- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

This is Jan. 8, the day when Gary Busey declared in “D.C. Cab” — the film that put the District on the cinematic map — “I don’t work on Jan. 8. It’s Elvis Presley’s birthday.”

Happy 70th Elvis, wherever you are.

As part of the birthday commemoration, a Memphis paper asked its readers what Elvis would be doing were he alive today. Some said he would be appearing in Viagra or Cadillac commercials. Others believed he would still be pulling in the crowds with a long stint in Las Vegas or acting as a tough guy in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

But if Elvis were alive, I am pretty sure I know what he would be doing this particular day. He would be watching the NFL playoffs. Heck, he might even own one of the teams.

The King loved football. He was a frustrated player and coach, so logically what do frustrated football players and coaches with money wind up doing? Owning football teams.

Couldn’t you see Elvis at the owners meetings with Paul Bunyan Snyder, talking deals?

“Son, you know that linebacker you’ve got who says you tried to stiff him out of nearly $7million? What was his name, Leroy, Lamar LaVar, that’s it. I’ll trade you a weekend in the Jungle Room and an autographed velvet self-portrait of the King himself for him.”

Elvis certainly would have had the money to be an NFL owner. His estate, nearly 28 years after his death, was just sold for $100 million. And at some point, the prospect of owning an NFL team likely would have appealed to him.

Before the days of a daily diet of fried peanut butter sandwiches, Elvis loved playing sandlot football. He sponsored a team in Memphis called the “Elvis Presley Enterprises Football Team” and had jerseys made up with everybody’s name on the back.

When he was in Los Angeles, Elvis was known to organize touch football games against other celebrities, though tackle was generally his game. In an interview conducted at a World Football League game between the Memphis Southmen and the Charlotte Hornets in 1975 — what does that tell you about how big a football fan Elvis was? — the King spoke of his love for the game.

“I enjoy rugged sports,” Elvis said. “I’m not knocking people who like golf and tennis and other things. But I like rugged sports such as boxing, football, karate and things like that.

“I have a great ambition to play football,” Elvis continued. “I’ve always had and still have, believe it or not. The thing I keep up with most is professional football. I know all the players. I know their numbers and who they play for. I watch all the games I can. I get the films from the teams themselves if I can. Next to the entertainment thing and music, football is the thing that I enjoy best.”

Elvis drew up his own football plays, and pages of them have been sold at auctions.

Oh, yes, Elvis and Paul Bunyan Snyder would have gotten along just fine.

Elvis might have had a future in football if he weren’t such a rebel. He tried out for his high school team as a sophomore, but the story goes that he was cut by the coach because he wouldn’t trim his sideburns and ducktail.

Joe Gibbs would have let Elvis keep the ‘burns and the ducktail. Then again, maybe the coach cut Elvis because he wasn’t good enough, though that wouldn’t nearly make as good a story.

It’s hard to believe Elvis never hooked up with the Redskins in one form or another, particularly on that trip to Washington when he met President Richard Nixon on Dec. 21, 1970. (Of all the requests made each year to the National Archives for reproductions of photographs and documents, including the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the photo of Elvis and Nixon shaking hands is requested most.)

That visit came one day after the Redskins’ final game of the season at home against St. Louis. Bill Austin was the coach then, but if George Allen had been around — he took over the following season — it seems likely the two would have connected somehow.

Elvis, though, was a Cleveland Browns fan, because one of his friends growing up, Gene Hickerson, played for the Browns. Hickerson said he sent Elvis films of almost every Browns game, and the King was a big fan of Jim Brown. How some Hollywood producer missed a chance to cast Elvis in “The Dirty Dozen” is beyond me. Trini Lopez? Please.

So on this day, if you have a copy of “Jailhouse Rock” or “Hound Dog,” take a listen and celebrate two American traditions: pro football and the immortality of Elvis.

And if you have a copy of “In the Ghetto,” play it as well and thank the King for his greatest contribution to football and music. The story goes that if he had turned down the Mac Davis song, it would have been given to former NFL defensive tackle Roosevelt Grier.

Mama really would have cried then.

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