SAN DIEGO — The Boz is coming to town. Max Headroom's punk brother. Gag us with a spoon. Right?
The word association on this guy is pretty straightforward: Steroids. Rattails. Posters. Peroxide. Earrings. Shades. Commercials. And bile.
The Boz is all about turbo-powered, stereophonic, cassette-driven, hi-tech, new wave, rad gall, mad ball, bad taste. Right?
What you see is what you get. And what you get leaves his name on the tip of your tongue and a bad taste stuck to the roof of your mouth.
Brian Bosworth. Left inside linebacker. Seattle Seahawks.
The American-sports-pop-cinema-music-video-culture-machine keeps cranking these guys out. Schnozz. Cooz. Cos. The Fonz. Tooz. To name a select few.
And The Boz.
Some of those guys are lovable. Some laughable. Bosworth is supposed to be detestable--every parent's worst living nightmare.
So why did a recent and random cross-sampling of Chargers turn up an almost unanimous grudging admiration?
If Bosworth showed up at Joe Phillips' front door to take his daughter out on a date, here's what would happen: "I'd tell her what I'd tell her about anybody," Phillips says. "That creep touches you, and I'll break his flipping neck."
Phillips is a defensive lineman for the Chargers, who play Bosworth's Seahawks Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium in their home opener. Phillips is lucky he doesn't have any daughters within 20 years of Bosworth.
Here's the catch: Phillips doesn't think Bosworth is such a bad chap after all. Neither does Charger defensive end Lee Williams. Or linebacker Keith Browner. Or right guard Dennis McKnight, the Charger who will most often be responsible for blocking Bosworth Sunday.
--Phillips: "I think Brian Bosworth is a guy with a pretty good publicist. There are always going to be guys, I guess, that are either lucky enough, probably intelligent enough, to capitalize on that element of football that likes those flashy sort of guys."
--Browner: "I think he has taken good advantage of his opportunity. He's arrogant. But he backs it up when he plays. If you play linebacker, that's the way you've got to be--you have to have people hate you."
--Williams: "He may even be classified as a maverick. But what does that mean? Does that mean he's a bad guy? It's a free country. You can do what you want to do. On Sunday, it's the same deal. You can't see the haircut and the earring when he's got his helmet on."
--McKnight: "I don't care what a guy I play against does off the field. Bosworth's reputation and gimmick have made him a lot of money. He's sure not going to have to work as hard the rest of his life as I am."
"Hey, I'd take advantage of the same thing," Phillips adds. "But then again, is it in your personality to be a creep all the time? Or to be Brian Bosworth all the time? I guess it doesn't bother him."
And in a year, or two, or three, somebody else will come along to muscle Bosworth off his perch atop the romantic pantheon of pro football's beery, rowdy, mythic anti-establishmentarians. There will always be a Bobby Layne, an Alex Karras, a Paul Hornung, a Joe Don Looney, a Lyle Alzado, a Jim McMahon.
More recently, Phillips says, "it's gone from Mark Gastineau and his long hair and his dances to Brian Bosworth and his short hair and his image and his book and all that stuff."
The name of the book, released this summer, is: "The Boz: Confessions of a Modern Anti-Hero." In it, Bosworth says things that will make you laugh out loud no matter what you think of him. He calls toothy Denver quarterback John Elway "Mr. Ed." He describes NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle as having a face that makes him look like "a turtle without the shell."
But Bosworth also talks openly about college teammates at Oklahoma free-basing cocaine on game days and about steroids being passed out like aspirin in the locker room. He claims teammate Buster Rhymes once stopped a snowball fight by firing 150 rounds from an Uzi machine gun over the heads of teammates.
Predictably, Bosworth's former Oklahoma teammates wanted to know why The New York Times best-seller list categorized the book as "non-fiction," and said as much recently in the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I think Brian has just sold out," former Oklahoma kicker Tim Lashar said. "He's writing sensationalistic type stuff just for a buck. And I don't care if it's Brian Bosworth or anybody. It just turns my stomach."
"I think Brian's the type who will say anything for money, even cut down on his friends." said former Oklahoma linebacker Dante Jones, now a Chicago Bear.
Former Charger offensive lineman Sam Claphan makes his off-season home in Norman, Okla. He attended school there. And although he never played on the same team with Bosworth, he still works out at the team's facilities in the off-season.
"(Bosworth) should check himself out in the mirror first," Claphan said. "He should ask himself if he's being truthful or just trying to sell a book. I guarantee what he's saying is totally untrue."