Cigars and Football

Yesterday I invited over my brother and a few good friends, slow cooked a big pot of spicy chili, headed down to the smoking room and turned on the television for two great football games. This is the time of year every game matters, every yard on the gridiron is fought for with passion, and you either win or you go home. And the only way to really watch these big games is with fine cigars.

Football and cigars go hand-in-hand, and I was reminded of that yesterday morning when I read the lead story in the New York Times sports section about Rex Ryan, the bombastic and bold head coach of the New York Jets. It’s a fine piece, by Greg Bishop, and it talks about how Ryan and his duo of defensive coaches have come together over cigars, typically Cubans. The trio talks defense, defense, defense, and they’ve debated the finer points of how to stop 300 pound men from moving the pigskin into their team’s territory for seven years now, most of the time while puffing on cigars.

I was happy to hear that coach Ryan and his crew enjoy cigars, but I was hardly surprised. The list of football luminaries who enjoy a fine smoke is a long one indeed. We’ve written about many of them in the pages of our magazine. Mean Joe Greene, one of the greatest defensive players to ever take the gridiron, learned to smoke cigars as a Pittsburgh Steeler, and was given his first smoke by then-owner Art Rooney. Terry Bradshaw, the blonde bomber himself and Mean Joe’s teammate, also learned about great cigars from Rooney. "He once offered me a cigar; I can't remember what kind. I just liked it," Bradshaw told Cigar Aficionado. "After awhile I knew where he kept his stash in his office and the secretary would let me in to get a handful out of his humidor. My daddy always smoked cigars, but dad's King Edward brand wasn't as good as Mr. Rooney's."

Mike Ditka, a football great turned coaching great, not only enjoys smokes but also had his own line of cigars. Several standout wide receivers who then moved to the broadcast booth enjoy great smokes. Former Cowboy Michael Irvin, former Viking Ahmad Rashad and former Jet and Buc Keyshawn Johnson all developed a love of the leaf.

Now I'm a New York Giants fan, so normally I don't root for the Jets. But the Giants dropped the ball this year, so when I lit up an Arturo Fuente Work of Art yesterday afternoon, I was rooting for the Jets, hoping big, lovable Coach Ryan would have a chance to light up a celebratory smoke with his team after the game. They came out strong, taking the lead over the Colts, but Manning's team was just too strong. The Jets lost, but I hope the cigars were lit and enjoyed anyway, for they played a great game, went deeper into the season than just about anybody thought they would and did themselves proud.

I lit up a San Cristobal Selección del Sol for the second game, Vikings vs. Saints, and was treated to another beauty.

Cigars and football--you can bet I'll be in my smoking room in two weeks ready to watch the fireworks when the Colts take on the Saints in the Super Bowl. I hope you'll do the same.

Jeffrey Gagnon January 27, 2010 10:46am ET
Tell me more about this smoking room. I really need to build one to get through the winter months!
David Savona New January 27, 2010 10:54am ET
It's very simple--my basement is my combination smoking room/gym/work area, as well as the laundry area (hey, you can't have it all). It has heat, a window that opens (helps with exhaust), a very large TV, poker table, tons of cigars, a refrigerator and privacy. One of my good buddies dubbed it "The Bunker," which stuck. It's where you'll find me on weekends. When it gets very smoky ,we open the window and the door, and put on a simple fan, which moves the air out of there.
Gregory Gilfillan Chicago, IL January 28, 2010 7:00pm ET
My basement has been converted into a "man cave" two exhaust fans in the ceiling, 110" projection TV, Poker table, with full kitchen. No women allowed (unless they are naked).
David Savona New January 29, 2010 10:08am ET
Gregory, sounds outstanding. You should send us a photo of the room--we might need to revisit the man cave concept in Cigar

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