The one-time savior of the Oakland Raiders and the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft floundered for three painful seasons, but nobody knew why he was struggling. They didn’t know because Russell didn’t tell them. For the first time, JaMarcus Russell speaks about his life as an Oakland Raider and his life away from football. Tom Rinaldi tells us about the awakening of JaMarcus Russell and his second chance to come back and play in the NFL.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don’t ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.
Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he’s got to play from the ground up – from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That’s O.K. You’ve got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you’ve got to play with your heart, with ever fiber of your body. If you’re lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he’s never going to come off the field second.
Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.
It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.
And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.
I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”
- Coach Vincent T. Lombardi
Rick Reilly got an apology email from Lance Armstrong. He wasn’t happy about it.
Among my emails 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.
And my first thought was … “Two words? That’s it?”
Two words? For 14 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 postrace 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 Coyne 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?
On of his best articles ever (which is saying a lot) in which he takes on the mentality of the owners in terms us bloggers can understand.
If Charlie Sheen is addicted to winning, then I am addicted to making money. I have lost any and all perspective. I don’t care if I lose my readers in the short term; they will come back. I don’t care if I lose my staff; I can always find new people. I don’t care about the health of my employees; as far as I’m concerned, they knew the risks. I don’t care if my website is gravitating toward quantity over quality, or that we chase page views with shorter, Google-friendly stories instead of posting the same top-notch content that got people reading us in the first place; I want only to generate more revenue than the previous year.
In November, the Bears organization staged its 25th anniversary reunion of the ’85 team, and planned a raucous weekend in Chicago. The Fridge didn’t attend, and when asked why, he says, "I didn’t even know of the anniversary.”
The truth is, he did know about it and filmed a video message to be read at the event. But the mind of William Perry is going again, and no one knows where it’ll end up. According to Michael Dean and Valerie, he’s also been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure, although Valerie rolls her eyes because she cannot get him to take his medication.
His life now
The unfinished home he lives in is cold. The heat doesn’t work in all spaces of the cavernous house. He sits all day watching his TV, wearing Topsiders with no socks, sitting sometimes in his own urine. His family says he is incontinent; it’s another one of his issues. But sometimes, it’s just too difficult to stand up and simply walk to the bathroom.
Ditka knows only bits and pieces of this, and he says the last time he spoke to the Fridge, he felt he understood that he couldn’t drink, that this was "his last chance.”
Perry doesn’t believe he’s putting himself in jeopardy, though. He looks in the mirror and he sees a body that now weighs 400 pounds. That’s better than 190, he says. That’s progress, he says. He still does occasional autograph signings in Chicago, making a bit of cash here and there. He says he can’t be in too bad of shape if he can climb onto a plane and write his name 100 times. He says he can’t be too bad off if he can still recite lyrics to the "Super Bowl Shuffle." He says he can’t be too sick if he’s down to only one or two beers a night.
The gap in his teeth is gone. The gap between William Perry and reality has apparently taken its place.
On a sultry June afternoon four years after his final football game, the ex-Chicago Bear, ex-Philadelphia Eagle, ex-London Monarch and one-time Super Bowl Shuffler is doing what he most enjoys: "wettin’ a hook." Piloting the boat in search of crappie is Perry’s father-in-law, Crosby Broadwater, known hereabouts as Mr. B. The Fridge, Mr. B and Mr. B’s son Robert co-own a subcontracting company out of Aiken, S.C.The Fridge spends his time bidding on jobs, erecting scaffoldings and laying bricks or cinder blocks. "I like working with blocks the best," he says. "A block just sits more comfortably in my hand."
He seemed at peace with post retirement life.
This bad body has always housed this good attitude. "I had some god-given talent," says the Fridge. "I put in 10 years in the league. I’m grateful for that, and I’m happy that it’s over. I’m real happy where I am now."
His life is more than full. He and Sherry have three girls and a boy: Latavia, 17, Norie, 14, "Little" William, 8, and Sherria, 3. The Fridge’s work is hard and satisfying. If he’s put on a few (dozen) pounds since his playing days, Perry still contends that he’s in pretty good shape. "You put up six scaffolds, then lay brick all day in 100-degree heat," he says, still smiling. "We’ll see what kind of shape you’re in."
When he’s not working, he heads for the water. "Don’t get no better than this," says Perry, sitting on the deck of the boat. A zephyr ripples the water of Lake Thurmond. The bream and shellcrackers are biting. The big man is asked if he misses celebrity and its trappings. Here it comes again, the gap-toothed grin. "This is me now," he says. "Those things you’re talking about, that’s just stuff in the breeze."
It reminds me of the tragic retirement of former Steelers’ great Mike Webster.
Everyone is asking me if I am watching the Olympics and the answer is no. I haven’t seen any of it yet and I doubt I will. I had been telling people once Canada started the Olympic hockey tournament I would be there but they are playing Norway tonight and I am missing the game completely. For me to miss the Olympics is a big deal as growing up, I never dreamed so much for playing for a NHL team but rather the Canadian National Team. Growing up in Calgary, we got to see the Canadian National Team play and practice a lot (it’s where I was beaten up by the A&W Root Bear) so my affinity runs deep with them but still I am not watching any Olympics. Partly because I can’t stand Bob Costas and Brian Williams and secondly because I can’t handle watching Bob Costas and Brian Williams.
Here is my list on how we can improve the Olympic games. For all of you readers out there that are IOC members, feel free to debate them individually or just adopt them all as a complete package. It’s up to you.
- It isn’t amateur sport any longer. Professional NHL players, Own the Podium, Canada now pays for a gold medal. It seems a lot less about amateur sport and a lot more about television rating and nationalistic pride. Actually the nationalism bugs me quite a bit. Especially when the COC’s talking heads are talking about how much Australia spent in 2004 in Sydney to win medals and the expectation is that Canada should win medals. I had no idea that Canadian quality of life was dependent on winning more medals than other countries in short track speed skating.
