Gary Shelton edited transcript
[00:00:02.190] - Todd
Hey, Gary. Welcome to press box access.
[00:00:05.660] - Gary
Hello, Todd. How have you been?
[00:00:07.870] - Todd
I've been great. It's so great to hear your voice again. It's been so long since we chatted, and I really enjoyed the times we spent together covering a lot of events. I'm looking forward to this. I'm very hungry for your stories. I am not hungry for some of the crap that you've eaten on the road during your career. I think we were in Athens, Greece, together at the Olympics in 2004, and I recall that you were much braver than me. What did you eat?
[00:00:51.120] - Gary
We had sheep intestines once we were out, and a guy just points to an appetizer on the menu, and it wasn't what he thought it was. It was sheep intestines. And it tasted like sheep intestines would taste like chicken. No, like sheep and descendants.
[00:01:11.960] - Todd
Who ate the sheep intestines?
[00:01:13.720] - Gary
I'm the one who swallowed. There were two of us put it in our mouths, and only I swallowed.
[00:01:22.990] - Todd
And you lived to tell about it?
[00:01:25.690] - Gary
Yeah, well, I'm from the south. We eat everything.
[00:01:28.600] - Todd
That's right. Just deep fried?
[00:01:30.790] - Gary
It was in China. Now, in China, they have critter carts, they have grasshoppers and starfish. And the thing is, if it walks, they eat it. Well, a bunch of the cadre I run with had discovered a different restaurant, and I guess, fortunately, I wasn't able to join them that day. But you know the part that makes you a ram on the sheep?
[00:02:19.830] - Todd
[00:02:21.340] - Gary
That's what they served. They served every kind of animal, male, genitalia you can imagine, cooked in different sauces and different styles of cooking it. And so all four of my friends and like I said, I probably would have gotten roped along going with them on a normal day, but I had something to do, thank goodness, and they came back, and they had all eaten animal parts. Shells, kind. Yeah, Wingers, they had eaten. So I brought up one of the guys, a banana, and said, I don't know if you had time for dessert. Yeah, there's different kinds of things you eat.
Well, sometimes folks want us to eat our words, and I know that's occurred to you a little bit at times, that's the price you pay for being one of the best sports columnists in the nation. Must read in Tampa Bay for over three decades and in the state of Florida since 1984. You know, Gary, you're the type of columnist that always makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you ponder, makes you upset sometimes. Have you had times where people what is the most pissed off somebody wanted to be with you over something you wrote?
[00:04:27.640] - Gary
My life was threatened when I was like an 18 year old sports rider.
[00:04:31.540] - Todd
[00:04:32.220] - Gary
Yeah. A high school football player had broken his neck gear in a game, fractured it, but he was still ambulatory, and his coach tried to send him back into the game. So I visited the kid in the hospital and wrote about it, and his father called me and said, if this runs, I will kill you. And for an 18 year old kid, that's kind of heady to hear. But it ran, and the weekly paper in his hometown actually picked it up.
[00:05:04.160] - Todd
So then it ran everywhere.
[00:05:05.700] - Gary
Yeah. So not only did if I had gotten by, he was going to make sure I didn't, but I didn't get killed, fortunately. And I've had a lot of angry athletes, a lot of angry football players, a lot of angry coaches. Don Shula expanded his vocabulary against me.
[00:05:28.830] - Todd
Well, I once read you said, I graduated from Auburn University and the Don Shiloh school of having my face yelled into.
[00:05:37.390] - Gary
Yeah, that's pretty much it. We were at Dolphin practice once, and Robbie came out. Robbie never came to Dolphin practice.
[00:05:46.270] - Todd
Joe Robbie, the owner.
[00:05:47.560] - Gary
Joe Robbie. So we all gather around him, and at one point, in typical bravado for an owner, he said, well, at the end of the year, shoota will deal with the players and I'll deal with Sheila. Well, you're not going to bench the guy, so what are you talking about? So I asked him, are you talking about firing Shoula? And he says, oh, no, of course not. So I didn't write anything. He dodged the bullet. I didn't write anything. Shula got so pissed at me for even asking the question. You talk about grades and shades of profanity bouncing off the walls in his office. He had a little brown leather chair. We used to call it the Durial Harris chair because that's where Duriel would come in to get yelled at. I remember sitting uncomfortably in that chair while he just reamed me. But the next day he was pretty much okay, that was use.
[00:06:51.110] - Todd
How did you deal with that? Let's set this up. You were covering the Dolphins for the Miami Herald in the 1980s.
[00:06:57.720] - Gary
[00:06:58.020] - Todd
This is a daily beat. It's a tough beat, the NFL, and you're dealing with one of the all time great coaches of the winningest coach in NFL history. And you have this relationship that sounds pretty volatile. How did you deal with that on a daily basis?
[00:07:11.230] - Gary
You know, Shula, in memory, is a nice guy. And most of the time he was a nice guy. He had nice values. He didn't cheat on his wife. He didn't lie. He took great pride and never lie. He wouldn't answer your questions, but he wouldn't lie. So most of the time it was fine. But Julie was also a terrific bully. He would jump somebody over nothing and just make them feel like the smallest insect on earth. And that part I didn't like about them very much. But for the most part, I learned a lot. I learned to phrase questions better. I learned to be responsible better and to double check more. The harshest critics you ever find will make you better. You know that from your own experience. When someone's climbing your butt, it doesn't matter if you think they're baseless, but if you think they've got a grain of truth in there, then it bothers you.
[00:08:23.140] - Todd
Give us an example of something back in your days covering the Dolphins of when that occurred. Specifically, is there a story or a moment that you recall?
