"I'm here to tell you that the fear of failure is the engine that has driven me throughout my entire life. It flies in the faces of all these sports psychologists who say you have to let go of your fears to be successful and that negative thoughts will diminish performance. But not wanting to disappoint my parents, and later my coaches, teammates and fans, is what pushed me to be successful ... The reason nobody caught me from behind is because I ran scared. People are always surprised how insecure I was. But I was always in search of that perfect game, and I never got it. Even if I caught 10 of 12 passes, or two or three touchdowns in the Super Bowl, I would dwell on the one pass I dropped ... If I have one single regret about my career standing here today, it's that I never took the time to enjoy it.''
-- Jerry Rice, in his Hall of Fame speech Saturday night.
I don't know about you, but I found that poignant, and I think a little sad.
"They're here tonight, and I've got to tell you, that's about the highest compliment I've ever been paid in my life.''
-- Former Lions cornerback and longtime innovative NFL coach Dick LeBeau, looking out at the 80 current Steeler players who bused two-and-a-half hours to Canton for his induction ceremony -- including several, like James Harrison, who wore LeBeau's Throwback number 44 Lions jersey -- and several former players, including Joey Porter, Rod Woodson, Clark Haggans and Alan Faneca.
That's the memorable moment of the weekend. I've never seen or heard of an entire team of 80 players -- some who don't know Dick LeBeau -- coming to a Hall ceremony, along with a former boss (Dan Rooney) who flew in from Ireland and some former players too. That's the Steelers.
"My goal is to be the greatest coach of all time.''
-- San Francisco coach Mike Singletary to me Wednesday.
We were in his office at the 49ers training facility, and I asked him about what was on the wall behind his desk -- a list of every Hall of Fame coach in NFL history -- and why he had it there. Basically, he has it there to remind him how far he has to go to get to his goal.
Now, you can laugh at or criticize Singletary (career record: 13-12), entering his second full season as a head coach, for an outlandish quote. Not me. What's wrong with having a goal to be the best at something and let everyone know that's what you're striving for?
"I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better.''
-- NFL referee Bill Leavy, talking to the Seattle media last week about two calls he feels he blew (a Matt Hasselbeck clip that was marginal, and a similar holding call on Seattle tackle Sean Locklear) that were big plays in Pittsburgh's 21-10 Super Bowl win over the Seahawks in Detroit four years ago.
"Tweeting and blogging. Five years ago that would have sounded dirty."
-- Kent Somers, Cardinals beat man for the Arizona Republic, asked by his wife one night last week what he was doing at Cards training camp in Flagstaff, Ariz.
This Week's Sign of the Waning Influence of the Once-National Pastime: None of the five athletic sons of Tony and Lauren Dungy owns a baseball glove.
The 49ers drafted Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman in the third round of last April's draft. He was known as Navorro Bowman at Penn State, scouted as Navorro Bowman, and drafted by San Francisco as Navorro Bowman. But over the weekend, he informed the media covering the Niners that his first name is spelled "NaVorro.'' Asked Sunday by the club's PR czar, Bob Lange, if there was any significance to the capitalization of the "V,'' he said no, that it was the preference of his mother that the "V'' be capitalized, and she'd asked him to clarify with whoever asked that the "V'' is supposed to be capitalized.
Makes me wonder if Lefty and Phyllis King ever thought of naming me "PeTer.''
Emmitt Smith memorized his 2,495-word Hall of Fame speech. He didn't take as much as a note card to the podium with him. I was told he'd had it memorized for two months, and he worked with the same speech coach who trained Michael Irvin for his Hall address three years ago.
On consecutive days late in the week, I visited Cardinals camp and Texans camp. In Arizona, Larry Fitzgerald is a fixture, a happy man and the long-term cornerstone of Ken Whisenhunt's offense. In Houston, the locals were celebrating the signing of wide receiver Andre Johnson to a two-year contract extension through 2016. "I wouldn't trade Andre for anyone,'' owner Bob McNair told me. Good stuff. McNair wants to set up a program in Houston where he rewards franchise players with the kind of money New York or Dallas would pay players.
