- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Simmering in the basement of the University of Oregon's creaking basketball pavilion is a dim, redwood-paneled sauna. Memory of its 180� heat is sometimes all that gives purpose to a sodden, chilled distance runner over the last half of a winter workout. You can sit in there with your eyes closed, letting the dry heat play over you, until that disciplinarian part of your mind, which has driven you 15 miles in the rain, curls up and goes to sleep, and you can drip and stretch and simply, dumbly, relax.
You can, that is, unless your coach, William J. Bowerman, enters. He is a big man, with exceptionally powerful arms and shoulders, although his legs are slender, having atrophied over the last few of his 61 years. He puts his towels and heavily laden key ring on the bench and sits in silence, without acknowledging your presence. You keep a wary eye on him. The heat builds rapidly in your body, but just as you are about to head for the door and a cool shower, he speaks.
"You know that the U.S. Olympic Committee refused to recognize the Track and Field Federation and actually rescinded recognition of the Wrestling Federation, giving it back to the AAU." It is not clear whether this is a question or a preface.
"Well, they did," he says indignantly. "I don't know how those old men figure to keep from stagnating if they don't let in new blood."
He pauses. You make another move for the door. He begins again in a more scholarly tone.
"As any institution grows into wealth and power, its practices, which are necessary to maintain or increase that power, can come to contradict the institution's original philosophy. All societies that get rich go through that, including the Olympic movement."
Again a pause while you roast.
"I feel like Elijah," he says, "giving the kings of Israel and Samaria hell for their royal greed, for abandoning the old ways. But then Elijah could call down the fire of the Lord and behead the false prophets, and he went out on a whirlwind. I'm more likely to go out on my shield."
He stands and takes up his towel. "It's understandable," he continues. "They're crotchety old men, those kings of Olympic House. They don't want to change. It hurts to change." Suddenly he snatches up his keys and slaps them on the inside of your thigh.