Roger Director, author of I Dream In Blue, a book about following the 2006 New York Giants that is released today, was at the Jets-Giants preseason game over the weekend and filed the following report. Kind of
Stripping out of my clothes in the Giants Stadium parking lot this weekend and standing there bare as a nut for all the world to see, I couldn't help wondering what compelled me to this point of madness. Why had I written I Dream in Blue and red-eyed across the continent to watch Eli Manning? And why was I doing this burlesque striptease (doffing my red Shockey! jersey to don grown-up duds) in front of the media window — wasn't Eli himself enough bad entertainment for the Meadowlands?
After all, hadn't Tiki Barber called Eli's attempts to lead Big Blue last year "comical?" Hadn't he let slip the truth about Eli's shortcomings so far in the NFL — that the younger Manning was more suited to the Improv than the NFL, more determined to fire off jokes than passes? Hadn't Eli led the Giants out of the huddle and up to the line of scrimmage in the red zone against Philadelphia last year and, instead of calling the play, said: "A gorilla walks into a bar and orders a shot of whiskey. The bartender hands him the shot. The gorilla downs it and asks how much he owes. The bartender gives the gorilla the once over, figures what the hell does this gorilla know and says, 'Five hundred dollars.' The gorilla reaches for his wallet and the bartender says, 'Y'know, we don't get too many gorillas in here.' And the gorilla says, 'At these prices, I'm not surprised.' Hut, hut, hut...."
Wasn't that why the O-line kept on getting all those illegal procedure calls? Because they were laughing too hard? Because the irrepressible Eli just won't stop shpritzing the gridiron with snappy jokes?
In the locker after the game, reporters asked Eli if perhaps Tiki's comments had goaded Eli into his sharp performance against the Toy Planes, er, the Jets.
"I don't know about that," Eli said, "but a man walks into a doctor's office. The doctor takes one look at the x-rays and says, 'I have bad news. You have cancer. You've got six months to live.' The man's shocked. He says, 'I want a second opinion.' The doctor says, 'Alright, you're ugly, too.'"
It took another laugh-a-minute superstar athlete, Stephon Marbury, to set me straight at the stroke of midnight on Sunday. We were on the set of the Ducis Rodgers' Sports weekend show. Michael Vick had just publicly turned himself from the hundred-million-dollar face of Corporate Sports America into a dead dog.
Stephon was on with Ducis to unearth himself from a few misconstrued comments he'd made that seemed a mite too supportive of the suddenly reviled Atlanta QB. Stephon told me people were taking what he said about Vick the wrong way. Stephon said he'd taken a page out of Eli Manning's playbook when he made his blase comments about killing dogs.
"I mean, there's no list anywhere that says what animals it's okay to kill and what animals it's not okay to kill," Stephon said, mentioning that we kill deer and rabbits and bear and boar just for starters.
I fell out of my seat. The cameraman's headset fell off he was laughing so hard.
"Seriously, where's the list," Stephon said. "Show me the list. Where is this list?"
Stephon milked it like a pro. The whole studio cracked up. It was probably the funniest dog-killing bit I've heard, next to Bill Maher. I thought to myself, Stephon may be even funnier than Eli. They'd make a great comedy team.
"So there is no list," Stephon said, letting that sink in with the ingenious timing of any great comedian who allows the grain of his message to sink in while the audience catches its breath.
"All I'm saying is," Stephon said, "you gotta eat."
Well, there's no following an act like that. I'm not offering excuses for my appearance with Ducis, but it might help to know that he couldn't keep a straight face while talking to me because he was still laughing at some of Stephon's dog-killing repartee.
I told myself, bleary eyed, as I stepped back onto the street afterward, that I finally realized why I'd made an ass of myself for the past 48 hours.
As Stephon put it, "You gotta eat."