Tiger, Meet My Sister...: And Other Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said

Tiger, Meet My Sister...: And Other Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said

4.3 3
by Rick Reilly
     
 

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Rick Reilly has been called “one of the funni­est humans on the planet—an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray, and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson” (Publishers Weekly). In Tiger, Meet My Sister, Reilly com­piles the best of his columns from his last five years with ESPN,

Overview

Rick Reilly has been called “one of the funni­est humans on the planet—an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray, and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson” (Publishers Weekly). In Tiger, Meet My Sister, Reilly com­piles the best of his columns from his last five years with ESPN, columns that will make you laugh, cry—and quite a few that may make you want to throw this book across the room. Rick Reilly tends to get under people’s skin like that.

He has no compunction telling readers, in his singular quick-witted style, how he really feels about some of the most popular sports figures of our time. Wondering about quarterback Jay Cutler? “Cutler is the kind of guy you just want to pick up and throw into a swimming pool, which is exactly what Peyton Manning and two linemen did one year at the Pro Bowl.” Or how about Tiger Woods? “Sometimes you wonder where Tiger Woods gets his public-relations advice. Gary Busey?” But for every brazen takedown, Reilly has written a heartwarming story of the power of sports to heal the wounded and lift the downtrodden: the young Ravens fan with cancer who called the plays for a few—victorious—games in 2012, or the onetime top NFL recruit who was finally exonerated after serving five years for a crime he didn’t commit.

With a new introduction and updates from Reilly on his most talked-about col­umns, as well as his expert opinion on athlete tattoos, NFL cheerleaders, and running with the bulls in Pamplona, Tiger, Meet My Sister showcases an unparalleled sportswriter at the top of his game.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Rick Reilly

“Rick Reilly is one of the funniest humans on the planet, an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray, and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson.”—Publisher’s Weekly  
 
“Don't get started reading this book.  It will take three burly men to pull you away from it.”—Bob Costas, NBC commentator for Missing Links

“You don't need to know your bogeys from your birdies to find at least three laughs per page in this novel.”—The New York Times Book Review for Missing Links

“Snappy prose, believable characters, and the funniest take on blue-collar hacking and gambling since Dan Jenkins's The Glory Game at Goat Hill...it's social satire and pure irreverence that keep this story in the groove.”—Los Angeles Times for Missing Links

 “Reilly could write about lawn bowling and make it funny, informative, and entertaining. You never know what the next page is going to bring.” —Los Angeles Times for Who’s Your Caddy?

“You might not think the story of a man carrying Tommy Aaron’s golf bag for 18 holes could make you laugh out loud, but you’d be wrong. Who’s Your Caddy? is funny enough to coax a chuckle out of Vijay Singh. A great way to read about the game—and its people, too.” —Charlotte Observer

“You don’t have to know much about golf to get a kick out of this book. Reilly learns a little about golf, and a lot about people.” —The Buffalo News for Who’s Your Caddy?
 
“[Reilly] knows and delivers a good story when he sees it . . . readers can’t help but be touched by the sheer ingenuity of many of these games and the sheer courage of many of the participants.”—Booklist for Sports from Hell
 “Reilly was the closest thing sportswriting ever had to a rock star.” —Chris Chase, USAToday.com

“Often, Reilly’s is so good, it almost is painful for sportswriters like me to read him.” —Ed Sherman, The Sherman Report

“Reilly made you think, made you cry, made you LOL, made you get to know a subject, made you love sports and hate sports and love him and hate him. Above all, he made you read him, every column.” —Jay Marriotti, SportsTalk Florida

Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-06
An acclaimed sportswriter presents a litany of gripes.The subtitle of this collection of previously published essays by veteran sportswriter Reilly (Sports from Hell: My Search for the World's Dumbest Competition, 2010, etc.) tells readers what to expect: brash, rude opinions for which the writer does not apologize. The author, an ESPN.com columnist and 11-time national sportswriter of the year, occasionally writes uplifting stories about "People With Big Hearts" or "Tales of Strength" (two chapters in this book), but his stock in trade is quick-paced, topical humor columns for ESPN The Magazine, where his essays are a brief stop en route to something more substantial or entertaining. In large doses, his irreverent humor becomes mean-spirited and derisive. (Reilly's take on Caltech's men's basketball team's breaking its 310-game losing streak is not a feel-good story.) The author's complaint about the ponderous pace of major league baseball games showcases his typical hack work: He calls a three-hour-and-fourteen-minute Reds-Giants game in 2012 "can-somebody-please-stick-two-forks-in-my-eyes snore-a-palooza" and grouses, "I'd rather have watched eyebrows grow." In his column about Jason Collins coming out as a gay NBA player, Reilly describes players' fears of having a gay teammate as "paranoia in high tops." However, the author's irritation is valid when he rebuts the tributes dozens of writers and news outlets heaped upon Al Davis, the controversial owner of the Oakland Raiders, following his death in 2011. Reilly's listing of the man's misdeeds and many examples of his disagreeable nature ("Yes, Al Davis believed in 'A Commitment to Excellence.' Yet he didn't demand it in himself") are honest and a relief from the hagiography about Davis in the press—not to mention from the author's endless punning and tepid wordplay.In book form, Reilly's columns are an avalanche of small stones, hitting readers with trite observations and stale one-liners.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780698164642
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/13/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
187,303
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Foreword

Now that I’m dead, I’d like to discuss my funeral.

