Matt Millen Fights For His Life: ‘It’s Getting Late. We Need a Big Stop’

Matt Millen Fights For His Life: ‘It’s Getting Late. We Need a Big Stop’

A football stalwart gamely battles a rare disease—a heart transplant looms as a possibility—with an attitude of acceptance on acreage in rural Pennsylvania. Other sections include a look back at the late Chuck Knox’s career; notes on Matt Patricia, Mark Ingram, Adam Vinatieri; and more 
May 14, 2018

DURHAM, Pa. — The other day, spring exploding with the 18,000 flowering plantings on his 200-acre property of rolling hills and classic stone buildings, Matt Millen took the controls of his John Deere backhoe and began moving 12 huge logs. One after the other, chaining them up, pulling them off the pile, and moving them to where most of this wood is going to be part of the construction of a storage building on the Millen estate here in the northeast corner of the state he loves.

Millen finished after maybe an hour. He climbed slowly off the huge machine, and gave his Rottweilers, Ranger and Bench, a couple of scratches around the ears.

This is a sick man?

Take a closer look. Millen, 60, has that pale-faced look you sometimes see in people deep into chemotherapy. The four-time Super Bowl-winning linebacker was noted for playing with intelligent abandon for the Raiders, Niners and Washington, but he doesn’t do much with abandon these days. He just had his weekly chemo treatment the previous day, and he’s surprised he’s feeling up to doing as much as he’s done on one of the first warm mornings of the year here. Millen’s down around 50 pounds in the past year, chasing a cure for a disease called amyloidosis that is particularly evil: He needs debilitating chemotherapy now to fight amyloid, a rogue protein that attacks organs (his heart, in this case). Because the amyloid is attacking his heart, he’ll eventually need a heart transplant to have a chance to live many more years.

“We’re in the fourth quarter of a big football game,” Millen said. “We’re down 13. Playing defense. It’s getting late.”

Millen thought, and he laughed. He does a lot of laughing. He is not impressed with his own mortality, nor does he have the slightest problem discussing it.

“We need a stop,” he said. “We need a big stop.”


Millen has had one of the most interesting football lives of our time. A linebacker both vicious and impossible to trick, he’s the only player in history to win a Super Bowl in four cities: Oakland and Los Angeles (with the itinerant Raiders), and then San Francisco and Washington. Then he became Son of John Madden on TV, destined, it seemed, to replace Madden as the brainiac BOOM-BAM analyst of the people. But he got an offer to become president and GM of the woebegone Lions in 2001 that he couldn’t refuse. Maybe he should have. Millen lasted seven years and four games, and was fired in the midst of Detroit’s 0-16 season in 2008. Then he went back to TV. Now he does NFL games for FOX and college games for the Big Ten Network. And still will in 2018, if his health holds through the chemo.

Many head-scratching things about this incurable malady plaguing Millen. This might be the topper: It took doctors almost as long as his ill-fated NFL executive career lasted to find out he had amyloidosis. He traveled to New York, to Los Angeles, to Rochester, Minn., to Philadelphia, to Chicago, with multiple doctors seen in a couple of those cities, before finally finding out this truth from a doctor in Jacksonville a year ago: “My friend, I know what you’ve got, and you’re not going to like it.”

The long, strange trip to diagnosis (amyloidosis fools doctors and clinicians because it mimics other diseases) started one day in 2011 on this property, as Millen was walking up the steep mini-mountain on the western edge of the property with his wife, Pat. “We’d walk three miles, and we'd attack that big hill. And of course Pat would just bury me all the time,” Millen recalled. “And I thought, no big deal, because she's little and she's in great shape. Sometimes I'd catch up to her and we'd run at the end and I'd beat her. And then, I couldn't. I'd start walking, and I was like, What is going on? I'd start getting this pressure like right at the base of my chest. Then I couldn’t make it up to the top. Then I couldn't even get halfway up. That lasts about a year, year and a half, and I figure I better go see a doctor.”

The first doctor visit was 2012. Multiple heart tests followed, and tests for severe acid reflux, and for lyme disease. Nothing. He passed a kidney stone in 2015, got a non-malignant tumor removed from his chest a year later, and still nothing. Millen was sick of feeling like crap. One day a couple of years ago, he decided that since the doctors kept telling him his heart was great and they couldn’t find anything else wrong, he’d take out the walk-behind 60-inch mower he used to mow the five acres he kept in groundskeeper’s condition and just attack his property. The lawn was a football game—four quarters, and he’d mow one sector, one quarter, at a time. So he was on the first series of the first quarter, in essence, and here came the issue again.

