"Oh, I'll tell him I took a nine on the fourth or something. No use antagonizing him unnecessarily. But suddenly I finally got fed up."
"Oh, I know. I'm on your side," she said. "Don't forget, they bore me too, and I don't even know anything about football."
"You know a damned sight more than most of them do. I only thank God I'm not Red Grange or Bronko Nagurski. I hate to think what they must have to put up with. Backfield men, and those western colleges. Oh, boy. I probably could have made the crew, but I didn't like rowing and I did like football. And with my marks I couldn't do both and hope to stay in college. Tough enough as it was."
"Well, Giant, the price of fame," she said.
"Now you cut that out," said Hugo.
"Go on, hit one out and show them how good you are," she said. "Anyway, the season'll be over in a week or two."
But the end of the season did not mean the inauguration of an annual moratorium on football talk. Since he had become—for a lineman—only a little less legendary than Tack Hardwick and Frank Hinkey, Jim Thorpe and Eddie Mahan, who played the end or the backfield, he had to accustom himself to surprise recognition, not so surprising to him as to the delighted individuals who were meeting him for the first time; and with the passing of the years they seemed to grow more astonished at his durability. It was hard to reconcile their points of view, held simultaneously, that he had been built of marble and iron, indestructibly, and that he was not only alive but playing golf, swimming, and engaged in the daily transactions of financial business. They seemed to believe he had accomplished prodigious feats of agility and strength while existing as a piece of statuary, heroic size. There were times when he wanted to remove his two front teeth, to pull up his pants and let them see a 10-inch scar, to show how vulnerable he had been to the taped fists and the pointed cleats of the gods who had played against him. But by the time he was in his thirties he had learned that the easiest way to handle a football nut was to let him do all the talking.
Hugo and Gladys had two daughters. "If you had a son would you want him to play football?" was a question that people felt compelled to ask him from time to time. His usual answer was that if the boy wanted to play, that would be all right. But on a trip to Bermuda, in the ship's bar, a woman who almost certainly had been a sociology major at her college asked him the same old question, and Hugo told her that he was bringing up his daughters to play football. "You're not serious," said the woman.
"Well, I should say I am," said Hugo. He thereupon got carried away with his fantasy and for the better part of an hour, as the Daiquiris came and went, Hugo described the weekends at his house in Locust Valley, the half-size football field on his place, the regulation goal posts, the tackling dummy, the eagerness with which his two Chapin School daughters were learning to place-kick, forward pass, and do the body-building calisthenics that he himself had learned at St. Bartholomew's and Harvard. "It's character building as well as body building," he told the woman. "Naturally I never expect them to really play football, but it's very good for them to learn to protect themselves. The give and take of life, you might say."
"You're not afraid they might hurt themselves?" said the woman.