First off, I want chili cheeseburgers. And Guinness. And the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders.

I want the Cure playing, live. I hid some money under the rock out back. Should cover it. If there’s any left, get the Phoenix Gorilla, too.

I’ll need a mix of crying and laughing, 25 percent/70 percent, if we could. The other 5 percent is going to be those who will be there howling happily to see that I’ve boxed. That will be Bryant Gumbel, Steve Garvey, and Sammy Sosa, people like that. Let them holler lousy things out about me now and then. I don’t mind. I was hard on them.

A lot of my final rankings will be hanging on big posters on the walls of whatever hall you rent. (The back room at an Olive Garden ought to do it.) They are as follows:

NICEST PEOPLE:

   • Steph Curry
   • Jim Nantz
   • That bald guy with the mushroom-cloud ear hair who always comes up to me and tells me how much he loved my last column even though Mitch Albom usually wrote it

BIGGEST JERKS:

   • Barry Bonds
   • Barry Bonds
   • Robert (Arliss) Wuhl
   • Barry Bonds
   • Jay Cutler

MOST FUN:

   • Charles Barkley
   • George Clooney
   • David Feherty

GREATEST WITNESSED THRILLS:

   • Nicklaus wins the 1986 Masters
   • North Carolina State wins the 1983 NCAA March Madness
   • My first SI Swimsuit shoot. Oh. My. God.

LARGEST REGRETS:

   • Believed Lance Armstrong
   • Didn’t believe Jose Canseco
   • Sold all my Apple at 125

DUMBEST QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASKED ME:

   • Where do they store the hockey ice at the arena when they switch over to basketball? (A: They cut it up in little squares and the players take it home and keep it in their freezers.)
   • Why has Greg Norman never been selected to play in the Ryder Cup? (A: Because Norman has a deal with U-Haul.)
   • When was the last repeat winner of the Kentucky Derby? (A: Sigh.)

PEOPLE I WAS SURE WOULD BE DEAD BEFORE ME:

   • Mike Tyson
   • Dennis Rodman
   • John Daly

BEST INSULT:

   • “Thanks for sending me your book. I’ll waste no time reading it.” (From a reviewer.)

PRESIDENTS MET:

   • Ford (stepped on my foot)
   • Carter (wouldn’t let go of my wife)
   • Bush 41 (very fast, very bad golfer)
   • Clinton (smart)
   • Obama (fantasy football partner)

ANNOYANCES:

   • The readjust, re-Velcro, triple loogie done between pitches every freaking time
   • The stupid rule that won’t let you pull it out of a divot
   • Guns

THINGS I’LL MISS:

   • Wife and kids and buddies
   • Third-and-8 and Peyton Manning deciding who he’s going to burn
   • Piano bars

THINGS I WON’T:

   • “Can you take a look at my nephew’s book? It’s a true story!”
   • Wide receivers who pump their chest and point to the name on their back after a six-yard gain.
   • The 43 million waiters and waitresses in this country who set the plate down and say, “Enjoy.” Hey, lady, it’s a cheesesteak. Where do you think I’m putting it?

WHAT I LEARNED:

   • The faster a sprinter is, the slower he walks
   • There is no point talking to a 5-iron
   • The Kenyan with the most impossible name to pronounce will win the race
   • All other Kenyans will finish 2-through-10
   • Media company lawyers do not get paid to get your joke. They get paid to kill it
   • Even if there are 1,000 people in front of you enjoying your after-dinner speech, you will focus on the lady who’s asleep
   • The guy you need the most to finish your story will be last out of the shower
   • Every hate e-mail starts with “I’ve enjoyed everything you’ve written, until _____”, and ends with “hope you die in a fiery ____ accident”
   • Ninety-seven percent of athletes are lovely people and really boring columns
   • If you’re not adding some tiny good to the world, then you’re wasting everybody’s time

Up on stage, there will be a bottle of Macallan scotch from every year I’ve been alive. Each person will come up to the stage and take a shot from the year they met me, then smash the glass. If you don’t drink, we probably never met.

For flowers, I’d like the purple kind. They’re pretty.

MC Vin Scully (he’ll outlive us all) will get up and open—cold—with Sentences That Have Never Been Uttered in the History of the English Language. I have a whole collection I’ve been saving and they’ll be perfect coming out of Vin’s velvet voice box. A few sentences nobody’s ever uttered:

   • “Tiger, meet my sister.”
   • “Shaq, you shoot the technical.”
   • “Tebow says go screw yourself.”

Then Vin is going to open it up for speeches.

But be warned: Rip me, roast me, rave about me, but don’t be boring. I’m going to have Nate (No Neck) Syzmanski standing there. If you’re dull, he’ll disconnect the mike and “encourage” you off the stage.

If Charles Barkley shows, I’d like him to get up and tell about the time we were driving along and the steering wheel came off in his hands. Or the time we were walking along in Barcelona in 1992 and looked back to see 200 people following us.

I’d like John Elway to tell about the time we were playing golf and he tripped on a tee marker at the top of a steep par 3 and tumbled 30 feet cleat-over-baseball-cap. One of the best up and downs of his life.

