By Sam Alipour
Special to Page 2

On the heels of the box office success of "Gridiron Gang," Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is once again playing with the pigskin for Disney's "The Game Plan," a family comedy, in production now, about a pro football QB who discovers he's a dad. That Johnson is in back-to-back football flicks shouldn't even be mildly surprising, because before he was a thespian -- and even before he entertained millions in a leotard -- Johnson was a gridder. Just ask Warren Sapp, his teammate and fellow DT at the University of Miami. Recently, the Blitz helped reunite these two extremely dangerous men.

The Rock. The QB Killa. Run for the hills.

(Warning: Some of the dialogue herein includes lingo unique to The U. This is not for the uninitiated. Disavow all knowledge of U lingo, as it will fry your brain at unfathomable temperatures and many U delinquents will show up at your doorstep with large club-like weapons -- and they will be led by Jeremy Shockey, Lamar "I Was About To Go Down The Elevator" Thomas, and the dude who swung his helmet like an axe in the FIU brawl on Saturday.)

Warren Sapp: Hack'n Gash, brother.

The Rock: Haha, Hack'n Gash.

(Note: This was a battle cry created by WS and DJ. You were warned.)

Sapp: What's up with you, brotha?

Rock: Everything's good man, you at practice?

Sapp: Naw, we at lunch right now. We don't practice until 2 o'clock. Long day today, but you know, the dog gotta eat.

Rock: You healthy?

Sapp: Yeah, I'm healthy now. Tore my rotator cuff last season, so the last five-six months been getting this thing tight again.

Rock: You heard what happened to me right?

Sapp: No.

The Rock
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo
The Raiders might want to try "The Rock" at QB?

Rock: I was up in Boston rehearsing for my new movie, "The Game Plan," where I play a pro quarterback, and you know I've got no business being a QB …

Sapp: (Laughs)

Rock: So, I rolled out on a bootleg, trying to be cute, jumped up and ruptured my Achilles.

Sapp: No!

Rock: Yes, brotha. There's no pain like the Achilles pain.

Sapp: Knock on wood, man. Never want to feel that.

Rock: You won't, man. Just stretch yourself out. You know how to do it.

Sapp: So how did "Gridiron Gang" go?

Rock: It's been going good. I've been on the road promoting this thing. I tried to set up a screening for the Raiders, but you'd just gotten into camp.

Sapp: You know how it is. They don't want to do nothing but football all day, every day, all day. You ain't been doin' movies that long, you know how it is. Hey, who's your fine co-star in this? I know you got a bad lady in there, come on now.

Rock: Not really, but in my next movie I've got Roselyn Sanchez. You know her?

Sapp: I know she look good.

Rock: She look fine as the day is long. She's the girl from "Rush Hour 2."

Sapp: Yeah, yeah, OK! Damn, if I had your hands, I'd cut mine off. (Laughter)

Rock: It's definitely not like our days in Miami. Back then, it was all work. It's weird, man, all of those values we learned there, I've taken that through life. Commitment. Sacrifice. We weren't playing for money. We played because of the love. That's a big reason why I'm here now.

Sapp: You remember the first day I walked into the D-line meeting after they moved me from tight end?

Rock: How can I forget?

Sapp: You were like, "What are you doing in here?"

Rock: And you fell asleep in the very first meeting. (Laughter)

Sapp: Hey, I had a long night. You know, you coulda been one of the greatest D-linemen in college football. You had great skills.

Rock: Yeah, the thing was, I had the greatest D-lineman in the history of the game playing in front of me. No. 99, No. 1 in your heart. I gotta tell you this: People are always asking me if I regret not making it to the NFL because of my injuries at Miami. Let me be clear: It had nothing to do with my injuries. I didn't make it to the NFL because of one man. That's Warren Sapp. Hands down. There's a reason why I'm here right now, and it's because of the grace of God, because you're the best at what you do. And because you came in and said, "You go sit on the sidelines real quick, and I'm going out there to kick some ass."

