Every now and then the demons that can't be exorcised come out, as they did when Butkus went to collect on the bounced checks. As they did last month when he was hosting a quail hunt in Georgia for the Suzuki's Great Outdoors series on ESPN. A quail flew at him, and Butkus, holding a shotgun in one hand, angrily forearmed the bird, batting it to the earth as if it were a tipped pass, its feathers drifting down to meet the corpse. The segment did not make the final program. "We didn't think it showed proper safety with a gun," the producer explained.
And so the greatest linebacker ever to play the game is trapped in La La Land. He starts his car, puts a dip of snuff under his lip and heads down the highway toward Malibu, where his neighbors include Cher and Olivia Newton-John.
"There are other things you can accomplish in life," Butkus says, spitting into his cup. "But physically, how do you get that rush again? You're in the middle of it all. You're involved, instead of hanging over the sides, you're there. The ball is snapped, somebody is trying to knock your ass off, you're trying to knock his ass off...."
Mountains rise out of the dark air. The ocean is nearby.
"How the hell do you get that feeling again?"
The answer is simple.