Fame according to Dan Pastorini

Football Field

The thing about life in the fast lane is no matter who you are, or how much fame and money you have, it ultimately always catches up to you.

That much was true during Dan Pastorini’s heyday, but because of the media fish bowl the world has become, it is even more true today. That’s not to say that Pastorini’s lifestyle was without truly significant contributions to people’s lives. As chronicled in Taking Flak, often times the brash or outspoken lifestyle masks an inner desire to find peace and happiness. And while the wild times may grab more headlines, the much quieter charitable and giving moments affect people deeply.

The problem is, fans and critics seem much more willing to permanently label someone whose indiscretions make news, rather than understand that that person has a side to him that reflects what truly makes him tick as a person.

It’s easier to pass harsh judgment in today’s world, rather than try to get to know a person and understand everything he or she brings to society.

When Pastorini says, “The game is different today than it was then,” he’s not just talking about the games on the field.

“The media today seems to be more like predators in finding more about the negative aspects of the stars of today’s games,” Pastorini said. “In my day, the media sometimes turned a blind eye. Maybe because they were doing the same things. There were some media always around, but not as many as today. My advice is stay out of harms way and find someone you can really trust for advice and pay them well. The days of wine and roses don’t last forever!”

Equally as important, Pastorini says, is to understand that it’s what you are not who you are that brings as much acclaim as criticism.

“I’m sure most if not all the opportunities I had came solely because of what I did in football,” he said. “And that continues today.”

A significant message that Pastorini’s book, Taking Flak, drives home is that every celebrity — like every person — succumbs to human flaw. But knowing that there’s much more inside that person can reveal a sympathetic and inspiring truth.

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The anatomy of a celebrity

Red carpet

The most interesting and potentially explosive dynamic about celebrity in today’s world is that often times, the celebrity becomes one reluctantly, or by accident. When the world as we know it often is described in 140-character missives on Twitter or viral candid videos, if something is perceived as “hot,” then the focal point can become an overnight sensation. For example, New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin or Jets quarterback Tim Tebow both have talent and could star in their respective leagues someday, but because they have certain Q-rating that connects with the masses, their celebrity arrived sooner than it should have and grew to enormous heights.

Of course athletes are glamorized too much in today’s world. Lin and Tebow are the perfect examples.

But how one deals with celebrity once it arrives is the larger issue. Whether or not one wants to be grabbing headlines, how they handle it can often determine whether their star has staying power and whether they can do some good with it.

Dan Pastorini, for all his talents, had the personality of a reluctant celebrity. At his core, he is and always has been a relatively shy person.

But, as becomes clear in his life story,Taking Flak, he always understood the burden of his celebrity and wore it well. It did of course lead Pastorini down a self-destructive path, but even at the depths of his despair, he used his popularity and celebrity to share his story with fans in hopes of inspiring them to succeed.

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The NFL today

Doug Cosbie and Dan Pastorini

Doug Cosbie and Dan Pastorini

If Dan Pastorini were a star in today’s NFL, if he lived his life the exact same way and did many of the exact same things he did in the ’70s and ’80s, don’t be so quick to conclude that it would be a Twitter- and TMZ-type feeding frenzy that would eat him up.

Certainly, Pastorini’s flamboyant lifestyle, penchant for cavorting with glamorous women and opinionated ways would make more than its share of headlines. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might have a few fines headed Pastorini’s way, too.

When I spoke to Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub after Schaub read Taking Flak, he told me, smiling, “Times have certainly changed.”

They have.

But Pastorini remains a swashbuckling hero to thousands because nothing EVER changed him. He told you what he thought. He lived how he wanted. He worked hard and played hard. He also was a giving person, almost to a fault.

Those characteristics likely would play better in today’s antiseptic NFL than they did, even in the 1970s and 1980s. His honesty and candor would be refreshing.

In today’s world, there’s no doubt Pastorini would be considered controversial. But the legion of fans idolizing him likely would be exponentially bigger.

The old saying about, “the camera never lies,” is true. Pastorini might have been a lot of things, but dishonest never was one of them — even when it hurt him professionally and personally.

And that’s what would connect Pastorini to millions of NFL fans.

With matinee-idol looks and an uncanny ability to be a sympathetic figure because of that human frailty, it’s frankly a shame today’s ultra mass-media doesn’t have a Pastorini-like sports icon to follow.

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The story behind Taking Flak

Dan Pastorini at the CBS Radio 19th-Floor studios, 24 Greenway Plaza in Houston, TX in November 2011

It was a chance discussion that Dan and I had as we played in a friendly charity golf tournament.

Dan was telling stories, which he does well. And I’d heard many more stories from Dan over the years. Meanwhile, I was jotting down mental notes, wondering how I would write this story, which is something I always do. I love writing. I always have, ever since I was writing for the school newsletter as a fifth-grader.

It also was a chance time for us both. Dan only months earlier literally lifted himself off the floor of a bar and committed to changing his life.

I turned to Dan at some point during our round of golf and asked, “Why haven’t you ever written a book?

As you’ll see from Dan’s comments below, he was more than ready.

I finally mentioned to Dan, knowing how important his story could be for anyone who’s ever been a “celebrity,” and told him: “I don’t have to write your book. But you’d better write a friggin’ book before you leave this earth.”

We hit the ground running and the entire process was incredibly rewarding.

Here’s Dan’s perspective:

“Many people think because you’re a celebrity, your life is wonderful and you have the world by the tail.

“My friends in the past have often asked why I hadn’t written a book. Frankly, I never thought my life was that interesting until John Lopez convinced me otherwise.  I agreed to collaborate with him on this book with the understanding that I wanted to be totally honest in doing so i.e., ‘I did inhale and I did have sex with those women.’

“There were surreal moments and some fond memories shared as well. The deeper John went, the harder it was for me to answer his questions, but I did it. I am human. I’ve had fun and I’ve had heartache. I’ve made mistakes. It was a cathartic journey and I’m glad I did it.

“The duality of a private man and celebrity is a fine line. My biggest reward comes from those who have read “Taking Flak” and thanked me for my honesty in that it has helped them face their own demons and changed their lives.”

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