Parrot fever even spread as far as the Olympics, where Lettieri and the sawdust-filled Ozzie played goal for Canada's team. Before a pre-Games exhibition with Chile, an official barred Ozzie from the net.
"I looked at Ozzie," says Lettieri, "and said, 'Well, what can we do?' "
For Canada's first Olympic match, against Iraq, Lettieri hid Ozzie in a small duffel bag near the goal.
"What's inside?" asked a ref.
"Just gloves," said Lettieri.
Later in the game he pulled the parrot's head out of the bag and moved it closer to the goal. A swarm of photographers attracted the referee. Lettieri popped Ozzie's head back inside.
As soon as the ref turned his back, Lettieri let the parrot out of the bag again. Ozzie stayed out for the rest of the Games ( Canada lost in the quarterfinals to Brazil) after Lettieri convinced the officials that his bird wouldn't bite.
"I just love throwing myself out in front of a crowd," says Lettieri. "When you're finished in this game, people don't care about you anymore, you're just another athlete gone by. So I say, have fun. Do things you can look back on and remember. The time to be serious is when you're dead.
"I want to send people home with my name in their mouths. I'll sleep well as long as they say Tino had a great game or Tino was a clown, or we enjoyed watching him. The moment people boo me and say Tino is bad, I'll pack my bags and the birdman will fly the coop." For now, Lettieri is content to stay on the roost. He's got the spotlight, he's got a G.M.'s daughter, he's got Ozzie—live and stuffed.
In his apron and chefs hat, Lettieri hovers over his kitchen stove preparing his specialty, vodka cream sauce. On the turntable, the record Make Your Bird a Star—a sort of Berlitz for birds—repeats, "Here's looking at you, kid" over and over and over. Ozzie stands in front of his own plate, twirling a strand of macaroni in his claw.