William (The Refrigerator) Perry, who has been known to use both sides of his mouth while eating, has already made a big impression -- to say nothing of a large indentation -- at this, his rookie training camp with the Chicago Bears.
After holding out for several weeks, The Fridge, whose close friends call him "G.E.," signed a $1.35 million contract and showed up at camp last Sunday night in, as they say, some kind of shape. The Fridge practiced twice Monday, and once again Tuesday morning. But dehydration cramps forced him to skip the Tuesday afternoon session. The guess is he just sat around his room. And when The Fridge sits around a room, he really sits around a room.
Buddy Ryan, the Bears' defensive coordinator, was, shall we say, somewhat chagrined by The Fridge's performance or lack thereof. Questioned on a Chicago radio sports show, Ryan called The Fridge "a wasted draft pick and a waste of money. He's not in any shape and can't do anything." Summing up, the sensitive and compassionate Ryan said of The Fridge, "He's inclined to be a fat guy, and that's not going to change. He'll always be a fat guy."
Thank you, Dale Carnegie, for that stirring motivational speech.
Et tu, Bluto?
Yes. The Fridge is inclined to be a fat guy.
He weighed more than 13 pounds at birth.
"I was big even when I was little," he has said.
He entered Clemson at 305 pounds, and left at 330. There have been reports that he played at 360. A major metropolitan newspaper went as high as 390. (If it goes to 420, sell.)
The legends, like the man, continue to grow.
One is that in grade school he landed one of the leads in the ballet, "Swan Lake"; he played the lake. Or that in high school they plastered his photo over every Howard Johnson's in South Carolina, warning the employes not to seat him on "All You Can Eat" nights. Or that he didn't fit into the bathtub at home, so the family ran him through the local car wash. Or that his first words were, "More gravy."
The Fridge didn't get this big all of a sudden.
The Fridge wasn't like Terry Forster, the Braves' relief pitcher whom David Letterman has repeatedly called "a balloon and a fat tub of goo." Forster admits he's overweight, but says of his hippopotamine physique, "I haven't always been this big. It just snacked up on me."
It didn't snack up on The Fridge.
He never drew the line at extra potatoes. He ordered the whole left side of the menu. He once did lunch at McDonald's for a cool $22.
That's why The Fridge didn't get bent out of shape (assuming that physical possibility, considering the shape he's in) when Ryan said what he did. Though other players would have been beside themslves with anger, The Fridge has been beside himself for so long, he's used to the company. Fortunately for Ryan, The Fridge has a good sense of humor. "I don't mind at all when people talk about how much I eat," he has said. "I really get a kick out of it and laugh along with everybody else." If he didn't, one strategic fall and Ryan is history.
The Bears are listing him at 6-2 and 330 now.
The over-under number is 345.
"He's more wide than fat; he's so wide he can easily hide 20 or 30 pounds," says Kevin Lamb, who covers the Bears for the Chicago Sun-Times. "As long as he stays under 350, they can use a regular scale to weigh him. More than that he'd have to go on a butcher's scale, the kind they use for whole cows."
What baffles me about Ryan's indignation is this: Whom was he expecting to walk into camp, Slim Whitman? It's not like the Bears weren't aware The Fridge tipped the Toledos at 330 when they drafted him. The guy looks the same now as he did at Clemson, like he'd been held hostage inside a Baskin-Robbins.
Ryan knew that going in. He told reporters he was looking forward to seeing The Fridge check into camp for three reasons: "I want to see if he can rush the passer," he said. "I want to see if he can fit into those (55-gallon) drums the players sit in to cool down. And I want to see if he can get out."
Dissatisfied with The Fridge's weight and condition, the Bears have declared their intention to work him into shape, play him hard in exhibition games -- every defensive down if necessary -- sweat those pounds off him.
No shot. He's been fat in hotter places than Chicago.
I hope The Fridge makes it big, and as big as he is, I see him as an impact player. I'd like him to bulk up to 350. How many offensive linemen do you think carry collision?
My favorite NBA player last season was Charles Barkley, Philadelphia's 265-pound rookie. What a nickname: "The Round Mound of Rebound."
I see the same thing happening to The Fridge. He becomes a mad sackmaster, and they start calling him "The Plump Lump of Dump."