Posted: Wednesday September 20, 2006 11:39AM; Updated: Wednesday September 20, 2006 11:39AM
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(While Taylor talks with Marino, I am introduced to Marino's good friend Dan Morgan, whose son, Dan Jr., is the Carolina Panthers' middle linebacker.)
Morgan: Nobody works a room like Dan Marino. I see it almost every day -- he is America's Guest. The all-timer was one night when we were in Vegas, at the blackjack table. It was getting late, and Danny turned to leave because we had to catch a flight back here. This middle-aged guy we had met at the table said, "Don't leave. Stay. I'll give you my jet. You can take it wherever you need to go." A minute later he was on the phone setting it all up. We stayed another two or three hours, left at about 5 a.m. and had a nice, smooth flight home. It's one thing when someone lets you borrow their car, but when someone loans you their jet, that's a pretty big gesture.
Silver: Do you go to your son's games by private jet?
Morgan: Hell, no. I drive every time, about 10 hours to Charlotte. And if they lose, let me tell you, that's a long ride home.
(It's time to sit down for dinner, and Marino waves Taylor and me over to his table, which has only one seat available. More than 200 guests have paid $1,000 a head to attend, and none of them could have been overly thrilled at the sight of the host reaching for a spare chair and squeezing in a freeloading sportswriter to his immediate left. Soon Marino, whose timing as a storyteller is as smooth as his release was as a passer, is recalling a boat trip that he and his wife, Claire, took with friends to St. Barts in the Caribbean.)
Marino: On the trip over the crew members were telling Claire, "You've got to hike up to the point [286-meter-high Mount Vitet] -- it's incredible." So she got it in her head that we should all get up early one morning and do it, and that I'd enjoy the exercise. About halfway up the hill Dan [Morgan] and I were wishing we'd never left the beach. We dropped further and further behind the pack, and suddenly we were all alone and felt like we were about to die. Now I'm thinking, "S---, if we both have heart attacks, who's gonna pump on my damn chest?"
(Everyone cracks up. I look at Marino, who appears to have slimmed down to about 210 pounds, and wonder if the hike might have occurred after his torn Achilles tendon in 1993, when he could barely move.)
Silver: What year was this?
Marino: Hell, it was four months ago!
(Many laughs later Taylor and I say goodbye and head back into the Bentley, cherishing our first smoke-free breaths in several hours.)
Taylor: OK, let's do the math. The people in that room were probably worth $2 billion combined, and Dan might have raised $1 million in this one night. When you're auctioning off a football-shaped cigar and the winning bid is $16,000, that's some serious money in play. I mean, I love cigars, but damn.
Silver: You and Dan are a couple of working-class kids from Pittsburgh, and now look at you guys. Do you ever get uncomfortable in those circles?
Taylor: Not at all. I love it. People talk about "keeping it real." To me, that's a bunch of bulls---. I'm trying to get access to a group of people who can help me accomplish my goals, things that will last long after football is over. What's wrong with that? There are, what, 1,600 guys who have the privilege of playing in the NFL, and millions of people who watch us and want to meet us because we play the game. I tell younger guys all the time, "Why not meet as many of them as possible? Just think where that can lead." When the people in that room think of me not as a football player but as someone who brings something to the table and gets things done, that's when I'll know I've arrived.
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Kyle Turley is a complete has-been. He did a GREAT job (in the Chiefs' season-opening defeat to the Bengals) of protecting his quarterback. What a comeback! Oh, and as for his back woes when he was with the Rams, I'm sure I've had more painful menstrual cramps. I can't wait until Nov. 5 -- the Rams are going to throw his ridiculously tattooed body all over the field. Why don't you stop wasting your time with this joke? Thank you. -- Terri Heiges, St. Louis
I have a feeling Kyle will also be looking forward to Nov. 5, even more so after reading this heartfelt e-mail. As for the cramps, thank you for sharing.
Dude, couldn't they have given you a retake on your picture? You're blinking. -- Luke McClory, Austin, Texas
Hey, the sun is bright in California -- or didn't you see those shades I was wearing a couple of weeks back?