Dr. Z: A book review by Bob Morris

Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer
Paul Zimmerman with Peter King (Editor)
Triumph Books (2017)

A compelling self-portrait of a sportswriter who had “a real problem with authority”…or something

The title of this brief commentary is taken from a small but significant portion of the memoirs that Paul Zimmerman was unable to publish before his death. Once he was fixed up with a blind date, someone who, it turned out, was a psychiatrist. They didn’t hit it off during what proved to be “two tedious hours.” At one point she asked, “You know you have a real problem with authority?”

“Of course I knew it. Authority on both ends. I didn’t like others to boss me around and I didn’t like having to do the same.”

Those who share my high regard for Zimmerman’s talents as a sportswriter owe a great debt of gratitude to Peter King – one of his closest friends as well as Sports Illustrated colleague – who somehow managed to recover, edit, and get published this “lost memoirs of an irreverent sportswriter,” accompanied by several of Zimmerman’s classic columns. When King read the manuscript, he told Zimmerman’s wife Linda, “We’ve got to get this published. We have to.”

And so they did.

What we have in a single volume are

o Zimmerman’s coverage of the Olympics in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), and Moscow (1980)
o “Six Quarterbacks Who Changed the Game”: Sid Luckman, Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, and Doug Williams
o Zimmerman’s all-tine NFL offensive and defensive teams
o His personal encounters with Vince Lombardi, Walter Payton, and Lawrence Taylor (not previously shared)
o His personal encounters with others, such as Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, and Hunter Thompson
o Dozens of anecdotes, observations, and per peeves
o Also, a remarkable amount of autobiographical material (e.g. childhood, education, football career, pre-SI years)

However controversial Paul Zimmerman’s opinions may have been, and many of them were, I share his contempt for jazzed up, drawn-out renditions of the national anthem. Leola Giles was clocked at 2:34.8 at an Oakland Raiders game. “Give me that nice 43-second ‘To Anacreon in Heaven” without all that mooing and hooing and ‘oh-oh-oh-say-ay ay-ay?’ But I guess most people don’t agree with me, at least the ones who think I’m nuts. ‘Or something.’”

* * *

Peter King: “Paul Zimmerman began writing his memoir in 2006 before suffering a series of debilitating strokes in 2008. Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer is this unfinished manuscript in its entirety. When relevant, supplementary material from Paul’s SI.com and Sports Illustrated work has been added.”

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