[00:08:31.830] - Gary
Well, there's a young guy named Victor Lee who works for Palm Beach. Young kid, really a prep writer at the time. Well, on Saturdays, Palm Beach is a long way away. It's a 45 minutes drive. So the beat guy would take the day off and they would send this kid down with a list of questions. So he shows up and he's so nervous, he drops his tape recorder getting out of the car, and he goes up and he's very nervous. And she looks at him once and says, who are you? He goes, I'm Victor Lee, coach, Palm Beach Post. And she looks at his hand, doesn't shake it, and goes, Why were you talking to my player? Well, we were all talking to players, but he picks on this kid and he goes, Well, I was just asking him how he is. And Shula says, don't ask him how he is. I'll tell you how he is. And so the guy's automatically on his heels, and we're all rubbing our necks and looking at the sky and trying not to get drawn into the debate. And Victor looked down at his list and he says, well, I guess you'll be pulling for Seattle today.
[00:09:49.910] - Gary
And he goes, do you think it matters to Chuck Knox who I pull for? Do you think it matters two hills of beams who I'm pulling for? And just dresses the kid down. All he had to do was saying, well, that would be nice for us in the playoff race if Seattle were to win. Little moments like that were just beneath you, let's be honest. I mean, here he was, the most admired coach in the game at the time, and had won all kinds of Coach of the Year awards, had won Super Bowls. He didn't need to belittle a prep rider. Victor Lee ended up leaving the profession and becoming a monastery, joining a monastery. And I still wonder how much that upgrading had to do with it.
[00:10:45.710] - Todd
It's interesting because those things occurred really back before cell phones and the cameras and Twitter, the Internet and the Internet itself. Right. So you had moments where you just had to hold your ground. And like you said, if you did write something, especially if it was an opinion, you had to face the music. And that's part of the relationship. That's part of the relationship you had. I'm just curious about Shula because obviously, again, the winningest coach ever. You said he was such a nice person. It could be he was religious, nice man. Why do you think he had to play that role? Is it just something about football and he was just trying to set a tone around the media?
[00:11:27.160] - Gary
I think it's a power thing. Yeah, he was the nicest guy in the world. When a national writer or a national broadcaster would show up, he was jovial, he patch on the shoulder. He thought it was just great to see you. But the Beat riders who were there every day were kind of his hurt, and he had to keep them in line, I think was his motivating factor. He never wanted it unchallenged that this was his team, that he was the guy. I remember once I did a piece on St. Thomas University, and just what a piece of crap it was. It was like spinny fields, right? Very well. But there were potholes in the parking lot and the weight room was outdoors, and it was really a piece of crap. It was a real testament to Shuler's coaching ability that he could win with those kinds of facilities. So I wrote a piece and just ripped the facilities. I've been to San Francisco and seen what the 49 Ers had in Santa Clara and just did a comparison piece on what NFL teams worked with. And one of the assistant coaches came in that day and turned to Shoe lung, says, did you see that crap in the newspaper and shooting?
[00:12:53.680] - Gary
Says, yeah. It was great, wasn't it? Because he wanted everyone to know what he had to deal with. And he did.
[00:13:05.210] - Todd
And he did.
[00:13:06.570] - Gary
It was a piece of crap. But the good thing for a journalist was everyone walked in the same locker room door from the same parking lot. So if you were there when they came to work, yours was the first face they saw. And when they left in the afternoon, yours was the last face they saw.
[00:13:23.400] - Todd
[00:13:24.220] - Gary
And it really helped break a few stories.
[00:13:28.120] - Todd
Yes. You know, it's interesting. The relationship between, especially football coaches in the media has always fascinated me. And you've been around so many of them. Starting in your early days when you were starting out in the business in Columbus, Georgia. The inquirer there, you were around Bear Bryant at the end of history.
[00:13:46.500] - Gary
I covered Bear Bryant. I covered bowden. I covered spurrier. A lot of wins between those guys. I covered lot of wins, which is a lot of national championships there.
[00:13:58.540] - Todd
The Bear is somebody that's just mythical, right? Because it's almost like he was mythical to me. What was it like as a young reporter to be around Bear Bryant at the end?
[00:14:07.620] - Gary
It was frightening. Yeah. I can tell you all this malarkey about how I stood up and I told him I was scared to death of the guy. The guy was John Wayne. He was made out of leather. He had this deep, rumbling voice from hell itself. But he would answer your questions when you ask him a direct question. And he called me back when a local high school legend coach died, a guy named Pig Davis, whose sons were all the kickers, the kicking Davis for the University of Alabama. And it was just as nice as he could be. But it was like being I was a small town boy. I had no sense of the importance of people, or I probably would have been more scared. But he was something. He was really something. He cast a long shadow.
[00:15:10.010] - Todd
I once went down to Tuscaloosa to do some reporting on several days about Alabama football for a long takeout. And I always remember going into there's the museum where they have recreated Bear's office. And you just stand there and stare at I don't know what you're thinking, but you're staring at this office, and I'm thinking, that's how mythical this guy is. They want to show you where he sat at his desk.
[00:15:36.460] - Gary
They wear hats the way the style of a hat he wore. They wear ounce tooth hats. It's just scary. It really is.
[00:15:48.640] - Todd
Was there something about the fact that this was before the Internet and we didn't know everything about everybody? That there was almost a little bit of mystery and distance, even though we didn't know who we knew Bare Bryant, but we didn't know everything about Bare Bryant?
