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Abbie lived up to his reputation: he was missing. We couldn't reach him, but that only put us in a class with the FBI. Of course, it isn't that easy to send an invitation to a guy who's gone underground. Is there a post-office box for subterraneans?
I guess it was too much to expect that our favorite fugitive, Abbie Hoffman, would look at his calendar and realize his old coach and teammates would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our sort of championship season.
Abbie, I'm sure you remember the spring of '59 when you played No. 2 singles for the only unbeaten team Brandeis University had ever had. Well, Abbie—wherever you are—the old Brandeis gang got together once again during the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow, and we would love to have seen you...in whatever disguise. We know that you've got a record and that you're on the lam, but it wouldn't have mattered. You're one of us, Abbie, and we wouldn't have ratted on you no matter what, even if the FBI had threatened to put tarantulas in our sneakers.
Coaches are expected to build character, but must I take all the credit for one of the greatest characters to emerge from American sport? Surely only partial acclaim is due me, because I inherited Abbie in his senior year of 1959 when I became the tennis coach at Brandeis. Waltham, Mass., the site of the Brandeis campus, is better known for clocks than cuckoos, but Abbie might have changed all that if he'd stuck around a few more years.
Of course, you remember Abbie, the bushy-haired radical of the 1960s who led the Yippie Party and championed their candidate for President in '68, one Pigasus of porcine persuasion. Considering what we got in that election, Pigasus might not have looked too bad bellying up to the trough in the White House. Abbie was a defendant in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial following the upheaval during the Democratic National Convention in 1968, and he wrote Steal This Book and Revolution for the Hell of It. He subsequently got into real bad trouble; he was nabbed on a drug rap, which earned him a high ranking from the FBI. Thus, five years ago, he plunged into the depths of address unknown. But we know he's out there somewhere, because he frequently uses clandestine interviews to address those of us above ground.
While Abbie has been awarded a scarlet F (for fugitive) by the Feds, he was merely a wearer of the blue B (for Brandeis) when Athletic Director Benny Friedman asked me to take over the tennis team. It had been an informal operation—there hadn't even been a coach—before I began moonlighting from my job as a sportswriter in nearby Boston. Coaching tennis at Brandeis for 2� months paid $200, plus all the sweatsox my roommates and I could wear, and set me up not only as a resident character builder but also as housemother, transportation officer, custodian of jockstraps, psychiatrist ("Try to build a meaningful relationship with your doubles partner") and minister of protocol ("Do not show up in black sneakers again, please").
Of course, I was also supposed to instruct the players in the finer points of tennis, as in:
"Get your first serve in...."
"Play his backhand...."
"At least get your second serve in!"