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Scott Ostler

Eric Is Right, He's Just Got It All Wrong

October 27, 1987|Scott Ostler

Pssst, Eric . . .

It's me, over here, in the shadows. I don't want anyone to see me talking to you. Nothing personal, but I can't afford to have my reputation as an astute observer and brilliant thinker smashed to smithereens by coming out of the closet as an Eric Dickerson sympathizer.

On your side is not the chic place to be these days in our town, or our country. So if you don't mind, don't even call me by name.

What do you mean, you don't know my name? Well, here's my business card, but if you ever phone my office or my home, try to disguise your voice and use a code name, like "Walter Payton."

What do I want? Nothing much, just to give you a little encouragement and advice. I guess from reading the paper and listening to public opinion, you're probably getting the impression that about 99% of American citizens think you're a greedy, spoiled crybaby.

If so, you've overestimated your popularity.

The sad thing is, you're absolutely right when you cry about your salary. You are underpaid. You are being exploited by an owner whose idea of a performance bonus is a kiss on the cheek after a stirring touchdown run.

You are the dominant back of the 1980s and one of the greatest of all time. How do I know? I read it in the Rams' press guide: "The dominant back of the '80s and one of the greatest of all time," it says.

The Rams realize your place in history, and that's why they're paying you more than Jim Brown and Red Grange ever made, combined.

I don't know why Georgia Frontiere insists on underpaying you, failing to keep up with the industry-wide wage standard for superstars. I guess she does it because she can.

I don't know why she seems to take pride in keeping the most feared and effective running back in football, the backbone of her franchise, her drawing card, at something like No. 25 on the list of best-paid football stars.

Is this something she can brag about at cocktail parties? I don't know. She and I don't socialize much.

Maybe she's waiting to be sure you're not a fluke. You've only been around five seasons, counting this one, and you've only racked up 7,000 yards. That's less than four miles, total. Not even a 10k run. You can't judge a Rolls-Royce on one drive around the block, babe.

As for the fans, Eric, I have no idea why they have aligned with management on this one. I suppose a lot of people figure Georgia doesn't make enough money for the high risks and physical dangers her job entails. I mean, she puts her neck on the line every Sunday, offering moral-boosting encouragement to her troops.

I think you've got the picture. I sympathize with your problem. Now, if I may, I'd like to offer a comment about the way you're handling your situation.

AAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

Oops, did anyone hear me? If anyone's looking this way, pretend it was you, stepping on a rusty nail.

Look, Eric, who's been giving you P.R. advice? The Ayatollah?

I'm sure you were misquoted by the 10 or 15 reporters who overheard you scream into their tape recorders statements such as: "Let Robinson run the 47 Gap."

I'm sure you didn't really mean it when you said you couldn't give a full effort on the field because your heart is heavy over this contract issue. I'm sure you were just joking when you said you wanted Charles White to take your place in the starting lineup Monday night.

You can cry all you want. But you can't not try .

And did you really refer to the Rams as "South Africa"?

Yikes. With all due respect to your greatness, Eric, you couldn't carry Nelson Mandela's jock strap.

Don't you have friends who will tell you when you've got lettuce stuck between your teeth, or when you're saying things that make you sound like a colossal jerk? Are the people close to you too timid to mention to you how you're turning yourself into a national symbol of everything that's wrong in sports?

I know you're trying to make a valid point, to force a trade. But at the risk of your pride and dignity?

I'm not saying you should kiss the public's foot. How about a simple apology for letting down your teammates one week? How about a simple pledge to play your hardest every week? That's not exactly groveling.

Then find yourself an agent to wage your salary war, freeing you to play some football. And don't expect to enlist the sympathy of the working stiff, who often fails to appreciate true greatness. Hey, a few people even think I'm overpaid. I knew you'd get a chuckle out of that.

Well, I've got to run, so to speak. I'm glad we could have this little talk, and I know you're grateful for the advice. Hey, don't mention it. To anybody. Please.

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