it's the Lou Piccone-head Show! Here comes the star now, down out of the
ceiling of the Ziegfeld Room at the Executive Motor Inn in Buffalo. The
spotlight focuses on the 60-gallon cowboy hat perched atop his head like an
open suitcase. Lou Piccone (pronounced pick-cone) graciously doffs the lid to
reveal—ta da!—a two-foot-high, flesh-toned, official Saturday Night Live
conehead. He steps off the hydraulically powered platform onto the dance floor
and gives the 100 or so people a little Johnny Carson.
that call in our game against the Raiders, huh? 'No kneepads.' No kneepads?
They got a man coming around this year, he's an official NFL guy. looking for
skin. That's his job. There will be no flesh on CBS.' Don't you love it? 'There
will be no knee on NBC.' "
bad. He walks around, pulling the microphone cord behind him like a pro, trying
out some simple gags, joshing the NFL's dress rules on the field.
imagine what this means? Guys running around trying to play football and look
good at the same time? Players will be coming downfield and an opponent will
say, 'Excuse me, your socks are down.' And you gotta stop and pull them up.
Next thing you know, guys will be running past, yelling, 'Hey, take a look at
the Goodrich blimp.' "
Who is this
Piccone character anyway, with or without that head? Basically, he's a
31-year-old bomb-squadder-receiver-fill-in-the-blank player for the Bills, now
in his seventh NFL year. He's small and he's compact, 5'9" and 175 pounds,
and he's a great talker, an intense, self-deprecating, genuinely funny guy. He
does these shows every Monday night between halves of the NFL game because,
"I like entertaining, I like people, and I like getting off my rear."
He's single, drives a red Cadillac (that seems to swallow him like a pig eating
an acorn whenever he climbs in), and is one of the most popular sports figures
in northwestern New York. All he has to do is line up at his R-4 position on
the kickoff squad at Rich Stadium and 80,000 people begin chanting, "Lou!
Lou! Lou!" To an unsuspecting visitor unable to distinguish "L's"
from "B's," it sounds as though the crowd is booing some poor soul into
Piccone came to
the NFL via the tough-luck highway—from Vineland, N.J., through West Liberty
State College ("located," says Lou, "somewhere in West
Virginia"), to the semipros and the free-agent tryouts—and it's rather
remarkable that he should be holding court in front of all these nicely
dressed, receptive people in the Ziegfeld Room. It's even more remarkable that
this self-described "poor little nobody" should be one of the rallying
points on a team that is the No. 1 surprise of the NFL season.
After the show,
Lou sits down at a table and says that, yeah, he has got a pretty good thing
here in Buffalo. He loves the city (he lives in Buffalo year-round, running a
firewood business during the winter). He loves his teammates. He loves the
success of the team. But he's not exactly happy. Why? Because, well, he'd like
a little more appreciation—not from the fans; he loves them, too—but from
management. In short, he could stand a richer contract.
it's not so much the money as it is a matter of establishing respect,"
Piccone says. "In this game respect is denoted by money; that's the only
correlation you've got."
Piccone has been
trying to get that respect (and the cash) since he first made it with the New
York Jets in 1974. A stubborn, excitable kind of guy, Lou has a history of
holding out to make his point. He walked out on the Jets in his second year,
and he didn't show up at all for the Bills' training camp this year. Piccone
has played out his option twice, and this year he signed only a one-year
contract with Buffalo, meaning he may take a hike next season as well.
played for two pro teams, but I've had six head coaches," Piccone says,
trying to focus some of his frustration. "They come in and the first thing
they want to do is clean house. They look around, see me and figure, 'We gotta
get rid of this guy.' They run me through a computer and I come out in the
trash can. So each time I have to re-prove myself. And I've done it." Lou
is heating up a little now; he doesn't need a cone-head to be a forceful
speaker. "I'm consistent. I've got skills. I'm good. I've won games for
these stupid bleeps!"