€ When I was a little kid, Bartkowski was The Man for airing out the football. The Falcons quarterback had mediocre touch and no mobility. But he would launch these balls that would travel high and forever. And his spiral was, truly, breathtaking.
PAGE 55: “Switzer had promised a Mercedes SL65 and supplied a Dodge Dart.” Growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., the Pearlmans didn’t merely have one Dodge Dartâ€”we had two. The ’72 Dodge Dart was booger green; the ’74 rust brown. The stage was set for my schoolwide beatings …
PAGE 56: “Kansas blitzed (Aikman) at will, forcing him into a well-choreographed reenactment of Jeff Komlo: The Detroit Lions Years.” I’m a Delaware Blue Hen, class of ’94. Back in the day, the Hens had three-straight quarterbacks reach the NFL: Komlo, Scott Brunner and Rich Gannon. Gannon played in the Super Bowl; Brunner led the Giants to the playoffs; Komlo was horrible.
PAGE 59: “Pfft!” You’ll have to read the book for the entire reference. But when I was a kid and the NFL was on strike, Sports Illustrated had a cover photo of a flat football, with the word, “Pfft.” I always loved that sound.
PAGE 61: “Dexter Manley glanced at the weathered thespian as if she were a piece of rotted ham.” I’m assuming ham rots, though I’ve never experienced it personally. I was raised an odd sort of kosherâ€”we ate shrimp and cheeseburgers, but no ham. So now, in my 30s, I’ve been conditioned to be repulsed by all things pork. Which didn’t help me when I came home the other day and found my daughter gnawing on a piece of bacon.
PAGE 63: “Despite auditioning every humanoid this side of David Whitehurst, John Oates, and Kitty Dukakis, the Cowboys failed to improve.” Ah, the mother of all obscure reference sentences. I live for this! I don’t think I ever actually saw Whitehurst take a snap, but I remember being a kid and hearing Packers fans complaining that Whitehurst would be a better quarterback than Lynn Dickey. Oates, meanwhile, is known as half of the legendary duo, Hall & Oates. As my wife has pointed out, however, all he does is hum and play a few guitar solos. Hell, he doesn’t even have the mustache anymore (Which makes him look very much like Wayne Chrebet). And Kitty Dukakisâ€”well, I needed someone, and figured I’d insert either a woman or Shannon Hoon, the former Blind Melon lead singer. Kitty won. Mazel Tov!
PAGE 65: “Walker joined the New Jersey Generals of the fledgling United States Football League, where a $1.5 million contract awaited.” I have two goals in lifeâ€”1. To write a USFL biography; 2. To make enough money from book writing to eat dinner. Hence, there will probably never be a USFL biography. But I loooooved the USFL, and can still tell you that the Oklahoma Outlaws and Arizona Wranglers merged, that Lee Corso coached Orlando and that the Breakers played in Boston, Portland and New Orleans. Ah, the USFL …
PAGE 65: “Yes, Herschel Walker was built like Lou Ferrigno, ran like The Flash, and put up huge numbers.” True story: When I was editor of my college paper, The Review, I sent a reporter named Meghan McDermott to interview Ferrigno, who was on campus for some fitness event. The former “Hulk” star was a major jerk, and we turned a 30-inch feature into a 5-inch note. I’m not saying that’s righteous, but, hey, it was college. And I’ve long considered The Flash to be the world’s coolest superhero.
PAGE 71: “For Dallas players it was a Roberto Duran hook to the gut.” I’m not gonna lieâ€”I’ve used a similar analogy before, though always starring Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield or Joe Frazier. I decided to drop in weight class and go with Duran.
PAGE 72: “The Cowboys were now dependent on Paul Palmer, the halfback they had recently acquired from Detroit for what amounted to three Pepsis and a jar of B&G Pickles. The Cowboys actually sent the Lions a low draft pick. But I like this line better. I have no loyalty toward Pepsiâ€”hell, I prefer Coke. But B&G pickles is a more interesting story. My wife Catherine’s maiden name is Guggenheimer, and her great-grandfather was the co-founder of B&G Pickles. Ties have long been severed, and the name Bloch & Guggenheimer was shortened to B&G. Truth be told, we buy Nalley’s.
