Excerpt from Red Zone by Mike Lupica, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Red Zone

By Mike Lupica

Red Zone
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2003,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2004,
    368 pages.

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Underestimated me.

As Casey Stengel, one of the old man's drinking buddies, used to say, You could look it up.

I had finally outscammed the owners who were trying to scam me, including the Christian hard-on who ran the Ownership Committee; beat back Getz; made peace in the family; won the damn Super Bowl, the first the Hawks had ever won; then handed over the day-to-day running of the team to my brother.

You remember our win over the Los Angeles Bangers. Everybody does, mostly because it was acknowledged to be the most exciting finish to an NFL championship game since the Colts-Giants sudden-death game in 1958, the day Johnny Unitas basically invented pro football, at least on television.

It was at that point that I decided I had pretty much conquered pro football, and Annie Kay and I left for Paris. I was actually starting to think about marrying her at that point, even though Billy Grace used to say there were two things he never expected to hear me say.

Two was "Could I get another one of those fruity drinks over here, please? With an umbrella?"

I didn't even bother to hang around for the Hawks' victory parade that went down Fifth Avenue, across Central Park South, then up Central Park West, past the old man's last New York City apartment, ending with the party at Tavern on the Green where our defensive end, Raiford (Prison Blues) Dionne, and veteran offensive tackle Elvis Elgin had that unfortunate episode where they confused one of the female cops sent to quiet the festivities with the kind of strippers often used at bachelor parties. They'd eventually taken her into the chef's office to see what kind of bad underwear she had on underneath her NYPD blues. It was then that they found out Badge No. 362054 was actually the real thing and not part of her costume.

I turned the Hawks over to my brother, because he had wanted to run them his whole life, most of which had been spent kissing up to the old man. He wanted to be there every day. He wanted to be the boss over the long haul. And as much fun as I'd had that first season running with the big dogs, I didn't want to be there over the long haul, just because I didn't want to be anywhere over the long haul.

Or so I told myself.

Big Tim Molloy, the bookmaker's son who'd done it all and seen it all, who'd talked George Steinbrenner into buying the Yankees and sat at the same table with every big-city big guy from Rockefeller to Paley to Trump, had been a born boss. The same with Billy Grace. But I wasn't like them, even if I'd kidded myself into believing I was, at least in the short run. I didn't want to sit in draft meetings and listen to a bunch of bullshit about the salary cap, I didn't want to cut players I knew and liked, even if Pete Stanton, my general manager and chief back-watcher, did the actual cutting.

I didn't want to suck around agents or have them suck around me. I wanted to sit on league committees as much as I wanted to sit through The Nutcracker. Or have my own nuts caught in one.

All this I told myself as I said goodbye to the Hawks.

Annie and I holed up at The Ritz, in a suite directly above the Hemingway Bar. And what was supposed to have been a month in Europe turned out to become a lot more than that. It was fine with Annie, who was switching television jobs at the time and had to wait for her contract with Fox Sports to expire before she could start at CBS. She would remind me every couple of days that she wasn't abandoning her network dreams by becoming my full-time sex slave-the dreams involved becoming Diane Sawyer someday, once Diane went to the home-she was just putting them temporarily on hold.

"I've got to decide whether I'm really in love with you," she said, "or just going through a who's-your-daddy? phase."

I was about twenty years older than she was, but liked to think I kept myself up.

From Red Zone by Mike Lupica. Copyright Mike Lupica 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam Publishing.

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