Coach's Corner

Coach relates NFL football tips he picked up from a delusional wino he met in a bar in Colorado.

I first made the acquaintance of Cedrick Trout early one morning at the Dancing Bear Saloon in Vail, Colorado. Trout, a thin, mangy fellow with a light-brown scruffy beard, is slouched over the bar, which would not open for some hours. There's nothing in particular unusual about Trout in either appearance or demeanor. Scruffy guys waiting for bars to open are not uncommon … even in Vail. Nobody in the busy saloon, now in the middle of a breakfast rush, paid any attention to Trout -- he was clearly a regular.

Mr. Trout is reading Sports Illustrated for Kids, with Brian Griese and a peel-off sticker for BB Mack on the cover. This prompts me, after some consideration, to approach him. I'm not in the habit of jabbering with strangers, and a solitary month in Vail has done little to alleviate my natural hermit-like tendencies. But the previous afternoon, I'd spent several hours in a frustrating quest for some kind of magazine previewing the football season. Vail has one sorta-real bookstore and several national supermarkets, all containing hundreds of magazines.

Yet, to my growing astonishment, as I traverse the town, east to west, I can't find a single publication devoted to football. For the devotee of snowboarding, hiking, kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, running, wilderness camping, and skydiving the magazine choices are bountiful. But for something as red-blooded American as a pre-season football preview, forget it. And it's not -- as I first assumed -- that the stores had sold out. On the contrary, at each stop along the way perplexed employees seem to consider my question very, very odd. "Huh, football," the bookstore employee said, as if I'd requested a first edition, signed copy of Darwin's Origin of the Species, "Nope, haven't seen any of those."

Which brings us back to Cedrick Trout, intently studying the Kids SI at the Dancing Bear Saloon. He's quite amiable, despite the interruption, in admitting (with no obvious embarrassment) that he's a weekly subscriber to a publication I only recognize because my wife, a fifth-grade teacher, is also a subscriber: Her 11-year-old boys love it. Over the course of the next week, Trout and I exchange thoughts on the upcoming season. Since Mr. Trout holds the only publication on the subject of pro football in the Inter-Mountain West, what follows are mostly his thoughts and comments. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Trout comes from somewhere in rural Louisiana. He dislikes many things Northern, in particular the New York Giants. It's Trout's view that their Super Bowl appearance was a fluke. He calls lover-boy cornerback Jason Sehorn a "big pussy," thinks Sehorn is really Phil Simms' (another pretty-boy pussy) son, and is absolutely convinced that Chris Simms is Sehorn's love child. He refers to Lawrence Taylor as an "apple-wine-guzzling crackhead." (Trout's a bit of a booze snob, favoring peppermint schnapps chased with beer, which he consumes with considerable gusto.) He claims to have shared many Jax beers and procured drugs (Quaaludes and Vicodin) for his Cajun "running buddy" Brett Favre.

After knocking back three beers, which he turned a disgusting shade of blue by topping off the head with shots of blackberry brandy, Trout was calling the Packers a "dead-ass lock for the Super Bowl. Book it Dano." He also claimed to be fishing with Edgerrin James, 10 miles off of Long Bow Key, while James' teammates were sweating in mini-camp. Edgerrin -- according to Trout -- thinks Payton Manning is "a lard-ass honky." Manning (according to Trout) has refused multiple invitations to come down to Coconut Grove and "party" with EJ's homies.

What is Cedrick's team? The Saints, because of his geographical roots? Hardly. He thinks Ricky Williams is a "sniffling, California crybaby," and despises ex-coach Mike Ditka for "ruining the team" after the ESPN: The Magazine cover with Ricky wearing a dress and Iron Mike in a tuxedo. Frankly, I'm astonished Trout's long-term memory goes back that far.

Anyway, if you're surprised Trout's team is the Oakland Raiders, you're not paying attention. Cedrick Trout is Raider fan. I don't mean this as a compliment, a liberty I can take because I'm now 1,200 miles away, safe in Austin. Trout, according to contemporary accounts, comes to the Dancing Bear each Sunday dressed in full Raider regalia. Hat, skull and crossbones, his everyday motorcycle boots. For big games he'll paint his face.

Trout believes Dave Wannstedt is still coaching the Bears -- he's been gone two years -- and he believes that Dave is one of the "all-time great coaches." At this time, on this subject, late on a cold, windy, rainy night, Trout and I part ways, before our conversation becomes any more animated than it already is. Trout, I'm certain, is armed. In fact, he takes pride in using a hunting knife to pick steak grizzle out of his teeth … for lack of a better word. I'm far too old to fight and Trout looks like the hyper-violent type. But Wannstedt is a raw nerve for any Bear fan, which I am. Dave Wannstedt is an idiot, and I've had it with Trout.

For what it's worth, Trout foresees a Super Bowl of Green Bay against the Raiders. His pal Brett Favre, who's "a Raider at heart," will suffer badly, probably "a ruptured spleen" at the hands of the victorious Raiders.

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