And it’d be great if one of my buddies got up and read some of the dumb quotes I’ve had to stand there and write in my notepad. Do you know how hard it is to write about people who make their livings with their bodies, not their brains? For instance:

   • “Oh, man, you’ll never get up this thing in the winter.”—Wayne Gretzky’s Canadian friend, surveying Gretzky’s steep L.A. driveway
   • “We got our backs to the driver’s seat.”—Otis Armstrong, RB, Denver Broncos
   • “I’ve won championships at every level, except high school and college.”—Shaquille O’Neal

Oh, and I want a bunch of Nerf footballs in the crowd. I want people to just stand up and go, “I’m open!” and then have somebody wing one at them. I want Elway to have his own basket of them.

Now, I’ve taken the liberty of writing my own obit. If you’ll just send it to the papers and the websites and whatnot:

RICK REILLY, 56, sportswriter, died this week of one thing or the other. He probably had it coming.

Reilly published or posted over 2 million words in his 37-year career, most of them making fun of Barry Bonds and the size of his head.

At least Reilly tried to tell the truth in his stories and columns. He might not have always done it, but he tried. He also tried to make it all add up to something. He tried to make you laugh or cry or treat somebody better. Or worse. Once in awhile, he pulled it off.

Reilly was a very odd sportswriter in that he didn’t really write about sports. He wrote more about people who played sports than the sports themselves. The high school stud quarterback who took the loneliest girl under his wing. The blind woman who travels by bus, train and sidewalk to every Yankees game. The sports-fan kid who was supposed to be 17 and looked 80.

Reilly covered every major sporting event except the Indy 500, and every minor one, including the world sauna championship, in which he placed 103rd. He saw over 100 countries, including some behind the Iron Curtain that no longer exist. He went to every state but North Dakota, although he’s not really welcome in Nebraska, possibly because of this joke he told in Omaha:

Q: What do you call a hot tub full of Nebraska cheerleaders?

A: Gorillas in the mist.

He got decent at the piano for a while. Knew enough magic to annoy you. George Clooney made one of his movies. He had a TV series that lasted one episode. Had his own interview show that lasted 15. Helped raise over $50 million to fight malaria via Nothing But Nets, which he came up with because he was desperate for a column one week.

He saw the northern lights. He ran with the bulls. He saw the best people could be and the worst. He loved writing about big people acting small and small people acting big. He liked writing about the star of the team, but he preferred writing about the nobody at the end of the bench. He wrote short, medium and long, which was probably what he did best, but it’s probably also why he’s dead at 56. He always said every one of them takes a year off your life.

The son of an alcoholic, he made his own way. He could’ve done better. He could’ve done worse. His main deal was trying to write sentences nobody had ever read before, entertain people, and not have to get a real job. Also, to his undying credit, he never was on one of those everybody-yells sportswriter shows.

Oh, and he once took $5 off Arnold Palmer on the golf course.

When the speeches are done or the scotch is gone, whichever comes first, we’ll drive up to the graveyard in monster trucks. It’s going to be great. I’ve arranged for junker cars to be parked along the way—marked with a giant orange X—and every truck gets to go over at least one of them. You’re welcome.

At the grave site, there’ll be an L.A. taco truck—best eating known to man—and it’s carta blanca. Leaving the grave site and getting a quesadilla is not only OK, it’s encouraged.

After my caddie says a few nice words, such as, “He had a loop in his backswing you could drive a Mack truck through, but at least he tipped OK,” everybody can bring one item to throw down into the grave, depending on whether you liked me or hated me. A few items I’d like to see thrown in:

   • My 7-Eleven smock. I worked there for a while before I got the writing gig. I have also been a grocery bagger, rental-shop clerk, lawn mower, book packer, parking hut attendant, flower deliverer, bank teller, gas jockey, and car washer. Got fired from most of them. I kept the smock to remind myself that writing is all I can do.
   • My 100-plus photo collection of people choking me, including Michael Phelps underwater. Made for funny pictures, except for the time Eli Manning didn’t realize it was supposed to be a joke.
   • My laptop. I don’t want anybody reading some of the columns I started and ditched. “Why Ryan Leaf Is About to Turn This League on Its Ear.” “At 30, Phil Mickelson Is Done.” “25 Reasons I’ll Never Tweet.” Things like that. Plus, my wife has the kind of body that keeps whiplash specialists in business and I don’t want anybody clicking on the “My Pictures” tab.

Speaking of my wife, it’d be nice if she lost it at some point and dove on top of the casket as it’s being lowered. But by then I figure she’ll be too busy fending off advances from my single buddies. Or not fending them off. I can’t blame either of them.

Then I’d like to leave this note for my kids: “Sorry I spent your inheritance. Love you. Hope you have as much fun as I did.”

Lastly, I want the tombstone to say:

Here lies Rick Reilly

1958–2014

Tried to write well

Anyway, that’s it. Don’t feel sorry for me. It wasn’t long, but it was a blast. And look at it this way, I FINALLY made deadline.

(P.S. I bet my buddy Two Down O’Connor, The World’s Most Avid Golf Gambler, $100 that I’d break par before I died and I never did. So he’s going to come up and pretend to sob over my coffin, but he’s really going to be taking the C-note out of the inside left breast pocket of my black blazer. The bill is in there, just make sure I’m wearing it.)

Flaws

(Big People Acting Small)

It’s All About the Lies

January 27, 2013

Among my e-mails Wednesday morning, out of the blue, was one from Lance Armstrong.

Riles, I’m sorry.

All I can say for now but also the most heartfelt thing too. Two very important words.

L

And my first thought was . . . “Two words? That’s it?”

Two words? For fourteen years of defending a man? And in the end, being made to look like a chump?