So I wondered: Who would I take right now if I were building a team and needed a wide receiver? And I looked at the numbers. Let's check.
Let's start with the ages: Johnson is 29. Fitzgerald turns 27 Aug. 31.
Average per game (All games)
Johnson: 5.75 catches, 77.9 yards, 13.5 yards, .41 TD.
Fitzgerald: 5.77 catches, 79.3 yards, 13.8 yards, .69 TD.
I like Johnson; who wouldn't? But Fitzgerald is two years younger. He has already had the best playoff season (arguably) by a receiver ever, two years ago. And he's been a more prolific scorer. Give me Fitzgerald.
This may give you some idea of the interest in the Dallas Cowboys. In the first 10 days of training camp, the Cowboys' PR staff set up 63 live interviews featuring 27 players at night, for five Dallas TV stations and three in San Antonio.
Before I get to my travel note, "Catwoman in Row 5,'' how's this for a miracle-of-modern-travel itinerary:
Monday, 7-9:45 a.m., Tampa: Interviews at Buc facility with coach Raheem Morris, GM Mark Dominik and players Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy, receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams and cornerback Aqib Talib.
Monday, 11:35 a.m.: JetBlue flight, Tampa to JFK.
Monday, 3 p.m., Manhattan: NBC Football Night in America meeting.
Monday, 7 p.m., Bronx: Yankees-Blue Jays.
Tuesday, 7:45 a.m.: Continental flight, Newark to San Diego.
Tuesday, noon, San Diego: 4.5-mile run on treadmill at local fitness place.
Tuesday, 4 p.m., San Diego: Chargers practice, preceded by an interview with GM A.J. Smith, followed by interviews with players Ryan Mathews, kicker Nate Kaeding and coach Norv Turner.
Tuesday, 8 p.m.: Virgin America flight, San Diego to San Francisco. (And may I say that was one of the most pleasant flying experiences I've had in a while.)
Tuesday, 11 p.m.: Arrive in Santa Clara, Calif., for Wednesday's day with the Niners.
Now, I can't pack much more into two days than that.
On to the Catwoman note. I had the aisle seat in a full three-seat row on the flight from Tampa to New York, and next to me was a pleasant woman, I'd say about 50, in a T-shirt and shorts. She noticed I had a photo of my dog, Bailey, looking posture-perfect, well-groomed and very obedient as the wallpaper on the desktop of my laptop.
"What a beautiful dog!'' she exclaimed. "You are so lucky!''
"Thank you,'' I said. "Yeah, she's a great dog. Almost 11 now.''
"I'm a cat person,'' she said.
"Oh,'' I said. "Cats are good.''
"Twenty,'' I said. "Wow. That's amazing. She must be very healthy.''
"Well, no,'' she said. "She's very overweight. I spoil her. I never had kids, and she's my baby. She's got diabetes and a bunch of other things we have to give her medicine for. But I love her so much. My husband and I, I don't know what we'd do without her. We just love cats. I live paycheck to paycheck, but every month I've got money automatically withdrawn for the cats -- the ASPCA, animal shelters, you know.''
"Oh,'' I said. "That's nice.''
"You want to see her?'' she said.
Not really. "Sure,'' I said, anticipating a wallet photo or a picture on the cell phone.
The woman angled her body toward me and lifted her left leg and twisted it so I could see the outside of her calf. From just below the kneecap to just above the ankle was a perfectly tattooed image of her cat's orange-and-brown round face with dark, piercing eyes. You couldn't see any leg there, just cat -- the tattoo enveloped the outside of her calf.
"I really love her,'' she said wistfully, putting her leg away.
So I see.
Flight Attendant of the Week: The dude on the Continental ExpressJet flight from Houston to Kansas City Friday night got on the PA and, in the midst of giving his spiel on safety and other things, said: "As soon as the ground crew finishes ripping the handles off your bag and tearing them to bits, we'll be on our way to Kansas City.''
No one laughed but me.