Outside the Lines:
Thurman Thomas ... Northern Exposure


Here's the transcript from Show 148 of weekly Outside The Lines - Thurman Thomas ... Northern Exposure

SUN., JAN. 26, 2003
Host: Bob Ley, ESPN
Reporters: Tom Rinaldi and Bob Holtzman
Guests: Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Jerry Kramer, former Green Bay Packer.

ANNOUNCER - January 26, 2003.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- Inside the 10, touchdown, Buffalo.

BOB LEY, HOST- Thurman Thomas was a Super Bowl fixture, an NFL warrior through 13 seasons.


LEY- Now he faces a new battle.

THURMAN THOMAS- I just realized today, that I'm truly, 100 percent, an alcoholic.

LEY- Also this week -- many epic NFL games are remembered for the inclement weather but never the Super Bowl. Now momentum is growing to play a Super Bowl outdoors in the cold.

WARREN SAPP, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSIVE TACKLE- Nobody wants to do that. That's bad. This is our grandest game in the grandest sport in the world.

PAUL TAGLIABUE, NFL COMMISSIONER- It requires everybody to understand that you don't go with Bermuda shorts and you don't go looking for Mai-Tais.

LEY- Today on OUTSIDE THE LINES, the Super Bowl's northern exposure and the challenge of retirement for the veteran of four Super Bowls, Thurman Thomas.

When the Buffalo Bills owned the AFC, no one typified the blue-collar championship resolve more than Thurman Thomas. He knows the feeling of this particular morning very well. He played in four consecutive Super Bowls. In fact, he scored in four straight Super Bowls and 12 years ago against the Giants, he accounted for nearly 200 yards from scrimmage. When he retired following the 2000 season, one final year with the Dolphins, Thurman Thomas got his wish, he signed a one-day Buffalo contract and left the NFL as a Bill to await his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On this Super Bowl Sunday for the first time, Thomas discusses the void that opened in his life when he left football and as he tells Tom Rinaldi how that changed him.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- Thomas, breaking tackles.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- Oh, look at him. What thrills.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- To the goal line.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- In for a touchdown! Thurman Thomas.

TOM RINALDI, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - He was always running -- for 13 NFL seasons, for more than 12,000 yards. But when the huddle broke up forever, Thurman Thomas found himself running into a very different life.

THOMAS- Man, I found that I was just -- I was completely out of control.

RINALDI- When he retired two years ago, Thomas walked away from a Hall of Fame career where he spent all but one season in Buffalo. He walked into a life suddenly without football. He didn't fully understand his career was over until the next preseason began without him.

THOMAS- I think at that point, it got to me. Because I wasn't there. You know, I wasn't being reported on. I wasn't in the Bills' training camp. I wasn't in the Dolphins training camp. I was at home watching all of this unfold.

RINALDI- At home in Florida, Thomas took care of his family, played golf, and bitterly missed the competition and camaraderie of football. He'd lost his purpose.

THOMAS- I just didn't have that feeling of waking up every day and saying, all right, I got to do this. I had nothing to do. I was just sitting at home every single day.

RINALDI- Thomas describes himself as a social drinker during his career. In 1988 in his rookie season, he pleaded no contest to a DUI in Oklahoma. But more than a decade later, he would replace the thrill of playing with a habit of drinking.

THOMAS- It got to the point where I'd drink a lot of diet cokes. And then what would I do? I would fill the -- I would drink half of the diet coke and fill the other half with alcohol. Went to Vegas and we were going out to restaurants, having dinner, whatever, I kept excusing myself to go to the bathroom, which in reality I wasn't going to the bathroom, I was going to the bar. yes. And those are the things that I have never did before.

RINALDI - Why did you drink?

THOMAS- Because I liked to drink. About as simple as I can get. I like to drink. I like to have the feeling that it made you inside, what they call, getting a little buzz, you know? Making you feel powerful.

RINALDI - For more than a year, Thomas' family noticed the difference in him and knew the source. In November, his wife, Patty, asked him to seek help by entering a treatment program.

