Larry Fitzgerald Sr., the longtime Spokesman-Recorder sports columnist and broadcaster, has been held hostage — gently — in Arizona since some January health procedures.
"Please tell people I did not have a heart attack," he said when I first called to wish him well. He had a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, necessitated by the narrowing of an artery.
"That was creating a lot of discomfort in terms of my ability to just breathe, walking for any length of time and carrying all this weight," said Fitz. "I started retaining water, was borderline diabetic, sleep apnea — all that from a bad valve. Decided to do what they suggested. I'm better. Had my third follow-up with my doctors. Everybody says I'm doing well. Feel like I've got a whole new lease on life"
April 2017 at the Final Four in Arizona was the first time he and his son, NFL player Larry Fitzgerald Jr., noticed something was not right. "There were 75,000 people in there and everybody knows who he is and it was a challenge," said the Original Fitz. "[Larry] was, Come on Dad, you've got to keep up, and I was doing the best I could. I realized something was different."
Since his medical procedures, which included a pacemaker, Big Fitz said sons Larry and Marcus have wanted him nearby. Big Fitz is getting a kick out of seeing his grandsons daily. Since his syndication business, the National Programming Network, can be done anywhere, Big Fitz may spend less time in Minnesota. Still, his fiancée of nearly two years, Sharrie Warner, lives up here. Asked if he was a little old for a long engagement, Big Fitz teased: "I would tell you when my date is for getting married but that would really create a buzz." His wonderful wife, Carol, died in 2003.
Q: How much weight have you dropped?
A: Forty-two pounds. When you are walking a mile a day and sweating and on 1,800 calories, it goes fast. I just eat salads. I've lowered my intake of beef. No more bacon, sausage — those days are gone. I can't eat grits anymore; I'm going to miss them. Grits without butter ... that's not going to happen. I'll just think about the good ol' days.
Q: You think you've gotten so light you can beat me at tennis?
A: If I get down another 30, I'm going to take on that challenge. Did I win last time or did you? [Laughter.]
Q: Don't start. You never won. One of the joys of playing you was falling on the court laughing.
A: Wow. Yeah, all that weight coming at you and you making me shift directions.
Q: In our previous chat, you said your kids were holding you lovingly hostage?
A: That's pretty much the case. But you know, it's so great being around my three grandchildren. They run to me every day. It's just a joy. I didn't know they missed me that much. I would just come for three, four days and then I'd go. I didn't spend two or three weeks.
Q: Your Arizona Cardinal has a decision to make?
A: This is Larry's 14th year. Maybe he's back, maybe he's not. [A decision will be made after Jr. meets with new coach Steve Wilks.] I want to give Larry a chance to live his life, make his decisions and not get in the middle of it anymore. I've done enough to guide Larry and Marcus in the right direction and I'm pretty proud of what they have done.
Q: What happened to the Vikings in Philly?
A: Got your tail handed to you, that's what happened. They did something they haven't done all year — turn the ball over, [weren't] creative on offense. Pat Shurmur appeared to be preoccupied with getting that Giants job instead of focusing on the one he had. The offensive game plan didn't throw any wrinkles at the Eagles.
Q: What can the NFL do about unruly Eagles fans throwing beer at Vikings fans?
A: Nothing. Anything that happens on the streets, that's on the local authorities. Every Vikings fan knew those people are known for being bullies, arrogant and nasty. They have always been that way.
Q: Super Bowl-bound Eagles fans know we won't tolerate that in Minnesota?
A: They'd better know it. Security is going to be way too tight.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count.