The Planet Shanahan Saga (2004-2006)

Extra! Extra! Shanahan from Outer Space, Griffin Running Scared

October 1st, 2004

I just got off of the phone with this little Quentin Griffin running back and have come to the conclusion that the thing is quite disturbed. Griffin was a floor flusher in week one of the NFL Season after scoring 3 touchdowns but has been a hayburner ever since. I'm a little shaken by the conversation. I believe he was hinting at the possibility of Denver Bronco coach Mike Shanahan being from outer space. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.

Scoop Miller: So why aren’t you producing Quentin?
Quentin: Coach is from outer space.
Scoop Miller: What are you saying Quentin?
Quentin: Coach is from outer space.
Scoop Miller: Give it too me straight Q, I can take it.
Quentin: Coach is from outer space.

(ABOVE) Exclusive Photo of Mike Shanahan on Planet Shanahan as compared to his Sunday afternoon “Earthware.”

This got the noodle in motion and I realized that every time I've interviewed Shanahan he has given no detail that is relevant to planet earth. I was able to get Shanahan on the phone. (Did you know that there are video phones now? I fell off my chair when an image of Shanahan’s face appeared out of static in my living room.)

Scoop Miller: What do you usually have for breakfast?
Shanahan: Food pills.
Scoop Miller: What is the name of your wife?
Shanahan: RXE222.
Scoop Miller: Where are you from?
Shanahan: You’ve never heard of it.

I then heard what sounded like television static and his face disappeared. I went to the front porch to stare into the heavy night air. There were airplanes scattered all over the skies of the Twin Cities. These flying machines made me think about worlds far away. Was Shanahan delivered to earth in a flying machine? I was looking up to the stars and wondering if the head coach of the Denver Broncos at one time in his life took an exit that said "Planet Earth."

I have to go chase myself, I sense the onset of a bender.

Planet Shanahan Sending Mixed Messages to Planet Earth

July 13th, 2006

That creature from outer space Mike Shanahan is at it again. That dewdropper sends more mixed signals than Mae West at a cocktail party. He now has proclaimed that the Denver Broncos will be starting Ron Dayne, Tatum Bell & Cedric Cobbs at running back. Shanahan’s shenanigans has fantasy football managers fleeing for juice joints. What the hell is going on out there in Rocky Mountains? Is it no wonder that Shanahan coaches only near mountains as it’s easy access for aliens from Planet Shanahan to swoop in and pick him up for weekend getaways to see his wife RXE222. Apparently they’ve been studying images of the 1968 Texas Longhorns that are just reaching Planet Shanahan as it appears the Broncos are going to go with the wishbone offense in the 2006 NFL season.

I interviewed Shanahan earlier today, his face emerging from static in my living room hovering just above Oscar sleeping on the floor.

Scoop: Listen Shanahan, tell it to me straight, who’s your starting Running Back going to be in 2006?

Shanahan: Ron Dayne.

Scoop: So you’re saying for sure that it’s Dayne?

Shanahan: Tatum Bell.

Scoop: What? Where am I? Mike?

Shanahan: Cedric Cobbs.

Scoop: Cobbs? What the hell is wrong with you?

Shanahan: Transmission fading.

Scoop: Can you send me some booze pills from Planet Shanahan?

Shanahan: Ron Dayne.

Scoop: What?

Shanahan: Tatum Bell.

Scoop: Go chase yourself.

Shanahan: Cedric Cobbs.

Scoop: You dewdrop . . .

Shanahan: Terrell Davis. Transmission. Ceased.

His face disappeared just as Oscar walked into a wall. I was tired of these chewing gum conversations with Shanahan. That space invader ruffles my feathers more than some Joe Brooks in glad rags talking fancy to my date at a party. Screw this, I’m off to the Midway to get bent and curse interplanetary lollygaggers.

Planet Shanahan Names Alien as Starting Running Back

August 17th, 2006

Holy Hannah Rose! Mike Shanahan has freaked me out for the last time. It’s 7:26 a.m. in St. Paul and I’ve been up for 3 hours. The sun is shining as I peer out the back window of my den. Earthly sounds surround me: sirens are blaring, the neighbors are yelling at each other, some dewdropper is playing the piano badly, cars without mufflers are whizzing by my St. Paul house, my cocktail is empty and my ears are enjoying the thwap, thwap, thwap of the typewriter keys. Yes, things are normal here on Selby Avenue except for what is sitting in my head. A little news that I came across last night that has shaken me to the core.