THOMAS- I didn't want to go. Because I didn't think I had a problem. I was always questioning everybody, you know, why are you bothering me? Let me live my life. I'm not doing anything to hurt anybody.

RINALDI- He reluctantly agreed to get help with a message from his daughters.

THOMAS- The day before I left, I talked to my wife and I talked to my two oldest daughters, Olivia and Angel, and I said 'Daddy has to go away for a while. Do you know where daddy has to go away for?' And Olivia, she just sat back and she didn't really say anything. I said, 'No, honey, I want you to be honest with me, do you know what I got to go away for?' And she said, 'Drinking?'

RINALDI - Thurman, that moment, what did that moment do to you?

THOMAS- It made me feel like a real, real bad person. Knowing that my 13-year-old Olivia and my 11-year-old Angel could see that I was a different person. That I wasn't acting like the normal dad that they had had before that. It just made me feel really bad that has a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old could see the changes and knowing in the back of my mind that I was trying to hide something from them, but they knew. That probably hurt more than anything. And that was really -- that was probably the turning point of my life.

RINALDI- When did you understand you were an alcoholic?

THOMAS- Probably about a week after I was in treatment. I stood up and said, 'I just realized today that I am truly a 100 percent an alcoholic.' And everybody clapped. I got hugs after the session was over. And I just felt like that was a big, big weight off of my shoulder.

RINALDI - In December, just weeks after returning from rehab, Thomas went public at a college football luncheon in his honor.

THOMAS- I went through a phase in my life where I was drinking a lot and not really remembering a lot of things.

THOMAS- Once I started the speech you could see mouths just go like...

THOMAS- There's more to life than football and I just realized that coming back from Minnesota at an AA program for 28 days.

THOMAS- I wanted to let people know I had a problem, but I also wanted them to know that I want to help people that have a problem.

RINALDI- So, he's not running anymore. And he's not drinking. Thurman Thomas says he's been dry for two months. He's following his program, living one day at a time, and trying to find a new purpose to replace an old passion.

THOMAS- You can look at me any way you want. I'm Thurman Thomas, the human being, I'm Thurman Thomas, a person, that doesn't play any sports anymore. I can help people, I want to help people.

LEY- Thurman Thomas owns a business that offers training to the athletes in an area of leadership and stress management. So far he's worked with 40 colleges and a dozen pro teams and he hopes to incorporate what he's learned in his alcohol rehabilitation into his training curriculum.

Now, his NFL legacy was written in the chilly autumns and winter winds of Buffalo but Thurman Thomas played in Super Bowls that were staged in the outdoor warmth of Tampa and Pasadena and inside the domes of Minneapolis and Atlanta. Apparently, only cities with a mean January temperature of 50 degrees or better may host an outdoor Super Bowl. Come this fall, the NFL may waive that rule in considering New York City and Washington, D.C. for the 2008 game. It's an idea given impetus in the wake of 9/11 and one as Bob Holtzman reports does spark a debate.

BOB HOLTZMAN, ESPN CORRESPONDENT - There are two things you can count on regardless of the weather, the mailman delivers mail Monday through Saturday and on Sunday they play football.


HOLTZMAN- But this year, just like the past 36 years, the Super Bowl will be played in near perfect conditions in San Diego. As always, the forecast calls for a high around 70 degrees. Across the country, inside a painfully cold Giants stadium, it hasn't been 70 degrees for almost four months and probably won't be until April. Still, despite the frigid temperatures, the New Jersey Sports and Expedition Authority is working hard to have the Super Bowl here.

Do you have any concerns at all about hosting a Super Bowl in conditions.

GEORGE ZOFFINGER, PRESIDENT, NEW JERSEY SPORTS AND EXPOSITION AUTHORITY- No. We actually had a good dress rehearsal for the Jet playoff game.

