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Yeah, well, all the stories about V are four-fifths quotes anyway, and since V's never in one place anymore and he's tired and hungry and his throat's scratchy and he says he's injured because he pulled a muscle in his tongue, the magazine guy figured he'd begin the story by trying to write the way V talks—without the f's, of course. No question. No question about it.
Take his national championship...please. No, really. About the look-alike stuff. V says it's O.K. It's fine. It's great. Of course he loves it. No question. When V started out as Namath, he says they looked at Namath and said he was ruggedly handsome, but they looked at V and said he had a big nose. Then V was Pacino—son of Godfather, Godfather III and all that—which was O.K. because that meant he was probably Hoffman, too, so he started signing autographs "Love, Tootsie," and he loved every minute of it but then they called him Ratso Rizzo, and V didn't think that was so hot. V didn't like Ratso Rizzo at all, because how many broads want to talk to Ratso? No question about it. Zero, V wasn't no Ratso. But wait a minute. That's another paradox, because all his life V has said there were only two kinds of people: Big-timers and Rats. And V was the Rat of all Rats. So what was so different?
Here V was, a have-not walk-on who needed a bank loan to get into Rutgers. A full-blooded spaghetti-slinger who married the beautiful blonde Jewish princess. A fast-talking street guy from New York City's Borough of Queens who landed feet first in the North Carolina tobacco fields and hooked Moo U heart, soul and overalls. A non-stop BeeEsser who tells his North Carolina State players that the games are the most important 40 minutes of their lives and then afterward has to explain how meaningless they are in the overall picture of the universe. A boss who cracks wise all over his players and coaches—V says he calls a closed practice and eight guys don't show up. V says he mentions Watergate and his guys think it's a video game—and then he treats them to limos and champagne and rescues them from nowheresville. A coach/romantic who carries a book of poetry in his briefcase right next to the scouting reports and the Binaca. So what was this, no Ratso?
Big-timers are celebrities, rich and famous, powerful and full of themselves. The kind of guys who fly in from the Coast to the summer camps and don't do right by the kids. Question-and-answer artists who do 10 minutes and split for the cocktail lounge, or NBA players who dunk five times and say do that and you can play in the NBA. Phonies and frauds and guys who forget where they came from, those are Big-timers.
Rats, though, are good. Rats are great. Rats are the little people, the blue-collar guys, the workers who struggle and overcome. The world needs Rats because Rats play the great D and get in people's jocks and shuffle-cut to breakfast and double-team a tree and, yeah, Rats take the charge. Absolutely. No question about it.
Why, didn't V give out Rat shirts and make up Rat slogans and carry a stuffed Rat mounted on a skateboard to all those 90 camps that summer, and keep that stuffed Rat in his office until one day the princess threw the Rat out and said it was time V went solo and made it on his own? No question about it. Didn't V say he still was one full-fledged amazing Rat right up to and including that night last April in Albuquerque, where in the locker room before the final NCAA tournament game he ranted and raved and got down smack in their faces and, growling from deep within those sandpaper lungs, challenged every last one of those other Rats?
You, Lowe, you are going to go out and handle and dish and play the game of your life and lead us to the national championship! And you, Whitt, you are going to take those downtown J's and shoot the lights out and play the game of your life and lead us to the national championship! And you, Bailey, you are going to jump and bang and control the rock and play the game of your life and lead us to the national championship! No question.
And didn't V challenge himself, the King Rat of Rats, by telling them: Me? V? I'm ready. I've never been so ready. I'm 37 years old and I've been dreaming of this moment all my life and preparing for it maybe longer than that. Me? I'm going to go out there and X and O and think and scream and coach the living hell out of this game, and we are going to win the national championship. And when V did just that; when Rocco and Angelina's kid from Alstyne Avenue in Corona, Queens, coached the living hell out of the NCAA title game and won that sucker for the Wolfpack, didn't V complain that from then on his most difficult struggle would be to keep from being a Big-timer and remain a Rat?
Ratso Rizzo? Of course V is Ratso. And thank goodness for that, because, as another older, more westernized Rat, name of John Wooden, wrote in a letter to V following the season, "You are great for the profession...please do not change." There was no question about it.
No man an island? Well, who said that King Rat or Jim Valvano or JTV Enterprises or Jimmy V or Coach V or, if you are counting knockdowns at the bell, simply V...who said that V couldn't be a stream? A stream of unconsciousness. Because V doesn't just talk like this. This fast. This disjointed. This emphatically and non-parenthetically. V lives like this. V's a livin' stream. And funny? You want funny? Who you got—Lou Holtz? Lee Trevino? Al ("Aircraft Carrier") McGuire? You kidding? Bring 'em all out, V will give 'em two a side. V goes one-on-one with John Madden, it's a TD. V challenges Bob Uecker, it's over in three-and-a-third. Nobody's close, and we're not talking sports-funny here. V's not just a funny sports guy.