[00:16:03.400] - Gary
No. There were no long TV interviews. There were no things where you think you get to know a guy, but you don't. Todd, one of the things I say most these days is it's never been harder to be a good journalist, and it's never been easier to be a bad one. It's because of all the Internet people who write stories who've never talked to the guy. And I think in our day, one of the things that we did besides having a lot of fun was we had opportunities to sit down with people. Once a week, I would pick a different Buck player, and I would sit down with him for an hour. This is Derek Brooks, warren SAP, all of them. And I don't know a lot of today's I don't know Tom Brady except what? He lets us in.
[00:17:03.220] - Todd
Yeah. Even though you're still writing you're still writing in Tampa Bay for your website, and Tom Brady is the quarterback, but you don't have really any kind of working relationship by us, so no, I.
[00:17:12.820] - Gary
Think if I passed him in a mall, I don't think he'd say hi. I don't I think if I passed Warren SAP in the hall is much of a war, as Warren and I had. At times, I think he would come up and shake my hand and ask how I've been.
[00:17:31.610] - Todd
You mentioned an hour with those guys SAP. All right. There's a character. Right. You're doing an hour with Warren SAP. You're a columnist in Tampa Bay. You're writing your opinion. I didn't read it, but they know what's being said and written.
[00:17:45.510] - Gary
Oh, Warren Red. Warren Red. Every word.
[00:17:48.630] - Todd
So you're sitting down with Warren for an hour once in a while, and you mentioned war. What was your relationship like with a guy like Warren?
[00:17:55.410] - Gary
Seth, it changed. I remember doing a big, long session with Warren over the memory of Jerome Brown.
[00:18:04.720] - Todd
Jerome Brown, the late defense alignment from the Miami Hurricanes and then Philadelphia.
[00:18:16.680] - Gary
Right. And he was kind of a mentor to SAP. SAP had been to his home, knew his mom, and just worshipped the guy, just idolized the guy. And he's the guy who told me that the Eagles had had that memorial locker kept intact for Jerome, but they had taken it down, and he was just offended they had taken it down. We had a marvelous conversation. Next day, Warren walks by me, doesn't speak. He was.
[00:18:53.210] - Todd
When he was hot, what was it like? Engaged?
[00:18:56.250] - Gary
He was the most entertaining guy who ever walked.
[00:18:59.110] - Todd
[00:18:59.520] - Gary
He was funny. He was loud. He was profane. He knew his place in the community. He told me once, when I am gone, people will cheer. And I said, no, you're the best defensive player they've had in this franchise as Roy Cellman, and you go, no, you walk. And damn. But he wasn't right. When he retired, people acted like Hitler had died.
[00:19:27.610] - Todd
[00:19:29.360] - Gary
Just because he offended so many people. He would chew tobacco and spit into a towel in front of the TV cameras. He would refuse to shake people's hands in public.
[00:19:45.640] - Todd
I got to say, I got stiffed by him once at a Super Bowl where, like, he just gave me the iced Claire.
[00:19:51.810] - Gary
If he didn't know you, he wasn't going to spend 2 seconds of time and he didn't care what you thought about him. Most of us care. Most of us want to be liked. Warren didn't care if you liked him or not.
[00:20:06.790] - Todd
It sounds like you liked him.
[00:20:08.830] - Gary
Yeah, I actually did. When my daughters were young, my daughter Casey wanted to warn SAP Jersey, and so I told SAP this, and he said, that must scare the hell out of you.
[00:20:30.790] - Todd
What's your all time favorite Warren SAP story?
[00:20:33.860] - Gary
Oh, my God, there's so many. He was going on about Michael Strayan once, and he said, do you tell Strayan that the NFL has a good dental policy? They can fix those teeth. You tell Stray hand he lost to Delfer in the Super Bowl.
[00:21:06.040] - Todd
Some of these guys could do stand up. Right?
[00:21:08.230] - Gary
Yeah. Warren called me back the day he filed for bankruptcy. I had no clue that this guy would return my call, but he called out of due diligence, and sure enough, he calls and he lays the whole story out about how he trusted somebody and invested all his money and took a bath and had to declare bankruptcy, and it made for a great story. I have no idea why you called me back.
[00:21:40.030] - Todd
Yeah. That's interesting. You almost had, like, a news sense that I don't know. I don't know where that comes from sometimes. Right?
[00:21:46.990] - Gary
No. That's why you always call, though, isn't it?
[00:21:51.160] - Todd
Yeah. Make the call, right?
[00:21:52.770] - Gary
[00:21:53.380] - Todd
Well, you've been making the call for quite a while now in Tampa Bay. Not saying you're old, but I want to get back to the coaches.
[00:22:01.810] - Gary
I was there when Edison was called.
[00:22:06.490] - Todd
You broke the news, right?
[00:22:08.100] - Gary
Yeah. I need you.
[00:22:11.440] - Todd
I want to get back to the coaches. We talked about Sholo. We talked about Bear Bryant. You mentioned Bobby Bowden and Steve Sperrier. You've been writing about football and all sports but football in the south in Florida since 1984. And so you're around Bowden, you're around Sperrier. You're around the you and Jimmy Johnson. Give us a little Bobby bowden. He really was cut from a different era in terms of accessibility and quotability, right?
[00:22:38.560] - Gary
I love Bobby Bowden. I walked out of the stadium for the final time after Bobby Bowden was run off from Florida State and walked out with him. He was your Uncle Ned. There was nothing put on about that. He was really your guy. And Florida State people always feel picked on, and they're always going, well, there were 321 stories last year in Florida and only 318 on FSU. I mean, they're that kind of people. But most writers I knew love covering Florida State because Bowden was so easy. He was his own best PR guy. I remember being on the field at Notre Dame and talking to him about all the Notre Dame legends and how few of his kids had any idea who these guys were, and Bobby would just fall right in. He's a great guy, terrific guy, and really got a bad deal at Florida State.
