The Coach had been making commencement addresses, delivering a speech he called "The Decline of Creative Profanity in American Life." He said it not only presented a challenge to youthful minds but also had proved to be highly portable; he could adjust it readily to the sophistication of his audiences and the size of his fees. "A tour de force, Scribe," he said, not getting up but motioning me into the booth with the tip of his unlit Don Diego Monarch. "Every stop I make, the etymologists cluster to thank me. High school and college coaches rush to pump my hand."
"Are they for or against the decline?" I said, squinting to adjust to the light.
The oasis the Coach favors when passing through Manhattan (a restaurant-lounge off Lexington in the mid-50s) affords him a certain anonymity, being as dark as a mine shaft. I had found him by trusting to instinct and the knowledge that he prefers corner tables where the vantage point is good but privacy is still possible.
"The curse word," he said, sliding a drink in my direction, "is a tool of communication only when it is, one, shocking, and two, incongruous. But nowadays a kid can hear all the shockwords at the neighborhood theater, or on ladies' day at the club. The expressions we used like jack-hammers on the practice field now flow like maple syrup from the mouths of the mothers in the C League."
I noticed that the waitress, a facsimile redhead with friendly buck teeth, was hovering nearby, staring at the Coach's familiar face. Tanned and more handsomely creased than ever, it had become prominent again since his agreement to shill for a line of small appliances on television.
He watched carefully as I took the first sip of the drink and smiled when I made a face.
"A split of Perrier water with a twist," he said. "Low in calories and a non-carcinogen. I commend it as the all-purpose drink." He slapped his own flat stomach.
"You said on the phone you had reached a startling conclusion about the state of college football," I said, sucking in. "Well, I certainly agree. If there's one thing college football needs today, it's more inspirational cussing, and I for one...."
"Don't be impertinent, Scribe," he said. "You have been a loyal if sluggish conduit, but I am on a tight schedule. What I am about to tell you may require more than the usual spelling-out, and I want to get on with it." The Coach took a long draft from his glass and counted the house with his steel-blue eyes.
"I was beginning to feel reassured about the upcoming season," he said. "Division I-A looks top-heavy now, but by this time next fall some of the little dreamer schools who opted to stay in I-A will realize that what Big Football achieved was a voting bloc that will shape the game's future—and its budget—for years to come. No doubt when the dreamers discover this reality they will be allowed an orderly exit from the crowd in I-A (139 members) to the freer air of I-AA (38), where the living will be easier.