Durante is old now. His face is permanently subdivided by ravines that seem to radiate from the well publicized extension in its center. But the skills that first drew people to him in a Coney Island saloon in 1910 still work. Durante continues to play Durante, a warm, good, oppressed, not fully lettered man in whom everyone can see a bit of himself. He is a throwback. In a day when entertainment is a prefabricated commodity and we are told performers are the stars before we even know their skills, Durante raucously reminds us of a time when entertainers were fun, genuine, alive. More than Durante's nose relates him to the storied wooden boy Pinocchio. They share the same impish, wondering quality.
If you believe in numbers, he should have been a lawyer, maybe an insurance salesman. Because the figures were terrible. It was January 7, 1968 and teams of the National Football League were choosing the college players they wanted to hire. Rocky Bleier was not at the head of anyone's list. As a matter of fact, he wasn't even on most lists. With thousands of athletes pouring out of colleges each year, the pros need some orderly way to rate and eventually pick those few, of the thousands, they would like to add to their rosters. The worst possible rating is 2.5. Above 1.8 the player "is not capable of playing pro ball." Bleier was judged from 2.2 to 2.4. Wait, it gets worse. One Bleier observer noted, "Can't win in the NFL with this kid." Another, "I don't think this boy can make a pro club." The Steelers picked 18 players that year. Bleier, number 18, is the only one still in pro ball.