[00:23:46.620] - Todd
Right. I was around him a little bit. Occasionally, a bull game. I was at the famous Notre Dame loss in 94 with Charlie Ward. But I wasn't around him enough to know, was it an authentic folksyism or was he playing a character or is that just who Bobby Bobin was?
[00:24:02.730] - Gary
That's who Bobby Bowden was. He was Andy Griffith. He was the dad gummet concern.
[00:24:11.280] - Todd
It we don't say dad gummy enough. Right?
[00:24:15.710] - Gary
Yeah, I'm with you. Let's start a movement. But I once asked him a question. I said, okay, I've got a loaded gun. Who are you going to vote for number one, your team or the University of Miami? And he said, I want to answer however it is that you won't shoot me. And I said, Just give me an honest answer. And he said, Miami. And I got so ticked because another writer wrote that entire exchange as if it was him asking the question. Yeah.
[00:24:48.930] - Todd
Wait a minute. You're the one raising the gun is.
[00:24:51.490] - Gary
Yes, I've got the invisible gun here. Yeah, he was great. He had one riders who followed him around everywhere once followed him into the shower. Oh, come on. No, that's the story about and told us himself.
[00:25:08.290] - Todd
[00:25:11.060] - Gary
When we're off the air, I'll tell you the guy's name.
[00:25:13.120] - Todd
Oh, wait a minute. Go ahead. No, there's no off the air here.
[00:25:16.120] - Gary
Okay. Craig Barnes.
[00:25:17.820] - Todd
[00:25:18.550] - Gary
Yeah. I'll tell you what. Yeah, it was pretty fun, but you could ask a guy anything, apparently anything. One of the worst things I ever did was I wrote an early column once. You remember early columns?
[00:25:38.220] - Todd
Oh, yeah. Back in those days when you had to fill a hole for the first edition and write about the game before it even begins.
[00:25:45.780] - Gary
[00:25:46.350] - Todd
I love it.
[00:25:47.440] - Gary
Well, Florida was playing Florida State and I wrote, you know, this could be the last time we see Bowden versus Spurrier. Spurrier and all his high tech offense and Bowel and all his folks heism and Uncle Ned act. And it really hit me as a poignant moment, and I was very proud of the column. Then I tore it up and threw it away because Jesse Palmer had a good night.
[00:26:19.470] - Todd
[00:26:20.440] - Gary
It was an absolutely horseshit decision and I should be flogged forever doubting my early column. But you got to get your fingers on deadline. You're there, you need to write something that pertains to the game. But I still beat myself up over that one.
[00:26:39.420] - Todd
What's the worst deadline situation you had?
[00:26:42.560] - Gary
Oh, God. We used to have to write running on 04:00 games in Miami because we had an addition that went to South America because we had a reader in Bogota. I had to write an early piece on Dan Merino playing against the jets. The worst deadline. I went by the office to get supplies once before a Monday night game. Bad mistake. Never go to the office.
[00:27:16.810] - Todd
Don't go to the office. I know a sports writer in Philly. His paper had three different offices during his tenure. Two of the offices he never stepped foot in.
[00:27:26.210] - Gary
Well I should have followed his advice.
[00:27:29.590] - Todd
You stepped in the office, what happened?
[00:27:31.390] - Gary
Well Paul Anger, the sports editor calls me in and he says Gary is a big game tonight. They were playing the undefeated Chicago Bears in 1985, you may remember the night, right? And I said yeah it's going to be a pretty big game. And he says it's kind of a game, we're going to want one of those big play the game diagrams which were all in vogue in the said, yeah I can see that Paul, we might want to do that. And he says well I guess what I'm asking is can you write it? Can you do it? And I said well Paul I'm going to be on deadline writing the lead. I said there's no way, I see a lot of the plays before replay. And he says well it'd really be big. And I said well Paul, they were working on a trick play, I could write you that on the off chance they use it. And he goes no I don't think that'll do. He says and this is for the managing editor which just makes you shrivel. And I go yes what does he want? He says well he wants to know if you could do it now.
[00:28:51.710] - Gary
Now? It's five in the afternoon, kick off at nine.
[00:28:55.910] - Todd
I said okay Nostradamus Shelton, what do you get?
[00:28:59.550] - Gary
I said Paul each team is going to run 80 plays. I don't know which one the cornerback is going to slip on or the linebackers going to get fooled on or the safety is going to miss a tackle on. There's just no way to know right? And he says well can you do it now? And I said I don't think we can do it now, can you call someone? I said, who? Jean Dixon. Do you want me to call Shula and say, look don just put you and I, I know you're getting ready for the game but in 4 hours what do you think the big play of the game is going to be?
[00:29:44.590] - Todd
You know what that would have earned you? The brown chair.
[00:29:48.640] - Gary
That would have gotten me right there. But I walked out of that office and people were looking at me like I was something less, like I had failed somehow.
[00:30:00.270] - Todd
Well I think the whole industry cratered because you would not do the big play of the game 4 hours before kickoff.
[00:30:06.480] - Gary
Well we ended up doing like what the Bucks were doing with their X receiver on the quick slants but I had no way to know that at 500 in the afternoon.
[00:30:18.640] - Todd
[00:30:20.360] - Gary
So to me that was the worst deadline.
[00:30:23.200] - Todd
Yes. Sometimes when we talk about the golden age of newspapers I'm like really? What are you talking about?
