Irvin Tells His Side of "The Story"

The story that makes Michael Irvin out to be a spoiled, self-indulgent hog was reported as fact by the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury-News and possibly a skillion other media outlets. So it must be true.

Irvin himself says the story is twisted and bloated and warped. So it must be. ... well, somebody ought to at least listen to him tell his side, right?

"My first reaction was, 'It could've been worse, it could've been worse,'' Irvin tells me. "There are way worse stories that somebody could've made up about me. My second reaction was that with some people, there is no way I'm every going to win them over. I'm always going to be wrong. My third reaction, though, really bothered me: Why would the LA Times write such an ugly story about me without interviewing me? And why would the Dallas Morning News blindly run the same story, again without asking me about the facts?''

It is indeed a rather ugly story. In the June 28 LA Times, sports columnist TJ Simers wrote:

The other day I mentioned that Michael Irvin was going to be a guest tonight for NFL 101/201, an annual L.A. event that draws fans interested in learning more about football from experts such as Bill Walsh, Ronnie Lott and Warren Moon.

Irvin received free first-class airfare but then insisted on using a different airline. He got it. Then he wanted a first-class ticket for a traveling companion, got it, but then wanted those arrangements changed. Done deal. He was given a free room in the Four Seasons but insisted upon a suite. Got it. Then he demanded a free room for a friend. Got it.

He was given a limo for the event, but his agent wanted the limo for Irvin's use all day. Before he got it, Irvin's agent called back to say he was pulling out of the event, telling officials they had asked Irvin to be a guest but were not treating him like a guest.

"He doesn't feel welcome, and it will affect his performance," ! Irvin's agent, Susan Haber, told the folks at NFL 101/201.

Haber didn't return a message Monday, but on a bright note, the folks attending NFL 101/201 have already gotten their first lesson on what it's like dealing with king-size egos in football. And Irvin didn't even have to show up.

With those five paragraphs as the factual base, the tale shot across America like a meteor. On June 29, the Baltimore Sun wrote snidely abvout Irvin's "sense of entitlement.'' On June 30, the San Jose Mercury News outlined "How to act, and not to,'' and used the Irvin story as the "not to'' example.

Then came what is to Irvin the lowest blow: his adopted hometown newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, regurgitated the nasty tale, in a sense even going so far as dismissing Irvin's new-found faith ("Michael Irvin sure is a changed man'').

So what WAS the deal? The charity didn't supply Irvin with enough geisha girls? The limosine he was offered was black and he wanted white? The hotel room didn't have hot-and-cold-running Cristal? What?

Irvin gets his first chance to speak on the subject: "Let me explain what happened. I was called and asked to be a guest speaker to explain football to ladies and to companies. I said I would do it. It was a charity, so forget my honorarium -- my money! -- and do it for free.

"But when my representatives called the lady to set it up, she was. ... well, I can't repeat some of the stuff she said to me people, bad things about me, things that made people in my camp afraid. ...''

What was said? Irvin won't go into great detail except to say her comments were reflections on his infamous off-field behavior from years ago.

"Why would she talk this way when I was being asked to do a favor? I do not know,'' Irvin continues. "But my people told me, 'You hired us to protect your interests because God knows you've made some bad decisions. So we don't think you should go. We don't like the spirit of this event, if this lady is their representatives. So they pulled me out of the event -- and they did so because that's what I hired them for.''

Irvin says that when his representatives informed the woman of their decision and their motivation, she threatened to go to the papers with a sordid version of the truth.

"So I didn't get on the plane, and the next thing you know, there is the story in the LA paper, just like she promised, and now I'm selfish and greedy and won't do charity work.''

But Michael, what about the flight and the hotel and the limo?

Irvin walks us through his "demands'': "For things like this, first-class tickets are standard. The reason I wanted a different airline is that I was in Miami, and they wanted me to go from Miami to Dallas to Utah to LA. I said I'm not doing that, so I asked for a Miami-to-Dallas-to-LA flight, like I always fly. On the suite? I'm in a suite right now. It's a hotel room. It's nice. On the car? I get a car wherever I go. How else do I get around? Oh, and the traveling companion?''

Irvin is smoldering now. Between the sly dig at his faith ("Why can't I be both a spiritual man and a business man?'' he ponders) and the fact that in the LA Times and in the Dallas Morning News, the "traveling companion'' line was left so open-ended that, well, those of us with knowledge of Irvin's social history can only imagine. ...

"I'm in LA right now,'' Irvin says into the phone. "With (wife) Sandy. She's right here. Sometimes my brother is my so-called 'traveling companion.' Usually it's my wife.''

What the LA Times first wrote, then, has a smidge of truth about it. There was a conflict, there were upgrade requests. (Of course one wonders what other Football 101/201 guests like the imperial Bill Walsh did when he got into town: Rent his own Ford Focus? Hang at the Holiday Inn Express?)

Irvin can deal with one woman who treated him rudely. He's having a more difficult time dealing with the Times' and the News' handling of the story.

"I really didn't do anything wrong, and I thought my relationship with the Dallas Morning News and the LA Times would have prompted a call from them, a fact-checking call, a chance-to-tell-my-side-of-the-story call,'' he says. "Know what? You're the first (media person) to call me on this. In fact, it's been (two weeks). You're the ONLY person to ask for my side.

"The Morning News calls me all the time, asking me about the coaching staff or the receivers or what I think about this issue or that issue, and I always cooperate. The LA Times. ... I'm out (in LA) all the time. They have my number. They know they can call me. Nobody called me. They didn't call me, they re-ran this story, they did it with no quotes fom me, and they all end up perpetuating the mess. I thought it was irresponsible journalism.''

Irvin says he has contacted the head of Football 101/201 to apologize for not attending the event. Still he has no regrets.

"No regrets, not if you understand that one of the reasons wouldn't go to the event is the negative vibe we were getting,'' he says. "Given my history, I'm a guy at the plate with two strikes on him and Curt Schilling pitching. I can't make mistakes.''

The more Michael Irvin thinks about it, though, the more he decides to subdue his wish to fight back, to retaliate, or to even clarify.

He asks me to "take it easy'' on his detractors in the story I'm about to write. Part of his motivation is clearly his faith-based willingness to forgive. And the other part of the motivation for the ESPN host, the budding movie star and the Hall-of-Fame finalist?

"I don't need any more enemies,'' Irvin tells me, his volcanic laugh about to erupt. "So yeah, write that the Morning News and the LA Times did fine! Write that they are the very best in the business! 'Cause I don't need the newspapers back in my alley, digging through my trash cans and stuff!''

CowboysHQ Top Stories