After an arduous pre-season of trying to guess what shoes Shanahan was going to wear with his suit I had just about settled on the fact that Tatum Bell would end up being the Denver Broncos first string running back when the season opens in a few weeks. I couldn’t have been more wrong. First, that interplanetary lollygagger named Ron Dayne the starter, next he told the world that Cedric Cobbs was a supernatural being, and then he kind of mentioned that the running back with the most talent, Tatum Bell, was in the lead. It was all a set up.

Shanahan is ready to unleash an interplanetary running back on the National Football League. I interviewed Shanahan last night and caught him dead to rights on the true origin of Mike Bell.

Scoop: What the hell is the matter with you?

Shanahan: I’m fine, how are you?

Scoop: (Silence)

Shanahan: (Whirring)

Scoop: How’s RXE222?

Shanahan: She’s good. How’s Rita?

Scoop: Watch it, pal. What did you have for dinner?

Shanahan: Food pills.

Scoop: Who is your starting running back?

Shanahan: RNU777, er, I mean, Mike Bell. Gotta Go.

Well knock me over with Mae West's purse, I was asking those questions so fast that the interplanetary lollygagger revealed everything to me in a moment of ambiguity. The implications of this are huge. Does it state anywhere in the NFL rulebook that creatures from outer space CAN’T play in the NFL? I don’t think it does.

Shanahan has been grooming Mike Bell since he was born on Planet Shanahan under the name RNU777. After years in the Planet Shanahan Running Back Facility.

Broncos Secret RB Facility

He was shipped down to planet earth and installed at the University of Arizona where he had mild success only so that he wouldn’t get drafted by another team. Shanahan quickly snatched him up as a free agent signing and has had him practicing at the Broncos private running back facility with hologram football players in the Rocky Mountains.

If you aren't putting ice in a highball glass right now, what the hell is wrong with you?

Denver offense shipped to Planet Shanahan

October 1st, 2006

Aside from Tatum Bell racking up the yards the Denver offense has been a pathetic site this year. Someone must have given the Broncos offense some Nevada gas because these boys are in a wooden kimono. Plummer is acting the fool and the receivers are suffering because of it. Reportedly, Shanahan has shipped the entire offensive unit to Planet Shanahan for some fine-tuning in the Planet Shanahan Football Facility.

’s Offense Leaves Earth

Jake Plummer is about to be replaced by an alien as the only thing really working in
Denver is there running game. Pull the shades up and look to the skies, a flying disc man is en route from Planet Shanahan with reinforcements and BOOZE PILLS!

New Cyborg Smell

October 10th, 2006

As predicted last week the reinforcements have arrived from Planet Shanahan! I don’t know if that was Javon Walker and Tatum Bell on Sunday or RKW929 and RFB 455 but whoever it was running around the field was literally glowing with that new cyborg shine. If you looked close enough at Shanahan on Sunday you could see the sliest little alien grin mucking up the lens of the camera as Shanahan still has designs on conquering NFL earth with his legion of space invader footballers. I recently interviewed this interplanetary lollygagger on the set of his house, which is just a fake front so that people don’t see the spaceship in the backyard.

Scoop: How’s RXE222

Planet Shanahan: She’s good, thanks for asking. How’s Rita?

This interview abruptly ended after I charged Planet Shanahan. I was apprehended by two horse robots.

The Night I Freaked Out Alex Karras

September 11th, 2006

The year was 1976 and I showed up early to Metropolitan Stadium to cover a Vikings-Steelers Monday Night affair. I had been there since half noon, sitting in the dugout, drinking with head grounds keeper Charlie Jean. I generally liked drinking with Charlie, but I had befriended him as I had bellied up with grounds keepers all across the country for one simple reason: to get a sense of the life of the field on that particular game day. It was an old gambling trick, and if your an old sportswriter like me, you have the means to find out if the field is breathing fire or not. Groundskeepers are a bookies worst nightmare. Charlie Jean was one of my favorite grounds keepers and he had the Wild Turkey at the ready all the time. Around four I had to leave Charlie to his duties and I started wandering around the Met. I headed into the press box to take a nap. Sitting alone in the press box was former Detroit Lion, supposed actor and Monday Night Football announcer Alex Karras, thinking about what not to say that night during the telecast.

