Vikings' Childress has emotional holiday; remembering my brother
A preamble, first:
Thanks to all for your Tweets, e-mails and notes of sympathy on the passing of my brother
I hadn't planned to write this weekend, but I wanted to talk about Bob a bit among some other things. Thanks, by the way, to Oakland cornerback
I hope you like who will be pinch-writing the next two weeks while I'm on vacation:
This holiday week's headlines:
• Brees has a relatively strong opinion on who the opening-night Vikings quarterback will be.
• FIFA could learn something from the NFL -- quite a bit, actually.
• The Steelers have suffered a bad, bad loss. And I don't mean the suspension of
• If you're in southern California on Monday, July 19, I've got a great event for you to attend.
I was thrilled to read about the Minnesota coach's surprise reunion with his Marine son, Lance Cpl.
The next day, Saturday, is when I spoke with Childress. It was at the end of long day of visiting troops and then attending a Fallen Hero ceremony aboard a C-130 aircraft. I saw one of these on my visit to Afghanistan two years ago. The entire base lines up at attention while the casket of a fallen soldier goes past; the casket is loaded aboard an aircraft and flown to the United States for funeral and burial. So the coaches went aboard the aircraft while the fallen man's friends said their final goodbyes. It was a touching and emotional night for Brad Childress, obviously, because there but for the grace of God could be his son, and it hit home.
Then the two Childresses went to Brad's quarters and talked well into the night, and then the Vikings coach got on the phone with me. The connection -- cell from Afghanistan to cell in Boston -- kept cutting off, but we were on long enough for the message to come through: Father was incredibly proud of son.
"Andrew's had this on his mind for a long, long time -- to serve his country,'' Brad Childress said. "It goes against every instinct a parent has, obviously, to see your child go into harm's way. It's tough. But I am so proud of him and the man he has become.''
For those of you not too familiar with Childress' interests, he's a huge military buff. I recommended a book to him last winter -- "Tears in the Darkness,'' a riveting tale about the Bataan Death March by two close friends,
"It's terrifying,'' he said. "Let's call it what it is -- war. It's real, it's palpable, you feel it everywhere here. It has its own heartbeat. I'm not sure what you felt when you were over here, but it seems from talking to the leaders here that the intensity has really picked up.''
NFL coaches don't get many weeks to spend away from football, and I applaud these four for taking a week of their lives to raise the spirits of the troops. "One of the things that humbles us, all of us, is how excited they are to see us,'' Fox told me.
"It's not a sacrifice to come here,'' Lewis said. "It's a privilege. This might be the best battery-recharger for the season ever.''
Fox and Lewis both said -- and they weren't kidding -- that the troops told them they wanted NFL Network on their Armed Forces Network TV feed. See what you can do about that,
Brees and Payton have dueling books out this week:
"We put a dinner, and a nice bottle of Caymus, on that,'' Brees told me Friday.
"It's funny. When I was first approached about doing a book, I thought, 'I want to sell a million books.' You know, you become a competitor about it. Then I starting thinking of it the way I thought of the draft. When you come out of college, you want to be drafted as high as possible. But after you get into it, you understand it's more important to go to the best team for you than how high you go. So now, I'm more concerned with how this book will affect people and maybe influencing people facing the same obstacles I had in my career.''
The most enlightening thing about the Brees book, I thought, was the one final conversation he had with
Brees had significant interest on the table from the Saints. But he wanted to find out if Saban had the same faith in him that Payton and
According to the book, Brees said to Saban: "Coach, I know what your doctors believe about me. My question is, what do you believe?''
Wrote Brees: "Nick Saban paused. That was really all I needed to hear. His pause told me everything. 'Well, Drew,' he said, 'I would still love to have you, but I have to trust what our medical people are saying ...' He went on from there, like he was reading from a script. But I was starting to tune out. By then I had all the information I needed. I had made my decision.''
Brees told Saban thanks, and he'd be going to New Orleans, even though telling Saban that might kill his negotiating position with the Saints.
As Brees told me, "The impression I get from the Dolphins was I should feel lucky they were even looking at me. It just wasn't a welcoming feeling.''
One other interesting Brees note: He played golf with
"So there's a little bit of a gallery there, watching Jack Nicklaus give me these tips about hitting the ball,'' Brees told me, "and so I picked up my club and tried to do it exactly the way he showed me. I stood over the ball, held my club the way he held it, and I hit it exactly the way he hit it -- and then I birdied the hole. Talk about a great feeling. I'm standing there getting a golf lesson from the Golden Bear, I do exactly what he shows me how to do, and then I birdie the hole, with Jack watching. Incredible.''