[00:30:29.410] - Gary
We laughed, we had fun.
[00:30:32.210] - Todd
Hey we mentioned a lot about Shula, and I'd be remiss to not bring up Dan Marino because you're the Beatrider again in those days, covering Dan. And as you mentioned with today, a guy like Tom Brady, you just don't get a chance to talk with in those days, in the even into the longer a little bit. A guy like Dan Marino, you had access to him, right?
[00:30:55.440] - Gary
He had access. Did not do any good.
[00:30:57.750] - Todd
Why do you say that?
[00:30:58.930] - Gary
Well, they had a backup named Don Strzok who had been the starter for a brief period of time, and he kind of took on Danny as his mentor and told Danny, Never say crap, and Dan didn't. You would ask him about a corner bag. He's a great player. You would ask him about an opposing team. They are a fine team, and he just bored you to death. He's the only athlete I've ever seen. When you saw your competitor talking to him across the parking lot, you didn't worry because he wasn't telling him crap either. Now, Danny went on and was a pretty good TV commentator.
[00:31:36.450] - Todd
Right? That's why it surprises me a little bit.
[00:31:38.640] - Gary
Yeah, but he wouldn't open his mouth then.
[00:31:43.610] - Todd
What was he like when he wasn't being quoted? You were just talking.
[00:31:47.310] - Gary
He was a pretty good guy. I remember having a beer with him in a pub in England before the American Bowl one year.
[00:31:54.720] - Todd
[00:31:55.270] - Gary
And we just talked about different perceptions of them that he didn't think was true. You know who Dan was? Dan was the third baseman for your slow pitch softball team who was all cocky and full of himself, only he happened to make it as an NFL quarterback.
[00:32:14.620] - Todd
[00:32:15.030] - Gary
He could deliver, but he's that guy we've all played with the damn merino.
[00:32:22.840] - Todd
What made him great? Other than the quick release?
[00:32:25.500] - Gary
Yes. The great Barn made him great. Stubborn, arrogant as hell. Competitive as hell. Yeah. I guess most of the ones that are great are really competitive. His misfortune was he joined a team when it was coming off a Super Bowl, and that team got older every day. The offensive line grew old, the defense grew old, and pretty soon, Marino was all they had. People rip him because he didn't want a lot of Super Bowls. He didn't want a lot of Super Bowls because his team was getting old.
[00:33:02.110] - Todd
Right. So much of that is great quarterback, wrong situation, or good quarterback, great situation? It's really a chicken egg thing at times.
[00:33:14.070] - Gary
Dan Falz versus Joe Montana.
[00:33:17.230] - Todd
[00:33:17.770] - Gary
Joe Montana was a great quarterback, don't get me wrong. But he was there when Jerry Rice was young. He was there when Haley was a great player. He was there when a lot was a great player. And they kind of grew up together. And a lot of the great teams that's the case. The old Steelers, they were a young team together and grew older together. The Buffalo. Bills never wanted. But they were the same thing, a young team that grew older together.
[00:33:53.580] - Todd
Right. Speaking of Marino, didn't the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a chance to draft merino or it looked like they had a pathway to possibly drafting?
[00:34:02.660] - Gary
I think the story is this, that the previous year they traded their number one pick for bookeries, one of the all time busts in the NFL.
[00:34:12.910] - Todd
Bookerce, I'd have to look through a.
[00:34:15.150] - Gary
List of well, I've got a long story I wrote on him from prison.
[00:34:19.840] - Todd
Well, there you go.
[00:34:22.990] - Gary
In fact, they told him once, Booker wing got some headache tablets once, and the safety Mark Cotney said, Booker, those are coal tablets. You got to put them in the fridge first. So he went and put them in the refrigerator.
[00:34:37.170] - Todd
[00:34:37.960] - Gary
Left them there for a couple hours, came back and then took them. But anyway, that number one pick the next year could have been used for damn merino.
[00:34:49.760] - Todd
Really? Yeah, that's the story.
[00:34:51.970] - Gary
But instead they got bookeries. And that was the same draft when the people accidentally drafted Sean Ferrell, because.
[00:35:01.380] - Todd
The headphones what do you mean accidentally drafting?
[00:35:06.400] - Gary
Well, they had two names down, bookeries and Sean Ferrell. And the scout at the office got the go ahead and it cut out, and all he heard was Sean Ferrell. So they went to the podium and drafted Sean Ferrell, who turned out to be a pretty good player. bookeries did not book career sex.
[00:35:30.640] - Todd
That's the kind of story we should remind ourselves when we go into the months of analysis before the draft.
[00:35:37.390] - Gary
It is? Yeah. And we're all experts. And they're all experts.
[00:35:42.260] - Todd
[00:35:43.510] - Gary
Yeah, it's pretty incredible.
[00:35:45.960] - Todd
Well, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a franchise you know well and still know well. As a writer for Gary Shelton Sports.com. The Bucks. They've won a couple of Super Bowls. They won one, obviously, a couple of years ago with Brady. They won one in 2002. But they've also had these years where they were just kind of like total buffoons. Right.
[00:36:06.190] - Gary
Oh, they were the worst team in the history of the league.
[00:36:10.110] - Todd
Were they a columnist dream because of that?
[00:36:13.760] - Gary
Yeah, after a while, your foot gets tired of kicking, but yeah, they would always do something to screw it up. They would hire Richard Williamson when no one else in the league in the state, in college football was going to hire Richard Williamson. But they had taken this run at Bill Parcels, and again, they've taken several runs at Bill Parcels. Failed every time. They cut the end of a receiver's finger off once.