Karras was wearing an oversized suede jacket with white fur trim along with some sort of large brimmed western cap. I remember walking into the room and saying,

“Howdy, pard’ner.” Karras froze, shooting me a nonplussed look.

He turned back and kinda half smiled at me and gave me every indication he was going to say something. I shuffled toward him making my hands into a pair of fake guns waiting at my hip to be drawn. I kept walking; he kept turning his head to the right, while keeping his eyes on me. I made it all the way to him without him saying a word and I was as confused as he was. I think he might have been looking over my shoulder for security or something as his fake half smile turned into a wooden kimono. I drew my guns with a fifth of Wild Turkey in my hand, and pointed it right at his mouth. He finally spoke, albeit two words.

He said “What . . . um?”

I said, “Hey Karras, are you going to sit there like a leaded horse on the backstretch or are you going to grab this Wild Turkey by the neck and ring it?”

“Who are you?”

“Forgive me, I’m a little crocked, but something has been bugging me.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the freaking Martian Scoop Miller and if you don’t listen to me right now I see a very bleak future for you.”

I had his attention and I held it by taking a sip of Wild Turkey than passing it to him. We each took a few big tugs. He was looking at me strange; contemplating the odds of me being a Martian. He kept looking into my eyes, searching for clues to something he would never know, but should, but couldn’t. I raised the bottle of Wild Turkey into the air and poured some into my mouth. Turkey splattered on my chin but mostly in my mouth. I looked at him with an anticipatory look on my face, as if he were talking to me with his thoughts. I think he might have uttered another "what . . . um."

“Alex Karras, this is the Martian Scoop Miller sent here from Mars to tell you that if you don’t start talking during the Monday Night Football telecasts, you will lose your job. Period. Done. Finished. Empty Bottle. What? Empty Bottle Karras, would you look at that?”

I softly set the empty bottle on the press table next to the ex-linebacker. The bottle was swaying, trying to keep its balance but eventually fell over. Karras appeared a little freaked out so I walked up to him, put my hand on his shoulder, and pointed at a little red dot in the sky.

“See that, Karras, that’s Mars.”

I left the room.

I waited a minute and peeked back in and Karras was staring at Mars. He didn’t speak very much that night and for the rest of the season. The next season Karras was replaced by card Dandy Don Meredith.

This story came to mind as I watched aged Dallas Cowboy Drew Bledsoe stink up the joint in Jacksonville on Sunday. Young whippersnapper Tony Romo is waiting in the wings and if Bledsoe doesn't look to Mars for inspiration and start talking, he's going to be out of a job. Sue me.

The Weight of the Shoe

November 21st 2005

I was taking Oscar for a walk a couple of murky mornings ago and was awed by him yet again. I watched that old man scurry into random bushes, eat some tree bark, chase a couple of birds and bark at any brick wall he saw. Watching that historical monument move I thought, that old dog still has it, then I thought, you know what, I’m not doing too bad myself. I spent the morning reading the sporting news from across the country and everyone was talking about Larry Johnson. Now I’m not one to put glad rags on myself but after hearing all of my colleagues suddenly talking about what a whippersnapper Larry Johnson is kind of pissed me off because I was on this trolley long ago. As I watched the Kansas City Chiefs-Dallas Texans game this past weekend and watched Larry Johnson’s effortless success I was reminded of a not so recent visit to Kansas City.

The year was 1968 and I was sitting in a hotel bar in Kansas City near Arrowhead Stadium. I was covering the Chiefs-Raiders game that day; the Chiefs handled the Raiders 24-10 but eventually would be destroyed 41-6 by that same Raider team in the playoffs. I was sitting at the bar yucking it up with Tom Road, the bartender and college football handicapping expert. I always visited Tom Road when I was in Kansas City to get a gambling report on the Big Eight. He told me the Kansas Jayhawks were going to win the Big Eight that season. I told him he was twisted. I trusted Tom Road even though we never communicated that well and he was right. I cleaned up on those floor flushers all season as they shared a piece of the Big Eight Championship with Oklahoma.

