Still cruisin’ courtesy of the Tooz
The fact that Hollywood producer Richard Donner confirmed there would be a sequel to the 1985 movie, “The Goonies” strikes me as just the latest sign that the universe is trying to tell me something. Follow me.
I’ve been on a serious thrift store binge lately. Thrift stores are part bargain, part nostalgia and part treasure hunt. A couple of weeks ago I walked into a small thrift store in Carmichael, California, and walked past dated clothing, old albums no one would want to hear and bad particle board furniture to the book section in the back of the store. One book practically leapt off the shelves at me. It was a book I’d wanted to read for the longest time but could never find a copy.
“Cruisin’ with the Tooz,” by John Matuszak and Steve Delsohn. I bought it for 60 cents.
John ‘The Tooz” Matuszak was a 6’8”, 280lb. defensive end for the Oakland (and Los Angeles) Raiders. He won two Super Bowls with the team and after retiring due to a back injury, transitioned to acting. He was featured in “North Dallas Forty,” “Caveman,” “Ice Pirates” and numerous television shows. Oh, and he played Sloth in “The Goonies.”
But Tooz wasn’t just famous for being a football player and actor. He was famous, or infamous, for being one of the world’s biggest partiers. While he played football, he frequently snuck out of training camp to booze it up. He even broke curfew on the night before Super Bowl XV. The Tooz was born to be a Raider.
I’ve been a Raider fan since 1976 and Matuszak was my favorite. So in 1980, imagine my joy when I found out that the Tooz and other Raiders were coming to my little town of Fairfield for a charity basketball game at Armijo High!
I got my ticket early and when the day came, snagged a seat on the front row of the bleachers to watch my heroes in action. I watched Raider players like Art Shell, Mickey Marvin, Cliff Branch, Morris Bradshaw and the Tooz play against high school basketball players, including the coach. After the game, the Raiders stayed to sign autographs. When my turn came to get an autograph from my idol, I asked him something that had been bothering me.
My brothers had played high school football and my dad was pressuring me to play when I had no desire to. I asked the Tooz what I should do.
He told me that due to my size, it was natural for my dad to want me to play football but, “You have to do whatever makes you happy. Whatever you have a passion for and your dad will come around.”
Getting that vote of confidence from someone I admired so much gave me the courage to quit football and focus on what I really loved – writing and art. My dad wasn’t happy about it.
Reading the Tooz’s book, it was interesting to see that Matuszak longed for his own father’s approval. He had a hardworking, Polish father who wanted John to excel in academics and forget the pipe dream of playing football. Despite his father’s wishes, John did what he wanted to and it paid off. Eventually his father came to acknowledge and respect his career choice.
Despite the sugarcoated autobiography Matuszak penned, the reality was he had serious substance abuse issues from alcohol to cocaine to Valium and painkillers. He was arrested for four DUIs, twice for concealed weapons and marijuana possession and had several car accidents, probably due to drugs. He went to rehab numerous times but never stayed sober longer than 89 days. In 1989, John Matuszak died from an accidental overdose of Darvocet. Traces of cocaine were also found in his system. It’s sad that he couldn’t manhandle his demons as handily as he did opposing linemen.
But finding the Tooz’s book and hearing about the new Goonies movie made me reflect on that meeting nearly 35 years ago. It’s motivating me to finish two big writing projects I’d placed on the back burner for years.
I never forgot what the Tooz told me that day at the charity basketball game. And he was right. My father became the biggest supporter of my writing and my column, always giving me positive feedback and sharing them with his coworkers. Perhaps the Tooz gave the same advice to everyone, merely reciting the same platitudes like so many athletes do. But it meant something to me. It still does.