I, perhaps like many readers of Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column today, was saddened by news that legendary Sports Illustrated football writer Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman was recuperating from two strokes suffered two weeks ago. King did a great job in his column of letting us younger readers know about Dr. Z's long-form print writing. Most of us under 35 only know him as the man who does SI's preseason picks of playoff and Super Bowl teams, as well as power rankings and other smaller stories on the magazine's Web site.
Dr. Z, who has covered the game since the '60s and has experiences of it from well before then, is a link to pro football's gutsier, less glamorous, less commodified past, when the game was really just a game, not an entertainment experience — and to those of us who started watching the NFL in the '80s, that past always seems like it was a lot more fun and heroic. I hope we can continue to read Dr. Z's wranglings over the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame nominees. He has strong opinions about players most of us never heard of or have forgotten. And I don't know what I'll do if he doesn't issue his annual grades of TV football announcers at season's end. Late winter will certainly be grayer and colder if it goes missing.
I, somewhat selfishly and like many others, hope Dr. Z can return to writing for SI as soon as possible. But more importantly, I just hope he can recover. I'd hate for that powerful link to the past to be extinguished.