Elvis Grbac bursts through the double oak doors, dragging in his
wake a frantic Chanel-suited secretary, four huge men in full
San Francisco 49ers uniforms, a minicam crew and a
familiar-looking man in a suit.
"Mayor Brown, I tried to stop them!" the secretary hollers.
"They don't even have an appointment!"
Behind the huge mahogany desk, adorned in a gorgeous four-button
Italian suit and handmade Italian loafers, the Honorable Willie
Brown, mayor of San Francisco, spins wildly in his leather
chair, knocking the manicurist head over file, and ducks, his
eyes squeezed shut, waiting for a spray of bullets.
When only silence arrives, Brown opens his eyes to find the
manicurist straightening her uniform, Grbac sitting calmly
across from him and all cameras, pens, pads and pupils pointed
November 25, 1996
"Elvis Grbac, Mr. Mayor," says the man in the chair. "Backup
quarterback. San Francisco 49ers. You're familiar, no?"
Brown looks as if he has just chugged a turpentine cocktail.
"Uh, yes, Elvis. How're you doing?"
"No," says Grbac, opening a burgundy briefcase. "It's how are
you doing, Mr. Mayor."
"As mayor, Mr. Brown. How are you doing as mayor?"
Brown looks at the people closing in on him.
"Oh, how rude of me," Grbac says, turning to the man in the
suit. "You know Morley Safer of 60 Minutes, right? And that's
the meat of my offensive line."
The four great uniformed men take a step closer.
"Two Sundays ago I had a bad game. I said so afterward. I threw
two interceptions, and we lost to the Cowboys in overtime. I had
a lot on my mind. My baby just went through surgery. But, hey, I
played bad. Still, as a starter I'm 6-3, and this wasn't exactly
The offensive line grunts in concurrence.
"But you, commenting from 5,500 miles away, in Paris of all
places, told the writers I was [here Grbac reads from a torn
piece of paper], and I quote, 'an embarrassment to humankind'
and a 'bonehead' and that I couldn't play in any new stadium you
are going to get built."
"Yes, well, clearly, I was...."
"I'm an embarrassment to mankind? For throwing two
interceptions? This from a man who used to carry a bronze bust
of himself around in his trunk?"
"This from a mayor who had the brilliant idea this year of using
gang members to patrol bus lines?"
"Well, it was a very complex...."
"This from a mayor who wanted to turn Treasure Island--that's
the former military installation at the base of the Bay Bridge,
Morley--into a casino? Without mentioning that you were involved
financially with potential developers?"
Brown, struggling to loosen his $120 tie, backs slowly toward
the corner of his wood-paneled office. "This might be the time
to reiterate my sincere and heartfelt apology...."
"This from a guy who occasionally shows up at parties with his
wife on one arm and his girlfriend on the other?"
Now the manicurist and the secretary begin closing in.
"You, you don't understand," stammers Brown. "These are all
complicated situations. There are all sorts of pressures and
considerations in my job that you couldn't possibly know about!"
"Really?" bellows Grbac. "Do you think it's remotely possible
that there might be pressures and considerations on third-and-11
with 70,000 people screaming, five receivers running five routes
and a horde of 310-pound Cowboys trying to turn you into six
feet of purple?"
Brown's eyes are stinging from his own sweat. "I suppose I...."
"And can you imagine that maybe not all five of those routes
were run textbook perfect and that maybe not every block was a
total pancake and that maybe, after four quarters of mud and
blood and spit, your judgment might not be as clear as some fop
who gets to sit behind a desk the size of Idaho all day?"
"W-w-w-ell," squeaks Brown, for now the tackles have him pinned
high on the wall by his lapels and the guards are holding his
legs at 45-degree angles as though they might like to make a wish.
"And would it be too much to realize that underneath the pads
and the glamour and the salaries, quarterbacks are just people
who can have a bad day once in a while? And maybe these people
don't deserve to hear it from a large-mouthed mayor with lifts
in his heels."
"Ag-g-g-reed," says Brown. "C-c-could your t-t-t-eammates put me
"Not," growls Grbac, "until I get what I came for."
With that, he reaches ominously inside the breast pocket of his
coat. Brown gasps. Morley gasps. The linemen gasp. And draws out
"Can you fix this?"