“So I'm walking it, and I can't go 100 yards and it’s starting to bother me. But armed with the knowledge that there's nothing wrong, I get to this little hill, and I'm like I'm running up this hill. If I fall over dead, tough. This thing was really pissing me off. So I ran up the hill, it’s just killing me, and I was like, I'm done. I've got to find a doctor.”

Getty Images (3)

More doctors. Liver, kidney exams. Nothing. Finally, a team physician for the Eagles, a sleuth named Gary Dorshimer, sent him to the Mayo Clinic. This time he’d stay till they found out what it was. Millen went to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, to a doctor named Gary Lee.

“So this is about a year ago,” Millen said, now inside his pristinely maintained home, on an antique couch. “I walked into his office, we sat down and we talked for about 15 to 20 minutes, and that’s when he tells me he knows what I got and I’m not gonna like it. I’m like, How do you know that? You didn’t even do a freakin’ test on me. He says, ‘I’ve been studying this disease for quite some time, amyloidosis. I'm looking at your carotid artery right now, it’s pronounced. I'm looking at the muscles in your head, and they’re deteriorated. Where there should be muscles around your eyes, you're getting more puffiness instead of muscle mass.’

“And I'm like, ‘Way to read your keys man! That's a good linebacker!’”

Lee’s testing proved that this disastrous protein, amyloid, was being produced in Millen’s bone marrow and was being deposited in the area around his heart. The amyloid is produced in the bone marrow and in Millen’s case, has traveled to his heart walls, making the heart less elastic and unable to perform the necessary pumping for healthy heart function. Treatments including chemotherapy could manage Millen’s symptoms but not cure the disease. Eventually he’ll need the heart transplant.

“It’s just a matter of when,” Millen said. “And when the window opens for me, I may only have like five months to get it done.”

I said: “Are you amazed that a person as healthy as you’ve been your whole life can be told you need a heart transplant?”

“It’s unbelievable!” he said. “Here’s what I kept on saying—I’d be working out or I’d be cutting the grass, or I’d be doing something and I would have to stop. I could walk 50 feet and I’d be like, What is going on? I would always say, ‘Pat, didn’t I just play in a Super Bowl 20 minutes ago?’”

“Had any ‘Why me?’ moments?” I asked.

“Never,” he said. “Not one. I don’t think like that. This doesn’t bother me too much. I believe that in life you’re supposed to take the bad with the good. You take what you get. This is our life. This is what we get. And so it was the same thing when I was playing. We were fortunate to win Super Bowls. There are guys who go through their whole career, great players, who don’t win one. I’m in Oakland, L.A., San Fran, Washington. We won one everywhere. You just can’t figure those things sometimes. So you just get what you get. I’m okay with that.

“I’m also okay if I don’t wake up one day. We’re all gonna get there. I’m 60 years old and yeah, I’d like to kick around a little longer, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. I’m actually really good with that. Some of it is just being pragmatic. I’ve always been that way.

“And this life—this incredible life. It’s amazing to me. I’ve met presidents, I’ve met prime ministers, I’ve been around top world leaders, I’ve been around icons like Mr. Ford [the late Lions owner William Clay Ford]—and I’ve had awesome conversations with these people. The great lesson? We’re all the same. We’re all the same. There is no difference.”


Millen’s attitude is so good, so positive—honestly, he could star in the remake of It’s a Wonderful Life—that I feel I could ask him anything at this moment. I could ask about where this “That’s life” ethos comes from. I probably should have.

But I want to ask him about the Lions.

“As you look back on it,” I said, “did you enjoy Detroit or …”

“Yes,” he interrupts. “I enjoyed—I did not like the process because of the reality of what it is. Really when I take my steps back, I was not ready at all. Not even close. I was in over my head. And by the time I figured it out, it wasn’t necessarily too late, but we were in pretty deep.”

George Gojkovich/Getty Images

So many weird things about Millen’s tenure. This one just boggles the mind: In the five drafts between 2003 and 2007, Millen had the second, seventh, 10th, ninth and second overall picks. He took wide receivers in four of those five drafts. Charles Rogers in 2003, Roy Williams in 2004, Mike Williams in 2005, Calvin Johnson in 2007.