Wrote it, said it, tweeted it: “He’s clean.” Put it in columns, said it on radio, said it on TV. Staked my reputation on it.

“Never failed a drug test,” I’d always point out. “Most tested athlete in the world. Tested maybe 500 times. Never flunked one.”

Why? Because Armstrong always told me he was clean.

On the record. Off the record. Every kind of record. In Colorado. In Texas. In France. On team buses. In cars. On cell phones.

I’d sit there with him, in some Tour de France hotel room while he was getting his daily post-race massage. And we’d talk through the hole in the table about how he stared down this guy or that guy, how he’d fooled Jan Ullrich on the torturous Alpe d’Huez into thinking he was gassed and then suddenly sprinted away to win. How he ordered chase packs from the center of the peloton and reeled in all the pretenders.

And then I’d bring up whatever latest charge was levied against him. “There’s this former teammate who says he heard you tell doctors you doped.” “There’s this former assistant back in Austin who says you cheated.” “There’s this assistant they say they caught disposing of your drug paraphernalia.”

And every time—every single time—he’d push himself up on his elbows and his face would be red and he’d stare at me like I’d just shot his dog and give me some very well-delivered explanation involving a few dozen F-words, a painting of the accuser as a wronged employee seeking revenge, and how lawsuits were forthcoming.

And when my own reporting would produce no proof, I’d be convinced. I’d go out there and continue polishing a legend that turned out to be plated in fool’s gold.

Even after he retired, the hits just kept coming. A London Times report. A Daniel Coyle book. A U.S. federal investigation. All liars and thieves, he’d snarl.

I remember one time we talked on the phone for half an hour, all off the record, at his insistence, and I asked him three times, “Just tell me. Straight up. Did you do any of this stuff?”

“No! I didn’t do s—!”

And the whole time, he was lying. Right in my earpiece. Knowing that I’d hang up and go back out there and spread the fertilizer around some more.

And now, just like that, it’s all flipped. Thursday and Friday night we’ll see him look right into the face of Oprah Winfrey and tell her just the opposite. He’ll tell her, she says, that he doped to win.

I get it. He’s ruined. He’s lost every single sponsor. Nearly every close teammate has turned on him. All seven Tour de France titles have been stripped. He could owe millions. He might be in a hot kettle with the feds. Even the future he planned for himself—triathlons and mountain biking—have been snatched away. He’s banned from those for life.

So I get it. The road to redemption goes through Oprah, where he’ll finally say those two very important words, “I’m sorry,” and hope the USADA will cut the ban from lifetime to the minimum eight years.

But here’s the thing. When he says he’s sorry now, how do we know he’s not still lying? How do we know it’s not just another great performance by the all-time leader in them?

And I guess I should let it go, but I keep thinking how hard he used me. Made me look like a sap. Made me carry his dirty water and I didn’t even know it.

Look, I’ve been fooled before. I believed Mark McGwire was hitting those home runs all on his own natural gifts. I believed Joe Paterno couldn’t possibly cover up something so grisly as child molestation. I bought Manti Te’o’s girlfriend story. But those people never looked me square in the pupils and spit.

It’s partially my fault. I let myself admire him. Let myself admire what he’d done with his life, admire the way he’d not only beaten his own cancer but was trying to help others beat it. When my sister was diagnosed, she read his book and got inspired. And I felt some pride in that. I let it get personal. And now I know he was living a lie and I was helping him live it.

I didn’t realize that behind those blues was a bully, a coercer, a man who threatened people who once worked for and with him. The Andreus. Emma O’Reilly. Tyler Hamilton. Armstrong was strong-arming people in the morning, and filing lawsuits and op-ed pieces in the afternoon. We’d talk and his voice would get furious. And I’d believe him.

And all along, the whole time, he was acting, just like he had with Ullrich that day. So now the chase pack has reeled in Lance Armstrong, and he is busted and he’s apologizing to those he conned.

I guess I should forgive him. I guess I should give him credit for putting himself through worldwide shame. I guess I should thank him for finally admitting his whole magnificent castle was built on sand and syringes and suckers like me. But I’m not quite ready. Give me fourteen years, maybe.

You’re sorry, Lance? No, I’m the one who’s sorry.

Postscript: I figured that was the last e-mail I’d ever get from Armstrong, and good riddance. But about a month later, somebody was ripping me on Twitter for one thing or another and added, “Why should we believe you? You told us Lance was telling the truth.” Out of the blue came a reply from Armstrong: “Don’t blame Rick. I lied to him for 14 years.” Hey, it’s a start.

Be Like Mike? No, Thanks

September 16, 2009

Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame talk was the Exxon Valdez of speeches. It was, by turns, rude, vindictive and flammable. And that was just when he was trying to be funny. It was tactless, egotistical and unbecoming. When it was done, nobody wanted to be like Mike.

And yet we couldn’t stop watching. Because this was an inside look into the mind-set of an icon who’d never let anybody inside before. From what I saw, I’d never want to go back. Here is a man who’s won just about everything there is to win—six NBA titles, five MVPs and two Olympic golds. And yet he sounded like a guy who’s been screwed out of every trophy ever minted. He’s the world’s first sore winner.

In the entire twenty-three-minute cringe-athon, there were only six thank-yous, seven if you count his sarcastic rip at the very Hall that was inducting him. “Thank you, Hall of Fame, for raising ticket prices, I guess,” he sneered. By comparison, David Robinson’s classy and heartfelt seven-minute speech had seventeen. Joe Montana’s even shorter speech in Canton had twenty-three. Who wrote your speech, Mike? Kanye West?