[00:36:45.250] - Todd
[00:36:46.180] - Gary
Yeah. Alvin Harper, another noted bust, had a little tear on the flap of his finger, and when they were messing with it, the trainer just cut it off by mistake.
[00:37:01.160] - Todd
[00:37:03.410] - Gary
Yeah. Even with ten fingers, he wasn't very good.
[00:37:11.360] - Todd
Alright. Excuse me. Sorry. I'm sorry about your fingertip.
[00:37:17.560] - Gary
[00:37:22.760] - Todd
So when you get there as a columnist. Well, actually, you were there as the NFL writer the first couple of years and then became the columnist. You know, Ray who was the coach? Was Ray Perkins the coach then?
[00:37:31.890] - Gary
Ray Perkins was the coach and thought he was intimidating. I had just come from, don Sheula? Don Shela had all these accomplishments. Ray Perkins, who had never made a Coca Cola bubble. He held up one of my columns once. They traded the number two pick in the entire draft for a backup quarterback, chris Chandler and I wrote that it was a stupid trade. It was far more than any team in the league had paid for the backup quarterback. Right. So he holds our section up and he says, this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. And I said, I'll compare my resume against his any day, and a lot of coaches would have taken me up on it, and I would have lost badly, not to repurkins.
[00:38:24.840] - Todd
So he was a bully, but he had nothing to back it up.
[00:38:28.090] - Gary
Right. He was all had no catalysts, they say in Texas.
[00:38:31.710] - Todd
Right. Well, we have a coach that we kind of share a common background with. And I was around him in my early days of my career when I worked in Cincinnati and you were around him in Tampa. That's Sam Weish.
[00:38:44.070] - Gary
[00:38:46.390] - Todd
Right. And that was my introduction to the NFL as a young writer out of college with Sam, who this brilliant mind. But well, how would you describe Sam? Let's say the lake. Great. Sam lights.
[00:39:01.010] - Gary
Yeah. In the end of his life, Sam and I got along famously. I remember when he was mentoring Tim Tebow, when Tebow was coming out for the draft. And he was a huge Tebow guy, and he was just as nice to me. And I had been 14 shades of mean to him. I used to describe Sam I think I've used this line with you before. He had 17 personalities, but one of them was a really good guy. The problem is you couldn't count on getting that one personality.
[00:39:37.310] - Todd
Are you sure it was only 17?
[00:39:39.490] - Gary
It could have been 117, depending on the sugar level. That's right. People forget that the best thing Paul Brown ever did was make him go home and take care of his diet.
[00:39:52.090] - Todd
[00:39:52.710] - Gary
And they went to the Super Bowl with singles.
[00:39:55.690] - Todd
Well, Sam has such a brilliant mind for the game. Offensively, he was ahead of the curve.
[00:40:00.420] - Gary
He was captain queue, though. He thought everyone was out to get him. He really did. He got in a wrestling match with Don Banks once. Don Banks was our beatriver. The late, great Don Banks.
[00:40:15.010] - Todd
[00:40:15.580] - Gary
And Don had written a piece that day quoting two unnamed sources. We never used unnamed sources, but this he got a special dispensation to do, and they were very well placed things, talking about how Sam had lost the team. And Sam came out in this press conference and talked about how his dear mother with cancer couldn't even read the paper anymore because of the lies that were there. So Don couldn't leave it alone if he just let Sam be an idiot on Sam's self. Instead, he walks up and he says, Sam, that was really low. And Sam goes, you're a piece of shit. You're just a piece of shit. And so Don holds up his tape recorder and shows him it's on. So Sam tries to whisper it, and they start arm wrestling like Brady and the gun with Reagan and Chip Nami is the PR guy is trying to grab hold of the mic, too, like there are three sets of hands in there. It was the most absurd day in the history of absurd days of an absurd franchise.
[00:41:33.860] - Todd
Well, those are the days that you think about what I always think of. Somebody says, what was it like to be a sportswriter? I think of moments like that. Right.
[00:41:41.890] - Gary
You know what I think of? I think of the moments before the game and after the game, when you're sitting around talking to your buddies, and maybe you talk about what you wrote, maybe you probably don't, but you think about things you thought were silly, things you thought were absurd, things that happened to you during the time. And those are the best moments. It was really a schoolyard. I mean, they called the toy department for a reason, and we had such a good time.
[00:42:13.390] - Todd
Well, give us a memory along those lines about what it was like to be a sports rider back in the day. You're still writing, the world has changed in terms of how the job is done. What was it like back in the day to do that job?
[00:42:26.360] - Gary
You went everywhere. You had great access. You saw things right up. I remember we used to go down and gather at the South Gate at Wimbledon for Richard Williams to come down, and he would talk about things like how his daughter's had it worse than Althea Gibson, which is one of the most preposterous statements I've ever heard. Although Gibson was a black woman in the 50s in the day when there was no black people at all.
[00:43:02.260] - Todd
Yeah. She was the first pioneer in women's parents.
[00:43:04.470] - Gary
Absolutely. And instead of honoring her memory, which he easily could have done, richard just is off on how his daughters don't do enough TV commercials. The press box was a great place. Somebody's always got something wise ass to say. Often it was me, sometimes it was you.
[00:43:31.840] - Todd
I was going to say probably one of us. Or maybe we were doing a course.
[00:43:36.630] - Gary
Well, what's the story you and I tell all the time? We were at a gymnastics convention in Philly.
[00:43:44.350] - Todd
Was it I think it was Boston.
[00:43:46.690] - Gary
Boston. But we did a table in the back and we called it Idiot Island.
[00:43:53.940] - Todd
Yes, it was me. You Sam Danellan from the Philadelphia delivery.
