Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday August 6, 2007 1:44AM; Updated: Monday August 6, 2007 8:41PM
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me I
Tony Dungy's memoir, Quiet Strength, temporarily to No. 1 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list a week ago, the first NFL-related book to occupy the top spot on that list. But to learn how it got there, you'll have to hear, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.
Dungy actually got a small assist from Miami coach Cam Cameron, who bought 1,000 books to give away to football coaches at his preseason coaching clinic in July in south Florida. The list price of the book is $26.99; even if Cameron got the book at the Barnes and Noble online discount, that's still $17,000 he shelled out for a gift to the coaches of his area. And ... well, I'll let him tell the story.
"My wife and I got a pre-released copy of the book, and we just loved it," Cameron said Saturday. "It dispelled so many myths about the coaching business -- that you had to be a yeller and a screamer to win. You can be your own person, treat people with respect, be very demanding but demanding in a way that doesn't trample on people. And you don't have to give up your faith to win in the NFL. It confirmed and re-affirmed an awful lot of the beliefs I held about coaching.
"I wanted to give something to the coaches who came to this clinic. I knew how important they are to the lives of so many young kids, and I wanted to be sure they left the clinic with something that could help them as they went forward with their season. So I said, 'Why not order one of Tony's books for all of them? What a great message it would send to them.' So I ordered 1,000.
"That's the good news. The bad news is 1,700 coaches showed up. I didn't have enough for everyone. I told the ones who didn't get it to please borrow it from a friend who was there, or go out and buy one. I felt bad about it, but I only had 1,000.''
That's a heck of a gesture, I told Cameron, taking thousands of dollars out of your pocket for a book for so many perfect strangers.
"It is the least we could do, believe me," he said. "The youth of our country needs Tony's message, and the coaches of south Florida need his message. If we could do something to impact these coaches and the 5,000 or so kids they coach, we felt it's something we just had to do.''
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me II
Bears coach Lovie Smith scheduled every training-camp practice this summer for either 12, 3 or 7 p.m., to simulate the time of Chicago's games, local time. The Bears have six games at noon this season, five at 3:15 and five at 7:15 or 7:30 Chicago time, so he slated four workouts for noon, seven for 3 and eight for 7.
The more I'm around Smith, the more I think I'd love playing for him if I were a player. His loyalty is something every boss should practice. Case in point: The other day, we were talking at Bears camp about Grossman, and about how Smith refuses to allow the outside noise to influence his decision on his starting quarterback. "Everyone expects NFL quarterbacks to be Roger Staubach in their first year,'' Smith said. "Do you know how hard it is to play quarterback in the NFL? I think I do, and I think Rex played well overall last year. I have tremendous faith in him, faith that he'll continue to improve and play well this year.''
Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week
After 1,831 miles in the car (I drove across half of America, from Montclair to Mankato, in 11 days, except for Cleveland to Lexington on a Continental prop job eight nights ago), 10 fun experiences:
1. The Northern Lights, or whatever they were, driving across northern Wisconsin shortly after 9 p.m. Friday night. I haven't seen a prettier sky -- four different shades of blue, wispy clouds -- in a long time.
2. Crossing the Embarrass River, maybe 45 minutes west of Green Bay, on the way to Minnesota. Nothing poignant about it. Just the name. Wish I'd stopped to take a picture of the sign.
3. Conversations with some of the nicest people in the world, in Bourbonnais, Ill., Green Bay and Georgetown, Ky. In Green Bay, you ask for directions and end up almost getting invited to dinner. In the Olivet Nazarene Bookstore (I like to collect obscure college T-shirts, as well as obscure bobbleheads), the cashier asked me how I was doing and, after finding out I was a visitor, asked me if I might have some interest in continuing my education because they had some excellent graduate courses there. I thanked her and said no, I was from New Jersey. And she said, "Well, maybe you could take some classes back there. Education is so good for you!''
4. The walleye sandwich Saturday night in River Falls, Wis. Sumptuous.
5. Three innings at the New York-Penn League game between Jamestown and Batavia at a tiny field in Batavia, N.Y., just after a heavy rain. Can't say much good about the rubber cheeseburger, but the Americana aspect of a ballpark stuck in a middle-class neighborhood, with two kids playing Wiffle ball in a yard across the street, waiting for foul balls to land nearby, can't be beat.
(Just think: I get paid for this! This is the kind of stuff I'd want to do on vacation! What a life!)
6. The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. I'm a fan of old hotels, and even though I only spent eight or nine hours there, I got an appreciation for what a class old hotel should be. The health club needs sprucing, but not the locale -- on the top floor of the place, with windows on Lake Michigan and all over downtown.
7. Jolene at the Fairfield Inn front desk in Bourbonnais, Ill. What a great gal. I asked if there was some place to do my laundry in the hotel or nearby, she said no. "But I can do it for you,'' she said. "Just give me your stuff and I'll take care of it.'' Wow! Mom-type hospitality at the Fairfield Inn! I took $20 and handed it to her, and she said, "No! I could never take that!'' Practically had to throw it at her. Then I went out to watch the Bears practice, and when I returned to my room around 10:15 that night, there were four shirts hanging in my room, the rest of the clothes neatly folded, and a note from her, thanking me profusely for the $20. Someday I expect to return to Bourbonnais and see Mayor Jolene in action.
8. Coffee with Dick Jauron at a Pittsford, N.Y., Starbucks, with the barista thinking it was him but not really sure, and telling us, "Well, if it was Lindy Ruff [Sabres coach], I know I would have recognized him.''
9. Signing the bright yellow car of a Packers fan in the Lambeau Field parking lot Friday. Seems the fellow, from St. Louis, parks near the walkway the players use going to and from practice, and he gets them to sign along the way. I have to say it's the first time I've ever defaced a car, and certainly the first time ever when asked to do so by a Lite-drinking Packer fan.
10. Spending 45 minutes with Peyton Manning in an oppressively warm equipment-storage shed next to the football field at Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute (the better to shield him from prying eyes), talking about eight or 10 scattershooting topics. Upon leaving, shaking his hand and having him say, "It's always fun,'' and actually being such a rube that you think: "He means it. He really likes talking football like this.''
Moral of the story: Never, ever wonder what my favorite time of the year is in the football-coverage business. It's these three weeks of summer.