Color & Pageantry & Blood Sweat & Tears

September21/ 2007

. Long before there were Rock Star coaches, agents and buy-out clauses there was George “Meatball” Thompson and 3Cs…. Kid “Chases” away “the agony of defeat” …. A for real stallion breaks Cajun hearts ….. and on a chilly Fall night in a suite-less Kenan, Phyllis Diller beat Roseanne Barr because Duke didn’t have a Dan Orner (or a Max Chapman).

If your direct involvement with the sport of football involves a participation beyond simply hating an Athletic Director and the lousy crooked referees then you’ve heard The Football Is Life speech.  No one ever gave that speech any better than feisty ol’ George “Meatball” Thompson.  Although I’m sure 1000s have given, and 10,000s have heard, equally poignant versions of it.

Coach Thompson gave the speech every August in Mock Gymnasium to 60+ aspiring Red Devil gridders.  Varsity and Jayvees alike would assemble in one pulled-out section of bleachers and the bandy-legged little Lou Holtz of his day would lay it on’em.

“Football is Life”.  Not to be confused with Golf is like Life” or Life is like running a marathon or The Bible is revealed in a deck of playing cards.  Those are all memorable Gipper speeches too that one must surely hear at some point in one’s life and Coach Thompson could do a passable job with all of them if the situation called for it.  But Football is Life was George Thompson’s classic Iron Curtain, “Ask Not …” Gettysburg Address.

The upper classmen had heard it 3-4 times and each had his favorite phrase and had his own impression of Coach saying it.  Alls fair in Love, War and Pass Defense was my personal favorite.  I’ve used it dozens of times in preparing Kid for the rigors of survival in the New Millenium.  Kid has no clue what it means but it is part of our whole Dad & Daughter bonding ritual.  Actually there WAS a collision twixt a receiver and a defender in last night’s Armaggedon At Arrowhead and she blurted it out.  Who says they never listen to our sage advice.

 Games In November are “the ones you remember”.  It’s cheers, tears and really really “blame the lousy crooked refs” time.  All the lonely off-season conditioning and Parris Island 2-a-days and skull seasons and Gipper speeches come down to 4th and inches or just short or “the replay confirms the call on the field – TOUCHDOWN!.  

I suppose all those George Thompsons and Coach Chris Carpenters (3Cs) and Pete Carrs and Bill Eutslers and Ed Emorys were right.  You make the big sale or the rival salesman does.  You get the girl or she chooses the jerk w/ the convertible.  The biopsy comes back positive.  Life is indeed who controls the line of scrimmage.

All sports involve winning and losing but the sheer brutality of football makes it the quintessential playing fields of Eton that prepares us to best storm Life’s Omaha Beaches.

I last saw Coach Thompson about twenty years ago.  Me, the former QB , the former cheerleader and Coach spent a delightfully memorable evening reliving the old days.  About a year later his biopsy came back positive.  A few years later the QB and the cheerleader got a divorce.  ….. You really could call holding on every play.

In yesterday’s annual backyard beauty contest between Phyllis Diller and Roseanne Barr in un-enhanced Kenan Stadium, Phyllis got the rusty crown and bouquet of wilted roses over Roseanne because Duke did not have a Dan Orner.  In what has become “The 15-501 Pillow Fight” to determine the most hapless Division 1-A “big time” college football program within five miles of the Bob Evans at I-40 and 15-501, the Victory Bell remained the lighter shade of blue …. Providing ( I SWEAR Woody actually said ) “a tremendous springboard to the next step in the resurgence of Carolina Football”.  

  I was on I-40 when I heard that one.  I had to pull over.  I’m good, but even I can’t write stuff that hyperbolic.  Try switching to decaf Metamusil there Woody.

There is a defining moment in any springboard resurgence.  As Duke’s last second field goal try took its ill-fated journey towards the “someday to be bulldozed Alamo/Taco Bell” two overly optimistic Duke players took off towards the Victory Bell in the opposite end zone.  They reached midfield on the 15 when the football gods jerked their chain really hard.

Unlike Orner’s cross-bar grazing kick in one of the annual Save John’s Job Games, under incredibly similar opposite circumstance in Wally Wade, this one fell inches short leading to what Tar Heel loonies  will now refer to as another total butt-kicking (??) of the Dookies by the resurgng Butch-led Boyz In Blue.

The game’s hero was indeed from Derm but from Hillside High not The Gothic Rock Pile.  Greg Little immediately earned Little Cletus’ Heisman vote by his heroic performance.  Asked by an ever ebullient Woody if Greg’s stellar performance reminded Tar Heel Coach-For-Life Butch of similar heroics by Kelvin Bryant, Natrone Means, Amos Lawrence, Kennard Martin, Derrick Fenner, Boom Boom Betterson, Mike Voight or Choo Choo ….. Butch replied “Choo Who”?

Speaking of kicks falling short ….. Anson’s Flying Ponytails fell to Notre Dame chick-kickers earlier Saturday.  Stick a fork in the 2007 Flying Ponytails’ season three games short of their annual goal.  Karen Shelton moves one National Championship closer to catching Anson.  The entire budget for Karen’s field hockey program is less than “the ransom payment”.  Yes, I totally understand sports economics.  I’m just stating a fact.

Speaking of votes.  I cast my “one of THE best games ever” vote for LSU v Arkansas.  I put it right there with Vince Young v Reggie Bush in 2005 in Pasadena.  Darren McFadden is no Greg Little but he’ll do in a pinch.  HOLY HERSCHEL & BO that #5 can pick’em up and lay’em down.  When #5 turns the corner he’s like Secretariat w/ afterburners.