“The one that killed me was Mike Williams,” Millen said. “That was just so stupid, Pete. It’s like my brain fell off my head. Why would I do that?” 

“So why did you?” I asked. (Editor’s note: Williams, an All-America wideout at USC, declared for the 2004 draft after his sophomore season when a judge in the Maurice Clarett case overturned the NFL’s draft eligibility rules. Before the draft, however, an appeals court reversed that decision, and the NCAA declined to reinstate Williams. He was forced to sit out the 2004 season and re-enter the draft in 2005.)

“I listened to the group. They thought if they got Mike Williams and paired him with Roy Williams, that in the red zone we could do all these things. And I was like, okay. Do you realize at that time, when we were just about ready to pick, I had DeMarcus Ware on the phone? And I said, ‘All right, take Mike Williams.’ My son was in the draft room with us, and that’s when my son punched me. What a dope I was.”

“How football history could have changed if you picked Ware instead of Mike Williams,” I said.

“How ’bout that?” Millen said. “Maybe we would have ruined him too.”

Millen, of course, was fired by William Clay Ford four games into the winless 2008 season. But he says he’s glad to have had the experience. To this day he loves the Ford family. He understands why he got whacked (“They had to do it”) and says he has no bitterness, and says he understands why the fans feel the enmity they feel for him.

“Now I know what really happens when you build a team,” he said. “It’s so imperfect. There’s so many things that just happen that you stumble into. And sometimes it works out the way you plan it, but not often because it’s a people business. That’s what it is. Like with Charles [Rogers]. I worked him out. I met with Charles. Charles wasn’t a strong person. I knew that. I miscalculated all the people that would latch onto him, especially being so close to his hometown; he was from Saginaw. And that was a real problem. My choice then was to take him or the kid from Miami, Andre Johnson. The only reason that I didn’t take Andre Johnson was I thought this would be good for the franchise—a hometown kid, and he had better speed, but Andre was a physical guy.”

Rogers had issues with Vicodin, marijuana, multiple DUIs and the weight of fathering eight children, two before he was out of high school. He was a mess for most of his awful three-year NFL career (36 catches, four touchdowns), and the Lions cut him in 2006.

Yes, the football architecture thing didn’t quite work out for Millen.


Peter King/The MMQB

Millen is a garrulous sort, so it’s not rare for him to open his life like this. But now he’s doing it because he wants the public to know something about amyloidosis. Namely, that it’s incredibly hard to diagnose, even by the smartest doctors. Will McDonough, the famed Boston Globe writer, died of amyloidosis in 2003. His family had an autopsy done, and it wasn’t until then that the amyloidosis was discovered. “He did a stress test the day he died,” son Sean McDonough, the ESPN announcer, told me on Sunday. “And the doctors told him he was fine—everything looks good. That’s how unexpected this can be.” Sean McDonough is thrilled that Millen is speaking up now, so the light can be shined on a mostly unknown killer. (To learn more, visit the Amyloidosis Foundation.)   

Some 4,500 documented cases of the disease are found each year, with many more going undiagnosed. Millen hopes that by him telling his story, others who cannot find the root cause of an illness might ask a doctor about amyloidosis. The longer a person waits to be diagnosed, the more of the damaging amyloid protein can be produced. And, of course, the chance to stave off the disease through aggressive treatment is reduced the longer it takes to be diagnosed.

A bit of an update here: Millen visited another doctor at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York on Thursday. It was determined he would come off chemotherapy for two or three weeks to judge his progress, but nothing about his future treatment is likely to change. He’ll eventually be on a transplant list, and he’ll hope for the kindness of a stranger’s heart.

Early in the afternoon of my visit, Millen seemed tired. Time to go. But he had one last thing to show me back outside: a gate, a beautiful stone arched gate, with a Bible verse he finds telling in his life. He pointed to it.

“This is important,” he said.

It read: “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. And only a few find it.”

It’s a verse he wanted his four children to follow in life: Take the right and the righteous path, not the popular path. Now he’s on his own narrow road. He’s okay with that.


Chuck Knox: 1932-2018

Bill Parcells once said this of his friend Chuck Knox, who died Saturday from complications of dementia: “He’s the guy tough guys want to play for.” Knox proved it three times. He coached three teams that were struggling when he got hired: the early ’70s Rams, the late ’70s Bills, and mid-’80s Seahawks. He turned every one of them around.

