I just finished rewriting a few sections of my Monday Morning Quarterback book for a paperback version, and in doing so I gained some new respect for Tony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is 34. In his first 13 NFL seasons he missed two games due to injury. He has more catches (999) than any other tight end in history. By far. But what interests me is this: In his first 10 seasons in football, he averaged 72.1 catches a year. In his past three, his average is 92.7.
In his 30s, Gonzalez is 20 catches a year better than he was in his 20s. And he has missed zero games in his past three years. With Gonzalez, it's not an exaggeration to say he's not getting older, he's getting better.
Flew from the top of the world (Amsterdam) to the bottom (Cape Town) Saturday, and it's amazing how much you can do when you're not in the mood to watch TV for 11 hours and 13 minutes. Well, I did watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (the one where Rosie O'Donnell beats up Larry, and Larry inadvertently takes two dates in wheelchairs to a recital) and one of The Office, (the Andy-Angela wedding-planning episode), but other than that I read. Got fully up to speed on the World Cup, thanks to writers Grant Wahl and Mark Bechtel and editor Mark Mravic's fantastic preview of the Cup in this week's SI. (What will Ivory Coast do without Didier Drogba?!) And I read 375 pages of the magnetizing The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.
Also had the opportunity to see the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam Friday. It was a bit of a disappointment. There was no context. No real attempt to show the place exactly as it was. There were lots of signs, no furniture, short videos and never a sense of what it was like to live there. And, frankly (pun intended), no moment of terrible sadness and grief for her like you feel when you read her diary. I kept trying to understand what it was really like but could never feel it.
Cape Town is fantastically beautiful, though the winter can undo your plans. (It is the late fall here, sort of Seattle-ish. Gray, dreary, overcast, though not terribly cold). We tried to sail to Robben Island Sunday to see where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, but the weather cancelled our plans. We'll try again today. I can tell, though, after just one day, that Cape Town should be a destination point for any adventurous traveler. Beautiful in itself and accessible to so many other amazing places. Just come when the weather is a bit nicer. Our summer is their winter.
I have to credit Gil Brandt for this one. At dinner one night, he asked, "Who was the player picked right after Bob Hayes in the 1964 NFL Draft?''
Bill Parcells, linebacker, Wichita State.
Turns out Hayes went 87th overall in the '64 draft, Parcells 88th.
And those are the kind of nuggets you get when mining the mind of Gil Brandt.
"Isn't it funny how growing up I couldn't stand the look or smell of vomit... now that I have kids I step in, catch, clean up without blinking''
--@kurt13warner, the former Rams and Cardinals quarterback, late Tuesday night after his 6-year-old son felt sick after eating ice cream, asked his father for a bucket because he was going to be sick and then, indeed, did throw up -- but not before, in mid-vomit, he said to Warner: "Told you Dad!''
More abbreviated than usual this year, but I have five books to tout, all of which will take you away from the TV and the Internet for a few hours and back to where we all spend too little time -- with our noses in books.
WOODEN: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, by John Wooden with Steve Jamison (Contemporary).
I got this book after speaking at USC earlier this year. I'd known about Wooden's legendary Pyramid of Success, but the one thing that impressed me was Wooden telling the story of his upbringing in a small town in Indiana, and how it affected everything he did for 99 years. "The training I got from my father and mother ... has stayed with my all my life,'' he wrote. I'm reminded of a lot of the great coaches, and how their formative years, and the influence of their parents determined so much of who they became. Reading about Wooden reminded me of the Bill Belichick life story in a different way but with the same parental influence.
MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS, by Michael Chabon (Harper).
Chabon writes about his childhood and his family in a series of essays, and then talks about being a dad. A particularly funny passage is about his kids asking him if he smoked marijuana as a kid, and him describing it as being akin to watching a bad Elvis movie. "Wait -- you mean you actually smoked marijuana?'' one of his kids asks, and then questions how often he did it. Instead of saying a million times (what he was thinking) he says, "a number of times, but I don't do it anymore.'' Quite a few laugh-out-loud, growing-up-in-the-'70s moments from an excellent writer.
THE BULLPEN GOSPELS: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran, by Dirk Hayhurst (Kensington).
Hayhurst, a minor-league pitcher, does the best job I've ever seen of capturing the minor-league life. Though I wish there'd been more baseball in there -- Hayhurst pulls the curtain back on the off-the-field life, and it's riveting -- there's a rawness to this book that I've never read about baseball before. He writes so vividly and hurtfully about his family in Canton, Ohio, with an incredibly depressing home life, and why he was so desperate to escape it. Strongly, strongly recommended.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson (Vintage).
I've read a lot of the great page-turning writers over the years -- John Grisham, Richard Patterson, Harlan Coben. The late Stieg Larssen (who died of a heart attack six years ago, after turning in three manuscripts that become international sensations) isn't the writer they are but he's got a way of tying you to the pages until you're finished. Maybe something got lost in the translation from the book (written in Swedish); I don't know. I do know Larsson spins a compelling story of a young girl's disappearance from a rich family, with five or six subplots that could have been complete books by themselves. My one must-read recommendation for the summer. I don't care that it's 590 pages. It won't take you long.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson (Vintage).
The second might be better than the first. It's just as disturbing, with the heroine from the first book, Lisbeth Salander, taking center stage as a brilliant but terribly misunderstood computer hacker/investigator accused of triple homicide. The first book was set exclusively in Sweden, but this one meanders to the Caribbean and then back to Sweden with some subplots that, again, could be complete books. I'm right near the end of it now, and plan to finish the trilogy, but I have this awful feeling of what am I going to do without more of his work to look forward to.