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THE COACH
Gerald Holland
October 13, 1958
He is a big man—and, as executive, whip-cracking taskmaster, strategist, field general, actor, director, spellbinder and talent scout, he gets bigger and bigger with each passing season. The question is: Are the pressures of his job making him too big?
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October 13, 1958

The Coach

He is a big man—and, as executive, whip-cracking taskmaster, strategist, field general, actor, director, spellbinder and talent scout, he gets bigger and bigger with each passing season. The question is: Are the pressures of his job making him too big?

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"Not worth it, you said, boy?" he said. "Maybe this kind of football isn't worth it. But did you ever stand on a football field with 100,000 people looking down on you? With the marching bands prancing out on the field and the little drum majorettes swirling their skirts and the cheerleaders leaping and somersaulting down the sidelines?"

You talk about a Hollywood production? It's bigger than that because it's alive. You understand? It's alive and it's breathing and yelling and roaring and waving its flags and stamping its feet—100,000 people, son, not slumping back in some pitch-black movie theater, but out in the open air, under the open sky, living and breathing and thrilling down to the marrow of their bones. They're young, every one of them, the oldest of them young for this moment—their own little private concerns lost in the creation of this big over-all character—the crowd, the football crowd, a phenomenon, unique, drawn together out of 100,000 lives that haven't another blessed thing in common but this game—this football game!"

Blenheim thrust a finger toward the sky. "Look up there! Television cameras looking down, radio broadcasters screaming into their mikes, two, three, four hundred reporters banging away at their typewriters, the teletypes going a mile a minute, the president of the university sitting in his own private booth with the refrigerator and the electric heater in it, waving his arm down to you, the coach, hoping you'll wave back so's he can turn and say to the governor of the state next to him, 'There's Boogey Man Blenheim down there in the cowboy hat, a remarkable character.' "

Blenheim crouched and pointed dramatically across the field. "Down in the business office, they're starting to count up the take. A hundred thousand people at $5 a head. How much is it? It's a half a million dollars, boy! That's your gate. That's what comes in at the box office. A hundred thousand admissions—paid. Do you realize something, son? One of these Saturdays at Ann Arbor, Michigan or Columbus, Ohio they'll play to more people than Greeley University will play to in all its games for six or seven years! Can you get it, can you comprehend it? Do you grasp the scope and size of it?"

Blenheim straightened up and drew the back of his hand across his mouth: "Hollywood production, you say? It's an interesting thought. Now let me ask you something. If Mr. Sam Goldwyn or Mr. Cecil B. DeMille were putting on a show for half a million-dollar gate, how would they cast the production? Would they say to some flunky, 'Go out and get me a blonde-haired girl and a black-haired fellow to play the big parts'? Or would they go out and scour the world for the best talent they could get their hands on?"

He looked around the field and then pointed to the stands again.

"It's your show, it's your production and you've gotten the best boys you could to play this football game. You've slapped backs and you've cut corners and you've made the corny speeches and you've lied to a red headed woman. But nobody up there knows about that. All they see is the big show you've given them, a show that'll take them out of themselves for a Saturday afternoon. Where else could you assemble all those people under these kind of auspices? Where would all those people be, what would they be fussing and fighting and griping about if it weren't for your show? Because it is your show, son, if you're the coach. You've pulled it all together. You're the Sam Goldwyn, the Cecil B. DeMille of this production, you're the impresario and there you are down on the field where they can spot you from anywhere in the stadium because you're smart enough to wear a ten-gallon hat!"

The old coach swept off the big hat and held it high over his head, turning this way and that, smiling broadly and waving as if he were acknowledging the cheers of a big crowd.

But then suddenly, realizing what he was doing, he dropped his arms and put his hat back on, his face reddening in embarrassment. Young Bob Wyczk looked around the field, pretending not to notice.

Blenheim coughed and cleared his throat. "Bob Wyczk," he said gruffly, "a coach doesn't have to hit the big time. Wherever he is, if he's got tenure, I mean to say if he's teaching maybe English or history on the side, why, he can make out all right—hold his job and maybe do what you said, build a little character here and there."

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