Coach's Corner

My old friend The Whipp once observed that I couldn't be happy unless I had something to bitch about. The Whipp, as always, is wise. He spoke, however, to a younger, more volatile Coach.

Grudgingly pulled towards 50, I find myself in a relatively tranquil, dare I say content stretch of life. The Continental Club and Antone's, where I was for 20 years a regular bar-worm, have become too smoky and too crowded. Midnight shows, which once conveniently allowed plenty of time to get blottoed on anything swallowed, passed or sniffed, are now most difficult to stay awake for. Staying up past midnight is becoming, as to a child, an event. More and more, as I yell at the teen-agers who live upstairs to decrease the arena-style decibel level emanating from various jamboxes or to clean up the pig sties in which they sleep or to just be quiet for a few minutes, I feel like a stuffy TV dad.

Heavy angst may make for a more amusing writer, but with all my old running buddies settled into various states of domestic tranquility, it's a good thing I'm happily girlfriended-up or I might be very depressed. Apparently, this sedated, suburban placidness dulls me or, at least, that's what Dave Cook thinks.

Mr. Cook wrote a letter, taking me to task for ignoring the easy opportunity to attack, again, the Cowboys with "...all the smug malaprop verbiage in your arsenal." Dave, questioning my card-carrying, Cowboy-hating credentials, infers a loss of my usual sharp edge and calls recent columns competent but "tame." Finally, he strongly suggests this admirable show of restraint on my part was, in fact, a capitulation to "...the new girlfriend threatening to cut off the nookie."

If the writer is the same Dave Cook -- a spry, alert lad -- who once had the educational experience of editing a few of my columns before moving on to the real (as opposed to the Chronicle) world, I say, "Shame, Dave, shame," to take such an easy shot at your old idol (whom you must know takes more pleasure in Cowboy woe than the very sweetest nectars of life itself.) I'll answer your plea of, "Say it ain't so Coach," by replying, "No, no, no. It ain't so, Dave."

At last, the rest of the world has "discovered" what a bunch of amoral scumbags comprise the Dallas Cowboys; from the low-rent, Machiavellian maneuverings of Jerry Jones, to Barry Switzer, whose disingenuous public philosophy of "letting the men make their own decisions" has recreated an uncanny anarchic, lawless replica of the fiasco he left in Norman, to the obvious targets of Irvin and Williams. Now, everyone knows what me and Dave have known for years. When it's broadcast on Sportscenter 12 times a day and debated in USA Today, what remains for the wizened (but serene) Coach to add? Another brindle heifer in the herd, Dave? I think not.

It's much the same with Mr. Rodman. (Wouldn't he fit in nicely in silver and blue?) Rodman's a jerk. He's always been a jerk. Malicious jerk in Detroit. Disruptive jerk in San Antonio. And now, somehow, some way, a media-superstar-jerk in Chicago. This is the most perplexing, disturbing sports phenomenon of the decade. It's one I don't get -- nohow, no way -- but, I've lost touch, what with being in bed at 10pm. So, what do I know? Where, Dave, would Dennis be were it not for professional basketball? A homeless person? Maybe lost in a backwoods booby hatch? I don't know, but why waste words on him? Rodman doesn't care, not at all. The league fined him $1 million dollars. Rodman, total moron that he is, couldn't give a shit. Swell! So, why waste our breath?

More disturbing to me, a Bulls fan, are class acts like Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson actually coming to this idiot's defense. Come on, Phil, I'm one of three or four people who've read your book. Would your Zen masters and Sioux shaman really want to "close the circle" with this guy? The fewer times the word Rodman is printed or mentioned, the better off the world will be. I shall banish him forthwith from my Microsoft Custom Dictionary.

Now, back in the fall of '94 -- when I was a sharper, albeit more angst-ridden Coach -- I wrote in my NFL fall preview that the New England Pats would be the first AFC club to win a Super Bowl since Antone's was the New West. It took a while, but here they are. The NFC's historical domination means nothing. As the cliché goes, that was last year. Twelve years is a long streak. Often, the AFC was totally outgunned. But, a few were lost due to bad luck; a missed field goal here, an O'Donnell gift there. The Packers are not a great team. Neither are the Pats. I don't think we'll see any more great teams.

In the age of free agency and the salary cap, the time of NFC domination is over. It's now impossible to build and maintain a powerhouse à la Dallas, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and San Francisco. With all teams flitting on the frayed edges of mediocrity, the prince's idiot brother is king. I love the Pats with the points. I like them to win outright.

Nookie or not. Witty-insightful-opinionated: Are you happy, Dave?

Write me: [email protected]

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