In Knox’s first year with the Rams, in 1973, Los Angeles went 12-2, and Knox won coach of the year.

In his third year with the Bills, in 1980, Buffalo went 11-5, and Knox won coach of the year.

In his second year with the Seahawks, in 1984, Seattle went 12-4, and Knox won coach of the year.

He established a run-first, Ground Chuck style of offense, befitting a man who grew up in western Pennsylvania and spent time working in the steel mills there pre-coaching days. If you couldn’t run, Knox thought that said everything about your team. And it worked everywhere he coached, even in the post-O.J. Simpson Bills days.

Knox coached 22 NFL seasons, and his 186 regular-season wins are 10th all-time in the 98-season history of the NFL. As with Marty Schottenheimer (seventh in regular-season wins) and Dan Reeves (ninth), Knox is on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in, though his 193 wins in all games is 10 more than Parcells, who is in the Hall, and 11 more than Tom Coughlin, who may be one day. The difference is Super Bowl wins: Parcells and Coughlin have two, Knox zero. But no one who played for Knox will say Super Bowls should rule his résumé. He made every team he coached tougher, and better.

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Quotes of the Week

I

“I lived with the mental torture of a situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person. I was innocent then and I am innocent now.”

—Lions coach Matt Patricia, responding to the unearthing of the news that, as a 21-year-old college student on spring break in 1996, he was arrested and indicted for sexual assault in Texas, a charge that was dropped a few months later. The case never went to trial, and the Lions did not ask about it during the interview with Patricia, and didn’t know about it until last week.

II

“The last time the Giants had the number two pick in the NFL draft, they drafted Lawrence Taylor. So I expect him to become a Hall of Famer at some point.”

—Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson on Giants rookie Saquon Barkley, the second pick in the 2018 NFL draft, to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

III

“When we picked him back in ’08, our feelings were we had to have a quarterback that could help us move in the right direction, coming off everything that went wrong with Michael Vick. We felt like you could build around Matt Ryan. It had to be a player like that, a player with his makeup on and off the field. It was a big, big deal looking back on that now. That was important, at an important time in Atlanta.”

—Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, whose first draft pick running the team was Matt Ryan a decade ago, to Albert Breer of The MMQB, after Ryan signed a contract that will likely make him the league’s first $30-million-a-year player.

IV

“Feeding the homeless is the highlight of my life.”

—Austin Perine, 4, of Alabama, on CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman’s touching story about a young boy who uses his allowance to buy food for homeless people.

V

“People forget that Alex was the No. 1 pick in the [2005] draft. He had to go through some growing pains and learn things kind of on his own, so he knew little things to help me, like my stance under center. I played all shotgun when I was in college, so it was different being under center as much as we are. But he helped me adjust my stance to eliminate the bucket step I had when I first got here, so I could be back further and able to throw the ball more on time.”

—Kansas City quarterback Pat Mahomes, on what he learned playing behind Alex Smith as a rookie, to Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB.

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Stat of the Week

Since 2013, influential NFC general managers Dave Gettleman and John Schneider have each won NFC titles—Gettleman’s Carolina Panthers once, Schneider’s Seattle Seahawks twice. (Gettleman, after five years with the Panthers, took over the Giants in late December.)

They handle the draft from opposite poles.

• In the six drafts (five Panthers, one Giants) since 2013, Gettleman has traded his first-round draft choice zero times.

• In the six drafts since 2013, Schneider has traded his first-round draft choice six times.

Conclusions to be drawn: not many, if any. In the five regular seasons from 2013 to ’17, the results of the teams these two general managers formed:

• Seattle is 54-25-1, has won three division titles and has made the playoffs four times.

• Carolina is 51-28-1, has won three division titles and has made the playoffs four times.

My point: There’s no one way to build a good football team, except maybe for this—you better have a good quarterback.

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Factoid That May Interest Only Me

2008: Anthony Gonzalez, a second-year wideout for the Colts, catches two touchdown passes from Peyton Manning to lift Indianapolis to an 18-15 upset of the Patriots on Sunday night football.

2018: Anthony Gonzalez, a rookie Republican politician, wins the Congressional primary in a northeast Ohio district, and will run for an open Congressional seat in the 16th District of Ohio in the November general election.


Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note

This thought occurred to me when I attended the Cards-Padres game Thursday night at lovely Petco Park in downtown San Diego, the first night of a four-day San Diego-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles retirement trip for my brother-in-law Bob Whiteley and my sister Pam: These days, sometimes a baseball ticket is a cover charge for really good food and better drink.

Look at this photo. Just look at it. It’s a wall of wine, from all over the world. A while ago, maybe 2005, we did a King family vacation to Italy and stayed near a small Tuscan town, Greve. One night we went to an Italian festival in a tiny village, Lamole. What a charming, vivid memory. And so Thursday night at Petco, I went into the Italian takeout place, got a slice of Sicilian pie with basil and looked at the wine list. There were maybe 40 selections. In a ballpark. One was a Chianti from Lamole. I’ve not seen one since the day we left that tiny place. Of course I got it. My wife got a Quinoa salad with spinach, onions and corn. In a baseball stadium.

On our walk around the park, I counted nine distinct craft beer stations, plus a huge craft beer bar behind home plate. That’s what happens, I guess, when you’re 14-25 (the Pads’ record when we left a 2-1 loss that night) and you've got to make the park a huge reason to come to the game. It is, I can assure you, a very good reason to come.

Two other notes: Great to see forever Chargers PR man Bill Johnston, now in the Padres’ front office. Such a good man, and so good at this job. And it was cool to spend 15 minutes or so with GM A.J. Preller of the Padres. Had no idea he was such a fan of the New York Giants. I think he knows more about the ’80s Giants than I do … and I covered the team for four years.


Tweets of the Week

I

II

III

So much of this rings perfectly true. And my admiration for Tomlin grew reading a story for which he would not be interviewed.

IV


Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think there is no easy solution to the Matt Patricia situation in Detroit. But I think there are three points to make:

a. Barring more information coming to light that would damage Patricia’s case that he was innocent of sexual assault in a Texas incident when he was 21 in 1996, Patricia deserves to be considered not guilty of the charge. He and a friend were charged and indicted, with the case being dropped because the woman in question did not want to move forward with the case because of the stress. That’s where it lay until the Detroit News discovered the existence of the charge last week. Because Patricia was not convicted of a crime, and because it never resurfaced with any additional evidence in the 22 years since, he deserves to be allowed to coach the Lions with the presumption of innocence next to his name.

b. As The MMQB and other outlets wrote in the wake of the news, it’s fairly easy to find the existence of the charge against Patricia using a Nexis search. When a franchise worth billions doesn’t discover the story until the local paper advises the team of it, that’s a blatant red flag on the process the Lions use. And when team president Rod Wood immediately says the franchise backs Patricia “1,000 percent,” what does that say to women who would root for the team? Wood should have said that the team would do an exhaustive investigation into the story.

c. There’s nothing wrong journalistically with what the Detroit News did in reporting a 22-year-old story, particularly in the environment we’re living now. Imagine if a reporter found out about this story, didn’t report anything, and a year later, another media outlet found the woman in question and she said she wanted to come forward with her side of the story. This story deserves to be known. Not to ruin Patricia’s career by any means, but to simply say this should be a part of the Matt Patricia story, and he deserves to be able to coach because of the disposition of the case.

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2. I think I’ve always been fascinated with career arc of Adam Vinatieri, who, if good health holds, will probably break the NFL’s scoring record by midseason of 2018. (He needs 58 points to pass Morten Andersen, which he could do left-footed.) But I wrote about Vinatieri the other day, and I found out a few things I didn’t know. I found out he came perilously close to being cut (and likely not picked up by anyone) in the first month of his career in 1996. “I thought I was one bad game away, maybe one kick away, from the end of my football career,” Vinatieri told me. “I was very close to going home to South Dakota, and probably going to medical school.” And I found out just what he thought he’d do if he’d had one more lousy NFL game kicking for Bill Parcells. You’ll have to read this to find out his path in life had the kicking thing not worked out.

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3. I think you never know the motivation why team officials talk up one team or another, and May is a time of smoke-blowing. But I found Denver GM John Elway’s comments about the AFC West and about one team in particular interesting. He told reporters in Omaha the other day: “It's the wild, wild West. I thought the Chargers did a really nice job with the draft. They’ve got the settled quarterback, even though the Raiders do too. Looking at it, [the Chargers] may be the ones to beat. As I stand here, looking at it, the Chargers might be the team to beat.”

4. I think, absolutely, wide receiver Brandon Marshall has a good year of football left in him, at 34, and would be a great depth signing by Seattle.