With all respect to Tim Tebow who I admire a whole bunch, I vote Darren over Tim in “the closest Heisman vote” since Gary Beban or Terry Baker or Gino Torretta beat whoever they beat. ….. My dear friend Coach Reed was in Baton Rogue for the game.  His post-game e-quote …. “BobLee, you don’t want to be on the highways of Louisiana tonight.  100,000 pissed off drunken Cajuns are looking for trouble …. Or Les Miles’ head.” 

Speaking of “pissed off drunken Cajuns” …. Kindly Ol’ Bill Friday played Teddy Ruxpin when an N&O reporter pulled his string on Wednesday over UNC paying the $300,000 ransom for Butch.  In a prepared statement I do believe I scripted for him two weeks ago, KOBF made the usual disjointed comparison of coaches’ salaries to what English professors make.  Within ten minutes UNC’s entire English Dept had contracted with Jimmy Sexton to represent them in their next salary review.  Uh oh.

Gawd Luv KOBF!  The Knight Commission had its chance to actually do something about “the arms race” ten years ago but chose instead to “just whine and beat dead horses”.  Trying to find a dozen university presidents with spines is still twelve short of enough to effect any change.

KOBF also announced that he is teaming up with Peanut Jimmy Carter on The Goofy Old Geezer Tour of assisted living centers in North Carolina and Georgia.  KOBF will perform nightly rants on (1) Cheerleaders’ exposed tummies …. (2) The use of real pigskin in footballs …. (3) Selling Funnel Cakes at games …. And (4) That guy in the red coat that makes games last so long.  Tickets for Bill & Jimmy’s Goofy Geezer Tour are available thru TicketMaster.

It is important to appreciate that KOBF has just as many disciples to his radical point of view as there are flaming nutjobs on message boards demanding that Wilson Library be imploded to provide more game day parking.   Luckily 90% of Tar Heel fans resoundingly reject both radical factions.

NOTE …. I did a BobLee Poll of rational alumni/fans on Saturday.  Talking at length with a number of doctors, lawyers, mini-moguls, real estate guys and former letterman, it was a consensus that The Timing” of “we are paying the ransom” could NOT have possibly been WORSE.  

One imaginative Tar Heel compared it to the captain of The Titanic charging passengers for life preservers ….”  You just know I gave that buddy a high-five and a copy of my CD.

Actually it COULD have been worse.  If Duke’s kick had been successful and Dickie had handed Coach-For-Life Butch the $300,000 in cash at mid-field around 6:45 as Duke was carting The Victory Bell to Derm …. THAT woulda been worse.  Never say never.

Everyone I spoke with realizes that PSLs are a certainty now when/if Butch ever actually breaks ground on his house.  Paying the ransom was inevitable …. But how it was handled rivals “The Firing of Matt Doherty and subsequent picture of the pissed off posse”.  “We” just seem to have a knack for this sort of thing, don’t we?  Many who are NOT anti-Butch at all …. are very unhappy with the ransom deal.

The most creative solution was to put Butch on straight commission ….. $250,000 for each W …. payable in cash five minutes after each W.  That could put a bit of pressure on a placekicker, don’tchathink? …..    Oh …. I have it on reliable but NOT CONFIRMED authority that the infamous “buy-out clause” has been upped to $6,000,000 which should scare off the non-serious suitors for the next few years.  Going 4-8 and barely beating Duke by two inches should scare them off even more.

Kid has never cared a whit about watching sports ….. until last night.  She watched Armaggedon At Arrowhead with the same passion with which her Dad as a small lad once watched Frank McGuire’s Yankees battle “that really tall black guy” back in 1957.  Ironically both events involved Kansas Jayhawks and were both played in Kansas City.  And in both cases “there was no joy on Mount Oread” when all was said and done.

I was worried that “the agony of defeat” might discombobulate my favorite Mizzou sophomore but not to worry.  She knows only “the thrill of victory” in her spectatoring career.

Chase Daniel, the under-sized QB from Southlake Carroll, may not win the Heisman but he earned sport’s most enduring appelate – Chase Daniel Is A Gamer.  (Yo, Kid, check to see if he has a steady girl friend.)

As we watched on Uncle Hunter’s 50” flat-screen with a pot of chili simmering and brownies aplenty …. I too was caught up in the fervor as IT WAS A HUMDINGER for the ages.  The excitement in Arrowhead reached thru the satellite feed.  There were way too many planets aligned in this one.  The unlikely “Game Of The Century” (this week) pairing of two un-juggernaut programs in that setting …. And what could have become a rout actually came down to a nail-biter ….. and as BobLee always say ….. “that’s how bitter rivalry games are suppose to be”.  ….. 


Former Mizzou J-School teacher, “The Mizzus” was screaming and pretty much totally out of control the entire game prompting Kid to ask  …. “Dad, how do you watch games with Mom?” ….. “I try not to” I replied.  “Separate TVs are as important as separate bathrooms in maintaining conubial bliss.”  …… more sage wisdom you wonder if your kids actually listen to.


      Darren Durant broke David Bomar’s Daddy’s single game total offense record.

   Did you notice that George Toma DID paint Mizzou Kansas in the end zones.  Coincidence ??? …. Yeah right!  The readership of this column is just incredible.

   A great article in current SI about Michael Vick and the issue of “ghetto loyalty”.  Highly recommended for anyone wanting to use actual facts in a sports discussion. 

   After Mack “lied to dem boys”, Torbush supporters used “the empty cupboard” metaphor for the entire 3 years of Era de Carl.  Bunting backers re-installed “the empty cupboard” metaphor for 4/5 years of the Era de Burly John.  We are now officially one year and counting into “the empty cupboard” phase of The Butch Era”.   Gotta love it! …. Could it be that The Old Well is actually Ponce De Leon’s fabled Water Fountain Of Eternal Youth & Inexperience?

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