We had a massive snowstorm came in, ice before. We got the place cleaned up. The parking lots were open at 10:00 in the morning. Everybody was happy. And the Jets won the game. Some of the greatest games of all time have been played in cold weather, and you know, you look back at the Giants-Colts in 1958, go to -- up to New England last year, that was a great game.

CHARLIE GARNER, OAKLAND RAIDERS RUNNING BACK- We lost the football game, but I had a great time out there. And I'm pretty sure a lot of guys did.

HOLTZMAN- Same can't be said for Dan Reeves and the Cowboys 35 years ago in the Ice Bowl. The temperature for the NFL championship game -- minus 13.

DAN REEVES, ATLANTA FALCONS HEAD COACH, PLAYED WITH DALLAS COWBOYS 1975-1971- I think we were fortunate that somebody didn't get really seriously injured. We had guys who had frostbite. But to me, that's not -- that's not football.

UNKNOWN ANNOUNCER- First throw of the game. And he misses Winthrow.

HOLTZMAN- This wasn't football either, the AFC Championship game between the Chargers and the Bengals was the coldest on record, when winds drove the wind chill at Riverfront Stadium to 59 below.

JIM CANTORE, METEOROLOGIST, THE WEATHER CHANNEL- We're going to struggle to get above 10 degrees with wind chills that are dangerous today. We will have a live report coming up.

HOLTZMAN- Jim Cantore is a meteorologist at the weather channel and has studied how weather can impact a football game. He says rain and cold can cause dehydration. Snow and ice can cause frostbite. And neither is what you want for a well-played Super Bowl

CANTORE- And January is the coldest month of the year and we have, in the wintertime spaced between the periods of cold, you have the deep cold like we are having now in Chicago. So is more of this lined up over Super Bowl weekend? It very well could.

JOHN LYNCH, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS SAFETY- You know, I think it would be great. It sounds funny for a team that just won their first game under 40 degrees. But, hey, the monkey is off our back, so bring it on.

CHARLES WOODSON, OAKLAND RAIDERS CORNERBACK- I think every Super Bowl should be played in either Miami or San Diego. It's the best weather, the best towns. You know you're going to get a great crowd. That's the way it should be.

DERRICK BROOKS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS LINEBACKER- I think if you're in the Super Bowl, I don't really think you are caring about the weather. You're out there to play, you're out there to win.

HERMAN EDWARDS, NEW YORK JETS HEAD COACH- Think about it, if the conditions are very, very bad, obviously it's not a high-scoring game. Sometimes it's one of those which we call the mudder, it's a mudder game. Most fans don't like to see mudder games.

HOLTZMAN- Most fans don't like sitting outside for hours at a time when it's as cold as New York in January.

KAYE BURKHARDT, CORPORATE MEETING PLANNER- I remember going to Green Bay Packers games and sitting in the cold. I don't think people -- the public doesn't want to do that anymore. They ...

HOLTZMAN- Kay Burkhardt owns a company that organizes corporate trips to places like the Super Bowl. This week in San Diego, she planned events for about 300 people. She's been to 18 Super Bowls, including Detroit's in 1982 and says cold weather sites inspire less interest from corporate clients.

BURKHARDT- The elements are certainly a detraction. They've got to make arrangements so that those elements don't affect people coming to that destination.

SAPP- People this is our grandest game in the grandest sport in the world. It must be promoted in the warmth -- California, Texas, Florida -- come on.

HOLTZMAN- But the NFL is thinking seriously about it. Despite dangerously cold wind chills in places like New York this week, we could see a cold weather Super Bowl as soon as 2007 or more likely 2008.

TAGLIABUE- You don't go in Bermuda shorts and you don't go looking for Mai-Tais. You go like you're going to the winter Olympics. You dress accordingly, because that is the mindset. So we think it can work.

HOLTZMAN- George Zoffinger thinks it can work, too. A new turf field goes in at the Meadowlands this winter and they're starting to look at designs for a $200 million renovation that may ultimately attract the first outdoor cold weather Super Bowl.

So you fully expect in the next five, six years, there will be a Super Bowl right here.