Not that Jordan’s speech wasn’t from the heart. It was. It’s just that Jordan’s heart on this night could give you frostbite. Nobody was spared, including his high school coach, his high school teammate, his college coach, two of his pro coaches, his college roommate, his pro owner, his pro general manager, the man who was presenting him that evening, even his kids!

“I wouldn’t want to be you guys if I had to,” he said as they squirmed in their seats.

He even mocked his own brothers, calling them maybe 5-foot-5 and 5-6. Actually, they’re about 5-8 and 5-9. Michael was the one blessed with the height gene, not the tact one.

Jordan had decided that this was the perfect night to list all the ways everybody sitting in front of him had pissed him off over the past thirty years: Dean Smith, Doug Collins, Jerry Reinsdorf, Pat Riley, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, George Gervin and Jeff Van Gundy. It was the only one-man roast in Hall of Fame history. Only, very little of it was funny.

He was like that Japanese World War II soldier they found hiding in a cave in Guam twenty-seven years after the Japanese surrendered. The only difference is, Jordan won! What good is victory if you never realize the battle is over?

This is how Jordan really is, I just never thought he’d let the world see it. His old Bulls assistant coach, Johnny Bach, told me early on, “This guy is a killer. He’s a cold-blooded assassin. It’s not enough for him to beat you. He wants you dead.”

I covered his entire career and saw examples of it throughout. Saw him break Rodney McCray in after-practice, $100 shooting games, humiliate him until McCray lost his stroke. Watched him race his car up the shoulder of Chicago interstates just because he didn’t have the patience to wait in traffic. Heard how he’d kept his friends confined to his hotel room at the Barcelona Olympics so he could play cards—and keep playing until he won. For Jordan, it was never enough to win. He had to have scalps.

Now here he was, in Springfield without a filter or a PR guy to cut him off, while his staff must’ve been covering their eyes. And suddenly, it hit you: Michael Jordan is the guy who gets up at the rehearsal dinner, grabs the mike and ruins the night.

The thing Jordan doesn’t understand is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls and gave one of the greatest speeches in the history of the Hall of Fame. “Folks!” he hollered. “You don’t get elected into the Hall of Fame by yourself! Thank you number 88, Lynn Swann! Thank you, Franco Harris! Thank you, Rocky Bleier! What I wouldn’t give right now to put my hands under [center] Mike Webster’s butt just one more time! Thank you, Mike!” He thanked linemen, tight ends, everybody but the ushers.

Had Jordan been in his shoes, he’d have said, “Hey, Steve Kerr! Remember when I kicked your ass in that fight?”

Jordan owes a roomful of apologies. But it’ll never happen. I know firsthand.

Before his second comeback—with the Washington Wizards—I was the first out with the story by a month. Jordan and his agent, David Falk, denied it, said I was crazy, practically said I was smoking something. Then, after a month of lies, Jordan admitted it was all true. I saw him in the locker room before his first game back and said, “You wanna say something to me, maybe?”

And he said, “You know you don’t get no apologies in this business.”

So I wouldn’t hold your breath.

They called it an “acceptance” speech, but the last thing Jordan seems to be able to do is accept it’s over. In fact, Jordan hinted that he might make yet another comeback at 50.

I just hope Comeback No. 3 doesn’t come with a speech.

Because then I’m really screwed.

Postscript: Wright Thompson told this story about Jordan in ESPN The Magazine not long ago: It seems Jordan brings his own chef to ad shoots because she always makes his favorite cinnamon rolls. But when Jordan has to leave his trailer to go shoot, he spits on each one, to make sure the security guards don’t take one while he’s filming.

Jay Cutler Is No Teddy Bear

January 13, 2011

For a man from Santa Claus, Indiana, Jay Cutler is one of the least jolly people you’ve ever met.

If he’s not The Most Hated Man in the NFL, he’s in the running. His expression is usually that of a man wearing sandpaper underwear. He looks everywhere but into your eyes. It’s a tie as to which he enjoys more—smirking or shrugging.

It’s hard to say what interests Cutler, but it’s definitely not you.

Once, in his rookie year in Denver, forty-five minutes before a game, surefire Hall of Fame safety John Lynch was trying to explain something to Cutler about NFL pass coverage. Except Cutler wasn’t looking at Lynch. He was texting.

“Man, I’m trying to talk to you!” Lynch protested.

Didn’t help. Cutler was all thumbs, head down. Finally, Lynch slapped the phone out of Cutler’s hands, smashing it to the floor.

He listened after that.

One time, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan thought it would be helpful for Cutler and Broncos legend John Elway to have lunch. Let Cutler drink in some of Elway’s experience.

The three of them sat down at a Denver steak joint. Elway, polite as ever, tried to impart some wisdom. Except Cutler wasn’t looking at Elway. He wasn’t looking at Shanahan, either. He was looking at the TV. The whole time. With his baseball cap on backward. All the way through dessert. Elway did not leave impressed.

So when Josh McDaniels, before he had even set his Samsonite down, started railroading Cutler out of town, almost nobody stood up for him.

Cutler was boxed up and shipped to Chicago, where, this Sunday, he will play his first playoff game of any kind since high school, this one at home against the Seattle Seahawks.

It’s a huge moment for Cutler, if only because his disdain for making nice means everything rides on his wins and losses.

