The NFL strike is leaving a lot of people stuck on Sunday afternoons with no pro football games. But one Washingtonian still manages to keep busy.
"It's just like the off-season to me," says Redskin quarterback Joe Theismann. That's when he really works. "Football for me becomes a time I can relax. Right now, my days are filled with a lot of business," which includes overseeing his two restaurants.
"This past Saturday and Sunday, we went to my son's football games and I was in New York doing a television show."
He finds he's able to spend more time with the three children. "But they have their friends, so it's tough. Sometimes I'm left all alone sitting in the kitchen or the living room. It's 'Gee, Daddy, I've gotta go over to Johnny's house,' or 'I've gotta go over to Vicky's house. But hang around, I might need you later.' "
Often on Sundays after a home game, Theismann wrestles with the kids. "I come home from a football game, and Joey needs to get whipped around a bit. What we do is move all the furniture out of the way in the bedroom and put some pillows in the corners, and the three of them just attack me.
"And it's always: 'Oh! Watch out for Daddy's arm! Don't hit me on that side!' We have our own regulations."
Theismann is a man who doesn't sit down, even on his day off, which falls on Tuesday during the football season. "I try and have breakfast with my family, sleep a little bit later than normal. I attend to some of the other business I have, the restaurants. My wife and I spend time together in the morning, getting to know each other. If I'm going to make any public appearances, I'll do it then -- lectures, autographs, charities, schools."
He's doing those same things now, only the activities are spread out during the week. Every day he works out, holding informal practices with some teammates. Some afternoons, when the kids leave school, he may watch Amy, 9, in her dancing class, or Joey, 11, at his football practice. Joey is tight end, defensive end, place-kicker and punter for a youth-league team in Vienna. But he's really not a star, says Theismann; actually, the team's in a slump.
After a few years' respite, Theismann has taken up golf again to play with Joey. "He's almost gotten to the point where I can't beat him," he says of the son who boasts a 15- and-under handicap. Even the 31/2-year-old plays: "Patrick has already got a cut-off set of golf clubs. He's really a character: He goes and gets the balls out of the pro shop himself. People look at him -- he looks like a midget wandering up there."
In his free time, Theismann also plays racquetball, and he plays to win. "It's as important to me as winning anything. I don't like to lose. I don't care what I play. I consider myself a very competitive individual," whether in sports or in business. "Just to play it for the sake of playing it, doesn't make sense," he says.
Aggressiveness is reflected, too, in his tastes off the field. Asked what he likes in a movie, he says, "I like the blood -- 'Bridge on the River Kwai,' 'The Dirty Dozen.' But I don't like the horror movies.
"Of course, I love 'Rocky.' I bought all the Rocky tapes," says Theismann, who owns a Betamax. "When everybody else goes to bed I stay up and watch. If he (Stallone) put out Rocky 4, 5 and 6 and 7, I'd be first in line. It's apple pie and America, fighting the way to the top."
But he has a soft side. He loved "E.T." "I like things like 'Brian's Song' -- I cry easily, too," he says.
"I walk out of a movie if it's going to end in a depressing way. I don't want anything to depress me."
Sitting down with a book seems tame for No. 7, but, says Theismann, "I just started to read a little bit. I'm not a reader, I'm a television nut," with TV favorites ranging from "M*A*S*H" and "60 Minutes" to "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley."
He's reading up on the martial arts, which, he says, "is something I want to get into as soon as I retire from football. I like that stuff. I read The Godfather, a lot of Mario Puzo stuff. Jaws. I like something that entertains me. Reading a page of Gone With the Wind, I'll sleep for a week. I don't like heavy reading per se. I like things that move."
If he and his wife, Cheryl, eat dinner out, it may be at Dominique's or at Pisces. At home, Theismann doesn't do battle in the kitchen: "I tried to cook in the restaurant and put a knife through my hand. So I retired. I like to what-I-call putz around the house -- do caulking, replace lightbulbs, pull weeds. I tried to garden a couple of years ago and was bored in an hour. Not big at the Rototiller, tearing up the lawn."
But during the strike, he's catching up. "I'm having workmen come in and supervising them doing odds and ends around the house."
On the weekends, the Theismanns go to plays. They took the kids to see "Annie"; they attended the premiere of "Little Foxes." Theismann grew up in South River, New Jersey, a small town that offered little by way of cultural enrichment. But in Washington, he said, "All of a sudden, you go to, I don't know what else to call them but, high-society things.
"Shari is the smart half of the couple. She enjoys it, so we've come to enjoy it together."
Theismann just doesn't slow down. Chess, for example, is not the Skins' playmaker's game. "Are you kidding? I do like cards. On the road I play gin a lot. Gambling is a fun thing for me," he says.
Though he says he works a lot harder in the off-season, it's then he plans to take the kids to the Smithsonian. He likes the dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History.
"I lead a very, very active life. The moments that my wife and I spend alone and quiet, we really cherish the time. And with the children. I think your children are shaped by the time you spend with them, that it's not a father coming home, 'Hey, I spend weekends with my kids,' and sits in the chair and reads the paper for two hours. Then, when he's finished reading, switches on the TV. I'm talking about spending two hours building a dollhouse, with your daughter trying to help you. Whatever time you can spend one-on-one with your children is quality time."
Since the strike, he's been picking up the kids after school to give his wife a little break before she starts a new job in October as an instructor at the Exercise Studio in Vienna, where they live.
"At least one of us in the family has a job," he says.