"How can a
man who looks like that," she said, "play that stupid game? He could be
maimed." I couldn't get her interested again.
Once in a while,
though, she'd walk in where the TV was and ask whether Jimmy Brown was playing,
and when he was she would sit down for a while and watch.
there behind those others?" she'd ask.
all right. Now watch for the sweep," I'd say. And after Jimmy would run one
and they'd come in close on him with the camera the way they used to when he
was down on the ground, she'd say, "It's the way he gets up, and the way he
walks back to that bunch of others that I like." I think she was thinking
of me. Brown always looked as though he hurt.
But that was the
sum total of my wife's understanding of and interest in the game of football,
and it's beside the point. She was still interested in what Fitzy had said
about staying up nights trying to think of ways to protect me.
get more insurance," she said, and then that "please!" look came
back and she said something about how maybe she and the kids ought to go to her
mother's every fall, and why didn't I like chess like her father.
But I was going
to play, and I guess she could never really understand why I wanted to. The
others played the game for different reasons, some because they played when
they were in high school, some just to get outside for an afternoon and some,
like the rush line, as a substitute for something worse. I think I played
because of some kind of atavistic urge that gave me the feeling of being
Hannibal in the Alps in winter.
That feeling is
hard to describe, but I have a friend who feels the same way. He lives in
Memphis, Tenn., and the other night he called me up from a bar and said that he
had just had a drink with Charlie Conerly and Charlie had said, "I'm going
to die someday, and when I do I want to be buried in Yankee Stadium on the
five-yard line," and then he hung up. It was a good quote, but of course
Charlie hadn't said it.
feeling, my feeling. It was not the rush line's, which could never be accused
of taking an overly romantic view of life.
There were four
of them—Howie and Fitzy, who went both ways, and Ham and Doc. Ham got his name
because he looked a little that way, as though when he got home at night they
hung him up, but nobody knew how Doc got his name, and nobody asked.