“In New York, they want to poke you in the eye,” says former Bear and sports radio host Tom Waddle. “In L.A., they don’t care about you. But in Chicago, they want to love you. They want to make a connection with you. Any kind of connection. But Jay doesn’t really care.”

Cutler could own Chicago if he wanted. In a city that has had as many good quarterbacks as Omaha has had good surfers, Cutler could have his name on half the billboards and all the jerseys. My God, the kid grew up a Bears fan! But he doesn’t even try. He has zero endorsements and doesn’t want any. If there is such a thing as a Jay Cutler Fan Club, Cutler is having a membership drive—to drive them out.

Example from Wednesday’s fifteen-minute news conference, the only time he speaks publicly the entire workweek:

Reporter #1: So, did you enjoy the week off?

Cutler: Yeah, it’s nice to kick back and watch the games.

Reporter #2: Wait. Last week, you said you never watch the games.

Cutler (disgusted): I said you could watch the games. I didn’t say I watched the games. You’ve got to listen.

Cutler is the kind of guy you just want to pick up and throw into a swimming pool, which is exactly what Peyton Manning and two linemen did one year at the Pro Bowl.

“He’s an arrogant little punk,” former Broncos radio color man Scott Hastings once said on a national show. “He’s a little bitch.”

Harsh? Yes. Heard before? Yes.

“I used to hear this kind of stuff a lot,” says Marty Garafalo, a freelance publicist who handled Cutler in Denver. “Elway was always trying to give you the time of day, and Jay was always seeing which door he could get out of quicker. It was a maturity thing.”

Cutler’s teammates will defend him when asked. “It’s funny to me how people form an opinion of a guy who’ve never even met him,” says Bears tight end Greg Olsen, a close friend.

So what’s the truth?

“He is what he is,” Olsen says.

Not exactly something for your tombstone.

What he is is an RPG-armed, 27-year-old Vanderbilt product who dates a reality TV star named Kristin Cavallari, battles type 1 diabetes every day, and doesn’t care who understands him and who doesn’t. He’s a giving person who does things behind the scenes and hates it when he gets found out. A few days before Christmas, he and Cavallari brought presents for an entire ward of sick hospital kids. A reporter for the Sun-Times got wind of it and asked him about it. Cutler refused to discuss it.

He’s a battler who’s done amazingly well considering the swinging-saloon-door offensive line he has to play behind. The man has been sacked more times this season (52) than in his three seasons in Denver combined (51). Yet he never complains.

“He’s as sharp an individual as I’ve ever been around,” says Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

So why is Cutler as popular as gout?

Is it because he never makes eye contact?

Is it his seeming inability to answer a question without using “y’know”? (He once used it fifty-seven times in a five-minute interview with the NFL Network.)

Is it his penchant for making things difficult?

Reporter (after a game): What happened on that first interception, Jay?

Cutler: I threw the ball.

Reporter: Right, but what did you see developing there? Take us through it.

Cutler (archly): It seemed like a good place to throw the ball.

Then there was this:

Reporter: When you were a kid, which quarterback did you look up to?

Cutler: Nobody.

Reporter: Nobody? You didn’t look up to anybody?

Cutler: No.

If he’s lying, it makes him a miscreant. If he’s telling the truth, it makes him a miscreant.

“Deep, deep down, I think he’s a really good guy,” Waddle says.

Maybe. But why do we have to look that deep?

Postscript: Since this was written, Cutler married, immediately had a child and was, at last report, expecting a second. That figures. He always did get lousy protection.

The Confounding World of Athlete Tattoos

November 11, 2009

This is the time of year when parents all over America take their children to the nation’s sports facilities, sneak down to courtside and show the youngsters how dangerous it is to drink and ink.

How else do you explain Golden State Warrior Stephen Jackson’s hands? Not the hands at the end of his arms. The tattooed hands on his chest and stomach, holding a handgun, praying. I am not kidding—two hands praying with a gun between them. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

What is the message Jackson’s stomach is trying to leave us? “God, please help me knock over this Kwik Stop?” “This is the Glock the Lord hath made?” Neither. Jackson says it represents him praying that he doesn’t need to use a gun again.

Damn, Stephen. Where’s your commute, Fallujah?

How else do you explain Kenyon Martin’s lips? Not the lips on his face—the lips on his neck. They’re fire-hydrant-red women’s lips, smooching there for all time, a permahickey. They’re a tracing of his girlfriend’s lips, the rapper Trina. I hope they stay together. Because hell hath no fury like a woman who has to stare at another woman’s lips every day and night. You’re talking turtlenecks in July.

You need look only a foot farther to see something even more puzzling on K-Mart, whose skin is a kind of human bathroom stall—his ornate “I Shall Fear No Man But God” scrawled on his back. Uh, see Kenyon, the thing is: God isn’t a man. Did you mean, “Fear No Man. Fear God”? That’s the unfortunate thing about tattoo guns: no delete key.

Still, this is not as bad as the tattoo that Washington Wizards G/F DeShawn Stevenson added this past offseason—a Pittsburgh Pirates “P” on his cheek. The only problem is, it’s backward. Did you do it yourself in a mirror, DeShawn? Because it looks like a 9. “If you’re standing [farther away] it looks like a P,” Stevenson told the Washington Times in what has to be the leader for Dumbest Quote of 2009.

Um, nope, still backward, DeShawn. From close up, from far away, from the Hubble telescope, still backward. Luckily, it’s only on your face.

