PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

September 27, 2012

BEST OF WEST: Mean-spirited Herzeg breaking new ground for NFL executive

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The following column from the Best of West Collection was originally published in the Port Arthur News on Sept. 9, 1988.

 

    Call lovable Ladd Herzeg what you wish — and there's certainly plenty of latitude — the man can never be accused of lacking versatility. 

    Whether the act at hand is negotiating contracts, breaking up wedding receptions or having an affair, the Houston Oilers general manager is a genuine threat to wreak havoc.

    Who said there are no more triple threats in football? 

    Herzeg, if nothing else, is certainly breaking new ground for chief executive officers around the NFL.  He now holds league records for the worst won-loss mark in a five-year period, for being taken out of hotels in handcuffs and for monthly support payments ($3,000) to children born out wedlock. 

    For Ladd, the road to the Super Bowl doesn't wind through Washington or Cleveland.  From all indications, it dead-ends at his attorney's office.

    The good news for Herzeg is that his employer is more inclined to fire coaches who make the playoffs three straight years than general managers who give the organization a black eye.  Or so it would seem.

    As was the case  when Herzeg was accused of mooning revelers at a Buffalo wedding reception last September, Bud Adams apparently did little more than yawn over his GM's latest caper.  Herzeg's offer to  resign was quickly rejected.  He escaped without even a public scolding from the boss.

    Adams, for whatever reason, seems to consider Herzeg indispensable. Some think it's because of his undeniable expertise in money matters. Others suggest it's because he knows where skeletons are hidden.

    Whatever the real reason, Adams appears more than willing to look the other way whenever necessary.

    Herzeg, who can be charming at times and is probably a borderline genius, may also be the most vindictive man in sports. Those brazen enough to cross him subject themselves to whatever misery he's capable of doling out. Often it's extensive.

    In short, the man is powerful, cunning and mean.

    More than that, he projects an air of contempt, an attitude of being bulletproof. The music was too loud in Buffalo last year, so he stormed the reception. He's taken the spoiled brat syndrome to a higher, scarier level.

    By far the most revealing part of Herzeg's dark side emerged from his latest fiasco. It wasn't so much the keeping of a mistress — not an uncommon arrangement for high-powered executives — but the things that emerged from trial testimony. Things that had Ladd Herzeg, intimidator, written all over them.

    One witness testified Herzeg told her he could have the child he'd fathered by Joann DiNicola kidnapped for as little as $10,000, and leave the country. 

    The Houston Post referred to a Houston Police Department file showing DiNicola accusing Herzeg of stealing $6,500 in property from the townhouse he'd provided for her. It gets wilder.

    Herzeg, after being served with a paternity suit on Aug. 2, reportedly became enraged after DiNicola refused to let him in the townhouse. The police account had him threatening to drive his car through the garage if she didn't grant him entrance.

    No big deal, really. Just the way your average National Football League general manager carries on in his spare time.

    Up until this week, my favorite Herzeg image was the one provided by the bride at the ill-fated Buffalo wedding reception. It's still worth a laugh.

    “He was dressed like a slob," she said. “When he walked in, I thought he was here to clean up after the band. I can't believe he did this to our wedding."

    Now I'm wavering on what's No. 1. The image of the Houston Oilers general manager hunkered down behind the wheel of a car preparing to blast through a garage door has a definite appeal.

    Somehow, I have a hard time thrusting Cowboys GM Tex Schramm into that mental picture.  It's as difficult as projecting Schramm, or any other NFL chief executive officer, into the photo that stays above my desk. The one of Buffalo police leading a handcuffed Herzeg through the hotel lobby.

    He really did look like a slob, by the way.

    This is a man who deserves absolutely no sympathy. This is a man who couldn't be satisfied with just pulling the rug out from under Bum Phillips. No indeed. This is a man who's gone to great lengths to discredit Phillips, to convince people it's taken so long to rebuild the Oilers because Bum "mortgaged the future."

    This is a man who thinks little of squashing people, a man who has uprooted the lives of many coaches and their families. This is a man who'd have been a natural for the Nixon White House.

    Even worse, this is the man who made Jerry Glanville a head coach. What in the world can Bud Adams be thinking?

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.