Former Editor of Greenline writes book with Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson
It has been a minute since Greg Hanlon helmed the Greenline, but he has not been forgotten here even though that minute has clocked in at seven and a half years. It is Greenline’s pleasure to direct his previous readers and its current readers to Watch My Smoke, which he wrote with the Eric Dickerson (the book’s subject) and was released on January 18. Eric Dickerson is considered to be the greatest player in Los Angeles Rams history, and in 1984 he became and still holds the NFL’s single season record holder for most rushing yards.
But most of all I miss the sense of community — that everyone looks out for each other and the belief that we’re all in this together. In the years since, and especially since the pandemic, I appreciate this aspect of North Brooklyn more and more. It’s a very special placeGreg Hanlon
First here’s some background on Greg Hanlon. He lived in North Brooklyn from 2008 until 2013, and was Greenline editor from 2009 through 2014. He remembers the neighborhood fondly, “I miss the people and the energy, and how quick-witted and to-the-point everyone is. I miss the sense of humor. I’ve lived in Jersey now for years, and there’s no debate that people in Brooklyn are just funnier than people anywhere else. I miss diversity, especially at a place like [St. Nicks Alliance], where people from all over the world work hard to do great things and then make each other laugh in the office.” He continued, “But most of all I miss the sense of community — that everyone looks out for each other and the belief that we’re all in this together. In the years since, and especially since the pandemic, I appreciate this aspect of North Brooklyn more and more. It’s a very special place.”
When asked to name a top highlight during his time at Greenline, after stating there were too many things to list, he selected, “One thing that really stands out to me as Greenline editor is the continuing coverage of the Greenpoint Hospital site, and the nonstop, tireless efforts of the GREC coalition to turn the site into something that would help the most people possible. For years and years, through all kinds of obstacles and against all kinds of odds, the GREC coalition persevered. So many people never took their eyes off the prize, even when things seemed very bleak. After I left Greenline, their efforts finally paid off. It was an amazing achievement and a testament to perseverance and community.”
He’s one of the greatest football players in the history of the sport. … He’s a warm, funny, outspoken, smart guy. He also doesn’t shy away from telling the truth on any topic, which in the world of sports journalism, is extremely rare.Greg Hanlon
The opportunity to write a book with Dickerson was brought to him via his agent as Hanlon had done a lot of sports writing, including an article he wrote on the fallen Los Angeles Angel Chad Curtis that appeared in Best Sports Writing of 2015. “For me, Eric Dickerson needed no introduction: He’s one of the greatest football players in the history of the sport. More than that, Eric, as a running back, had an extremely graceful style I always admired, and the way he wore his uniform, including his sports goggles and neck roll, made him very unique-looking on the field. Eric is a Hall of Famer, sure, but more than that, I just always thought he was cool. To be paired with him on a project like this was a pinch-me moment,” said Hanlon. “Eric was choosing between several possible co-writers, and we hit it off immediately. He’s a warm, funny, outspoken, smart guy. He also doesn’t shy away from telling the truth on any topic, which in the world of sports journalism, is extremely rare.”
They began writing the book in 2017, but later the project was shelved for various reasons. They returned to work on the book in 2020, and Hanlon revealed most of the work on the book happened during that year.
No topic was off-limits — from the racial slur an NFL team owner used in his presence, to his ambivalent relationship with football and its violence, to what it was like to be a young celebrity in L.A. in the ‘80s.Greg Hanlon
Hanlon describes the collaboration, “The process consisted of Eric and I organizing our thoughts on which topics we wanted to cover. From there, I interviewed him on the phone, and the thoughts and stories poured forth. He’s a very charismatic person and a gifted storyteller. No topic was off-limits — from the racial slur an NFL team owner used in his presence, to his ambivalent relationship with football and its violence, to what it was like to be a young celebrity in L.A. in the ‘80s. I can’t stress enough that the book consists of Eric’s words, his stories, and his life. That’s what gives the book its power. My job was just as a conduit to organize all of that on the page.”
I asked Hanlon what preconceptions of Dickerson were shattered after he got to know Dickerson better.
“Eric had a tense relationship with the media during his career. He was often portrayed as selfish and greedy, and as a bad teammate. Nothing could be further from the truth — and as I hope our book shows, those portrayals were unfair and tinged with racism,” said Hanlon.
For decades, the origin of the TransAm has been the subject of speculation and urban legend. In Watch My Smoke, Eric finally reveals how he got that car.Greg Hanlon
For those who want to know the truth about Dickerson’s college recruitment, Hanlon says, “The story of [this] has long been the subject of speculation. Eric was the top football recruit in the country in 1978, and one day, he was seen driving a brand-new Pontiac TransAm. For decades, the origin of the TransAm has been the subject of speculation and urban legend. In Watch My Smoke, Eric finally reveals how he got that car.”
Hanlon finished the interview by saying, “I’ll just add that it was an incredible honor working with Eric on a book that spotlights such important themes in such an honest way.”
As of this writing, the current Los Angeles Rams have a good pathway to Super Bowl LVI as they are set to play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championships on January 30. The Rams are favored to win. That makes it a prime time to read about L.A. Rams history. Speaking of history, the book would also be timely subject matter to read during February for Black History Month.