Which makes me think of Phil Simms.
Which makes me think of Marcus Allen.
Which makes me think of John Riggins.
Which makes me think of Wendell Tyler.
Which, of course, makes me think of Vince Ferragamo.
Which leads me to Paul Gutierrez. And a story I’ve never told here.
Back in the late 1990s, Paul and I were co-workers at Sports Illustrated. We were both reporters, which meant we mainly checked facts in articles while—on the side—also trying to get our own bylines. At the time, the main way for young up-and-comers to have pieces published was via the ol’ Catching Up With. They ran in the front of the magazine, probably 600 words, and could only be about people who had, at one time or another, appeared on the cover. It became something of a friendly competition—all the different reporters would dig through yellowed issues, trying to find this ex-quarterback or that washed-up pitcher. For a time, I believe, I was the all-time Catching Up With leader. Then John O’Keefe blew past me and never looked back (Damn him).
At some point in 1997 I pitched a bunch of Catching Up Withs, including one on Ferragamo, the former Ram quarterback. I tracked down Vince, the piece ran—never thought anything much about it.
At the time the whole Ferragamo pitch-write-and-run took place, Paul was away from the magazine on leave. He was dealing with a rough situation back home, and needed time. Upon returning, he saw the Ferragamo Catching Up With and seethed.
“You stole my idea,” he said.
In fact, I did.
Not on purpose. Fuck, not even remotely on purpose. There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Catching Up With possibilities throughout the bound issues stacked in the SI library. I was no more attached to Ferragamo than I was to Joe Dudek or Jack Squirek. Paul reminded me that, in a conversation from a few months earlier, he had told me he had dibs on Ferragamo. I honestly forgot. Hell, I still don’t remember. But I have zero doubt that he was being truthful and righteous. His anger made that clear.
I actually went to my boss and asked that the Ferragamo piece not run. She rejected the suggestion. I apologized, and apologized, and ultimately Paul and I fostered a peace. We’re now, I like to think, friends. He’s a great guy who’s had a friggin’ fantastic post-Sports Illustrated career. As we speak, he’s the Oakland Raiders Insider for Comcast SportsNet in San Francisco (one can follow Paul on Twitter here).
In fact, a few days ago Paul and I had the following text exchange …
And here is his excellent story. Sixteen years later, I finally feel absolved.