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Catching It All

Ahmad Rashad has gone from all-pro receiver to all-network announcer.
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 3)

"Everyone knows that Michael and I are the very, very best of friends," says Rashad. "So they see us doing an interview and say 'how can he ask him tough questions if they are good friends?' I asked him the same questions that anyone else would have asked. I took the questions, I showed them to the producer [Rick Diamond]--we wrote them up together--and I said 'do you think we should ask him anything else?' He said no. Diamond agreed with me that had anyone else done it they would have asked the same questions. They have a couple of gangs, a couple of talk-radio stations here--Fat Dog and the Mike Man--whatever the hell they are. They like went off on me for two weeks."

Says Albert: "It's tough. As his friend, I would probably not have done the interview." Then he jokes: "I would like to have seen Ahmad with the sunglasses, instead of Jordan." One thing seemed certain. There would not have been an interview if not for Rashad.

But then because television is, as Rashad says, "subjective," he later drew praise from some of the same people who had criticized him. When Rashad grilled Scottie Pippen for taking himself out of the final 1.8 seconds of the Knicks-Bulls playoff game last spring, New York Post writer Phil Mushnick praised him.

What he won't talk about at all is his friendship with O. J. Simpson, who was his roommate when they played together on the Buffalo Bills in 1974 after Rashad's unhappy stint with the St. Louis Cardinals. "O. J. and I were very good friends, and he knew I was going to quit pro football," recalls Rashad. "He said 'don't quit; maybe we can get you here.' " Rashad was traded to Buffalo, but he tore up his knee that season. The friendship endured even though Rashad moved on to Minnesota in 1976. "He was the best man at my wedding in December 1985," says Rashad, expressing some surprise that he's been spared grilling by the media about his friend. But all that Rashad will say about the murder charges leveled against Simpson is "I have no comment."

There are viewers who think that "crossover guys" like Rashad can't really be taken seriously. The notion here is that basketball is an intellectual exercise akin to splitting the atom. Actually Rashad thinks it's an accomplishment that people look at him announcing basketball and forget that he was a football player. It means he has crossed over.

"We used to have a coach who said 'the ship is sailing,' " says Rashad. "What that meant was the ship is sailing with or without you. You're on the boat or you're not on it. Well, that became my saying. The ship is sailing. Hey, we're out of here," he says, recalling his thoughts about his future during one NFL year when he suffered a knee injury. Then his next thought was "let's make sure I've got another boat to get on."

With NBA basketball, NFL football, "Notre Dame Saturday," "NBA Inside Stuff" and "NBA Off the Court," Rashad is now sailing a fleet.

Ken Shouler is an author and regular contributor to Cigar Aficionado. He lives in White Plains, New York.

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