[00:43:58.090] - Gary
Right. And I think another couple of people came in and out.
[00:44:01.410] - Todd
Yeah. We would allow people on the island, and sometimes we would say, no, no, you know too much about Janelle.
[00:44:06.870] - Gary
Right. If you ask a technical question right. Why you only got so many points for the triple double somersault. Then you were voted off Indian island. And I had final say because I was the governor of the idiot.
[00:44:22.120] - Todd
We're the governor. That's right. And that continued. I mean, that also moved into other olympic type sports like figure skating. So we would show up, and some of us were there to COVID it, some of us were there to write about it, and some of us were.
[00:44:43.860] - Gary
There to get our credential for the Olympics.
[00:44:46.380] - Todd
[00:44:47.640] - Gary
The first figure skating I ever covered was so we could qualify for a ticket for the ticketed event of figure skating in little hammer.
[00:44:58.020] - Todd
[00:44:58.810] - Gary
That day was the day that Tanya had Nancy whacked.
[00:45:03.300] - Todd
Really? You were there?
[00:45:04.650] - Gary
I was ever in a figure skating arena.
[00:45:08.130] - Todd
Wait a minute. You're there in Detroit?
[00:45:09.900] - Gary
[00:45:10.720] - Todd
94 US. Figure skating championships. Right.
[00:45:14.020] - Gary
The first day I had ever covered figure skating, somebody said they've attacked Nancy Carrigan. And I turned around, I said, she's the good one. Right.
[00:45:22.450] - Todd
[00:45:25.840] - Gary
By the end of the day, of course, I was an expert.
[00:45:29.210] - Todd
[00:45:30.330] - Gary
That's how it works.
[00:45:31.500] - Todd
So you covered did you cover that scandal throughout the Olympics?
[00:45:34.150] - Gary
I covered out throughout the Olympics. I was on the today show against Dan Shaughnessy, debating whether Tanya should be allowed to compete in the Olympics.
[00:45:47.890] - Todd
What was your stance?
[00:45:49.170] - Gary
I thought she should have been because she had not been convicted of anything.
[00:45:54.040] - Todd
That's always been my defense.
[00:45:55.630] - Gary
I think the constitution says until you have a guilty plea or a guilty sentence, then you still have your rights.
[00:46:03.340] - Todd
So what was it like at the Olympics skating venue? Even for practices during the year?
[00:46:09.850] - Gary
It was amazing. The day they were both on the ice was more covered than most Olympic events themselves. And there was just a sea of us. I remember there was a woman skinner named Lily Lee who looked up and covered her mouth and went, oh, my God. Just looking at the crowd, you may not realize, but figure skating practices are big. Part of your final score from your competition is how you look during practice, which to me is absurd. It's like judging a super bowl on a walkthrough.
[00:46:49.560] - Todd
Alan Iverson would not be a good figure skater.
[00:46:51.910] - Gary
No practice. It was just incredible. And then when Tanya broke her boot lace at the thing, it was like, this has gone to the absurd now.
[00:47:10.460] - Todd
Which is riding our wheelhouse.
[00:47:12.300] - Gary
[00:47:13.540] - Todd
We had some fun with that.
[00:47:14.940] - Gary
Yeah. A few years later, Tanya was arrested for throwing a hub cap at her then husband.
[00:47:22.180] - Todd
Really? I don't remember that.
[00:47:24.300] - Gary
But no one was ever surprised. She had a hub cap painting.
[00:47:29.960] - Todd
She had, like, a bandolier hub cap, and she out.
[00:47:33.940] - Gary
It was like a boat with her. She spun on my Captain America's shield.
[00:47:43.760] - Todd
That's a great image.
[00:47:45.860] - Gary
She was supposed to box against a transgender in Fort Lauderdale, and she withdrew and saying, It's beneath my dignity, really. And the promoter said, what dignity was that?
[00:48:02.380] - Todd
[00:48:03.940] - Gary
No, I think it was a few rungs down from the bob arm.
[00:48:09.460] - Todd
They should have brought Jimmy Hard in from the world of wrestling. All right? But the Olympic moments, they could be absurd such as that, and that's probably the epitome of absurd, but they could also be so personal and moving. I mean, I can bear witness to that being fortunate to COVID three you covered 1010. There were moments where they really touch your heart, and it sounds like a cliche, but to be there and experience that I think in Italy you once told me that there was a moment that has always stuck with you, right?
[00:48:43.990] - Gary
Well, yeah, I think you're talking about the Saurotoma moment.
[00:48:47.620] - Todd
[00:48:48.520] - Gary
He was this old guy. He had played for Gran Torino, the soccer team. And the Gran Torino soccer team had all died in a plane crash. It hit the town basilica. Well, Sorrow had a pregnant wife at the time, and he had a knee injury, so he wasn't going to play, so he didn't go on the trip, which was South America. So in the years after the death of the team, he had constructed what he called his wall of death on the living room wall. And he had pictures of all the players, and he would point at them and he would say, this was the ladies man. This was the funny guy. This was the guy who was smart but quiet and would tell stories of these men who had been dead for decades, but in his life. He died in 2018, but in his mind, they were still alive. And just in the Alice Burst church, if you leaned over his patio, you could see the Olympic flame burning.
