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THE TIES THAT BIND
Michael O'Reilly Finnegan, 28, father of four and sales rep for a company that sells gym equipment, has a secret. Promise not to tell his wife Sandra or his father Hugh, who also happens to be his boss, and Finnegan will own up. He's the mysterious ringer who last November quarterbacked the North Central College jayvees to a 12-6 win over the University of Chicago football class—and broke his collarbone. To this day, Sandra and Hugh believe Finnegan broke it while visiting a customer. And so, in a way, he did, but not by tripping over a bench, which is what he told them.
Finnegan's fake began while he was calling on Ralph McAlister, North Central's athletic director and one of Finnegan's customers. McAlister was on the phone telling Wally Haas, the University of Chicago football instructor, that he was going to have to call the game off, since North Central was down to one quarterback, the varsity regular.
"I'll play quarterback for you," said Finnegan, who had been a defensive halfback at Iowa Wesleyan. "What the heck, it won't make any difference," said McAlister, and promptly got Haas's O.K. "Not so fast," said Finnegan. "You must promise...."
"I told him to call straight running plays," McAlister recalls. "Nothing fancy. Just hand the ball off and get out of the way." But early in the game Finnegan dropped back and threw a pass—and completed it. After that, there was no stopping him. He completed five out of 15, one for a two-yard touchdown. "He got excited," McAlister says. However, in the third quarter the pass rush began to reach Finnegan. "I noticed he was getting up slower," McAlister says. "And then he complained of a sore shoulder."
Last week Michael O'Reilly Finnegan made a full confession. "Football has always been a bone of contention in my marriage," he said. "I'm a football nut. I was married in college and had a child, but still I played. It would have been all right, I suppose, if I had been an athlete, but I was terrible. George Plimpton could have beaten me out. My wife just thought it was stupid and irresponsible for a grown man with a family to risk injury playing a game he wasn't much good at.
"Now Sandra is about to have our fifth child, and I break my collarbone. How? Playing football. I knew she would never understand. She saved my life—literally saved my life. I was in such agony, and she tended me night and day for a week until I was well enough to go back to work. But I've learned my lesson. I've matured. It came to me when I felt the pain and I began to think of how I was going to explain the injury. Then I thought—heck, this wasn't Jay Berwanger who cut me down, but some kid from the University of Chicago football class, and I was humiliated."
AROUND THE BEND
A good deal of credit for the Administration's decision last week to abandon the proposed dams in the Grand Canyon must go to the Sierra Club, which, ironically, lost its tax-exempt status by running full-page ads asking the public to protest the despoliation of the canyon (SI, July 18, 1966).