"I don't think coaches are necessarily better today; there are just more of them. We had a coach for the line and one for the backs. Now they've got a coach for everything. It makes the game better to watch because you can specialize. But it still all boils down to blocking and tackling. You get a bunch of guys who'll do that—not can do it, but will do it—and you win."
He had tried coaching the Bears' backfield after he quit playing, but he didn't last past the third season because "it wasn't going to be my life-style. I didn't want to work that hard at it. Halas was the coach, and he had us in there from 8 a.m. to midnight, which wasn't my idea of a normal working day. Besides, I didn't want to have to kick some kid in the pants to make him play."
The visitor said he had seen the old film clips and had been amazed at Grange's running. "It was God-given; I couldn't take any credit," he said. "Other guys could make 90s and 100s in chemistry. I could run fast. It's the way God distributes things. I don't remember ever losing a footrace as a kid. I'd go to those church picnics and I'd win a baseball, and then my father would give me a quarter every time I won. Hell, I was a pro when I was in the sixth grade!"
He smiled, one side of his mouth rising above the other and the skin gathering around his glistening, impenetrable black eyes. "My best day in sports happened when I was 15 or 16," he said. "I'd been on the ice wagon all morning, and I went to this track meet in the middle of the day. I won six first places. Then I went back and finished my rounds and put the ice truck away."
But that didn't explain his style, the visitor said. "People say you ran with the football in a way no one ever has. How do you account for it?"
"I don't know if I can," said Grange. "It's not something you're taught. You throw a football to 10 kids and tell 'em to run at a defense, they'll do it 10 different ways. Hey, would you like a beer? Muggs, how about a couple beers?"
"They used to write about the ice wagon being good training for you," said the visitor.
"I only thought of it that way afterward, because there's no doubt it made me stronger. But I did it for the money. I was 15 or 16 when I started, and I'll never forget that first check—the unheard-of amount of $37.50. Mr. Thompson used to come by with the wagon, and we'd chase it for ice chips. One day he said he'd give any of us a dollar if we could take the tongs and carry a 75-pound block of ice on our shoulders. We all tried it, and it always slid off. None of us could do it, so I practiced. There's a knack to it; you have to hold the ice tongs so they don't come apart, and balance the block on your shoulder. When I got so I could do it he gave me the dollar and said, 'You want to work for me?' "
"The ice tongs are in the Hall of Fame now, chrome-plated," said Muggs, returning with the beer. "We'll have lunch soon," she said. "A typical Red Grange lunch."
Grange unbuttoned his jacket and leaned back in his chair. He seemed to be enjoying himself, despite Muggs's warning that he really didn't care "one way or the other" about these things anymore. "You can come," she had told the visitor, "but it won't matter to him either way."