[00:49:58.720] - Todd
[00:49:59.560] - Gary
But to this guy, his life had functionally ended in 47, I think it was. It was a really moving moment. There was a moment in Japan. I was walking down the street and it started to rain, very cold rain, winter Olympics in Nagano. And this woman, who I'll never meet again, walks up beside me and holds her umbrella over my head. She didn't speak my language. I didn't speak hers. I was never going to see her again. She had nothing to gain but just human civility of holding the thing. And it really struck me that's what the Olympics are about. I'm a sucker for the ideal. I've been to Olympics where Iranian athletes wouldn't wrestle against Jewish athletes because of their faith and the way they were raised. It can be the most petty, most political arena you can ever imagine. But when it works, and every Olympics, there are occasions when it works when a fallen runner will pick another runner up and help him across the finish line, where Derek Redmond will fall on the lane and get up and finish the race with his father coming out of the stands to help him across the finish line.
[00:51:41.060] - Gary
There are those moments that just capture your heart, and they really do make you understand why these silly sports you know, whoever watches speed skating, if speed skating was going on in front of your window right now, would you watch? But at the Olympics, it's important. It matters. And by the way, I love speed skating.
[00:52:07.610] - Todd
It's like human bowling.
[00:52:09.310] - Gary
Oh, yeah. I remember a guy I remember a guy winning and looking around saying, I think I won because everyone else has fallen down.
[00:52:20.510] - Todd
It's a survivor.
[00:52:22.020] - Gary
[00:52:23.960] - Todd
What is your favorite favorite Olympic sporting event moment?
[00:52:31.160] - Gary
Well, I was there for the first Dream Team win. Yeah. I'm going to tell you a weird story. When the Atlanta bombing happened, that was one of the first Dream Teams. I guess it was the second Dream Team.
[00:52:48.190] - Todd
Yeah. 96 in Atlanta.
[00:52:49.890] - Gary
Yeah. Shaquille O'Neill had just signed, like, a $96 million contract with the La. Lakers and was trying to convince us of how the Olympics really mattered to him. Well, I went out and found a hammer thrower, and I still remember his name, david Pobjoy. That year, he had moved from 18th to 14th in the national standings. Not exactly a big headline. I wrote that Shaquille O'Neill had a movie out Sunday. David Popejoy hoped to be able to afford to go to a movie. And it just hit me that this guy is what the Olympics are about. Shaquille O'Neill is what the Olympics are about. Shaquille has more money than David Pope. Joy, me and you and everybody we know will ever make.
[00:53:43.120] - Todd
Well, it depends on how the poker games are going.
[00:53:46.540] - Gary
Yeah. I mean, and God bless him for it, but my ideal Olympic doesn't include Dream Teams. It involves David Janssen celebrating to the.
[00:54:01.800] - Todd
Heavens to his dead sister, Dan Jensen.
[00:54:06.040] - Gary
I'm sorry. It involves people you will never remember. It involves Christine Woody. Were you there when Christine woody talked?
[00:54:20.370] - Todd
[00:54:20.980] - Gary
She was the survivor of sexual abuse from a neighbor when she was a kid. There has never been a woman who has been braver or more forthcoming in her story than at her Olympics. And I still get chills thinking about it. About eight of us riders are sitting around and she's talking about the way the guy smelled and the way the guy looked and the way the guy felt and that she was able to overcome this and survive this and become an Olympic champion. It's an amazing story to me. That's why we watch sports, right?
[00:55:04.390] - Todd
You think about the things that we've talked about here, just the wide range of emotions we've had some great laughs and now we've had moments of reflection on something like that. And I think that's what sports can do for people. It can be silly entertainment, it can be silly funny. We're joking around. But it also there is that element that does bind us together as people that we don't know who's going to win when we show up, right.
[00:55:31.240] - Gary
No. And on the way, we've been blessed with some very special venues. I remember the Sydney Harbor. I remember standing on the great wall of China. I remember being at the basilica that houses the shroud of Turin. It's just an amazing way to spend a career.
[00:55:55.210] - Todd
Well, I remember being on idiot island.
[00:56:00.340] - Gary
Where you could have been the mayor.
[00:56:02.380] - Todd
I don't think so, Gary. I think you were the mayor. Nobody was going to win that election. That was a rigged election.
[00:56:10.620] - Gary
That's right. Fake news.
[00:56:12.940] - Todd
Oh, that's hilarious. It's been really wonderful to reconnect Gary. When I think about when people say to me, what was it like to be a sports writer? I think about the moments among writers and just some of the silliness and the anecdotal things that happen behind the scenes and just trying to capture that a little bit. What was it like to do that job?
[00:59:45.340] - Gary
You know what I found out as the years go by? I think less about Michael Phelps winning his 8th goals or touching out the guy to barely win in Australia. I think less about Joe Montana bringing his 49 ers back to beat the Bengals of Super Bowl 23. And I think more about sitting around the press box and this guy yelling this guy out about my editor and this guy yelling this out about this. I think more about the reaction to the media when Roger Clemens do the bat at Mike Piazza. It's the people. It's the whole scene. It's the trip to the zoo.
[01:00:33.210] - Todd
Yeah. It was like being in a circus boy from Kentucky who. Next thing I know, I'm getting sent around the world. I'm like, what is this? It's a circus.
[01:00:43.480] - Gary
Yeah. And they see all these characters at different places, great events, and tell them what you think.
[01:00:48.370] - Todd
[01:00:49.990] - Gary
What an absurd way to make a living.
[01:00:52.440] - Todd
Well, beat working.
[01:00:54.560] - Gary
Beat the heck out of work. And I'm telling you.
[01:00:58.240] - Todd
Well, Gary, thanks a lot. It's been such a treat to reflect on your wonderful career and the great stories. You're just one of my favorite writers and people in the business, and I miss those moments as much as you do, and I'm so glad that you took the time to be with us.
[01:01:15.460] - Gary