Bellied up to the bar with my scotch I began to hopelessly flirt with a woman sitting on the other side of the bar. I kept raising my eyebrows at her, comically, and every once in a while the red-haired beauty would laugh. Tom Road kept thinking I was going to say something every time I raised my eyebrows. He’d walk over and say “what,” and I’d be like “what?” Then a real big smile crossed the ladies face and I thought my alluring eyes had finally gotten through to her when a gigantic hand nearly turned my shoulder into ruins. I turned quickly; ready to take the dewdropper down at his legs but the hand just pushed me back into the bar and sat me up straight.

“No need to get excited Scoop; it’s just an old friend.”

Indeed it was an old friend, Bobby Bell, Chief linebacker and All-American for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. I told Bobby that was one hell of a game. Just then a bunch of lollygaggers came strolling in making all sorts of noise, ordering shots of whiskey. One of the fellows had a horseshoe stuck in the loop of his pants normally reserved for a hammer. I asked Tom Road who they were, Tom Road leaned in close and narrowed his eyes, I narrowed mine right back.

“Those boys are in town for the horse shoe championships.”

His eyes became serious; I stared down Tom Road, my eyes barely open.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked him. He said he didn’t know, he guessed.

“You might as well leave that bottle here, Tom Road.” I says.

He slapped the bottle down and I poured a round for Bobby and I.

“You see the kid in the torn up cowboy hat, he’s the best horseshoe thrower in the world.” Bobby told me.

“Yeah, is that a sport, Bell?”


I looked at the man and the baby face below his tattered cowboy hat.

“What’s that whippersnapper’s name?”

“Dan Kuchcinski. He was on Johnny Carson last Spring.”

“I’ll be damned, Carson, that calls for another round, don’t you think Bobby?”

Bobby nodded then his deep voice filled the room.

“Kuchcinski, come here a second.” Kuchcinski slid up to us and asked“Howdy?”

“I’m Bobby Bell and this is my friend Scoop Miller. So you were on Johnny Carson?”


“What did you do?”

“I pitched a couple shoes at Mr. Carson’s head, dead ringers, just below his chin.”

“No kidding.”

I asked him where he was from, he says, “Erie, Pa.

I was staring at this northern cowboy’s eyes and he looked like a madman. This is when things took an unfortunate turn when Bell goaded the northern irrational cowboy.

“I’ll give you a hundred bucks to throw a shoe at Scoop’s head.” My eyes got huge and my mouth opened even wider than it already is. I looked the bizarre cowboy in the eyes and generally feared for my handsome face. Next thing I know we’re piled in the back of a pick up truck and I have no idea what’s going on. Tom Road let me take the bottle.

We show up at a horseshoe pit and I said “you’re going to risk this handsome face” Bell quickly replied “I’ll give you a hundred dollars too, Scoop.” I was on my knees faster than a referee raising his arms when the ball crosses the goal line.

Forty feet away, Kuchcinski was armed with a horseshoe pointed at my head. He told me to put my hands on the end of the stake, and then put my chin on my hands. I looked into his eyes one last time; he looked like a lunatic. Bell was laughing the entire time and I could hear those evil cackles as the shoe left Kuchcinski’s hand. I held my breath. Dead ringer.

I asked Kuchcinski what his secret was and he said,

“Scoop, you have to let the weight of the shoe work for ya.”


“You have to let the weight of the shoe work for you, when it leaves your hand, the weight is what takes over, pace, weight and height.”

My first pitch broke someone’s windshield. I haven’t pitched a horseshoe since 1968 and really hadn’t thought about it until I watched Larry Johnson scurrying around and through the Texans; a bowling ball loose in a gymnasium where a world record domino set up is taking place; his big body hovering over those quick feet as he moves forward naturally; an effortless and taut scoring machine. The Kansas City coaching staff is in this secret and their letting the weight of the shoe work for them right now.

Coach Elm Disease

October 31st, 2005

I was reminded of another coach of the Minnesota Vikings while watching that dewdropper Mike Tice towering on the sideline in Carolina last Sunday. Tice looked like an elm tree with a big X spray painted on it, standing there with that idiotic pencil in his ear. It might as well be a stir stick because the man is in dire need of a drink.