ZOFFINGER- We're going to do everything we can to make an easy decision for the NFL. They're good partners of ours. This stadium, particularly, with two NFL teams is a great place to have a game. We've got a lot of tradition here. We've been doing improvements to the stadium. We're going to do everything we can to make it a good solid bid for the game.

LEY- The wind was whistling. A Super Bowl at the Meadowlands? Today the mean temperature in East Rutherford, New Jersey might rise above freezing for the first time in 15 days. Kickoff temperature -- well, the forecast would be for 35 degrees dropping through the game with light snow possibly developing. This evening, at kickoff today, temperature in the mid 70's. Remember the Ice Bowl back in 1967? Packers-Cowboys. When we continue, a player whose legend was born in that game joins us to talk about the possible cold weather Super Bowl.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY SUPER BOWL COMMISSION- What's the drawback? Well, it might be cold. The last time I checked, football was a cold weather sport.

LEY- Senator Charles Schumer of New York state has advocated a New York Super Bowl for well over a year. Senator Schumer now joins us live this morning from New York City. Good morning, sir.

SCHUMER- Good morning.

LEY- We are also joined by Jerry Kramer, the former Green Bay Packer who threw arguably the most famous block in NFL history, leading Bart Starr into the end zone in the 1967 championship game against Dallas. The fabled Ice Bowl. Jerry Kramer is in Denver. Good morning, Jerry.

JERRY KRAMER, GREEN BAY PACKERS GUARD 1958-1968- Good morning, Bob.

LEY- Jerry, let me begin with you. You have played under extreme conditions and you attended a cold weather Super Bowl. You went to the one in Pontiac. Give me the difference in perspective as a player and as someone going to a Super Bowl to get some business done, and where do you come down on this issue?

KRAMER- Well, you know, a game -- I love the extreme temperatures and the extreme weather to play in a game. I just really enjoyed that. To go to a Super Bowl, it's much more than just a game, it's not a three or four hour function, it's a four, five, six, seven day function depending on the individual. You can't get a hotel for less than three to five days. So it's not just the three to four-hour period, it's a several day period. And the last time I'll ever go to Detroit for a Super Bowl is the last one they had. I am a warm weather guy.

LEY- Senator, you're not. You want to bring one to New York City. Why?

SCHUMER- Well, it started -- I called for this to happen right after 9/11, because we wanted everyone to show solidarity with New York, and the NFL and the Players' Association were just great about it. But it's sort of taken a momentum on its own and lots of people feel that football is a cold weather sport. You know, the football players, like Jerry, I'll never forget the block he made against Jethro Pugh and let Bart Starr go in, are our gladiators these days.

You know, the baseball they called off extra innings in the All-Star game and the NBA guys won't play in the World Cup. But our football players are our toughest guys. Playing it in the cold weather, having the iffy conditions of wind, rain, and snow every so often, not all the time, I think adds to the game. I don't know if you'd get cheese heads in the 80-degree temperature in Arizona, and when someone takes off their shirt in Miami it's nothing. But when they take off their shirt in December to show the Bills color, it's something -- it adds something to the game.

LEY- But Senator, how does business get done at the Super Bowl. Usually it gets done on the golf course. That certainly wouldn't happen with wind chills in the teens. And as Jerry mentioned, it's a weeklong corporate affair as well.

SCHUMER- Jerry is right, although if you ask Paul Tagliabue, I mean, New York, I think business people come to New York year round and we show them a great time. It's not playing golf but there's Broadway, and there is shopping, and there is all sorts of museums and stuff like that. I think they'd have a great time and I think business would do well.

LEY- Jerry, having been at those Super Bowls and many others, what do you think are the chances of people being excited at that prospect of coming to New York where as we said this week, temperatures just today rising over freezing for the first time in two weeks.