5. I think this went unnoticed until Field Yates pointed it out, but it shouldn’t: Former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has begun coaching with the Patriots. He helped Bill Belichick in the run-up to the 2018 draft, and now, apparently, the relationship is going to the next level. Heck of a story.

6. I think I’m intrigued by the ESPN Monday night crew—Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten in the booth, Lisa Salters and Booger McFarland on the sidelines. Very interesting chemistry experiment, when the color guy is the rookie (Witten) starting his media career at the highest level of television.

7. I think the Mark Ingram four-game PED suspension to start the season might make Alvin Kamara the NFL’s most important offensive weapon of the first four weeks of this season. Kamara, who played an increasingly major role for the Saints in earning the offensive rookie of the year award in 2017, will have to carry a bigger load in September than the Saints originally thought. Last year, in the first quarter of the season, Kamara had only 35 touches from scrimmage—15 rushes, 20 receptions. Thirty-five touches, 230 yards. I bet that’s doubled, at least, in the first quarter of 2018.

8. I think I have no idea why the Senior Bowl and Phil Savage “parted ways,” apparently amicably, but I do know this: Savage, the former Browns GM, made the Senior Bowl a professional event, appointment-attending on the NFL calendar. He will be missed in a major way. The way he navigated the needs of the 32 teams and the omnipresent media and the players themselves was deft.

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9. I think I loved this story that Peter Gammons had in The Athletic about Ichiro Suzuki as the curtain fell on his illustrious baseball career. Seems that in 2017, when Ichiro was a Miami Marlin, he got a text from a number he didn’t recognize, asking about his stretching routine. Manager Don Mattingly said Ichiro was confused because he didn’t know the sender of the text. “Some guy named Tom Brady,” Ichiro said, according to Mattingly. “Who the f--- is Tom Brady?” Now there’s a guy with focus on his chosen career.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Football story of the Week: from Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, on an unlikely free agent in Chargers camp these day: Colorado State offensive lineman Zack Golditch. Unlikely because he was seriously wounded (in the neck) by the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater gunman in 2012.

b. Story of the Week: a great one by Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post, on Jim Palmer, at 72, finally discovering who his birth mother and father were. What a tale, Dave.

c. Message of the Week, from John McCain’s new memoir, in a story by Carl Hulse of The New York Times: We need more civility in Washington, and we need more caring about the country and not just party. Please listen to the last few messages of an American hero, McCain.

d. The civility needs to start at the top.

e. McCain’s book is called “The Restless Wave.” Here’s a great passage about the spirit of compromise and seeing all sides: “You’re damn right, I’m a champion of compromise in the governance of a country of 325 million opinionated, quarrelsome, vociferous souls. There is no other way to govern an open society, or more precisely, to govern it effectively.”

f. It was disgusting, in the wake of the even more disgusting assault allegations against New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and his subsequent resignation, to read gloating Schneiderman-haters turn it into something even slightly political. It’s all about gaining some perceived political advantage these days, more than I ever remember in my life.

g. By the way, kudos to Donald Trump for his role in freeing the three imprisoned Americans in North Korea. Give credit where it’s due.

h. The Yankees are going 139-23 this year. No doubt about it. That is one broiling baseball team.

i. In the last two minutes of an NBA playoff game, there is more physical contact than during a night of MMA competition.

j. Did you see Joel Embiid go up for the last shot of the Philadelphia 76ers season? He was fouled about six times. Whistles, swallowed.

k. Coffeenerdness: In Santa Barbara, try State Street Coffee. Friendly, fast, local, with a heck of an espresso shot.

l. Beernerdness: One of the coolest beer menus I’ve seen at a pizza place in Santa Barbara, Olio. It’s all Italian beer. I tried the Runa Bianca, an Italian witbier, and didn’t regret it. Sharper than an Allagash, with less of the coriander/spice taste. But a very good beer that leaves a zest in your mouth.

m. My schedule down the stretch of my time here: I will write each of the next two Mondays, May 21 and May 28. My final regular Monday column will be next week. My May 28 column (Memorial Day) will be on my 10 favorite stories at SI, SI.com and The MMQB. I will write mailbag columns each of the next two Wednesdays, May 16 and 23. Then it’s on to a new life at NBC.


The Adieu Haiku

Chuck Knox: Tough, tough coach.
Always reminded me of
The Marlboro Man.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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