Only once in my life have I seen a more downtrodden head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, it was at a pre-Thanksgiving cocktail party in 1984 and the man I saw was Les Steckel. It was the day after the Chicago Bears had completely mutilated his football team 30-3 and the Minnesota Vikings record stood at 3-10.

Some degrees of separation landed us at that cocktail party together and after I drank enough scotch a sentimental tendency kicked in. I had wandered into the kitchen to make another scotch. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the back den. I walked to the doorway and Steckel’s hand was gripping his forehead like he was preparing to offer himself up as a poorly thrown knuckleball. No one was in the room with him, the kitchen buffering him from a floor flushing cocktail party a couple of rooms away with lots of flowered skirts, peanuts and scotch. I was forced to feel pity for the man sitting by himself in the corner, his face tangled from being severely out coached for 13 consecutive weeks. An orange hue, projected from the raging fire blazing a foot from his chair, flickered on his deranged face. I feared he might take the easy way out by tumbling into the fire. I kept an eye on him because I thought he might botch that too, setting the whole dwelling ablaze with his flaming body hurtling itself around the house setting curtains and dresses on fire.

I asked him if he needed a drink. He didn’t even acknowledge my presence. I asked him again and this time he lifted his head up toward me, his mouth was slightly open and traces of snot lingered on his upper lip with sweat glistening on his orange face. A Chet Baker vinyl was playing on the record player positioned next to the desk. I was emotionally struck down by the combination of Chet Baker’s voice and the sight of the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in an unhinged state. A more unique moment I cannot recall; the den was a dangerous cocktail at that moment and I figured I should try to add some ice. I told him, “Steckel, you need a drink, whatta you want?” Steckel looked up at me just as The Thrill is Gone started on the record player. Unbelievably, the hayburner started crooning, “I can see it in your eyes, I can hear it in your sighs, feel it in your touch and realize the thrill is gone, the nights are cold, for love is old . . . "
I was shaken to the core, my senses rattled and my glass already empty. I’m not sure who’s den Les Steckel was sitting in but at that moment that place on earth was morosely and solely his. I thanked Steckel for the song and left the doorway with a pang of sadness penetrating the leather like exterior of my face, a frown on my open mouth.

I looked in on him a couple of scotches later and he was gone but a door leading to the back yard was open. There was a chill in the air created by the football ghost who recently vacated the room. I walked to the screen door and saw a figure on the lawn. I shook my head in a state of disbelief while the rest of the party seemed to be ignoring the elephant in the backyard, flat on his back, staring at the stars, contemplating his life in the football universe.

My Dinner with Andre (or Bill from Fox Sports)

September 19th, 2005

I’ve had it with those prom-trotters at Fox Sports. That’s an understatement but that lead just leapt out of me like giggle juice from an upside down bottle. Those saps have chipped away at my brain cells as much as anything I’ve done to myself since 1994.

Two weeks ago I had an encounter with one of the aliens from planet idiot. I was sitting in the bar of a Cincinnati hotel, after the Vikings-Bengals debacle, drinking a tonic water devoured by a gin shark. This guy sits down on the barstool next to me and orders a Miller Lite He looks at me and I look at my drink. He asks me, "How bout that game today? Great game. Greeat game. Greeeeat game. Great game. Great, great, great, great game." I immediately look to the left thinking I was suddenly slipped into a suburban backyard picnic. Who the hell was this guy? I give this Joe Brooks a good look in the eye, my eyes barely showing to him. He touches his eyelid thinking I’m alluding to it.

Somehow I end up having dinner with this guy and he’s reacting to everything that’s going on around him.

"This table setting took a solid game plan. I like this table setting. You know if you had to pick out a guy to be a table setting it would be this one right here."

"What guy?"

"No if this table setting was a guy, I mean look at this thing. Fork. Fork. Dinner plate. Spoon. Knife. Roll plate. Salad plate. Empty coffee cup turned upside down on a coaster. Glass of water. Napkin. Boom. Table Setting 101. This is how you set a table."

"And suddenly everything became clear to him."

"What’s that?"


"Who’d he play for?"

"The Wordsmiths."


Yes, everything did become clear to me; every inter-conference NFC game I've watched for the past decade my ear has been filled with the same voice, the same guy, at least 10 of them, doing the color commentary. This was one of the meathead drones, Bill Maas, from Fox Sports, the most offensive thing to happen to professional football since the 60’s Chargers. Fox football announcers are the worst kind of robot.

