In what I believe were his first public comments since he resigned/was let go by the Redskins, Vinny Cerrato made a return to the local radio airwaves on Wednesday to discuss George Michael.
The legendary sports broadcaster's memorial service is Thursday, and Cerrato had an extremely close relationship to Michael, talking with him daily and visiting him in the hospital less than 24 hours before he died. Mike Wise invited Cerrato onto his 106.7 The Fan show with the understanding that the questions would be about Michael, and so for a few brief moments, we were all Inside the Red Zone again.
The most interesting thing about the conversation was Cerrato's continued references to Michael as a friend, someone to look to for advice and help. It's not the standard description of the executive-journalist relationship, a fact which Michael never made any bones about.
"I think the biggest thing was I trusted him, and I knew he was a friend, and I knew he wasn't trying to hurt me," Cerrato said, when asked why he would open up for Michael. "It was real, and he cared about me, and he cared about what the conversation would be. So I knew that George was a true friend, and I think that's the biggest thing. It was interesting how we met each other. It was the first day when Dan hired me when Norv was the coach in 99, George came up to me at training camp--because I think Leonard Shapiro wrote an article about me and I don't' know if it was good--and George came up to me and he said 'I've got to tell you, Leonard wrote an article about me when I was in town and it was twice as bad.' "
Wise soon asked why Daniel Snyder would do interviews with Michael, and the answer was much the same. Again, this isn't what you'd learn in Journalism Ethics 101, that's for sure.
"I think same reason as me," Cerrato said. "I think George was a friend and George was somebody you could trust, and you knew George was out for your best interest and would guide you and give you advice, and was not out to get a story on you. George was not out to rip you. George was not out to get dirt. George was out to be your friend, to help you, to advise you, to guide you. I mean, that was George."
Cerrato said something similar about Joe Gibbs, saying the coach would bounce things off Michael and get his advice. Wise said that in some towns, this would be seen as crossing a boundary.
"George was George, and that's the way he was," Cerrato replied. "I know George loved Abe Pollin, and he's tight with Ernie Grunfeld, he's tight with George Mcphee. We would talk about those people all the time, and that was George. People loved him and trusted him and knew that all George wanted to do was help, and George wanted them to win.. He wanted the local teams to win, and he appreciated the local teams."
Cerrato said that during Michael's sickness, he called him every day on the way to work to see how he was feeling. Cerrato's wife--a well-known doctor--would help translate medical jargon into English for Michael and his wife. And Michael would offer Cerrato radio show advice.
"George and I had always talked about doing a radio show together, because I think the people at your station always wanted to hire him," Cerrato told Wise. "He said 'We'll go do a show, me and you, and, we'll be number 1.' I said 'If I'm with The King, we'll definitely be number one.' He used to help me with my radio show all the time. I'd call him like at 7:15 and I'd say, 'All right George, here's what I've got, here's who I've got, what do you think, here's the questions I'm gonna ask, should I ask anything different?'
"And then as soon as my show was over at 10:01, the phone would be ringing and he would critique me. He would rate all the guests and he would rate how I did, or he'd say you got bored, you didn't know too much. He'd say, 'I know you don't like to be critiqued but I'm going to.' I'd say 'No, I want you to, how am I gonna get better if you don't?' So he was my critic, too."
Cerrato also got off a few good one-liners at the end. Wise invited him to come in-studio; "I've got nothing but time," Cerrato cracked. "I'll tell you this, Mike, I'm getting in great shape."
And then, when discussing Colt McCoy, Cerrato said he had addressed the Longhorns prior to the BCS title game.
"Mack had me talk to the team for about 30 minutes," Cerrato said. "Maybe that's why they lost, maybe that's why Alabama beat them. The first day they got together to practice down in Austin, I talked to the team after practice."
One more thing to blame him for, Wise suggested.
"Just go ahead and pile it on, Mike," Cerrato said. "I've got thick skin."