Ok, let's get this out of the way quick. LeRoy Irvin's ears are funny looking. You know it. He knows it. Joe Montana knows it.
"Everyone jokes about my ears," said Irvin, the Ram cornerback.
During a game last year against the San Francisco 49ers, Irvin gave Montana an ear full for throwing an interception to teammate Vince Newsome.
"Damn Joe," Irvin told Montana, "you should have thrown that one to me. I've been playing against you for six years."
Montana, quick of wit, responded:
"Shut up, you big-eared bleepity-bleep."
The truth is, we should all have ears like Irvin's so as to never miss a word that leaves his mouth.
Irvin may be the funniest cornerback in town. Yes, maybe even funnier than Lester-what's-his-eye-poking-name across town.
It's a tough business, this cornerback/comedy thing.
"When I'm riding around in my car," Irvin was saying the other day, "sometimes I'll say to myself, 'If a reporter asks me this question, what's the craziest thing I can say?' "
Irvin usually comes up with something. Recently he was rambling on about the Rams' No. 1-ranked defense and how it doesn't get much respect.
"We're just like the Chinese Bandits of LSU," Irvin said.
The Chinese whosits from wherezit?
He later explained that the Bandits were an overachieving, underrated third-string defensive platoon on an LSU football team in the 1960s.
With Irvin, you get history and histrionics for the price of admission.
The great thing about Irvin is that he's hopelessly candid and just about as common as your next-door-neighbor.
What else would possess a Pro Bowl cornerback with a big salary to purchase a gas station and spend his off time living the life of Goober Pyle?
"My wife says the same thing," Irvin says, laughing. "She doesn't like the gas business. She'd like a restaurant or a boutique. You know, something more feminine. But it's perfect for me. In fact, I'm going over there right now for a couple of hours." Practice was over for the rest of the guys on a Friday, but Irvin figured he had time to stop by the Fullerton station to rotate a few tires before sunset.
He says some people, believe it or not, are embarrassed having a celebrity pump their gas and change their wiper blades.
Would you let Tom Selleck do your laundry?
"They'll pull into full service, get out and see me and still pump their own gas, even though it's 30 to 40 cents higher," Irvin said. "I tell them to go over to self serve."
It's crazy all right, but so is Irvin, who walks into Rams Park most days wearing dark blue, high-top sneakers and a purple jump suit.
His coach swears he's color blind, but Irvin insists he is just having a little fun.
He admittedly has opened up considerably since joining the Rams out of the University of Kansas seven years ago. But, like he says, it's a lot easier to be crazy when you can back it up on the field.
Irvin made the Pro Bowl for the first time last season and is considered by many as one of the NFL's best cornerbacks.
"I try to get crazy sometimes," Irvin said. "We are entertainers. I keep going back to what (former Ram cornerback) Gary Green always told me. He said whatever we said or whatever they (reporters) write about a game doesn't mean a damn thing. It has no bearing on the game, so why not be entertainers?"
Of course, Irvin doesn't want to get too popular.
"I'm a gas station man, not a movie star," he insists.
Irvin tasted all he wanted of Hollywood a few years ago when he and teammate David Hill appeared in bit parts on the cable television series "First and Ten," a football comedy that seemed loosely based on the Rams (A female owner in Los Angeles, what a coincidence!).
But Irvin came away bitter, having been type cast as a lowly background extra. They didn't treat Gable this way.
"That producer gave me the run-around," Irvin said, citing a common complaint amongst aspiring actors. "They wouldn't let me say anything. I was fighting with David Hill for air time. It's cutthroat, Hollywood."
So for now, Irvin is content on going to his little corner on defense and thinking of ways to keep up with the Lester Hayeses.
"I listen to him all the time," Irvin said of Hayes, the outlandish Raiders' cornerback. "He's always saying something crazy so I think I can too. Of course, I never talk about poking guys' eyes out."