With Leather editor/patriarch Matt Ufford is in Arizona for Super Bowl festivities. He will file daily reports from Arizona until at least Monday, February 4th.
My conversation with Rick Reilly was really the highlight of the ESPN party. (I mean, besides all the hot young tail. Obviously.) After that, it was just your typical party — what do you do, where are from, blah blah blah. A cute Filipino girl stuck her freezing hands in my armpits to warm them up, which is the first time I haven't had to pay for that.
Then the lights went on and talk turned to after-parties. I was sober and thinking about going to bed, but I was too curious to see what ESPNers do after hours. Maybe I'd see Chris Berman doing blow off a hooker's ass. Maybe Erin Andrew deep-throats bananas as a party trick.
What I got was Bill Simmons and a Real World cast member at a hotel bar. After last call.
Oh yes, Simmons and the Real World. I didn't recognize the RW guy — I haven't watched the show in ten years, and all the dudes look pretty much the same any more anyway. But apparently he's an actor now, and the two were having an LA sort of conversation when I introduced myself.
[A disclaimer here: I don't have any kind of animosity towards Simmons. I used to read him religiously before I found sports blogs; now I don't read his work at all. I'm more interested in his role ushering in a generation of bloggers than I am, say, denouncing him or calling him the Urtard or putting a bounty on his hands.]
And so I joined in the conversation — hey! I've been to LA! — and we all got along very nicely, me being the genial guy that I am. Then came the questions about my occupation. I'm a writer. What kind of writer? A sports writer. Who do you write for? Blogs. Which blog? With Leather.
"Oh," Bill said, "that's a good one."
"Oh. Well thank you." (Note: Sooooooooooo glad I didn't mention Kissing Suzy Kolber.)
"All of this is off the record, by the way."
And, well, that kinda sucked. Because I'm not out to get anyone, and if I could share the conversation we had, he might come off as looking like a cool guy. I told him not to worry, I'm way more interested in writing about athletes and hot chicks than I am sports writers, and that I'd only written about him once, when he donned the spandex suit for NBA Live '08 [Ed. note — after checking the archives, I was mistaken about that. Also, that image by 289 was hilarious.]
So the conversation rolled along, we'd be enjoying ourselves, and he'd express an opinion or dish some dirt about a fellow ESPN employee, then look at me and say, "Don't write about that, either." I understand: he wasn't being a douche so much as we was trying to protect himself from possible fallout, but c'mon man! Give me something!
And that's when he said, loudly, just as I was making my exit, "Is that Michael Irvin trying to steal liquor from the bar?"
Sure enough, there was Irvin, dressed all in black at the far end of the bar. I can't say what his intentions were, but to me, he appeared to be leaning over the bar and casing the joint. When Simmons spoke, he looked up with a hand-in-the-cookie jar kind of look, then broke into a warm smile and headed over to us. He embraced John Walsh — the elderly, bearded albino whose behind-the-scenes work brought SportsCenter to prominence — then greeted us with handshakes and smiles.
I can see why it took ESPN so long to fire him: the guy is impossibly likable. And he likes coke and hookers! I should have asked him for tips on body disposal.