Monroe's, no longer extant, was a small, dark, delightful San s Francisco gathering place patronized by devoted regulars. It is was the perfect spot for die sort of quiet reminiscence Michaels and I had had in mind. Unfortunately Cosell preceded us inside and created unprecedented turmoil. Autograph seekers descended upon him amid shouts of "Howard, Howard!" and waiters abandoned their customers to be in the great man's presence. The peaceful reunion Al and I had hoped for was buried by the torrent of opinionated blather our uninvited guest heaped upon us and upon the troops of well-wishers foolish enough to approach him. To my surprise but not to AI's, Cosell proved to be an even more irritating blowhard in person than on the tube.
I'm not certain Michaels has ever forgiven me for inadvertently disclosing our dinner plans that fateful night 19 years ago. I do know that later the same year, after Cosell's caustic book I Never Played the Game appeared, Al described him, much in the manner of Dick Cheney discussing the deposed dictator of Iraq, as a "cruel, evil, vicious man."
But I was right about at least one thing regarding that long-ago Super Bowl: The 49ers did clobber the Dolphins.
A stutter, as Austin Murphy can attest, is no laughing matter. Well, not usually
DID MY EYES DECEIVE ME, OR WAS THAT a Green Bay Packer—a starter, no less—sitting alone at his round table on Media Day before Super Bowl XXXI? I pulled up a chair alongside left tackle Bruce Wilkerson and soon learned why my two thousand or so fellow journalists might've been steering clear of him. The man stuttered. Once the initial awkwardness passed, we had a very nice chat. In addition to being one of the nicest guys I met during my five years on the NFL beat, Wilkerson was a good story—a 10-year vet who'd been cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1996 off-season, signed by the Pack two days later and plugged into the starting lineup in the regular-season finale.
The subject of Wilkerson's stutter arose later on Media Day. Running back Dorsey Levens mentioned it to me while cataloging the list of various Packers' flaws that he and his teammates took pleasure in making fun of. Obviously, I interrupted, you don't tease a man about his speech impediment.
"Oh, we kill him," Levens assured me.
Wilkerson's teammates raved about his economy of movement, his veteran's wiliness. His resourcefulness, it turned out, was not limited to his footwork. When a certain run was called, it was the play-side tackle's job to make a line call. One of those calls required him to shout, "Cow!"
In a game earlier that season Wilkerson sought to make the Cow call but got stuck on the hard c. After struggling valiantly—"C-c-c-c-"—he finally bellowed, "MOOOOO!" Everyone knew what he meant, left guard Aaron Taylor told me. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that half the offense was laughing too hard to run the play.
Roger Director made the most of his free ducat, and so did a scalper named Dex