Brees and son
I asked Brees if he thinks he'll be facing
"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Brett Favre will be quarterbacking the Vikings that night,'' Brees said. "No doubt.''
For many reasons, and not just because we had some infamous battles in our 16 years as roommates as kids growing up in Enfield, Conn., and Bob put me in my place and made me cry "uncle'' at the end of fights I always lost. (Yes, he made me say it, and I said it, most often bitterly.) He was 1500-on-the-SAT smart but never pretended to know anything more than anyone else. He was the ultimate family guy, a Scoutmaster to his son and all the boys in South Windsor, Conn, and an affable homework monitor and reader and cross-country fan to his daughter. He was a great, involved husband. He was a church deacon, and gave his first sermon about real happiness on the morning he died -- Fathers Day, fittingly.
What I admired most about him was his selflessness, which came through in the days after his death and will continue, I expect, for years to come. Of the 750 people who snaked around the building to pay respects at his wake in South Windsor (I've been to a lot of wakes, and the only one more crowded was
Bob was as likely to give me advice on a book ("You've got to read 'The Prisoner of Guantanamo!' '') as temperance ("You don't need that fifth beer, Peter!''), as prone to bird-watching (on our March spring-training tour in Sarasota, he looked for ospreys as much as home runs) as he was to old TV shows (we were "Leave it to Beaver'' addicts). I wasn't the only one who he tutored. One high-schooler who hadn't found a girlfriend in South Windsor asked him meekly on a recent scouting trip, "Can you give me some advice on how to pick up girls?''
And what he left in his wake continues to amaze me. Seven days after he died, two boys he mentored in the Eagle Scout program were at his home, unannounced, and mowed his lawn. The boys and girls of the town scouting program will be at his home Saturday for a day of yardwork and gardening (daughter
Much of my great sadness has given way to a good feeling about the way Bob lived his life, and the example he set for this and the next generation. That example -- of how real communities should be and neighbors should live their lives -- would have Bob beaming, I'm sure.
The World Cup is such an addictive thing for a first-time attendee, like I was in South Africa for two weeks. I fell for the event, and not just being in stadiums to watch American dramatics, artful Brazilian passing and South African fans in full Zulu dress. Lasting memory for me, as I wrote in this space three weeks ago: watching four reed-thin, bare-chested Namibian tribesmen walking wide-eyed through a ritzy outdoor mall in Johannesburg -- to stand alongside a thousand fans from five continents watching Germany play Australia on a big screen in a neighborhood square. Only at the World Cup.
I'll sound like the Know-It-All American -- if not the Ugly one -- giving FIFA advice. But from my 26 years covering the NFL, and from traversing our country watching games of all sports, I not-so-humbly offer three suggestions to make the greatest sports month in the world better. I've seen three maddening things in South Africa that show FIFA to be fat, happy and figuring if it isn't broken, why fix it? Kansas City Chiefs owner
Some things, like the hand-operated scoreboard at Fenway Park, are cute traditions. Some things, like not knowing the time left in the game, are stupid annoyances. The scoreboards could be so much better too. At either end of Johannesburg's Soccer City, the new $700-million palace built as the jewel stadium of this World Cup, are mindful of what NFL stadiums had in 1980 -- small, hard to see, and very often turned off. Bizarre. Put the elapsed time and score up in every stadium. It's not hard.
They call soccer The Beautiful Game. Being in the middle of the World Cup, I understand the madness, and I hope to be in Brazil in four years. But the jewel could use some polishing.
"It was the way he treated players. I think that was something that was missed. We tend to jump right to the coaching part, the offensive part, and the passing game. But his number one thing was his handling of the team. He was a master of it. As an assistant, he treated you as an equal. Players were always the most important thing to him. I think he had more respect for his players and coaches than anyone I've ever known."
Great point by Madden in Farmer's excellent deadline obit, about how Coryell treated people. That's lost so much today, but so many of the good coaches are men other coaches want to work for and players want to play for.
"There's no third chances and we know that. If it isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be, then it will be the end.''
So now what does Philly do? There's little doubt in my mind that, in the wake of the shooting of Vick's former co-defendant at his birthday party last week in Virginia, the Eagles will consider cutting ties with Vick. I doubt they will, in part because of NFL reality -- it exposes the Eagles to a very thin quarterback situation three weeks before training camp. The only other quarterback aside from starter
One of the mitigating factors here will be the involvement of Andy Reid, obviously, and Reid has been in the Middle East on the USO's coaches tour of Germany and Afghanistan for the past few days. He is scheduled to return home today. Vick and Reid have spoken by phone already. My biggest question for Vick would be a simple one: Why, after you were warned to not have contact with
With the death of Don Coryell, the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters will be on the spot in the coming months to give one more long look at his candidacy. Coryell was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for Hall induction last February, but he didn't make the first cut when the voters (including me) voted to reduce the list from 15 to 10. I felt that day, and still feel, that Coryell's candidacy was scuttled by his coaching record with St. Louis and San Diego, which follows:
That's not the record of a Hall of Fame coach -- if all you're looking at is wins and losses and playoff résumé.
