"But you're not," someone replied, and the players threw Fencik to the ground and dragged him around the greasy parking lot like a mop. It was hysterical in a locker-room-humor sort of way—the brutes doing their thing to the little wise guy. "I made you squeal like a piggy," tackle Steve McMichael reminded him once the partying resumed.
Fencik loves the linemen for just such esprit, for their integrity in the chaos of the pit, that maelstrom into which he sometimes soars headfirst. He occasionally dreams of becoming a huge guy—of going to Japan and joining a semi-pro team as a nose tackle.
"I could be the Dan Hampton of the Orient," he says wistfully. "Banzai Gary, the White Tornado."
Fencik is in Bangkok, watching thousands of chanting zealots pull a massive funeral bier through the streets. His lust for sensation and insight has brought him to the Far East. But this is almost too much, this human wave. "I saw living Buddhism," is how he explains it. "True religion in a city of decadence."
He decided to travel after this year's Super Bowl. "I wanted to get as far away from American culture as possible," he says. "Not to hide, but because the world is changing so fast that soon you won't be able to get away." In previous years he had gone to Europe, to Africa, to South America, and as a college junior he had studied in London. But this time he felt the need to venture. "I had the freedom that comes with playing pro ball, and you never know how long you'll have that."
His itinerary included Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and China; and there were times when he wished he never had to come home. "I had my playoff money, credit cards and no reservations anywhere," he says. "One day I walked on the Great Wall of China. I was half-paralyzed."
"It's selfishness," Fencik says of his life-style. And it is, in the manner of the Baby Boom generation. As the motto goes: Do all you want, and become all you can.
Fencik wanted to know about business, so he enrolled in Northwestern's J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1981. He was graduated last fall. He wanted to find out about endorsements, so he signed contracts to promote Consort hair-styling mousse and the Harris Trust and Savings Bank of Chicago. ("Mr. Mousse and Mr. IRA," says Fencik of his ad-world persona.) He wanted to learn about TV, so he signed on as one of Al McGuire's gofers in 1984. He wanted to get behind the mike and in front of the camera, so he got himself a local radio show and then a nationally syndicated two-minute radio job and a spot on Time Out, a weekly Chicago public-TV program. He wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona, so he flew to Spain and ran.
"It's very tempting to say he's scattered himself so much that he can't be committed to anything," says Julia Kennedy. "But it's amazing how he can shut out distractions and concentrate on one thing at a time. He has all this energy. He feels, like, rested from all his years in football."
And if Fencik can keep his several-times-broken nose from wandering off his face, he will retain the looks to go with the brains and charm. Tom Weinberg, the Emmy award-winning producer of Time Out, which is now off the air, says he has never seen a person as naturally graceful in front of a camera as Fencik. "You believe Gary when he talks," says Weinberg. "He has a confidence that's not teachable."