Many NBA tattoos seem to have all the foresight of a 4 a.m. Vegas wedding. Why else would Orlando Magic guard Jason Williams have “W-H-I-T” on the knuckles of his right hand and “E-B-O-Y” on the left? How often does a person arrange his fists side by side so that people can read them? Answer: Rarely. Which is why Williams must get these two comments quite a bit:

(1) “Nice to meet you, Whit.”

(2) “E-boy? Is that a scouting website . . .”

Why would Celtic Marquis Daniels keep a tattoo of a guy blowing his brains out on his right arm? For the holidays? Why would LeBron James have “CHOSEN 1” scrawled across his back in a font usually reserved for “MAN WALKS ON MOON”? If a person really is The Chosen One, would we really need a tattoo parlor to spread the news? Why would Chicago Bull Brad Miller have the Saturday-morning cartoon character Scrappy-Doo—Scooby-Doo’s nephew—tattooed on his arm? (Apart from the obvious intimidation factor, of course.)

Every tattoo parlor should come with a proofreader. This might have prevented Penn State tight end Andrew Quarless from tattooing “GODS” on one triceps and “GIFT” on the other. Quarless may be God’s gift to football, but not to punctuation. It lacks an apostrophe, to say nothing of humility.

And why would Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks get an ornate Chinese character tattooed down his leg without having a Chinese person in tow? See, Marion thought he was getting his nickname, “The Matrix,” but instead got something that—crudely translated—comes out to “Demon Bird Mothballs.” Still, it would be a very good intramural team name.

Boo-boo tattoos are everywhere. Why does Gilbert Arenas of the Wizards have the Barack Obama slogan “Change We Believe In” inscribed on the fingers of his left hand when (A) he forgot the word “can” and (B) he said on his blog he wouldn’t even vote?

Why would New Orleans Saint Jeremy Shockey have a massive bald eagle and an American flag tattooed on his arm that—when half-covered by his jersey sleeve—looks like the Sam the Eagle Muppet? Why would Suns guard Jason Richardson have the And1 shoe logo tattooed on his arm when anyone with Junior Mints for brains could guess what would happen next? He signed with Reebok. And 1 more player who didn’t think before he inked.

Of course, not all athlete tattoos are colorful proof that unbridled vanity will wind up slapping you and your ego around the school yard. For instance, Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat has a giant map of Florida on his back. This is very useful for Haslem’s friends.

Haslem friend No. 1: I think we’re lost.

Haslem friend No. 2: Hey, Udonis, lean forward.

Haslem friend No. 1: See? When we got to his coccyx, we were supposed to go toward Coral Gables!

Nor do we guess every humiliating tattoo on athletes is Seagram’s related. For instance, we think we know what happened to MMA fighter Melvin Costa. Written in elaborate scroll underneath his belly button, it says—and may God take my eyesight if I’m lying—“I Have a Small Penis.”

Melvin, how many times have we told you? Never fall asleep at the tattoo parlor.

Postscript: Readers sent in enough other bad tattoos to cover Shaq head to toe. Former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson has “INSPERATION” on his torso. David Bey, a former heavyweight boxer, has his own name spelled incorrectly on his arm. And then a man named Henry Mullen sent in one about a guy who went in for “TEXAS” and came out with “TAXES,” which is weird because people usually move to the former to avoid the latter.

Woods Needs to Clean Up His Act

July 22, 2009

Tiger Woods has outgrown those Urkel glasses he had as a kid. Outgrown the crazy hair. Outgrown a body that was mostly neck.

When will he outgrow his temper?

The man is 33 years old, married, the father of two. He is paid nearly $100 million a year to be the representative for some monstrously huge companies, from Nike to Accenture. He is the world’s most famous and beloved athlete.

And yet he spent most of his two days at Turnberry last week doing the Turn and Bury. He’d hit a bad shot, turn and bury his club into the ground in a fit. It was two days of Tiger Tantrums—slamming his club, throwing his club and cursing his club. In front of a worldwide audience.

A whole lot of that worldwide audience is kids. They do what Tiger does. They swing like Tiger, read putts like Tiger and do the celebration biceps pump like Tiger. Do you think for two seconds they don’t think it’s cool to throw their clubs like Tiger, too?

He’s grown in every other way. He’s committed, responsible, smart, funny and the most talented golfer in history. I just thought we’d be over the conniptions by now.

If there were no six-second delay, Tiger Woods would be the reason to invent it. Every network has been burned by having the on-course microphone open when he blocks one right into the cabbage and starts with the F-bombs. Once, at Doral, he unleashed a string of swearwords at a photographer that would’ve made Artie Lange blush, and then snarled, “The next time a photographer shoots a [expletive] picture, I’m going to break his [expletive] neck!”

It’s disrespectful to the game, disrespectful to those he plays with and disrespectful to the great players who built the game before him. Ever remember Jack Nicklaus doing it? Arnold Palmer? When Tom Watson was getting guillotined in that playoff to Stewart Cink, did you see him so much as spit? Only one great player ever threw clubs as a pro—Bobby Jones—and he stopped in his 20s when he realized how spoiled he looked.

This isn’t new. Woods has been this way for years: swearing like a Hooters bouncer, trying to bury the bottom of his driver into the tee box, flipping his club end over end the second he realizes his shot is way off line.

