Monday, May 25, 2009

The fabulous Dr. Z

I just read a fine column on Deadspin about Paul Zimmerman, the legendary football writer mostly known for his work with Sports Illustrated. Zimmerman is now quite ill and can't communicate at all.

Before you get to the rest of this post, read Deadspin's story here.

Thank you. When I covered Super Bowl 18 in Tampa for my Buffalo radio station in 1984, I freeloaded myself along with a group of football media types and public relations people for a Saturday night dinner. I knew enough to shut up and listen. The talk eventually turned to stories about Zimmerman, as it often does when such people gather.

Zimmerman is famous for "charting" football games -- he'd write down every single play of a game in a particular code. Zimmerman once upon a time had to cover a minor college game some early Saturday afternoon, and there was a big game on television at 4 p.m. Zimmerman figured out that if he cut some corners, he could make it back to the hotel for the start of the big game ... because he never, ever missed a single play in a game.

As the minor college game wound down, Zimmerman went down to the field and talked to the head coach of the winning team before the game ended -- he had made arrangements to do that beforehand. Then he sped off to the hotel, and got to his room at 3:55 p.m. He grabbed some paper, turned on the television, and watched ... nothing. The set wasn't working.

Zimmerman is said to have called the front desk, and said something like, "This is Paul Zimmerman in room 912. My television doesn't work, and if I don't get a new one in my room in the next five minutes, the old one is going to go flying off of the balcony and down nine flights into your swimming pool."

He got his television.

We're thinking of you, Paul.

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