To Cowboy reserve quarterback Hugh Millen when Millen joined the team in April: "There's only one thing you need to know. Throw the ball to 88."
To fellow Cowboy receiver Alvin Harper when Harper arrived as a rookie in '91: "I catch the balls here. I get my share, and you get the rest."
In May, Irvin's mouth got him cited for disorderly conduct in Fort Lauderdale while he was home to see his family. Out one night celebrating his younger brother Derrick's graduation from high school, Michael tried to buy a bottle of wine from a convenience store. A clerk refused to sell it because Derrick, 18, was still a minor under Florida law. Michael launched into a "Don't you know who I am" tirade. The clerk summoned the police, and Irvin got a date in court, but the charges were dropped, and he never had to appear.
On the sidelines at the 1992 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Irvin earned disapproving stares from other players when he threw an operatic fit because he felt that Atlanta Falcon quarterback Chris Miller wasn't getting the ball to him. The Pro Bowl is a famously relaxed affair, but Irvin was coming out of a breakthrough '91 season in which he had caught 93 passes for 1,523 yards, and he was in no mood to put his feet up and sip mai tais. "Give me the ball!" he screamed to no one in particular. "I'm the one who got 1,500 yards!"
Irvin just happened to be standing next to the San Francisco 49ers' Jerry Rice, the NFL's alltime leader in touchdown catches. Rice rolled his eyes. "Irv wants the ball," Rice said. "Hey, everybody, Irv wants the ball."
Miller told Irvin, "Don't worry, I'll get it to you."
Irvin replied edgily, "I'm not joking around." He wasn't. He went on to catch eight passes for 125 yards and was named the game's most valuable player, solidifying his status as one of the foremost performers in the league—though far from the best liked. Irvin admits of the incident, "I was in a state. Everybody was looking at me like, 'There goes that crazy Mike Irvin.' "
Some NFL veterans were even more offended by Irvin's behavior after the funeral of Jerome Brown, the Philadelphia Eagle defensive lineman who died in a car crash last year. Irvin and Brown had been teammates and good friends at Miami. After the funeral Irvin went to a bar with several Philadelphia players. According to two of them, Andre Waters and Wes Hopkins, Irvin joked around, bragged about his exploits on the football field and otherwise behaved inappropriately for a somber occasion.
Irvin says he was misunderstood. He claims that he and Brown, along with some other Miami teammates, made a vow in college that when one of them died, the others would not allow tears at the funeral. They felt they had all gotten more out of life than they ever expected, so whoever died would shake God's hand and say, "Thank you, it was great." Defending his exuberant behavior at the bar, Irvin said, "Humor is one of the healing things in this world."
Gene Upshaw wasn't amused, however, when Irvin upbraided him and, according to The Dallas Morning News, mooned him during an NFL Players Association meeting in the Cowboy locker room in May. Upshaw, the head of the NFLPA, was barnstorming around the league to campaign for the association's new settlement with league owners. Irvin strenuously objects to the agreement, which, he says, sold out the wealthier players, in part because the pact will limit players' ability to negotiate independent licensing deals. Irvin, who earned a degree in business from Miami, made $200,000 in licensing deals last season; now those arrangements will be controlled by the union. He says of his encounter with Upshaw, "Somebody had to say something. The owners wrote that agreement. In two or three years everybody is going to say I'm a genius."