- I hate the human interest stories. I know Olympic coverage is supposed to appeal to those who do not check Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com 38 times a day like I do but c’mon, I really, really don’t care about somebody’s inspirational great aunt. The IOC needs to sell two Olympic rights for each country (think of the money), one for people who like Bob Costas/Brian Williams and the other for those of us who are real sports fans. The people who like the inspirational story lines with their Olympic cable package will also get a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Fallen Short Track Speedskater’s Soul”.
- The new “no human interest stories” network will not show equestrian in the Summer Games or pairs figure skating/ice dancing in the Olympic Games.
- We will get rid of the special suits. If pro sports can agree on the importance of standardized equipment, so can the speed skating world. It’s about the athletes, not about their high speed racing/swimming suits. If one person gets it, so do all of them. Unless it’s the pants that the Norwegian curlers wore. They can keep those to themselves.
- There should be a spending cap on the opening ceremonies. China spent $100,000,000.00 on their opening ceremonies. At what point does it become offensive, even to the IOC.
- There needs to be a spending cap on member countries as a whole. One of the reasons the Norwegians are always favored to win the cross country events is the amount of money they spend researching snow conditions at the games. I think there is actually a Norwegian research station down the street just in case Saskatoon ever wins the games. Did the Norwegian racers win the medals because of their training of because of the money spent on researching snow and waxes. Again, this comes back to uniform gear. One shouldn’t be able to buy a championship (except for America’s Cup racing)
- Curling facilities will have to have beer cup holders and ashtrays installed as they are in every small town curling rink in Saskatchewan. Curling is a great sport for many reasons but one of them is that I still have a shot at Olympic glory and if all goes well, my rink won’t even have to stop drinking and smoking to join me.
We tend to start our Christmas shopping early and when I saw we, I mean Mark and I and I was looking on Amazon.com for some Christmas ideas for some of you and also for me to give some ideas to Wendy. Last year when I looked at Amazon.com ideas for mothers, they consisted of fuzzy slippers, blenders, and cooking stuff but this year, Amazon has realized that mothers have better things to do than laze around all day making smoothies and trying to figure out what to bake. Update: Wendy wasn’t all that impressed with the mom or the wife section.
Last year I posted shopping guides throughout the month of November for people and I got a big response from it. A small percentage of you thought I had sold out while a bunch of you saw it for what it was, just some ideas I thought were fun gifts. I’ll be posting them here start November which will hopefully keep you out of the malls in December.
I do have a quick question though. I am looking for a tabletop radio, hopefully a retro looking one that I can use to listen to Saskatchewan Roughriders games while we are at the cabin. I came to the realization this year that while I love my iPod, I really miss listening to some sports (I wish we could get baseball on the radio in Saskatchewan again) and CBC Radio One on a summer evening. Do any of you have any thoughts about XM Satellite Radio?
The last couple of days I have been having a running discussion with Karen over at The Hedge Society on Twitter about why Apartment Therapy doesn’t use Twitter. Several of my favorite design sites all use Twitter and I follow many of them over at The Cooper Cabin. During our discussion made me realize that I use Twitter to follow friends but a lot of media sites as well. I follow ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, The Star Phoenix, the New York Times, and CBC Saskatchewan, on Twitter along with other media sites. Apartment Therapy slags Twitter a couple of times on their sites and maybe Biz and Ev have ugly apartments but whatever the reason, it seems odd that a media site whose bottom line depends on page views, would turn reject a free way to get more page views, retweets, and buzz about their site.
I started to think about how I rely less on RSS and more on Twitter to follow sites and decided to put JordonCooper.com on Twitter. My personal Twitter account will always been me talking about whatever I am thinking about in 140 characters. The JordonCooper.com Twitter account will be automated and generated by the RSS feed and content on JordonCooper.com as it is published to the site. Not quite a media empire but hopefully it will make it a little easier for those of you who are fans of the site and also diehard Twitter users.
This isn’t the only place where we tweet around the house, you can follow the entire household on Twitter
Rick Reilly has an excellent article in ESPN about taking a grieving nephew to meet John Elway
As locals, Cynthia and I took them to lunch at one of Elway’s restaurants so Jake could see all the jerseys and photos. The kid was so excited he hardly ate. And that was before a certain Hall of Fame QB walked in, all keg-chested and pigeon-toed. Immediately, Jake turned into an ice sculpture.
We introduced them, and it took a few seconds before Jake could even stick out his hand. Apparently, 13-year-olds are not used to meeting gods.
Elway took the time to sign Jake’s football and pose for a picture. He even made us all go outside, where the light was better. Then, as we said goodbye — Jake’s feet floating a foot off the ground — Elway turned and said, out of nowhere, "Hey, why don’t you guys come by the box today?"
And the next thing Jake knew, he was in John Elway’s luxury box at the game, asking him any question he wanted, all with a grin that threatened to split his happy head in half.
Then Elway said, "Comin’ to dinner?"
And suddenly Jake was having his lettuce wedge cut for him by the legend, who tousled the kid’s cowlick. Like a dad might.
Halfway through the night, a guy came out of the bathroom and said, "Are you guys with that kid? Because he’s in there talking to his mom on the phone, crying. Is he OK?"
Yes, Jake would be OK.
He finishes with this
A lot of athletes don’t want the burden that comes with being a role model. But what I want to tell them is: You don’t get to choose. You don’t get to tell 13-year-old boys with holes in their hearts who can help them heal.
I know it’s a hassle, but it matters. Because you never know when you might just lead a kid out to where the light is better.
Kind of makes me feel good about being a life long fan of a certain John Elway.