Dragons (and Coaches) Live Forever but….

February27/ 2013

“Dragons live forever but not so little boys”.   Puff’s lament in The Land of Honalee has resurfaced with “Little Jackie Papers” of my generation.   We (Baby) Boomers are into that time-honored tradition – reflecting upon the seminal moments of our life journeys.  I’ve always PuffDraghung with a “jock” crowd so our reflections usually involve “a coach” either positively or not so positively.  A mythical figure who – like Puff – “lives forever”.

NOTE:  The Lifetime Channel just contacted for the TV movie rights to this one.  You’re getting a sneak peek.

First a token of appreciation and sympathy to the spouses / offspring of former high school and college jocks.  There will be lavish rewards in Heaven for listening ad nauseum to rehash upon rehash upon more rehash of “the big game” and/or lockerroom hi-jinks and/or “that time Coach grabbed so&so and threw him through the plate glass window and ……..”.

There are two categories of long-suffering spouses.  (1) The ones who “were there” as cheerleaders / girlfriends in high school or college…. and (2) Those who came into our lives later but have heard the freakin’ stories so often they feel like they were there.   It must be worse for Category Twos.

Blondie is a (2).  Two of my reunions were “it” for her and the second was a real struggle.  She knows I’m addicted to these things so she always lets me go…. packing me a sack lunch with a bologna sandwich and a surprise dessert treat, but I could not drag her to another one with a team of Clydesdales.

I’m pausing here while thousand of you’ans yell “Honey you gotta read BobLee’s latest.  He nails how you are to a T.”   What can I say?   It’s a gift.

So anyway, back to “coaches live forever, but not so little boys”.  Two recent cases illustrate this soooo well.EdEmory

Ed Emory passed away a few weeks ago.  “Coach Emory” was an assistant FB coach at my high school.  It was his first coaching gig fresh out of ECC in the early 60s.  He would go on to coach high school / college football for 40 years most notable as HFC at ECU in the 80s.  Ed Emory was a bona-fide larger-than-life “character”, leaving a trail of real and not-so-real anecdotes in his wake.   Anyone who ever crossed his path has an Ed Emory story.

With Coach Emory’s passing, all those stories percolated to the top of the e-mail subject line marinated for 40 years in Life’s crock pot.

As I read the various anecdotes Ed took on a Paul Bunyan-esque quality.  I knew him VERY well but; damn, I didn’t know he (1) created the safety blitz…. (2) was George Gipp’s roommate….. (3) first to call Paul Bryant “Bear”….. and (4) on five different occasions did indeed “throw so&so thru a plate glass window”.  All this by a guy who was 24 years old at the time.

A bunch of mid 60 Boomer-jocks many of whom have significant resumes getting teary-eyed remembering “that time that he.…..” about “a 24 y/o in his first real job.

We are frozen in our minds as impressionable teenagers in awe of our “coach” whose every action / every word becomes an integral part of who we would become over the next 40-50 years. ….. the words and actions of a 24 y/o coach in his first real job.

Dragons (and Coaches) live forever; but not so little boys.

Fast forward 4-5 years later “amid the lofty pines” of Kenan Stadium.  A landmark event occurred that sports historians say “forever changed ACC Football”.

“Gentleman Jim” Hickey was shown the door by UNC.  Vince Dooley’s kid brother – Bill – at 32 years old – was named Head Football at Carolina.   Bill came to Chapel Hill out of  The SEC.

The SEC in the mid 60s was not quite the SEC we know today mainly because it was just beginning to integrate but Football was already really really really important to Bill Dooley and to the sadists, sociopaths, deranged, and borderline insane gang of assistants he dug up to help him “raise the level of intensity” of the UNC Football program.

All well and good you say unless you had been recruited to UNC by “Gentleman Jim” to play football while you otherwise matriculated as a full-time college student “amid the pines”.StrotherCool

Picture Vince’s little brother Bill as Strother Martin addressing Cool Hand Luke and the cons on the chain gang about “a failure to communicate”.   Standing behind Strother Dooley are a gang of wild-eyed “bulls” slobbering at the mouth to:

“teach ‘dem boys what football is gonna be like aroun ‘cher from now on.”  Uh oh.

Seven or eight years ago I chronicled the events of “that Spring of ’67” in an epic known as Carolina’s Junction Boys.   “Junction Boys” came from a similar “cull the herd” episode by Bear Bryant when he arrived at Texas A&M.  “Cull the herd” could be called make’em or break’em and we’d just as soon break’em.

The Dooley Gang intended to aggressively run-off as many of Hickey’s boys as possible thereby freeing up grants-in-aid they could use to recruit “their kind of players”.

Lives were forever changed during that “Spring of ‘67”…. amid Kenan’s lofty pines. Less than 20% of “Hickey’s Boys” survived the experience to complete four years of eligibility.  That’s about the same % that survived the torpedoing of the USS Indianapolis in WWII.  (note sly “Jaws” reference)

This column is not about the debatable ethics of all that.  This column is about how the Dooley Gang “lives forever” after 40 years with those Carolina Junction Boys circa 2013.   Who are now in their mid 60’s with assorted levels of personal / professional cred yet still harboring dark memories of “that Spring”.

As with the 24 y/o Emory; Bill Dooley and his gang of whistle-toting socio-paths were only in their early 30s.   There were two assistants who were “grown men”.  Their names are seldom brought up in “that time when…..” accounts.

A 32 y/o “power figure” looms large to a 19 y/o college sophomore, very very large.

The Carolina Junction Boys have reunited recently thru email.  Not to over-dramatize it but it has the elements of a Hanoi Hilton reunion or  “our platoon in the Central Highlands during Tet”.  No, no one died in the mat room….. but

Some “football dreams” did die that Spring.  Some scars that never healed.

40 years later these “Little Jackie Papers” include an orthopedic surgeon, retired CEOs, grandfathers, men of means and measure who still deal with not-pleasant memories of “their coaches” from 1967.

Coaches now in their late 70s-80s, long retired, shuffle thru their own sketchy memories.  Most did eventually outgrow their sociopathic tendencies.

Dragons (and Coaches) live forever….. but not so little boys.

Are there equivalent memories for those who were in high school / college drama productions? ….. or student government ….. or the AV club?  Assuming all the AV club kids went on to be compu-nerds and are either Silicon Valley moguls…. or clerk at an Apple Store in a mall somewhere.

Do 65 y/o former AV clubbers rehash “that time our advisor – Mr Feeney – forgot that his porno slides were in the slide carousel and Miss Cathcart’s Home Ec class borrowed the equipment and ………” ?

Blondie played Annie Oakley in her high school production of Annie Get Your Gun a “few” years ago.   In a recent recounting of her experience she recalled “that horrible bitch of a choir director”……. proving that

Dragons (and Choir Directors) live forever; but not so little girls.
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