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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Glazer's been crafty as Fox to become the top insider

Jay Glazer's stories run together after a while, one more colorful than the next.

There was the apartment in a "freakin' war zone" in Brooklyn, owned by "an Israeli drug dealer" and populated by a "Muslim woman who was a prison guard at Rikers Island."

And the one near Spanish Harlem where the refrigerator blocked the bathroom door, and the bathroom light stayed on only if you didn't let go of the string.

And the cousin's friend's house near New Orleans with the "Goth chicks, like a vampire house," where he "squatted" during Super Bowl week in 1997.

"I had no money, dude, I was broke," Glazer said, recalling Super Bowl XXXI.

Dues? Yup, Fox's preternaturally prolific "insider" has paid them. But the idea is not simply to suffer for suffering's sake. It's to get somewhere.

And Glazer, now 38, certainly has, breaking a string of stories in recent seasons.

They include the August trade of Brett Favre to the Jets and reports within an hour of one another Sept. 24 that Plaxico Burress would be suspended and Matt Millen canned.

Four days later, he reported that Burress has been fined 40 to 50 times in his Giants tenure.

To understand how all this happened, look no further than that week in New Orleans.

Glazer had a credential from NY1 but could afford to fly only by cashing in a free credit he got after he was bumped from a flight to a Giants road game.

"I basically camped out in the media room," he said. "I wanted to meet anybody I possibly could, any contact. I just tried to sell myself to anybody."

He lived on media center snacks, including a boat filled daily with irradiated oysters. "I didn't even eat oysters then, but that was my lunch, and my dinner," he said.

I remember that boat well, and remember that Glazer well. From the start, it was clear he was born to be a reporter. He is indefatigable, ingratiating and a smidgen insane.

(Did I mention he competes in mixed martial arts as a hobby?)

"I honestly go about my business like, 'God almighty, thank you for where I am,' " he said. "I do not want to go back to where I was."

Glazer grew up in Manalapan, N.J., and attended Pace University while working as a stand-up comic and bartender. He picked up whatever internships he could, including one at WFAN.

Later, he worked for three Giants news magazines, then got work - for no pay - at NY1 before landing a weekly column at the New York Post. The Post paid only $250 a week, but the job energized him. He said he cold-called "the entire league," making connections he still has. He took other odd jobs while playing "credit-card roulette."

All that led to his big break: being hired as an insider by CBS in 1999. He joined Fox in 2004.

Glazer's style has worked wonders, even as it at times has annoyed or befuddled more traditional sports journalists.

From the start, he has had a knack for befriending players, coaches and executives and earning their trust. By the time he got the Post job, he had contacts throughout the Giants' and Jets' locker rooms. He asked them to pass the word to the rest of the NFL that he was the place to go.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "It spread that I'd never screwed a guy over. The players became like my marketing tool."

Glazer connects with players in part by speaking their language without seeming insincere, a notoriously difficult balance for sports journalists.

"These guys are around so many losers and fake people, when you find someone you think you can trust, you latch on to it," he said. "I figure you have God, and then the rest of us. If you're in that group with the rest of us, I treat you the same way."

One of his first and closest friends in the league was Michael Strahan, with whom he wrote a book last year. (Glazer also long has been a friend of Tiki Barber, and in '02 he brokered an on-camera rapprochement between Barber and Strahan after they had feuded.)

Now Glazer and Strahan are reunited at Fox. Recently they went out and reminisced about the former's Spartan start.

"Strahan and I were trying to think how I paid the rent," he said. "We didn't know."

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