MacArthur was talking of games and wars when he expressed this homily, adapted from Wellington. It is displayed in a prominent place in the gym, as if to prove that sports have a solid vocational tie-in with battles and are thus deserving of the taxpayers' largesse: "Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory."
Dawkins may have been a better soldier in Vietnam for having played football. Bill Carpenter may have had the courage to call napalm down near himself because he had learned, as the Lonely End, how to stand out there naked and vulnerable and still make the right moves and judgments. Maybe these things do count. Don Holleder, another West Point All-America of that period, was killed in Vietnam, and someone once said that Holleder and a couple of journalists were the only names ever to be killed in that war.
Imagine that: names. This is not a MacArthur time anymore; certainly not so much as it is a McLuhan time. Dawkins' roommate used to tell him: "You're the figment of a sportswriter's imagination," and Dawkins, laughing, reveals that the press "homogenized me." No matter, really: he is close enough to being what he has been portrayed as. Besides, it is not significant in his case whether or not he learned to react or think fast when midway between the sideline stripes. What is important is that Dawkins was ordained a celebrity for his part in the friendly strife.
One military expert blithely writes that Dawkins is "the most highly regarded young officer in the Army, the surest bet there is for chief of staff in the 1980s," and surely Dawkins would have reached this estate had he never played a down of football. But he profits that he did, and when he did—and not just like some other Whizzer White or Jack Kemp or Vinegar Bend Mizell. Sporting successes certainly helped those men demonstrably because they gained exposure in the stadiums; but exposure is just the stuff of TV spots these days.
Dawkins is defined in quite different terms. As the Army has fallen to its low ebb, it has come to mean a great deal to many people that Pete Dawkins ran wild as the leaves changed above Michie Stadium that autumn of his, 1958—and that he is still there on the team. At the age of 33, damned if he isn't a symbol.
A colonel's wife, sitting across the crowded living room from Dawkins, was on the defense about the Army for no good reason, except perhaps that she has become accustomed to that stance. "Only the bad, that's all you ever hear," she exclaimed. "Is that fair?" She suddenly thrust out her hand and pointed toward Dawkins. "Why do people think he stays in after all that has happened? He could do anything on the outside. Anything. Doesn't that mean something that Pete Dawkins stays in the Army? They all remember him.
"Good God, at least they still remember Pete Dawkins, don't they?"