PAGE 73: “Jones delivered hugs as if they were Peeps on Easter Sunday.” Big Peeps fan. Huge. Learned about them from my wife, who sends her friend Dana a bunch every April.
PAGE 77: “The year was 1990, when big, colorful Cosby Show sweaters were still en vogue and larger-than-life men like Rob Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice) and Stanley Burrell (MC Hammer) were spouting pants the size of jumbo tents.” I am required by Talmudic law to make a Vanilla Ice reference at least 17 times per year. That said, a story: Several years ago Sports Illustrated sent me to Miami to profile Vanilla Ice, who was heavily involved in dirt bike racing. It was during our interview that the Ice Man told me something I’ve never forgotten. “Here’s the problem with Hammerâ€”he invested in horses. You invest in horses, you lose all your money. But me? I invested in land. Land, baby. Land.” Word to the mother.
PAGE 77: “(Emmitt Smith’s) T-shirt was the hue of a box of Sun-Maid Golden Raisins.” I knew the color, but needed a proper reference. I looked in the pantry and there sat the raisins. These actually confuse me, because they taste exactly the same as regular ol’ raisins, but cost about 30 cents more per box.
PAGE 84: “When routes were blown or the line collapsed, Aikman could be Turk Schonert.” If you don’t enjoy references to cruddy NFL quarterbacks, this might not be the book for you.
PAGE 99: “Norv Turner’s name elicited all the excitement of a T.J. Maxx clearance rack.” I have a wonderful mother who raised me on the Marshall’s clearance rack. We’d dig and dig and dig for clothes until we found that perfectly mediocre blueish-pink shirt. Then, if we wanted to go upscale, we’d hit T.J.’s.
PAGE 125: “At strip clubs, Irvin would unroll wads of one- and five-dollar bills and dish them out like cookies on a Camp Kiwi field trip.” As a boy my brother and I attended Camp Kiwi near my home in Mahopac, N.Y. The place was run by a nice man by Lou, who was known as something of a huckster. I’m not saying he was and I’m not saying he wasn’tâ€”but every Friday Lou would stand on stage, bend over and dare campers to throw tennis ballsâ€”brought from homeâ€”at his ass. That way, Kiwi never paid for tennis balls.
PAGE 127: “Amazingly, even teammates like Aikman and Novacek, white country-and-western lovers with all the sparkle of Tulsa parking meters, considered Irvin an exemplary teammate.” I’ve traveled to 41 states and myriad cities, and I’ve never been as bored as I was in downtown Tulsa. This one’s for you, guys …
PAGE 130: “Were it up to the coach, Jones would spend the two days of the NFL Draft relaxing on a beach in Bermuda or climbing Mt. Washington or … something.” When I was 12 my dad and uncle took my brother, my cousin and I on a trip to hike Mt. Washington in Coos County, New Hampshire. It was this big dealâ€”six hours of walking over rugged trails to reach the highest peak in the northeastern United States. When we reached the top, there was a friggin’ McDonald’s. Pfft.
PAGE 130: “Jones had treated the most recent draft as if he were planning his own bar mitzvah.” Mine was at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. It was baseball themed, so every kid got a hat.
PAGE 133: “Throughout history there have been millions of (ghost) sightings, at venues ranging from the White House to the Kremlin to a Toys “R” Us in Sunnyvale, California.” It’s strange how we pick and choose memories from childhood. I still remember being 8 or 9 and having the s@#$ scared out of me while watching a segment on That’s Incredible! about a haunted Toys “R” Us.
PAGE 143: “This time, (Aikman) and Martin stared at one another like Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal in Love Story.” Just saw this movie for the first time a few months ago. Yeah, it was cheesy. But I genuinely enjoyed it (Not quite sure how it won the Oscar for Best Picture, though). Perhaps love truly means never having to say you’re sorry. Uh … no.
