Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer

During his nearly 50 years of sportswriting, including 28 at Sports Illustrated, readers of Dr. Z came to expect a certain alchemical, trademark blend: words which were caustic and wry, at times self-deprecating or even puzzling, but always devilishly smart with arresting honesty. A complex package, that’s the Doctor.
The one-time sparring partner of Ernest Hemingway, Paul Zimmerman is one of the modern era’s groundbreaking football minds, a man who methodically charted every play while generating copious notes, a human precursor to the data analytics websites of today. In 2008, Zimmerman had nearly completed work on his personal memoirs when a series of strokes left him largely unable to speak, read, or write. Compiled and edited by longtime SI colleague Peter King, these are the stories he still wants to see told.
Dr. Z’s memoir is a rich package of personalities, stories never shared about such characters as Vince Lombardi, Walter Payton, Lawrence Taylor, and Johnny Unitas. Even Joe Namath, with whom Zimmerman had a legendary and well-documented 23-year feud, saw fit to eventually unburden himself to the remarkable scribe.
Also included are Zimmerman’s encounters with luminaries and larger-than-life figures outside of sports, notably Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, and Hunter S. Thompson. But not to be missed are Zimmerman’s quieter observations on his own life and writing, witticisms and anecdotes which sway between the poignant and hilarious. No matter the topic, Dr. Z: the Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer proves essential, compelling reading for sports fans old and new.

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2 thoughts on “Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer

  1. RICK “SHAQ” GOLDSTEIN SAYS: SAD SITUATION OF LIFE FOR DR Z… BUT AFTER YOUR PRAYERS… A BIBLE OF SPORTS & FOOTBALL WRITING Dr. Z … Paul Zimmerman… was (you’ll understand the “was” shortly… as he is still with us) a sportswriter for almost fifty-years… twenty-nine of those years with Sports Illustrated. His knowledge and writings as S.I.’s football guru is not only legendary… but after reading this memoir…Well … let me interrupt my own introductory sentences to… share some deeply sad information that makes the opening-introduction of my review… so painful… and uneven. Paul was working on this memoir when he was hit with three strokes in 2008. “Paul cannot read, write or speak. He has no alphabet so he can’t type out words on a computer as Steven Hawking does. Not only is Paul physically disabled and in a wheelchair, but his world is also closed off.” “He suffers from profound aphasia and apraxia. It is even difficult for him to point to his nose. He can clearly understand where his nose is located, but the signal from his brain to his hand to point to his nose becomes scrambled. The toughest part of all of this? The brilliance is still there. He is still as sharp as a whip. He gets the joke before the rest of us do. HE STILL SUFFERS NO FOOLS.”To explain my review to follow… being filled with enormous sadness… joy… appreciation… total sports… AND LIFE… entertainment… to a sports and literary junkie… also is drenched in personal agony… that unfortunately increases with each dose of written greatness… throughout this book.The old saying…. “THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF G-D GO I”… goes shooting through my blessed mind and soul continually…. As I absorb the beauty of this book. Fourteen years ago… I was diagnosed with a brain tumor… and almost died during the surgery. Before the surgery… I told my son and my surgeon… that I would rather die… being that I’ve always been blessed with a lightning quick mind… than be locked in a body and muted… I was blessed with full recovery. I get cold-hot-chills… as the greatness of Dr. Z’s historical words and observations are emanating from these pages. (Edited by friend and colleague Peter King) Realizing the tortuous hell on earth poor Paul Zimmerman is going through… as I had my own very real nightmares of possibly facing such a physical and mental sentence.With that understanding being shared with potential readers… let me try to give you a brief summary of this book. It is an absolute dream of a read for any great sports fan. GREAT… because Paul writes… and feels… and explains… the mixed intricacies… of sports… integrated with life… whether … from not just telling you who the greats of football were and are… but why… and I mean “WHY”! When you get done reading the section on “ALL-TIME TEAMS”… you will never be able to accept any of the other myriad All-Pro type teams selected by others… mostly based on a popularity contest. After my fifty-five -plus-years… of living… dying… and playing sports… I now firmly do not believe that anyone has ever put in as much… study and research and preparation when picking these type of teams… as the infamous Dr. Z.Aside from the ripped from the headlines sports stories… the reader will marvel and enjoy… his stories of boxing with Ernest Hemingway… arguing with owners and players… his idolizing early in his career… of sports writing greats like Jimmy Cannon… and perhaps my favorite… his rightful desecration of the airline industry… that I and every frequent-flyer… who is tall… and has a brain… and an ounce of logic… agrees with in spades. His stories covering the Olympics were master pieces… especially the 1972 Munich Massacre Olympics… which I have always carried within my heart and mind from that fateful day September 5, 1972… for reasons above and beyond… that I won’t go into here.There are so many absolute classic quotes from writer’s heaven… that I would like to go on and on and share with you… but I’ll just tease you a little with this one about the ALL-TIME-GREAT-TOUGHEST-QUARTERBACK-JOHN-UNITAS…After Unitas was cut by the Steelers he played sandlot-semi-pro football…“Five years later, after Unitas had led the Baltimore Colts to two NFL Championships, Eagles quarterback Norm Van Brocklin was asked what made Unitas so great.” “He knows what it’s like to eat potato soup seven days a week” the Dutchman replied. “Unitas became synonymous with toughness on the field for stepping up in the teeth of the rush and delivering the ball. “ “I often thought that sometimes he’d hold the ball one count longer than he had to,” Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Merlin Olsen once said, “just so he could take the hit and laugh in your face.”“I KEPT A PICTURE OF JOHNNY U OVER MY BED,” NAMATH ONCE SAID. “TO ME HE MEANT ONE THING—TOUGHNESS.”I hope the type of toughness that Dr. Z respected throughout his life… helps him in this awful battle he’s locked in. I thank… as every sports fan should… Peter King… for taking the time and the empathy… to put this…

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