"You're ashamed of what you've written? Well, what am I doing talking to a writer who's ashamed of what he writes?"
I blinked. "That's not what I meant. But now at least you've got a reason not to talk," I said lamely. "Before, it didn't seem to me you did."
We chatted a bit. I tried to dissuade him. I said I had spoken to so many of the Colts that I needed his side of things.
"I'm not going to open that can...." He sounded frantic.
"Yes, yes. I know," I said.
I decided to go down to Baltimore anyway. I knew that I would not get much out of either John Unitas or Don McCafferty. Both of them have multiyear contracts; Unitas' is for "personal service" for 10 years at a reputed $50,000 a year, and as for McCafferty, he will collect a quarter of a million dollars over five years for not coaching the team. Being honored with these contracts, perhaps Unitas and McCafferty feel obligated to uphold the Colt management policies, however personally humiliating one finds them. Besides, although they both are stoical, talking to them would have been a painful business.
But there were others. I went to see Bubba Smith. Great Bubba! He moves gingerly through his new house with its purple chairs and the chandeliers and the big bed with its ceiling mirror and the rug on it with the foxtails. He is just off crutches, following his hospitalization after the most ironic of injuries: in an exhibition game in Tampa the kid holding the down marker froze as a play, with Bubba in it, moved helter-skelter toward him. Rather than backing away with the stick, which is the required procedure, he froze, wide-eyed, and Bubba hammered into the pole and drove it, by one estimate, two feet into the ground. Under the awful strain, with his legs wrapped grotesquely around the pole, the innards of his right knee were torn askew.
Bubba was delighted to learn that Joe Thomas had refused to hear me. "At least he won't try to mess with your mind," he said. That was a phrase I had heard him use so often: "messing with the mind."
"Have they been messing with yours?" I asked.
Bubba snorted. "Just today I got a letter from the front office saying that I would be fined $100 for every day I missed therapy for my knee. Well, what sort of a letter is that? I like to play football better than anyone. You think I'm going to miss therapy for my knee?" He glared at me. "Well?"