Within the pro football community, competition and outworking your opponent are usually the norm including within the media. It seems 365 days a year football media types are competing for scoops, news, and inside information. But there are times when differences and allegiances are put aside to bring the football world closer together. No I am not talking about the over-glamorized Super Bowl week festivities that serve as the unofficial NFL convention each year. The perfect setting for all walks of professional football to meld recently was in West Orange, NJ of all places on the evening of Thursday May18th.
In an event at Mayfair Farms organized by veteran NFL Senior Writer Peter King over $150,000 dollars was raised in efforts to help support pro football writers’ grandfather Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman in his battle to recover from three strokes. As many of you know Dr. Z is a Hall of Fame football writer of over three decades, who brought the game to the masses with his eloquent and sometimes quirky writing in Sports Illustrated. Zimmerman made football writing not just bone-jarring hits, Collective Bargaining Agreements, formations, injuries, and other Sunday Morning gridiron staples, but through his passion and dedication to the sport he turned football into Hemmingway – BTW: DR Z as a young lad sparred with Ernest Hemingway in a Manhattan gym. Unfortunately the strokes have left Dr. Z unable to speak or write at this time, but the football community from Top Television Executives to Bloggers wanted to help the Zimmerman Family battle their ever-growing bills related to Paul’s recovery.
I always liked football growing-up while being regaled of old-time football stories from my grandfather, who was a former player himself. But it was Dr. Z through my many years of reading his Sports Illustrated pieces that made the sport I loved jumped off the pages of the weekly magazine and into my heart. I was even lucky enough later on in my writing career to meet my fellow Pro Football Writers of America (PWFA) member in of all places the food line at the NFL Draft where we shared our thoughts on the 2006 Draft Class and discussed why there were not enough sandwiches and cold drinks in the media breakroom. It is sad to think Dr. Z may not be able to continue to provide the verbal and written sparring on the NFL that so many have embraced over the years. Zimmerman saw the game grow from being college football’s dirty cousin into today’s America’s Game where millions revolve their weekends around the NFL. With his pen, typewriter, and later computer – we all probably have a strong sense of “how” much an old school scribe like “Z” loved laptops, not – Dr. Z made the violent world of the NFL into an art.
Hopefully Dr. Z has much more writing left in him and he will be able to add to his celebrated seven books on the NFL, including the quintessential The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football, will not be his last. I know the entire NFL community including the many (Yogi Berra, NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol, Dick Vermeil, Sal Paolantonio, Adam Schefter, NY Times’ K.C. Joyner, Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz and many others) that donated their time and money on May 18th are pulling for one of the NFL’s toughest scribes to write about one more comeback.
NFL Films head Steve Sabol recently remarked about the benefit, “It’s nights like this that make me proud to have anything to do with the National Football League”. Sabol will also try to continue raising funds to help Dr. Z by making the gracious donation of selling off some of his personal artwork – http://www.stevesabolart.com/
Others wanting to contribute to Dr. Z’s recovery and/or wish him well can send checks/notes to:
Dr. Z/Nothing is Impossible Foundation
21 Pine St.
Rockaway, N.J. 07866
June 25th Update on Dr. Z from Peter King
Dr. Z: Paul Zimmerman had a setback two weeks ago, suffering a seizure at the breakfast table. He had to spend some time in the hospital near his Mountain Lakes, N.J., house, and he is now back home, continuing rehab and experimenting with some new medication to try to find the right balance, as stroke patients often have to do. It’s a battle for him right now, and your warm wishes are appreciated. I’ll be visiting him next week, and if you’d like me to bring along your wishes, send them to me via Twitter, and I’ll print them out and take them to Zim. If you know people who love Zim, please encourage them to send along a Tweet. Thanks. As of now, he’s still rehabbing hard, concentrating on his speech, studying the morning papers and trying to decipher them, and planning a trip for concentrated therapy later this year at a special program at the University of Michigan — a program the generosity of fans like you made possible
Keep up the fight Dr. Z our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)