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Burt Grossman is lying in bed with large wads of toilet paper sticking out of his ears, but the din in the room is so loud that he is awakened over and over again—his head shooting straight off the pillow—only to find the room silent and dark. "It's a good thing for her my girlfriend doesn't snore," Grossman says. "I can't sleep if there's any noise whatsoever. If somebody breathes heavy, I have to put toilet paper in my ears."
But wait. It is Grossman who is waking Grossman! He is talking in his sleep, and not only that, talking so loud that the noise has startled him. Wakened him. The only way to stop these nocturnal outbursts would be to stuff the toilet paper in Grossman's mouth. Which might not be a bad idea. The prospect of a world with Burt Grossman always out there talking, night and day, day and night, is an extremely sobering one to those who know him.
"The thing about Burt," says nosetackle Joe Phillips, who, until he sustained head injuries in a Sept. 25 assault, played next to Grossman on the San Diego Charger defensive line, "is he talks so much that most of the time he doesn't know whether he's lying or telling the truth."
Truth was often stranger than fiction in The World According to Bun, a not-entirely-of-this-planet Sunday column that appeared in The San Diego Union during training camp. People are rarely who they seem to be in the world of Burt, who holds a funhouse mirror up to the planet and sees a population of poseurs and evil twins, a sort of Satyricon meets Semi-Tough. In Burt's column, a 6'6", 270-pound defensive end strode godlike through the NFL, engaging T.J. Simers, the former Union reporter who turned Grossman's rambling dialogue into prose, in the sort of exchanges that Socrates might have had with other philosophers—if Socrates had been the type of person who smeared wintergreen in the other philosophers' jockstraps.
Burt on his training camp roommate, All-Pro defensive end Lee Williams: "An amazing player. Old, but amazing. Led the AFC in sacks last year, but who knows it? If Lee had my personality, he'd be big time. He'll do newspaper stuff, but won't do TV interviews—and with that face I expect you know why."
Burt on a disturbance in the middle of the night caused by defensive tackle George Hinkle: "There's screaming and fumbling around in the next room, and it's Hinkle. George is lying spread-eagle on the floor, and then he jumps up and starts dancing, and he's high-living the air and yelling, 'Sack-a-roo, sack-a-roo.' Well, you knew right away he had to be dreaming; it's the only way he could get a sack."
Burt on 320-pound tight end coach Ed White: "The other day Big Ed's in his tight end meeting, and he's all excited and writing plays on the blackboard. He starts from the bottom, and he's going up the board, and he gets to the top, steps back to show his guys what he's done, and the whole bottom has been erased by his gut.... I'd say the guy's no heavier than the Valdez tanker."
When Burt mentioned in his column that he had named his rottweiler Homer, after Bart Simpson's father, Simers asked why he hadn't named the dog Henning or Gunther, after one of his coaches: "It wasn't a mutt," Burt replied evenly. "It was a purebred."
"It's Burt against the world, and the world against Burt," says Charger coach Dan Henning. "Nobody is safe because he doesn't care how many adversaries he has, and he never really takes a full-time ally. It isn't as if Burt's going to gather a group around himself and become powerful. He wants to stand alone."