Paul had drawn more vocalized boos from his comment than the subvocal boos that Sid drew from his announcement, so I guess most of the players feel he has a good idea. A few hate to lose their steak. Personally, I would prefer the steak before an evening game and the liquid before a day game. On day games I wake up nervous, but for evening games I know I have the whole day to sleep and rest, and the result is I am more relaxed for the pregame meal.
Today my rest came in between phone calls, all of them for Jacque. He had worked as maitre d' at Joe Hunt's restaurant in La Jolla during the offseason, and it seemed that every bar buddy he had made was dunning him for tickets to the game.
Apparently the rest I missed was not important, however, because I felt full of energy the entire game. Part of the reason for the added energy came from the incentive of having been chosen, along with Emil Karas, to act as co-captain for the opening game. During the exhibition season a different set of co-captains is chosen each week, but that does not dim the honor. It is a great thrill to be the official spokesman for a group of fellows whom you admire, respect and like.
On the field I knew how to fulfill the responsibilities of captain; in the dressing room, however, I felt inadequate. I felt, as captain, I was expected to say something to the squad before the game. What to say is the problem. Each player is a mature, dedicated athlete who knows what he has to do without being reminded that we must play hard, we must win. And yet there we were, minutes before game time, some sitting, some standing, all sweating from the heavy uniforms, the pregame workout, the nervousness. It seemed like something had to be said. Coach Gillman had told us to relax and have a good time out there, and if we made any mistakes to forget them and keep playing good football. Then he had left us so that we could have a few moments to ourselves before the game. When he left, the room became quiet.
Now, what I put down here as having been said to the squad will not be a verbatim report, because what I said was spontaneous and total recall is impossible. It was something like this:
"Fellows," I began, not sure what would follow, or what could follow, a beginning like that, "what Coach Gillman said is true; if we go out there with the idea that we are going to have a good time, everything will fall in place and we'll do well."
Oh, what to say, I thought, knowing I was groping, embarrassed for having reiterated the coach's words. And then I knew what had to be said, the only thing that was right to say to these men.
"We all know the importance of winning, and know what must be done to do so. We have a responsibility to the club and to our teammates to do that, but we must remember that our first responsibility is to our families and to ourselves; we must make the ball club. This is our job, our livelihood, and it is during the exhibition season that the squad is chosen—just a few weeks to show that you deserve a position on this team. And that's why we must go out there and play as hard as we can for the whole game.
"And for those who are mainly running on the special teams tonight, remember they're important also. There are players each year who are kept on the squad because they show the coaches they are tough on the kickoff team, the punt team and the rest. Pat Shea is a good example of this. Last year he was a special-team player during the games, but during the week he developed his line play until he became a fine football player. So let's go hard on everything. We can have a good time, but remember it's our job."
The speech will never win any awards for articulateness, and it certainly did not break open a ray of enlightenment upon the men, but sometimes it is good to try to say the things one feels, or to hear them said.