Sapp: No doubt about it. When we left college, you and I lost touch for a little while. But I got a brotha who was watching wrestling all the time. One day, he's like, "You played with 'The Rock,' right? I'm like, "Man, I don't know no damn 'Rock.' Then I'm watching and I see you talking about "candy-ass" this and that. And I'm like, are you kidding me?! Who is this man?! It was the craziest two weeks of my life watching you.

Rock: (Laughter)

Warren Sapp
Rich Gabrielson/
Bet Warren Sapp misses his Tampa Bay days.

Sapp: I tell you what though, nobody got what you got. Acting is a crazy thing. You get to be the King of Scorpions. You get to be all Walking Tall -- kicking the @#$% out of some country boys (laughter), then you turn around and teach kids football. And your next movie … have you ever heard of a 6-foot 280-pound QB? Are you kidding me? You get to transform your life every five months and be a whole new person. I have to sit in the 3-technique all day, every day, all day long. When you don't like something in a movie, you change the lines. I can't tell a double-team, "OK, can I jump outside of you?"

Rock: (Laughter) Listen, I can't front. It's true, I'm living the dream. But, you're living the dream, too. You've won a Super Bowl. You're a Pro Bowler. There's a one in a trillion shot that you become what you are: The greatest lineman in the history of the game. I'm proud of you man, you're my brother and I love you.

Sapp: I love you too, man.

Rock: And you know we got to end it with this, Miami style: We going to hit, hit stick, and do what?

Sapp: (Laughter) Break stick.

Rock: And what else?

Sapp: Talk @#$%. (laughter)

In his new book "No Excuses," Charlie Weis explains how a guy who never played football in college can teach it, first as a Super Bowl-winning coordinator in New England, then as the head coach in South Bend. Weis also recounts his near-death experience following gastric bypass surgery, and how the love of his family -- and the support of his Patriots -- got him through the ordeal.

Charlie Weis
Matthew Mitchell/
Yep, Charlie does look like he's dropped a few.

"My family kept me going, but football sped up my recovery," says Weis, who was particularly touched by the support of a certain Pats QB. "After getting out of the rehab hospital, Tom [Brady] would come over just to talk. My wife said it was the only time of the day that I'd suck it up and snap out of my depression."

And stop right there. Weis -- who's now a, um, svelte 270 pounds, down from 340 -- knows exactly what you're thinking.

"I've coached one year, went 9-3, and lost a bowl game," says Weis. "When asked to a write a book, I'd always said, 'Wait 10 years until I've done something.' Then the light went on."

Weis' beacon? His developmentally delayed 11-year-old daughter Hannah, and the opportunity to help others with special needs (a portion of the proceeds will go to Weis' charity Hannah and Friends). Adds Weis, "Hannah's been our guiding angel."

The not-so-big dude with the headphones? He's a dad, above all.

The NHL is going to great lengths to remind us that the season is under way -- like hiring hot "Thank You For Smoking" helmer Jason Reitman to shoot two "Game On" spots, and, in one ad, putting Peter Forsberg in bed with a fan's wife.

Interested in going behind the scenes of Jason Reitman's ad featuring Marty Turco? Click here ESPN Motion.

The Canadian-born son of famed comedy director Ivan Reitman, who also shot an ad with Marty Turco, came to hockey for the same reason many of us go to the opera: to knock some skates.

"When I first met my wife, who's a big big hockey fan, she said I wasn't a real Canadian," Reitman says. "So when I was hitting on her, I came to her house one night with a dry-erase board and drew up some plays.

"Basically, I got into the NHL to get laid."

To pay back the league that landed his love, Reitman now consults on the NHL's various marketing campaigns. "I was shocked by how little love the NHL gets from Hollywood and how far behind the NBA they are in the relationship between the fans and the players," continues Reitman. "I'm one of the few guys in Hollywood they come to when we want to get people to care about the sport outside of goals and points."

And as for the acting scorecard: Turco or Forsberg?

"As you know, the Swedes are known for their comedy."

