Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ohhhhh weeeee ohhhhhhh, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers

The Cleveland Browns have a new mascot, a dog named Swagger. Swagger is the fifth NFL animal mascot along with the Broncos horse, the Ravens two ravens, and the Seahawks’ bird. The sixth NFL animal if you include the Redskins’ owner, Dan Snider, who many consider a weasel.
At the Pamplona running of the bulls, the man who wrote “How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona” Bill Hillman, was gored by a bull in the thigh. Look for Hillman’s next book: “An Idiot’s Guide to Being an Idiot.”
Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time to win the World Cup. Or as soccer fans call that 1-0 win: a blow-out.
In New York, a man spent $500,000 to turn his basement into a replica of the bridge of the Enterprise bridge from “Star Trek.” It is there he can travel at warp speed to the land of endless virginity.
The Cleveland Browns have a new mascot, a dog named Swagger. Swagger is a big dog whose main job is to pull “Johnny Football” Manziel out of an avalanche of bad off-field publicity.
Since you asked:
When I was a broker in downtown San Diego, I became friends with a fellow broker who used to be a damn good NFL safety for the Chargers and the Giants named Pete. Pete took me under his wing and we would go out to the clubs and bars of his former teammates. The most notable NFL friend of his for me was former Packer great running back, John Brockington.
For my Junior year in high school football, I chose Brockington’s #42 because I loved his running style that combined speed and strength, but mostly toughness. Brockington was the first player to rush for 1,000 yards for his first three seasons. This with a less than stellar mid-70’s Packer offensive line.
Yes, many late 70’s and early 80’s ex-pro athletes have a chip on their shoulder due to missing the big money that came just after them, but not John. He was the nicest, kindest, gentle giant of a man you could ever meet. There is no getting around it, it was fun hanging around with these guys. Talk about sitting at the cool kid’s lunch table.
Pete used to tell me to lie and say I used to be an NFL player to impress people, namely girls. John Brockington agreed. They would back me up. Although I was flattered they thought I even looked the part, I could never do that. That was crossing some line I did not want to cross. 
One of these nights, we were in a bar in Mission Valley, and Pete introduced me to a former NBA player, Jerome Whitehead.  Jerome was visibly unimpressed by me, a broker and former UC Santa Barbara frat boy, but mostly because I was a non ex-pro athlete. Trying too hard to be polite, I told Jerome that we had a history. In truth I had seen him play for Waukegan High School against my New Trier (Nee) Indians.
In high school, Jerome Whitehead (yes, quite an unfortunate surname, but that is how I remembered him) was a 6 ft, 10 inch man among boys. You could tell he would star in college and play in the pros. He would later score the winning shot in Marquette’s semi-final game on the way to win the 1977 NCAA Championship.
His pro career was far less stellar. Jerome played for six teams, but mostly the lowly and awful San Diego Clippers averaging six points and four rebounds for his ten-year career.
When I told Jerome I had seen him play for Waukegan High at New Trier, he became annoyed and said;
“Listen man, I was an NBA player, can’t nobody expect me to remember no damn high school game.”
Suddenly I was the one who was pissed off. (Is there anything worse than going out of your way  to be nice to someone who turns out to be a total ass-wipe?) I leaned over to Jerome so he could see I was serious and said;
“Listen, I don’t care either, I was just trying to make conversation.”
Jerome seemed taken back by this reaction and tried to become friendlier, but I was not having any of it. Like my mom taught me, once I make the mental red-cross across someone’s face labeling them an asshole, it is there for good.

At the time I remember thinking here was a guy born with all the athletic talent in the world, yet he still managed to sleep walk through ten years of the NBA. By this time he was a bitter shell of a man just bouncing from one dead-end job to another until his pension kicked in at 50. 
This was Jerome’s obituary two years ago:
“Whitehead died in his El Cajon apartment (tough neighborhood, East of San Diego) from gastrointestinal hemorrhage related to chronic alcohol abuse." It went on to mention Jerome’s body went well over a week without being discovered.
Yes, Jerome Whitehead was a former NCAA champ and an NBA player, but can you think of a worse end than that? Sure, Jerome was a rude ass-hat I took an immediate dislike to, but that kind of death is deserved by nobody.