Monday, November 16, 2009
Seriously Chapter 56: Marvin Being Marvin
My Sit-Down With Marvin Lewis
Cincinnati is Seriously's hometown, though he's taken to slinking in and out unnoticed these days, having created as many enemies there as he has friends (and that's just talking about his own family.) My love affair with the Queen City itself has never faded, I just have trouble negotiating around all the friendships/relationships I've drunkenly trashed in that town like a big fat idiot.
But here I was downtown, fresh off some scrumptious late morning Skyline, walking across the bridge to Paul Brown Stadium. Kirby, the Bengals' security ape, who I've known since he was a little kid, stomping on wax paper cups after Red's games, he gives me the usual third degree at the desk because he knows I'm wearing my Brooks Brother's trench coat year round when I'm working and they see it as a security risk, though I'm not sure if it has to do with concealed weapons or the fact I haven't had it laundered in years. Whatever, I love Kirby and the guys. So they get me to Marvin's lovely secretary, Becky, who finally walks me into his office, and there, fresh off the biggest regular season win in Cincinnati Bengal's franchise history, was the Grey Haired Teddy Bear himself, exhausted as hell but willing to talk. We get the family stuff out of the way, (Marvin even remembering the names of both of my ex-wives,) and we get right down to business. He tells me how proud he is of his men and how they fought and "how sweet it was to finally bring the gargantuan beat down on Ben Roethlisberger." Later adding, "especially with how many times they've put it up our ass, the last 5 years." I asked him if he was worried about Cedric Benson's hip injury and he said "no," just as ex-Kansas City Chief running back, Larry Johnson, walked by and poked his head in to say "I'll call you" to Marvin, having finished his work out and tour of the facility. Larry and I exchanged a pleasantry before he left, (I had met him in Honolulu in `06,) and I turned right to Coach Lewis point blank, asking him to comment "off the record-on the record" about signing the displaced/disgraced All-Pro as a back up running back due to long term concerns over the injury to Cedric's hip and the balky knee of super rookie, Bernard Scott, he of the fuck-you-right-away, 96 yard, opening play dagger-in-the-chest run back for touchdown against the hated Steelers. Marvin then proceeds to disappoint me, treating me like a pool reporter with the reluctant smile and the full froggy-voice run down - yada-yada, the team's needs versus what Larry could provide in a limited role, repeatedly referring to the All-Pro of 2007 as "the fourth option" at running back. I reminded Coach that I was slipping him cigarettes and treating him like the rolly-polly genius that he is back when he was a lowly, two-bit linebacker's coach at Idaho St. "Give me a break, Lewis." Then Coach closes the door and leans towards me, confessing how "nasty, dastardly" Larry Johnson had looked in workouts. "Who knew a rich guy could be so hungry, going after a job the way he did when we brought him in yesterday. The way he made his cuts, he was jumping out of the building, blowing up our practice squad guys. L.J. would have snapped his femur if we asked him to." "Seriously," he said, "give him about two weeks and he'll be catching balls out of the backfield and about four to have our system in his brain. We're not asking him to be Gayle Sayers, we're just asking him to be ready for anything." I asked about Larry's baggage, "him calling folks faggots and all." Marvin was quick to respond. "Hey, those comments have no place in the NFL and Larry's apologized profusely for that screw up. Everybody knows, or should know, that the NFL has a total open door policy with regards to homosexuality. How could we not, we're all men!?" I said, "Marvin, I agree. From my end, I've got nothing against the gays. I have gays who work for me and I love these goddamn kids. But let's get back to the team. Are the Cincinnati Bengals going to win the Super Bowl this year which, as you know, Coach Lewis, I have gone on record and predicted? There's myself and about 7,900 Sports Seriously followers who want you to address this." Sly dog that Marvin Lewis can be, he ignores my question and launches into a long winded explanation about the elaborate system he and the rest of team officials had devised to keep first round flop, Andre Smith, away from the dinner table. "It's a system of ropes, pullies, pad locks and an entire mobile kitchen that we hide. When we got `Dre into camp he was at 510 pounds plus a bag full of forks, whereupon he broke his foot on the first practice snap. We have him at 350 now and he's running stairs just fine. Andre Smith just needs to recover from that first contract and we feel very confident we'll have him on the field, easily, by the 2012 season." I could tell this interview was going nowhere so we dove in and talked some holy-shit,-your-defense for a few minutes and about how good Carson Palmer would be if he wasn't a one-handed quarterback. Then Marvin shows me a picture of his lovely daughter, Jenny, who is in college and I said to him as soon as I left there I'd be going to go have lunch with an ex-girlfriend, Shenae Foster, who is the daughter of Bengals legend and NFL Hall-of-Famer, Boobie Clark. Marvin knows Boobie, everybody knows Boobie. Then we laughed about a couple of personal things and he promised that he'd come see me at my office in Quaketown as "L.A.'s where the NFL's Competition Committee is meeting this spring." I said, "I don't know, Coach Lewis. I'm thinking I might be seeing you in February in Miami." He said, "Seriously, my man, from your lips to God's ears." Then we shook hands, said a couple good bye's and I was gone.
As I'm walking back across the pedestrian bridge towards my hotel near Fountain Square, I laughed to myself about the fact I was due to fly back in L.A. that night for my much ballyhooed interviews with Jamarcus Russell and Blake Griffin. But those sit-downs have to wait, I'm afraid, I had to cancel that flight. I was to go have lunch with a very pretty lady.