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It is the week of the Big Game and some of the players, conduits to the head coach—which means they are close to the boss—are exhorting the unchosen. Black studs as well as white dudes—Field Hands and Animals, The Boomer calls them—are banging on the metal lockers, stomping on the concrete floor, shouting, "Whoo-e-e, we're going to do it! Yeah! We're going to win! Right on!"
The Boomer, a mountainous figure in a room full of oversized men, looks up from his stool as The Golfer takes over. Now let's hear from the noncombatants, thinks The Boomer, who sees quarterbacks (and kickers) as the pretty people—golfers.
The Golfer breaks it down for the Field Hands and Animals, ends up passionately repeating his theme—"It's the game of a lifetime and that's the way we gotta play it. Like no tomorrow, right?"
The Boomer evaluates the speech, granting more credit for emotionalism than for originality—not up to Churchill's on-the-beaches pitch, but not bad for a semiliterate. His generosity comes to a quick end when The Golfer turns to him as if for support.
"Heavy," responds The Boomer, stifling a yawn and making it plain he is staying aloof.
The din and the frenzy make him uneasy. They got to be kidding, The Boomer says to himself. But he knows they are not.
The following day the chosen are at it again. Using lockers as tympani they bang and shout, "Coaches out of the room! Coaches out of the room!" The gospel is reiterated. "WIN! WIN! WIN!" Then a Catholic priest, the team padre, recites the lyrics from the theme song of Man of La Mancha—The Impossible Dream. The Boomer hums along. His accompaniment draws glares and a few indulgent shrugs. The following day a former boxing champion gives the squad a personal account of beating heroic odds.
The Boomer tries to figure the next act. "Damn, it's got to be a hooker," he says. Nobody laughs. Instead there is an embarrassed silence, as though a dirty joke had been told at the parsonage dinner table. Later, after practice, the coach puts his arm around The Boomer's shoulders. The gesture makes both men uncomfortable. "Son, I'd like you to talk it up," he requests. "It's important to some of the players that they hear it from you." The Boomer muses, A voice for the black field hands. Something for everybody. A message from the pits. Now ain't that nice? "Groovy," The Boomer says out loud, "but it's not my thing, coach." As he turns abruptly away, The Boomer thinks, There it is again. This dude has a problem. He has an obsession to be a father figure. Why the hell can't he leave it alone?
Finally, the coach gets to The Boomer. The night before the crucial game he comes to The Boomer's room and appeals to his professional pride. This, the most important game of the coach's career, rests on The Boomer's giant shoulder pads. The critical match-up is between The Boomer, the best offensive tackle in football, and an All-Pro defensive end. A classic football struggle. Another example, of course, of lousy dialogue, The Boomer told himself, but he bought the pitch anyway. The old shrewdie touched The Boomer's soft spots—his professionalism, his pride. Until three in the morning The Boomer ran game films, watching his opponent flicker across the wall in endless pursuit of quarterbacks. As he waited impatiently for sleep The Boomer felt a sense of self-betrayal. The following day The Boomer won his personal battle, but the team lost.
In the time since, The Boomer, Oakland Raider Right Tackle Bob Brown, perpetual All-Pro, has found his thoughts often returning to this particular week. He sees it as a chronicle of football's dark madness. To Brown the pro game has become a theater of the absurd, with a script that makes M*A*S*H Rotarian. "It's not just me, a lot of players are turned off by the corny clich�s, the senseless playacting and the silly posturing," says Brown with extraordinary intensity. "These same men will curse the caste system and damn the inequities but will go full speed ahead with the insane program. It's easier, you see. But The Boomer can't swing that way."