"I like this steak. This steak is good. This is a good steak. You know when a steak is good when you see that meat inside of it. That's the good part. The meat."

I looked into his eyes trying to detect a glimmer of any human quality.

"Did you see that waitress take that seam right there. I like that. Right there. She saw it. She took it. She was in complete control of her tray as she stopped for the old lady to pass and accelerated through the seam before the young couple passed through. That’s a great job by that waitress. Great job. I like that. I like that waitress"

"What?" I said to him, looking at his suddenly flush face, there was mashed potatoes on the tip of his nose and on his forehead. There were little shards of broccoli clinging to his sweaty face.

He says "What?" His plate was empty.

I tried to punch him but somehow my arm didn’t quite reach the other side of the table but it did end up above my scotch.

I Scripted My First Twenty Bites

November 26, 2004

With Thanksgiving comes the stretch run of the football season and with Baltimore Colts quarterbot, Peyton Manning, playing that day, I was planning on stretching out on the chaise and betting large on the Colts. That was the plan until I came back from taking my dog Oscar for a walk only to discover that I had locked myself out of the house.

It was about a half hour before the start of Colts v. Lions and I’d yet to place a bet. I didn’t have time to try and get into my house; I wanted to go large on the Colts and needed a pay phone fast. I walked from my humble Selby Ave house to the spiffy intersection of Grand Avenue and Lexington. Trying to squeeze a quarter out of the swells walking down that street was harder than I thought. My mind was sharp as a tack that day as I quickly decided to act like an old helpless blind man. It helped that I didn’t have my glad rags on as I put on my sunglasses, held my hat out and tried to get Oscar to sit down next to me like a good lead dog would. The last part was impossible. Oscar wasn’t a good actor and he likes to drink coffee. When I’m standing still the dog is running circles around me. Oscar is the goofiest dog you’ll ever meet. It’s a pleasure to know him.


A lady threw a quarter in my hat, she smiled and I smiled back. This puzzled her but I didn’t have time for her confusion. I rushed by her into the phone booth and she shot me a dirty look but the quarter was already down the drain. I waved her on. I dialed my bookie Paulie. He was known as St. Paulie for obvious reasons but I didn’t like him much. I could barely hear Paulie because Oscar was barking at a bush; a bus was going by, a plane overhead, a baby crying, brakes squealing, a muffler out and a bad connection. I just started yelling. “COLTS, COLTS, COLTS, COLTS.” Everything suddenly went quiet, all I could hear was Oscar whizzing on the Uptowner CafĂ©. “How much?” I heard Paulie say. The bet was in, it was 11:25 and I was still locked out of the house.

Oscar and I headed down Summit Avenue, the fanciest stretch of real estate in the Twin Cities. I stumbled past some Joe Brooks reaching down to get his paper at the end of his side walk. I must have still looked like a blind man because he asked me if I needed anything. I said nice day, huh. He said, “Are you hungry?” “Isn’t that the human condition?” I said. “Wait here.” The man returned with a giant turkey leg. I gladly accepted. “Looks like one hell of a lead dog there.” Oscar was running circles around me. I asked for a bottle of wine. He obliged.

I descended down Summit Hill into downtown St. Paul with a bottle of wine shoved in the pocket of my overcoat, a turkey leg in my left hand and Oscar to my right leading the charge. We ended up on 7th Place, a pedestrian mall in downtown St. Paul where I found a television in a storefront and had a seat on a nearby bench. I opened my wine, had some turkey and watched the money and the football and the Colts and the Manning touchdowns come in. I also had collected about 4 dollars in change just by sitting there because I appeared to be homeless. Oscar ate the turkey leg bone and had a little wine.

I was falling asleep on the bench when I heard someone say “Hey buddy.” I turned to the voice in a daze; it was a bum stumbling past me. I looked him up and down; he looked me in the eye and said, “Now you’re on the trolley, buddy, now you’re on the trolley.”

