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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Billick Now on Course for a Successful Lecture Series

March 28, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

PALM DESERT — I wanted to play golf at the NFL's annual get-together with Baltimore Coach Brian Billick, but I wasn't sure I could do it with someone talking during my backswing.

I've known people who write as if they're being paid by the word, but it's not as if you have to finish one of sports editor Bill Dwyre's stories--unless it's important for you to be the first on your block.

I learned early on with the in-laws that when they sit down in the living room, I move to the kitchen. There were times when my father-in-law would begin a sentence without noticing that I had left. Three hours later when I returned he still hadn't put a period on that sentence. My wife insists she is not related to Billick.

With Billick, if you're not listening, he's talking to himself. I mean if Billick says, "hi" before you get the chance to say the same thing, you're going to feel what it's like to be a Trappist monk.

I still wanted to play golf, however, and even though I would prefer to play with someone who knows how to win a Super Bowl, I settled for Raider Coach Jon Gruden. I suppose I could have asked Mike Holmgren if he could have gotten me in touch with Brett Favre, but he might have taken that the wrong way.

Gruden brought along Bruce Allen, a Raider vice president of something or another, who was on a cell phone all day, presumably with Al Davis--to relay to Gruden what club to use on each shot.

I know Davis already knows this, but Gruden isn't much for the vertical game. He has that West Coast kind of golf game, and putts about as well as Rickey Dudley catches a football. When slapped with a penalty because his ball went out of bounds, he tried blaming it on the NFL.

"Who do you think put those white stakes there?" he said, and I think he was serious.

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MOST RAIDER FANS, of course, are bowlers rather than golfers, so they wouldn't understand playing the same big-time course as Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. Reenacting the Battle at Bighorn is probably as good as it's going to get for Gruden and Allen.

Speaking of Bighorn, what's one more Raider massacre to absorb after going against the Mike Shanahan-coached Broncos twice a year?

To be honest, I've now played a scowling Gruden three times, and while Raider fans liken him to that Chucky doll in horror movies, Allen calls him Sparky. I wonder if Davis knows that the big, bad, intimidating Raiders are coached by a guy named Sparky?

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MODESTY, AS YOU might have guessed, prevents me from making a big deal about who won the match for the third consecutive year, which is another reason why I elected not to play Billick. What if Billick had won, and it was up to him to display some modesty?

"My biggest weakness is not admitting my weaknesses," said Billick Monday morning at a breakfast for the league's AFC coaches, as glib, arrogant, egotistical and entertaining as ever.

New England Coach Bill Belichick had a reporter sitting at his table, because on a good, lucid day he might grunt and you wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to put quote marks around that if you were covering the team.

Right now Billick is the beaming Donald Trump of the NFL minus the young babe on his arm. He's smart enough to know everyone thinks he thinks of himself as being smarter than anyone else connected with football, and cocky enough not to disagree. His egotistical and arrogant mentor, of course, was Bill Walsh, nicknamed, "The Genius."

Anyway, it's what makes Billick so engaging, so over-the-top and just shy of insufferable, because let's face it, is there anybody else in the coaching ranks who could win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback?

He has a book coming out in May, "Competitive Leadership," and he said the demand this off-season for him to speak to corporate groups and the money they are willing to pay has been almost beyond his imagination.

At the same time, he went out of his way and called special education teacher Patty Ferris Craw at Redlands High, where he had gone to school, and offered his time if it would help raise funds where needed.

"The people here are still buzzing after listening to him talk last Friday," Ferris Craw said. "We raised $60,000 for athletics in the Redlands Unified School District. He could not have been anyone more gracious."

Imagine if they had received a dollar for every word he said without having to take a breath--they would have tripled that figure.

The school also surprised Billick by retiring his number--17, and advised him he still has the school record for most interceptions with 21. Now I know why he felt so comfortable working with Dilfer--he must have been playing against the likes of that every week in high school.

A year from now they may rename the school for him if the Ravens repeat as champions--at least I'm sure that's what he's thinking.

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THE DODGERS HAVE announced Maury Wills will throw out the first pitch. There was no indication from the team if they have anyone to catch the ball.

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I HAD TO point out to someone the other day that "Enemy at the Gates" is a movie, and has nothing to do with the Raiders being in an L.A. courtroom.

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I HAVE TO apologize, because I was just coming into the room last night when "60 Minutes II" was previewing a story on Laker Coach Phil Jackson.

I thought the announcer said he had a feminine on the side, and I was about to call Jeanie, when I realized they were saying, "there is a feminine side" to him. I don't know who to call about that.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Fred:

"Hey, quit trashing the grocery bagger. My first job was a bagger and I went on to become a lawyer."

My poor daughter.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address:t.j.simers@latimes.com

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