Storytime with Sweeny: Flustered Phil Simms

Sweeny Murti
May 15, 2020 - 10:34 am

Sometimes it’s funny to see athletes who train to perform in pressure situations find themselves flustered in ordinary situations. Of course, it happens to everyone. But it’s still amusing. And that’s when I think of Phil Simms.

Imagine the time before cell phones and text messages, a time before hundreds and thousands of numbers were stored right in your phone, a time when phones were plugged into walls, and you had to write down numbers and addresses of friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances in a real book. And rather than press a button, you either knew the numbers off the top of your head or you looked them up every time you called someone.

This is the world in which I grew up, and the one in which I was a producer at WFAN from 1993 to 1997.

Because I often made calls to people from my Queens apartment before I headed into the radio station in the late afternoons, I would often leave my home phone number for people—athletes, agents, PR representatives, etc.—to call me back and confirm call-ins to shows that night. It wasn’t unusual to have sports celebrities call me at home. I can recall voicemails from Marv Albert and Bud Selig among others.

One Sunday morning—probably 1995 or ’96—as I was sleeping off a hangover likely earned with rum and cokes at Manny’s Car Wash on the Upper East Side, the phone next to my bed started to ring. I stared at the clock that said 8:45am and couldn’t think of any good reason that phone was ringing.

“Hello?” I said, trying to sound awake and alert but clearly failing.

“Hi, Sweeny?” a man’s voice asked.

“Yes,” I said, hoping to sound more awake.

“This is Phil Simms,” said…well, Phil Simms.

(In my head I heard Sean Connery’s voice in The Untouchables saying, “Who would claim to be that who was not, hmm?”)

“Hi Phil,” I said quizzically.

“I”m sooo sorry to wake you. I’m supposed to be on with Mike and I can’t find the number to the studio.  Can you help me?”

Now it’s important to remember that Phil was a regular guest on Mike Francesa’s Sunday morning NFL show for about two or three years at this point. And while the studio number had been changed at some point during that time, it wasn’t just that week.  There wasn’t much reason why Phil wouldn’t have that number written down. Yet somehow he couldn’t find it, but could find my home number.

I gave Phil the correct number and he apologized again. He called into Mike’s show on time, crisis averted.

And then a thought occurred to me that still makes me laugh.

Phil Simms went 22-for-25 in Super Bowl XXI. In the biggest pressure situation of his career he was calm, cool and flawless.

And on a different Sunday a decade later, Phil was a little more flustered than flawless.