Bernie Parrish, former cornerback for the Cleveland Browns and Houston Oilers, writes the way he played football, by lowering his helmet to bash an opponent in the ribs. In his book They Call It a Game (The Dial Press, $7.95), Parrish often hits lower than that. You can get an idea of what's coming in the preface: "This book is intended to drive Pete Rozelle, Arthur Modell, Carroll Rosenbloom...and the other so-called sportsmen-owners out of professional football. They arc my enemies...."
In fairness to Parrish, he does not even spare himself. He readily admits that without Dexedrine, "I doubt I would have ever played a day of pro football," and that in a game he enjoyed nothing more than giving an opposing player a lick. With relish he recalls the time he caught unwary Bobby Crockett of Buffalo ambling downfield for a pass. "I smashed my right forearm into the side of his helmet and he went down like he'd been shot. You wait years for an opportunity like that."
As a former player representative for the Browns, Parrish brings a practiced eye to phony front-office bookkeeping (he would seem to demolish one Dallas Cowboy annual financial report), questionable deals (he charges that the Detroit Lions secretly forced Granville Liggins to sign with Calgary in the Canadian League) and blacklisting (a federal grand jury has been using Parrish's material in its investigations).
Yet, for all its candor and insights, the book leaves a rotten aftertaste. Hearsay, innuendo and rumor are set down willy-nilly without support of fact. For instance, Parrish hints that there has been widespread fixing of games. But instead of giving names, dates and places, he merely repeats hearsay.
November 1, 1971
Then there is the press. Parrish sees the sportswriting fraternity as involved in a gigantic conspiracy with NFL owners. "Almost on cue they promote a merger, push legislation, attack an opponent of the league...or generally create a cover for whatever dealings the owners may be plotting." Parrish writes. As an example, he cites a book, Jim Brown: The Golden Year 1964 by Stan Isaacs, which apparently omits the names of Parrish and the three other Cleveland defensive backs in the account of the title victory over Baltimore. "To the average fan," Parrish writes, "our omission from the account of that championship game must have seemed unimportant, but...it was obvious and calculated—the type of omission which pleases Arthur Modell and other members of the league hierarchy...." There is a word to describe thinking like this: paranoid.