I can still remember the 1997 Masters—arguably the most important golf tournament ever played. Woods, then 21, was playing the fifteenth hole on Sunday. He had just hit a fairway wood out of the rough and was watching it. A young boy came up from behind just to touch him—just to pat the back of this amazing new superhero. That’s when Tiger pulled the club way back over his head and slammed it down, nearly braining the kid he couldn’t see behind him. And this was with a huge lead.

Look, in every other case, I think Tiger Woods has been an A-plus role model. Never shows up in the back of a squad car with a black eye. Never gets busted in a sleazy motel with three “freelance models.” Never gets so much as a parking ticket. But this punk act on the golf course has got to stop. If it were my son, I’d tell him the same thing: “Either behave or get off the course.”

Come to think of it, if I were the president of Nike, I’d tell him the same thing.

Put it this way: Will Tiger let his own two kids carry on in public like that?

I know what you’re saying. We see more Tiger tantrums because TV shows every single shot he hits. And I’m telling you: You’re wrong. He is one of the few on Tour who do it. And I keep wondering when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is going to have the cojones to publicly upbraid him for it.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Rick Reilly

“Rick Reilly is one of the funniest humans on the planet, an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray, and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson.”—Publisher’s Weekly  
 
“Don't get started reading this book.  It will take three burly men to pull you away from it.”—Bob Costas, NBC commentator for Missing Links

“You don't need to know your bogeys from your birdies to find at least three laughs per page in this novel.”—The New York Times Book Review for Missing Links

“Snappy prose, believable characters, and the funniest take on blue-collar hacking and gambling since Dan Jenkins's The Glory Game at Goat Hill...it's social satire and pure irreverence that keep this story in the groove.”—Los Angeles Times for Missing Links

 “Reilly could write about lawn bowling and make it funny, informative, and entertaining. You never know what the next page is going to bring.” —Los Angeles Times for Who’s Your Caddy?

“You might not think the story of a man carrying Tommy Aaron’s golf bag for 18 holes could make you laugh out loud, but you’d be wrong. Who’s Your Caddy? is funny enough to coax a chuckle out of Vijay Singh. A great way to read about the game—and its people, too.” —Charlotte Observer

“You don’t have to know much about golf to get a kick out of this book. Reilly learns a little about golf, and a lot about people.” —The Buffalo News for Who’s Your Caddy?
 
“[Reilly] knows and delivers a good story when he sees it . . . readers can’t help but be touched by the sheer ingenuity of many of these games and the sheer courage of many of the participants.”—Booklist for Sports from Hell
  “Reilly was the closest thing sportswriting ever had to a rock star.” —Chris Chase, USAToday.com

“Often, Reilly’s is so good, it almost is painful for sportswriters like me to read him.” —Ed Sherman, The Sherman Report

“Reilly made you think, made you cry, made you LOL, made you get to know a subject, made you love sports and hate sports and love him and hate him. Above all, he made you read him, every column.” —Jay Marriotti, SportsTalk Florida

Meet the Author

Eleven-time National Sportswriter of the Year Rick Reilly is a front-page columnist for ESPN.com. He is the author of 10 books, including the New York Times bestsellers Hate Mail from Cheerleaders, Missing Links, and Who’s Your Caddy?

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Tiger, Meet My Sister...: And Other Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
B-loNY More than 1 year ago
Good but not a fan
Andrew_of_Dunedin More than 1 year ago
Rick Reilly is one of the best known columnists in sports. He is gifted at exposing the egos and the hypocrisy of sports figures – players, management, ownership, even fans – when they’ve got it coming to them, and equally gifted at showing their humanity and humility when appropriate. Reilly has a soft spot for the underdog; he makes you want to root even harder for him / her / them – especially if it involves a kid with health issues.  The (in the author’s opinion, and he’s probably right) best of his last 5 years of columns in ESPN: The Magazine have been collected in “Tiger, Meet My Sister ... And Other Things I Probably Shouldn’t Have Said”. Regular readers of that publication have probably seen many – if not all – of these articles before. (Although each has a short postscript talking about follow-ups after it was published that the magazine reader may want to check out.) Occasional or non-readers of ESPN: The Magazine should definitely consider giving this collection some of their time and attention.  Let’s start with Lance Armstrong. Reilly was one of Armstrong’s biggest defenders through the years of rumor and innuendo – and once he learned that the cyclist lied to him, Reilly takes the kid gloves off and lets him have it. On the other hand, Reilly managed to make this (definitely) non-Yankee fan root for the organization in pinstripes, talking about how they’d specially arranged a sheltered private box for kids who cannot be exposed to the sun and then arranged a special midnight post-game session on the field for them. AND how Joe Girardi and a few of the players picked a day to accompany a blind fan as she navigated the New York City public transportation system to “watch” her guys play from her usual seat. RATING: I find it difficult to give a 5 star rating to a collection of material that has already been published in another vehicle(s), but this one comes as close as anything I’ve ever seen. Take 4 1⁄2 stars from the cigar box we’re using as a register, Mr. Reilly – and I’ll round it up to 5 if we can’t make change. DISCLOSURE: I received this book at no cost as part of the Goodreads FirstRead program. There was no charge, but a fair and unbiased review is always requested – but not mandated – as a part of that ongoing promotion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this much faster than I would have thought. Rich in characters Mr. Riley has contacted, with stories of kindness, hope, struggle, and success. A fair amount of condemnation for some, rightly or other wie it is there. If you are a sports fan, or more importantly a fan of the human condition, you will be richer from reading this book and maybe, just maybe a little better for the effort.