afternoon during the football season, while a scarlet-jerseyed quarterback of
Ohio State University barks signals on the field, 425,000 additional
quarterbacks in Columbus and another 8 million throughout the state are sure to
think, at some point during the game, that each of them could do a better job.
By Monday morning, the traditional time for quarterback sniping, these millions
of signal callers will have replayed the game several times over in their own
minds, and will then start replaying it in groups. Along about Wednesday or
Thursday the coming Saturday's game will come up for discussion, and all of
Ohio will decide in advance just how that one ought to be played.
To a certain
degree this sort of thing goes on all over the country, but in Ohio football is
super-serious business. Few are the games at Ohio Stadium, rain or shine, that
are not attended by capacity crowds of 82,000 screaming, back-pounding,
bottle-sipping, pigskin-pixilated customers. The rest of the quarterbacks in
the state—those who couldn't get tickets—do their second guessing on radio or
TV (a half dozen radio stations make sure the game is brought into every home).
And if OSU loses, the separate and collective wrath of these millions of
proprietary partisans will be leveled against the man behind the
Big Brother to
everybody when he's on top, but candidate of candidates for the salt mines when
he's not, a head football coach at OSU has been described as having, next to
the Presidency, the toughest job in the United States. Not only does he have to
direct the fortunes of his squad, but he is at the constant beck and call of
all the quarterback organizations in Ohio, to whom he must make full
accountings. The coach's postgame confessions of sins are regularly delivered
in a manner reminiscent of a defendant at a Soviet trial. "I was wrong
there," he will say, hanging his head abjectly. "I shouldn'ta done
that." The fact that he may have been right, or that the point in question
is at least debatable, makes no difference. The boys in the back room want
The man on trial
this week (for losing 20-14 to Duke) is an oddly wound-up individual named
Wayne Woodrow (Woody) Hayes, who is both a charming and frightening product of
what, in these years of postwar prosperity, is more of a bountiful big business
and a mass hysteria than it ever was before. In many respects Hayes is the
perfect man for the job. Beyond replaying the game cozily with the manifold
quarterbacks in mufti, he is bumptiously tough and is far from a hypocrite.
Hayes is completely, in fact devastatingly, aware that in the struggle for
survival he must produce a winning team or lose his $15,000-a-year position
and, even more important, his prestige as a big-time coach, which happens to be
Woody's total raison d'�tre.
football," Hayes says, with his slight lisp and almost with tears in his
eyes. "I think it's the most wonderful game in the world, and I despise to
lose. I've hated to lose ever since I was a kid and threw away the mallets when
I lost at croquet."
unadmirable trait has the unalterable approval of every man Buckeye, but Hayes
gets no points for mere enthusiasm. Each week of the season brings on a public
reincarnation of himself, in the image of hero or villain. If, as usual, there
are nine games to the schedule, he lives nine unpredictable, breath-taking,
spine-tingling lives. Depending on how much of a winning edge he has at the end
of November, the reincarnations can be terminated in one tremendous, popularly
applied, postseason kick-after-lack-of-touchdowns—OUT!
So far, Hayes
has hung on, but it's been close. He is now in his fifth season and until last
year he was more often a bumbling devil incarnate than a gridiron Galahad. But
in 1954 he dismayed his most ardent detractors by producing an unbeaten team of
national champions. For the moment at least, all the angry and frustrated
Walter Mittys in Ohio had to stay on the bench.
By the end of
this season, Hayes may be in for fresh trouble. But if he doesn't talk too
much, a habit he's had considerable difficulty controlling in the past (last
winter at a Cleveland alumni meeting he couldn't resist asking, "How many
of you were here last year?" and demanding a show of hands), the consensus
is that he earned himself enough insurance in '54 to survive a likely so-so '55
In four and a
half years at OSU, Hayes has won 28, lost 11 and tied two. If he should fail
two years in a row to win more games than he loses, he will automatically be a
flop as a coach and a foolish fellow to boot. That's how it is in these fickle
flatlands, and that's how it will be, with Hayes simply a Frankenstein of the
system, until football ceases to be a vast profit-making amusement enterprise
with amateur dressing.