If you don't weaken. George Atkinson, 30, slim, six feet tall, clad today in a spiffy pink suit with purple stripes and an open-collared shirt of muted incandescence, seemed scarcely the "Mad Dog" of NFL safeties that he has been made out to be. Perhaps the best pass defender in the game right now, and certainly the most intimidating, he is a fierce competitor once he pulls on his helmet. "But I got to be a hard hitter," he says. "I'm not that big. What I lack in size I got to make up for in how fast I'm going when I hit them. It's not as easy as it looks. If I goof up once, I get squashed by them big ends and backs." Atkinson's philosophy has paid off, at least to the extent that although he weighs 180 pounds and has rather frail bones he has never missed a game in nine years as an Oakland Raider.
"Come on," he says. "I want to show you a property I just bought. It's up on the hill overlooking the lakes."
The gray stucco apartment house on a hillside back street in a quiet neighborhood is not much different from those that flank it. But Atkinson is exultant. He parks his Cadillac Seville in the driveway and points out its features.
"Look there, you see that like alleyway between my house and the one next door? I put a gate on that to keep the sneak thieves out, and then I hire somebody to give her a new paint job all over. Maybe I install a new kind of door on the main entrance, where you need a special key to get in, or maybe even get me a doorman. Then I raise the rent and get rid of the riffraff. All these places here, they got riffraff in them. You got to get rid of the riffraff. Just raise the rent and they run like rats. But to raise the rent, you got to make some improvements...."
A young black man in flash clothes comes out of the building, spots the Seville blocking the driveway, and swings down toward it, smiling widely. He leans in the window and beams at Atkinson.
"You the new landlord?" he asks.
"Nope," says Atkinson, grinning back just as affably. "Just looking it over. I heard it was on the market, so I thought I'd take a look. Sorry to hear it's been sold."
"Sure," says the young man. "I heard the new landlord was a younger dude like you so when I seed you here I figgered you was him." He keeps on smiling.
"No way," Atkinson says, laughing. "I just wanted to look it over."
Finally the young man goes away.