KRAMER- Well, what do you prefer? Do you like cold, ice, wind, snow, or are you a sunny and warm guy? I think most of the nation prefers sunny and warm. Again, I love the games and I love the extremes and I don't have a problem playing in the extreme weather, but -- and I love to ice fish. And I have skied and I snowmobile on occasion. But when I go to the Super Bowl, I go to have a good time and to meet old friends and to be able to walkout doors from place to place wearing my shorts, riding a convertible, and enjoy the whole week. And it's just a different function than a single game.

LEY- Senator, what sort of conversations have you had? I know you talked to the commissioner. Have you spoken with any owners outside of the New York City area? Owners?

SCHUMER- Yes, I've spoken to owners down in south and in the north, and they've been terrific, because -- I mean this was something special and is something special. In New York, we're still healing from the terrible wounds that we faced on 9/11. Coming to New York would be a real gesture for the NFL. It goes beyond...

LEY- But sir, we all recognize that. But still you're talking about a game that would be so many years down the future. So economically and also spiritually, that effect really wouldn't be so immediate at that point.

SCHUMER- Well, I hope we will never don't forget 9/11, many conventions down the years are planning to come here. But I think in reference to Jerry's point, I think that people would have a great time in New York. And I would say this, look at the playoff games. They're played in cold weather. They're great games, and I just think -- I'm not saying it should be in cold weather every year, but having it in cold weather one out of three or something, I think that would add, not detract from the game.

I think the fans would love it. I think that the players understand that that is part of the game, Vince Lombardi -- you know, the Green Bay Packers built football into what it was. Vince Lombardi comes from my neighborhood in Brooklyn. And I don't know if -- I think part of that allure, not all of it. It was great players like Jerry, but part of that allure was playing in the tough weather and showing how tough you could be.

LEY- Jerry, what do you make of the players we heard in the report that said, no way? Keep it warm.

KRAMER- Well, you know, I pretty much agree with them. I'm a warm weather guy. I love the game in Green Bay and obviously the history and tradition of that game, the notoriety of that game over the years had something to do with the 57 below zero chill factor. And it was played in those conditions and it was a sensational ball game between two great football teams. And the game itself was a wonderful game.

But the three or four days or five days leading up to the game, what are you going to do? What are you going to do in Detroit for four or five days? What are you going to do in -- you know, New York is a great city, and I certainly understand the 9/11 concept. And I'm sympathetic to that and I agree with that. But if we do have it in the cold weather, I'm going to Miami to play golf and I'll watch it on TV.

LEY- All right, we have about 15 seconds. Quickly -- it is the birthright of every American to give a Super Bowl pick. Senator, yours today?

SCHUMER- Well, I hope Tampa Bay, but I believe Oakland will win.

LEY- And Jerry?

KRAMER- I'm kind of a Tampa Bay fan today.

LEY- All right. Senator Chuck Schumer and Jerry Kramer. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

KRAMER- Thank you, Bob.

LEY- And when we continue, your thoughts on last week's look on the state of officiating in the National Football League.

SHARAR HAYDAR, FORMER IRAQI SOCCER PLAYER- Every single day I've been beaten, my feet, and a -- 20 a day. And I'm not allowed to eat or drink, just a glass of water and piece of bread.

LEY- That charge was typical of the many contained in Tom Ferry's report last month, allegations that Uday Hussein, the head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee and Saddam's son, has systematically tortured Iraqi athletes. This week thee ethics committee of the International Olympic Committee began an investigation of these charges brought to its attention by a human rights group.

Now, last Sunday in the wake of officiating questions in the NFL playoffs, we examined what changes if any might be needed, and these comments to our e-mail inbox -- from Indiana- "I think that fact that you've got 40, 50 and 60+ year old men trying to keep up with 22 world class athletes, it's definitely a problem."

From Houston- "The NFL seems to be striving for robotic, errorless officiating, which is totally unrealistic. A questionable call by an official is part of the game, just like bad weather conditions, injuries and a home crowd."

And a pithy observation from Fairfield, Ohio- "You spent 30 minutes on solving the NFL referee problems and Donovan McNabb had it right in the first three seconds. Let the officials call the game and move on."

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