Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 9:52 a.m.
Things have changed. Maybe it’s for the better.
Over the weekend, a 45-7 victory by the New England Patriots over the Indianapolis Colts was “marred” by the allegation that the Patriots were surreptitiously underinflating the footballs.
They were underinflating the balls, I tell you! Hang ‘em all!
In 1977, I was a student manager of the football team at Furman University, and our punter was named Willie Freeman. (It was Bill in the program, but everyone called him Willie.) He was very peculiar about the balls that he liked to punt. Specifically, he liked them old and scuffed up. One of my more important duties was to try to sneak his special punting ball past the referee, who checked before the game and used a marker to put a little “X” on them, signaling that they were approved. Another responsibility of mine was to make sure the ball boys, who were generally coach’s sons, got the right ball in the game at the right time. The quarterbacks didn’t like old, scuffed-up balls.
It was tricky. The referee wouldn’t approve a ball that was too old. I’d have to look at our collection and estimate how far I could go.
The general rule in those days of antiquity was, if the ref says it’s okay, it’s okay.
Art Baker was then the head coach, and like many head coaches, he could be a suspicious sort. Many were the times I was dispatched up the bank behind the practice field to cross-examine a potential spy from Western Carolina or The Citadel. Invariably, I discovered that the possible spy was the great-uncle on the mother’s side of the left end on the second defense.
As any James Bond fan knows, counter-espionage requires tact.
Naturally, I find a certain hypocrisy in the notion that sports, even a few good ones, should not occasionally stretch the rules. I will shed this hypocrisy when I see an actual example of the kid in the commercial who turns himself into the referee, thus costing his team a basketball game. If I see it, that kid will have the courage of General Custer and will probably come out the same way.
Not literally. His popularity will perish.
I’m sorry to be crass. Sports and life are populated with very few saints and very few sinners. Most fall somewhere in between, or else linemen would never hold, cornerbacks would never interfere, pitchers would never try to “extend” the strike zone, point guards would never travel, right wings would never “ice,” recruits would never get a date, legislators would never write loopholes, and millionaires would never hire professional magicians to do their taxes.
Who am I to grouse about the Patriots? Later today I may drive forty in a thirty-five.
People are flawed, and so are most of the characters in my fiction. You can read the short stories free at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, and then, maybe, if, in the off chance you’re impressed, you’ll the books listed here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1