Inside the Pigskin Studio

Riggins and Eason Break Their Legs

In the play, the younger brother rises at dawn every day and drills himself to "catch a thousand balls a day, every day" because grit and fight are his only hopes of competing against an older sibling ordained by both parents as the natural athlete in the family. The message seems to be that the scrappy shall vanquish the effortlessly gifted. Or as Bo cries out toward the end, "Bet on the runt every time."

Looking at Eason, with his hunky Doug Flutie face and physique, stripped to the waist for most of the performance (and for a few minutes in just a jock), it's hard to view him as pint-size except by current NFL standards. It's even harder, if you're a Patriot fan, to think of Tony as a passer of mythical finesse. (True, he was the Tom Brady of the '85-'86 season, taking over when Steve Grogan got hurt, and guiding his team to one improbable victory after another. But he was also 0-6 passing in the game of his life—a record for a Super Bowl starting QB.)

No one could argue that the entitlements granted ex-athletes of a certain stature aren't maddening. Whether it's being a guest voice on The Simpsons without ever graduating from the Actors Studio, or playing in celebrity softball tournaments with Cameron Diaz, their opportunities for fun and easy profit are numberless. There are hundreds of wannabe jocks in Hollywood and New York who will ensure that if you played the game you'll get a screen test or callback.

A rush of emotion with Schaula Chambliss in Gillette
photo: Charles Cameron
A rush of emotion with Schaula Chambliss in Gillette

Then again, fame can be fickle. Even Riggins, with a plaque in Canton, a Super Bowl ring, and an MVP award in '83, knows that whatever his future holds as an actor, he will be remembered most fondly by many fans for his off-field moves. When you can make boozy overtures to a Supreme Court justice, put your head in her husband's lap, and fall asleep under a table during a speech by the vice president—and not be arrested but celebrated—you're not only in the entertainment business, you should feel lucky that you are. He will probably never deliver original lines in a theater as well-known as the slurred ones he made during a Washington Press Club "Salute to Congress" in 1983.

"The day I drop dead," says the 51-year-old thespian, "the first line of the New York Times obituary will say, 'John Riggins, the football player who told Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "Loosen up, Sandy, baby. You're too tight." ' I'll be famous for that. That and the Mohawk."

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