I'm not going to coach football any more. Not that I have coached all that much; in fact, it was just one game. But that was enough for me, and this is my official resignation.
It all began with a phone call from my ex-friend, Jim Hess, who is the football coach and athletic director at Stephen F. Austin State in Nacogdoches, Texas. That's a Division I-AA university that plays schools that sometimes play Southwest Conference schools. He wanted to know if I cared to be a head coach in what they call the Media Bowl, an intrasquad game played at the end of spring practice for which members of the media take the places of the regular coaches.
Naturally said yes. There are only two species who take pleasure in second-guessing football coaches: sports-writers and everybody else. Sportswriters are the worst, and I'm no exception. I've never doubted—at least before this—that I could outmaneuver most of those sideline jockeys.
It was an illusion I treasured right up to the moment I took charge of the White team, my half of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. That's when it dawned on me I didn't know anything about football.
But it was too late for defeatist thoughts. I had to win, and this was more than a matter of honor. My opponent coaching the Purple team was a member of the detested electronic media, a fellow named Robert Hill. I'm not suggesting that there is the slightest animosity between our two media; maybe I'm just allergic to hair spray.
Of course, before we could play we had to divvy up sides in a draft—the equivalent of recruiting, I guess. The first pick was important because of Todd Whitten, the starting quarterback. The year before, as a junior, he had thrown 27 touchdown passes and was second team all-conference. Winning the coin toss and drafting Whitten was, to me, the key to winning the game.
I tried—I thought with perfect logic—to circumvent the coin toss by pointing out that my opponent had a 2-1 record in the annual game, while I was 0-0. As the coach with the worst record, it stood to reason, I should have first pick.
Hess vetoed that, not surprisingly, but I won the coin toss and took Whitten. Hill got the second-and third-string quarterbacks, and I the fourth. That was the way the draft would go the rest of the way, position by position.
With his first choice the electronic-media whiz drafted weak safety Darrell Harkless, who was practically All-World and the best athlete on either squad. He was also, I later concluded, very nearly invisible.
As the draft drew to a close and opening practice approached, I grew edgy. These were real live college athletes and I was their coach, I kept thinking nervously. I was supposed to lead them. My hands started to shake, and the roster I was holding began to blur before my eyes. My condition was not aided by the genial remarks of Hill, who said, "How can you type with your hands shaking, like that?"