When I spoke with
You'd think maybe Coryell's playbook was encyclopedic. It wasn't. " 'Simple' was a big word with Don,'' Fouts said. "He liked to simplify and clarify.'' If his first-half plays were killing the opposition, he'd say, "Flip it in the second half.'' In other words, run the same plays in the second half -- just run to the other side of the field, in opposite formations. How hard was that to learn? Not very.
Once, Coryell and Fouts were trying to figure out the smartest primary target for a pass play called 844 Ricky, with
Part of the job we have as selectors is to see through the numbers and look for the people who really made a difference in the game. It's easy to induct
"I realize Don didn't win a Super Bowl,'' Fouts told me that night. "Super Bowls are important, obviously. But I ask you this: Is it more important in football history to win one Super Bowl, or to influence the way the game is played for decades to come as much as any man?''
I tweeted this in June while at the World Cup, but I found it a rather interesting do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do factoid: In a country where the president,
I've traveled to the Far East, the Middle East and quite a bit in Europe, but this trip to Africa was my first. And one thing I give the folks in South Africa credit for is their consistent friendliness. Example: My wife and I walked into a liquor shop to get a bottle of wine and some beer for an SI dinner hosted by the inimitable
"Great glass,'' I said to the proprietor. "Are they for sale?''
"No,'' the man said. "But can you wait for a moment?''
The man went to the back of the store and was gone for two minutes. When he came back, he had a 12-inch-square cardboard box with him, and handed it to me. I looked inside. Four Peroni glasses.
"Fantastic!'' I said. "I really appreciate it. How much are they?''
He waved his hands. "No, no, no,'' he said. "Free for you. You wanted them, and I want you to have them!''
Drivers, hoteliers, wait staff, total strangers at the venues ... just terrific people trying to show off their country to the world. There was someone in my press seat five rows from the top of the stadium for Brazil-Ivory Coast June 20, and an usher took my ticket, talked to several of his peers, pointed to the occupied seat, and took me to an empty seat a few rows closer and said, "Will this be satisfactory?''
"Calm down thomas jefferson. it's just hot dogs.''
I had the audacity to mention that 4.8 million American households have to visit food pantries regularly to feed their families, and 11 million children regularly go to bed hungry. And we put this gluttony-celebrating crap on TV. ESPN should be ashamed.
1. I think I teased the Steelers up at the top of the column, and I should tell you why. When I re-did my NFL Top 100 current players in June for the paperback version of my MMQB book due out this fall, I put Pittsburgh tackle
2. I think the Saints should be applauded for being such responsible local citizens. They've raised $500,000 so far raffling off one of the great raffle items I've ever heard of -- a genuine Super Bowl ring, the exact same ring every player and coach will get for winning the Super Bowl. "It allows the individuals, families and small businesses that are dealing with the fallout of the largest environmental catastrophe in the history of the United States to once again have the promise that people care about them and their futures,'' owner
3. I think I'd love to see you at the annual NFL kickoff event Monday, July 19, in Los Angeles, NFL 101, hosted by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and by
4. I think you should Tweet me -- @SI_PeterKing -- and let me know if you can come July 18. I'd love to see you.
5. I think I'd be remiss if I didn't wish a happy birthday to
6. I think I'm sticking with Green Bay and San Diego in the Super Bowl. For now. Maybe I'll get more wisdom while on vacation. I doubt it.
7. I think you've got a future in this business,
8. I think I'm shocked Brazil lost in the World Cup. I like Germany now. Now there's a curse.
9. I think I'll never forget -- ever -- the kindness hundreds of you have shown me in the past two weeks about my brother's death. That's no cliché. That's real gratitude. Thank you.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
b. The Padres pitching staff got robbed.
c. Let me tell you about my terrific lunch with
d. Fireworks on the Esplanade in Boston were cool last night ... but when they begin at 10:37 p.m., geezers like me tend to be nodding off during the crescendo.
e. I'm 45 pages from finishing the third in the trilogy of
f. If the Red Sox get one more injury,
g. Happy July, everyone. Can't wait to hit the camp trail in three weeks. Well, I can wait, and the next three weeks should be warm and fun. See you later in the month.