There’s A Reason Why Franco Harris Looks Like Jesus

November 1st, 2004

I’m on an airplane leaving Pittsburgh. I just got the bum’s rush from the 1902 Tavern I’ve been frequenting all week. I wonder how much money I dropped on the floor in that place. I’m not sure why they kicked me out. One thing I’ve learned over my many times many years of life is that when you get kicked out of a bar as a transient it’s time to leave the whole damn town because more than likely your instincts and behavior are deteriorating.

It’s been a harrowing and disturbing week in this great land of ours and the only good thing I can really say about it is that I made a swiftboat full of money on the Pittsburgh Steelers. I bet large on the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday in their football contest against the New England Patriots. I flew to Pittsburgh to watch the boat come in from the shore. Being back in Pittsburgh brought back some wonderful memories.

I almost lost my life the last time I was in Pittsburgh. The year was 1972; it was Christmas Eve Eve. I was in Pittsburgh covering the divisional playoff game between the Oakland Raiders and the Steelers. The night before the game I was with my old friend and colleague the Houston Harold. I remember we were drinking at The Original Oyster House. We were talking about how the Steelers weren’t going to be able to handle the lightning fast Oakland WR named Cliff Branch. “I wouldn’t count on that.” The man next to us said with such conviction that I thought he might have a trunk full of vacuums. His name was Gary Pupnick, he was a member of the Three Rivers Stadium ground crew. He was a strange looking man, kind of looked like a pirate, wearing a yellow frock and had a pair of mutton chops that would have given ol’ Scoop a full head of hair if placed on my bald head. When Scoop Miller and Houston Harold were together, we’d seemed to just stumble into a huge scoop and the scoop that Gary Pupnick dished up would have served the entire state of Rhode Island.

He leaned in close and whispered, “Ya see, the tarp over there at the stadium, it ain’t exactly covering the whole field.” It was freezing that night and what Gary Pupnick was telling us was that the field was going to be too icy for a Northern California offense to handle. A handful of boilermaker’s later we were on the phone with our respective bookies making $10,000 plays on the Steelers.

I woke up the next morning with Oyster Breath, a headache and my entire bank account bet on a team that had NEVER EVER won a playoff game in their 40 year history. I drank about two pots of coffee in the lobby of the hotel before Houston Harold stumbled into the room. I was so hopped up from the coffee and nervous from the bet that I suggested we run to the stadium. Houston Harold had a better idea and that was to head to the 1902 Tavern and have some drinks to calm the nerves. We were sitting at the bar when kickoff approached. We decided to watch the game on a small black and white television in the bar.

The score at Halftime was 0-0 and we weren’t feeling any better about the bet. Things then began to look up after a couple of turnovers and a couple of field goals gave the Steelers a shaky 6-0 lead. With about three minutes to go the Raiders started their last gasp drive. With every first down I felt a pang in my heart as the Raiders moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 31 yard line. On the next play Oakland quarterback Kenny Stabler snaked his way into the end zone on an improbable and ridiculous scramble. With 1:07 left in the game Oakland had taken a 7-6 lead. As George Blanda made the extra point I left the bar in a daze and crossed the street to my hotel. I took an elevator to the top floor and made my way to the roof. I sat on the edge and could see Three Rivers Stadium in the distance. I stood on the edge contemplating the loss $10,000 and in my stupor I wondered if that was the price of my suddenly fragile life. I lit up a cigarette and looked into the frozen Pittsburgh air and wondered how I had wandered so far from home. I began to feel dizzy when I heard a thunderous eruption from Three Rivers Stadium followed by 10 minutes of silence. I stood mesmerized in a state of caution and hope. Then again the stadium erupted and minute’s later people streamed out of Three Rivers Stadium in a state of euphoria that I’ve never witnessed from such a high place.

Yes, this was the day that a feeble throw on 4th and 10 by Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw was headed toward a Steeler named John “Frenchy” Fuqua. The ball and the games most feared hitter, Raider CB Jack Tatum arrived simultaneously. Tatum, laid out Frenchy and sent the ball sailing through air towards Franco Harris’ waiting arms. Franco “Jesus” Harris made the immaculate reception just an inch off the carpet and ran into the end zone giving the Steelers their first playoff victory in history.

I raced off the roof in search of my colleague. Crossing the street through a spontaneous parade I thrust myself into the 1902 Tavern. Houston Harold was on the floor next to his bar stool holding a sign that read “Franco Saves.”