In a record-setting second ‘Big Interview’ appearance in a row, the former Sports Illustrated scribe explains how he got into covering the NFL, fondly recalls his days covering the Joe Montana-led 49ers and opines on the future of professional football in the United States and the United Kingdom.
How did you get into covering the NFL?
I was an intern coming out of Cal and I worked at Newsday on Long Island, which was great. I was kind of hanging out back east, stringing and temping and looking for a gig. I ended up getting hired by the Sacramento Union in the May of 1989 to cover the San Francisco 49ers.
That was the year they were defending their championship and they were about to win their fourth Super Bowl. It was pre-salary cap so they were literally filled with All-Pro backups at certain positions. Their backup nose tackles were Fred Smerlas and Jim Burt who had been to a combined six Pro Bowls.
When we would go on the road we would joke that it was like covering a rock band. They had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice and there would be all sorts of people in the lobby of the hotel. It was really cool.
I had grown up in Los Angeles but I was born in San Francisco and was a rabid 49ers fan as a kid. Obviously, I couldn’t be a fan any more but it still resonated with me that I had a pretty cool gig.
They had a cornerback named Eric Wright, from east St. Louis, Illinois. That was across the river from St. Louis and was a real tough neighbourhood. We instantly bonded and he always used to say, “Silver, why you put so much bullshit in the paper?” I used to say, “Dude, there’s not enough games – we have six days of bullshit between games.”
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