PAGE 145: “There was Jimmy Johnson, eyes the color of maraschino cherries, breathing down his neck.” At the risk of enduring prolonged ridicule, I friggin’ love Shirley Temples. I’ve ordered hundreds of them as an adult, and always get strange looks from the waiters. But, really, what’s the difference between a Temple and a Coke? They’re both sodas, right?
PAGE 159: “Who the hell was Biff Smith? Or was it Pete Smith?” Jonathan Powell was my best friend at Mahopac High School. Instead of cursing people out, he simply called them, “Biff.” I always thought that was funny.
PAGE 177: “Lett was slightly less country than a plate of chicken fried steak and a side of okra.” Having grown up in New York, I never knew much about soul food. Then I moved to Nashville for my first job at The Tennessean, and everything changed. I was introduced to a killer restaurant named “Sweats,” where the chicken fried steak and okra blew me away.
PAGE 180: “But would anyone have recognized, say, Jay Novacek or Tommie Agee or Alvin Harper or Tony Casillas were they strolling down Emerald Lane on a sunny weekend afternoon?” I grew up at 8 Emerald Lane in Mahopac, N.Y. Across the street lived a dog named Max. He was a wonderful golden retriever who used to eat our matzah. Man, I miss that dog.
PAGE 210: “If the Super Bowl gaffe was hell to Lett, what next transpired was an endless loop of Joanie Loves Chachi.” Perhaps the worst Idea for a TV show in modern history. Take two moderately likeable actors, neither of whom can sing, and create a program about their blooming musical careers. That said, I sorta loved it.
PAGE 221: “Rice was normally impenetrable, yet something in Smith brought out his inner Biff Tannen.” The jerk in Back to the Future. Loved the original, enjoyed the third, loathed the second. But the Biff Tannen character, played by Thomas F. Wilson, always soared.
PAGE 228: “Still feeling the effects of his concussion, Aikman looked Ken O’Brien-like in his inability to leave the pocket or throw the ball away.” I challenge you to find a New York Jets fan from the 1980s and/or early-90s who didn’t spend a considerable amount of time screaming at the TV as O’Brienâ€”a halfway decent quarterback, to be fairâ€”pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped the ball beforeâ€”BAM!â€”Bruce Smith killed him.
PAGE 245: “In life, there are things that make perfect sense and things that make no sense at all. Ghostbusters made sense. Ghostbusters II did not.” Thanks to Oceans Twelve, Ghostbusters II is not the absolutely worst sequel of all time. Just keep in mind that Bobby Brown made a cameo as a doorman, and the plot involved happiness overcoming green Jell-O.
PAGE 245: “Kiss’s Destroyer made sense. Kiss’s Music from “The Elder” did not.” “Music from ‘The Elder’ was Kiss’ “concept” album. Pink Floyd can do a concept album. Pearl Jam can do a concept album. Hell, NKOTB can probably do a concept album. But if you dress in spandex and breathe fire, concept album’s a no-no.
PAGE 260: “Aikman could play like Steve Pisarkiewicz on roller skates and Hansen would refuse to rip him” Pisarkiewicz was Jim Hart’s presumed replacement with the Cardinals. That didn’t work out.
PAGE 333: “Such was certainly the case in the previous two Super Bowls, when the Cowboys were the Rolling Stones playing Madison Square Garden and the Buffalo Bills were Bad Ronald at the Stormville Flea Market.” This is a two-for-one special. A few houses down the street from where the Pearlmans dwell resides a family, the Luftigs. Larry Luftig’s sister is married to a guy named Aaron, who was a rapper in the early-2000s rap group, Bad Ronald. They were good, but their debut CD came out on 9.11.01, and, well, that was that. Here’s their only video, which I dig. The Stormville Flea Market, meanwhile, was this killer flea market/fair my mom used to religiously take us to a couple of times a year outside of Carmel, N.Y. They always had lots of baseball card vendors and five patches for $1. Needless to say, I was the only student at Lakeview Elementary with an Israeli flag patch affixed to his jeans knee.