I never coached a national college champion. I never built a Super Bowl winner or feuded with my team’s owner in a way that still resonates. But I wrote a book as if I did.

Former Dolphins and UM coach Jimmy Johnson talked to me. I typed like him. It’s an odd form of literary ventriloquism called “ghostwriting,” where he spoke about the heights of winning it all and the depths of a father’s raw tears, and I tried to capture that voice in all its variations.

“SWAGGER,’ the book is called, and go ahead, judge it by the cover in capital letters and Jimmy’s football face with three championship rings on his hands. That’s him.

Of course, as soon as that photo was shot, off came the rings and the stern face, and he looked at the ocean outside his Islamorada home while opening a Heineken Light and holding out another.

“Want one?” he said.

That’s him, too. Here’s the thing when you write a book with someone, when you talk for hours and open closed doors and the subject is as wonderfully complicated as Jimmy: You end up either hating each other or becoming friends sharing a cold one.

Not everyone has the smarts to build championship teams. No one had the personality to do it like Jimmy, either, as his 1988 Miami Hurricanes and 1992 Dallas Cowboy were voted the first- and third most-hated teams in sports by a Sports Illustrated poll.

“How did the Detroit Pistons get in there at No. 2?” he said.

He talked of the psyche behind those teams. He talked of hating the person he became as a champion coach. He talked of standing over his mother’s coffin later as the Miami Dolphins coach, of saying how he needed to love the people who loved him and …

“Hey, we got a fish on,’ he said, interrupting his talk from his 39-foot boat.

It was a tuna, a small one, but it told of the world he invited me into. Another time, we talked on a private plane to Tampa, where he gave a speech to a trucking company. And there was a retirement party for a friend at his Key Largo restaurant, The Big Chill.

We walked through one morning at an annual marine flea market in Islamorada, and he stopped to ask how much a fishing rod cost.

“For you it’s $200, you rich bastard,’ the proprietor said.

He returned a little later …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Dave Hyde: Jimmy and me — how he swaggered, fished, cried and shared a cold one (or two) in our book project

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