The other day, my wife and I went to a Chicago club to listen to some music. On these occasions, I have two shirts I like to wear. One is a Minnesota North Stars jersey that actually was worn (and, I assume, brawled in) by late-1980s era goon Link Gaetz. The other is a genuine replica Larry Csonka Miami Dolphins jersey.
I got the Gaetz jersey, with fight straps intact and everything, because I thought it was cool. I mean, the dude was known as The Missing Link! I bought the Csonka shirt on eBay about 10 years ago because, as a kid, I was a Dolphins fanatic and Zonk was by far my favorite athlete.
So anyway, Roberta always gives me crap when I pull on one of those shirts. "You wearing that again?" is a pretty typical comment. And I always defend my choice by saying I love those shirts - and I'm not the only one. The event the other night proved my point so solidly that even my bride can't argue with me anymore.
I chose Csonka for this particular show because we were going to see a tribute band that was doing one-hit wonders from the '70s.
We get to the venue and, as we're looking for a seat, one of the ushers comes up to me and says, "Great shirt! Larry Csonka, right?"
About 5 minutes later, another guy who works at the place says, "Csonka ... nice!"
OK, so a couple people noticed. Big deal, right?
About 15 minutes later, some guy comes up to me, tells me how much he loves the shirt and asks me if I know where he could get a Paul Warfield jersey because the former Dolphins receiver was his favorite player. I suggested eBay, and then we chatted a little about those dynastic Dolphins. As the guy and his wife walked away, the woman turned and said her husband had "major shirt envy."
By now, my wife is ready to admit that, yes, it's a pretty cool shirt. But wait ... there's more!
A little later, a guy comes up to me and is gushing about the jersey. He asked if I wore it because it's a 70s night and when I said yes, he stuck out his hand. As we shook hands, he said: "Zonk was the best. That's really a great shirt. Thanks so much for wearing it."
When it comes to wife-and-husband "discussions," I don't win many. But I won that one.
And in a related subject ...
I totally get the angst Cavaliers fans are going through regarding LeBron's future.
After the 1974 NFL season, the two-time Super Bowl champion Dolphins - my team - lost a classic playoff game to the hated Raiders on a heartbreaking, last-second TD. Then things got worse.
A new league, the WFL, had formed and was raiding NFL rosters. The Memphis Southmen - yes, the Memphis Bleepin' Southmen - stole Csonka, Warfield and Jim Kiick from the Dolphins.
Looking back, I believe Zonk's departure was one of the major reasons I became such a cynical sports observer.
The WFL folded the following year, but the damage was done. The Dolphins no longer were contenders. When Csonka came back to the NFL, it was to play for the New York Giants. And I was never the same fan.
Cavs fans might say: "Yeah, like Larry Csonka is even in LeBron's league."
As an athlete, of course not. But Csonka was a one-of-a-kind bulldozer of a fullback, a Hall of Famer, a two-time champion and a franchise icon. James only wishes he had the kind of impact for a championship team that Zonk did in the '74 Super Bowl.
As a 14-year-old worshipper, I was every bit as crushed by Csonka's departure as any Clevelander will be if LeBron leaves. And believe me, I wouldn't wish that feeling on anybody.