Right. Now, which one is Swedish? And why the hell are we talking about the NHL?

What force of nature could bring Baptist ministers, Biz Markie and Dennis Rodman together under one roof? Mega-mogul Magic Johnson, of course, who brought his various business divisions and charities, partners and friends to the Beverly Hilton for "Magic Evolution," a black-tie gala to celebrate 25 years of biz success.

Magic and Cookie Johnson
Mike Guastella/
Magic and Cookie at "Magic Evolution."

Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Laila Ali, Mayor Antonio Villagrosa, Regina King and Holly Robinson Peete were among those who joined media moguls, music producers and a chump from the Worldwide Leader at the epic four-hour dinner and ceremony, which featured Biz Markie on the ones and twos (but tragically, not his classic "Just a Friend") and a medley of what I believe to be the "hits" of Earth, Wind and Fire. There were also many speakers, video presentations (from Charles Barkley and David Stern, among others), and do-gooders.

I was assigned to a table with Illinois-based animal shelter honcho Lynn Brown and William Turner, a pastor at the New Revelation Baptist Church in Pasadena, Calif. Good peeps, sure, but I'd rather spend four hours trapped in a steel cage with a dozen game hen and Stephen Jackson, so I mostly tailed a tray-toting waitress who was serving up shot glasses. My favorite was a dangerous concoction called "Blood Orange Vodka." Not sure what it was, but it tasted funny and nice, even if I've assured my place in hell for drinking it.

Like me, Pierce logged many minutes at the not-so-open cash bar in the back of the banquet hall, paying close attention to the ceremony while yukking it up with gown-draped mommas.

Warriors point guard and movie producer Davis -- who's currently in production on an untitled Bloods and Crips documentary by "Dogtown and Z Boys" director Stacy Peralta -- gets it.

"This is the last party before the season, and my rule is no partying during the season," says Davis. "So I'm definitely here to party."

And to learn, of course.

"Magic is the posterboy of what a post-NBA career is all about and what we all aspire to be," Pierce confirms. "He's created a blueprint for current players and I definitely plan to follow in his footsteps."

Rick Fox, who's currently enjoying recurring roles on "One Tree Hill" and "Dirt," says he's joined with the Hall of Famer to start a film fund that recently secured the life rights to all-time winningest football coach Eddie Robinson of Grambling. "Magic's continuing to lead, and bringing along others who desire a career out of sports," Fox says. "He's been a mentor to me."

Sure, but has he hooked you up with a Starbucks?

Flanked by his beautiful wife Cookie, Johnson admits that while owning coffee houses, movie theaters and much of the Western World has proved lucarative, he's particularly enjoying his gig as a movie producer. His prized endeavor: The Jason McElwain bio, which sparked a bidding war in June before ultimately landing with Johnson, "Spiderman" producer Laura Ziskin and Columbia Pictures -- and has been sitting on the shelf ever since.

Rick Fox and Dennis Rodman
Mike Guastella/
Rick Fox and Dennis Rodman make quite a pair.

Johnson says that the screenwriter search finally has commenced now that Ziskin has wrapped Spidey 3. "Laura's been busy, so we've been doing research and fact-finding," says Johnson, who admits to getting hit up often by Hollywood pals. "I get asked by everyone to do sports projects, but it's about finding the right one that fits my brand because I have other businesses to keep in mind."

"It's going to be a human interest story that touches everyone and will change things for kids who live with autism," Johnson says of the J-Mac flick. "I mean, coming off the bench to score 20 points in four minutes? That's special. I couldn't do that."

No, but you would've assisted on all of 'em.

Of course, the event was also a Purple-and-Gold orgy, as Lakers' executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak joined Lakers legends James Worthy, Kurt Rambis, and, um, Rodman in celebrating the Magical One.

And, yes, I finally succumbed to an encounter with Rodman.

"I'm here because Magic and me were lovers," he says.


Sam Alipour is based in Los Angeles. His Media Blitz column appears in ESPN The Magazine and regularly on Page 2. You can reach him at