The Austin Chronicle

Coach's Corner

By Andy "Coach" Cotton, July 23, 1999, Columns

Once most of my columns began with anecdotal tales on the Life of Coach. There was no end of material. My two young boxers always caused column-quality problems -- some social (one's maniacally aggressive toward others of her ilk), others of a more practical nature. In time, solutions arose. The social problems ended when I stopped taking Roxy anywhere in public, a good way to save us the embarrassment of her ugly scenes. More consistent column material was the battle fought for control of the back yard. Slowly, human stubbornness overcame canine persistence. I bricked over, put a fence around, or buried too deep for them to find the "toys" of their youth. For example, the sprinkler system they reveled in digging up once a month. Perhaps they tired of the sport of chewing up PVC pipe, or maybe they just mellowed. The pups, like the master, have aged. White hair now covers muzzles once all brown. When all a dog wants to do is eat two meals, chase the odd squirrel, and bark aimlessly at passerby on the street, well, there's not much story left.

Another rich source was my kids. Some of my finest moments were tales of my daughter's athletic career, now left far behind in the dust, as she hung up cleats and the roundball to pursue the calling of a full-time teenager. Since she lives with her mother, I hear only a sanitized version of events, not especially suitable for good storytelling.

My son, who got lots of pub when he was pitching no-hitters in Little League, hasn't touched any kind of ball in eight years. This wasokay, since his "non-athletic" years made for even better copy. The boy was basically a social misfit, a term he'd take as a compliment out here in Westlake. He never saw a law or rule that didn't beg to be ignored. He was in trouble, with everyone, every day, from seventh grade until he graduated from high school. Then he went away to college in California and came home Mr. Mellow Dude. He meditates. He reads philosophy. Though there's little I won't give for a good column, I'll take Mr. Mellow over the Social Misfit.

And then, of course, there's me. I got married. My weekly tales on the nomadic meandering of my friends and myself as we lurched from saloon to saloon in search of sex and love -- but mostly sex -- was a dull-gray precursor to HBO's Sex and the City. We rarely found either, but hit or miss, it was column material. This, of course, prompts the question: Is married life that dull? A simple question, but rife with potential disaster. In the old days I'd write whatever I wanted about old girlfriends or last night's date gone awry, with little fear of repercussion. What were they going to do, write a letter to the editor? For the sake of a column, I could deal with a nasty message on my mach-ine(At least it wasn't blinking zero).

Now I'm compelled to think before I leap. A journalistic coward? Perhaps. I live with this woman -- a woman with, I might add, an erratictemper combined with a nature not overly forgiving. Additionally, she helps edit my columns. Any sensible married fellow will note the conundrum inherent. It's possible, and I'm noting only theoretical possibilities, that the raw grist is here for entertaining columns -- a few laughs for you out there in readerland. But then what? How sad and pathetic would my columns on divorce at 50 be? A wise man once commented on discretion being the better part of valor. I think I shall say no more.

And then a sad truth. Like my pups, I just don't feel like tearing up the yard anymore. I can't smoke a puff of pot without becoming dangerously paranoid. Where five belts of bourbon -- mixed with whatever pills someone handed me -- were SOP for any night out, now a beer makes me feel dizzy and tired all the next day. Kelly prefers the domesticated Coach to the old one. So we, like the rest of Middle America, scan the TV listings for our nightly entertainment. Not even my imaginative predecessors in the Chronicle Sports Department, the estimable Big Boy Medlin or the now respectable Michael Corcoran, could make riveting copy out of the Fifties-style suburban life that is The Coach circa 1999. What chance do I have?

I'm not complaining. Maybe I was never as entertaining as I thought I was. Just a loud-mouthed drunk with a newspaper column. For certain, single drama makes for better writing material. How interesting, I ask, is tonight's domestic dispute about what time we eat Sloppy Joes, 7:30 or 9? I've become philosophical about life's tradeoffs.

Like my two gray muzzled boxers and my mellow son, I, too, I must admit, prefer the quiet life. My employers are happier: The sportswriter now usually writes about sports. I'm sure I've lost many female readers because the soap opera of my life is no longer a regular feature. This is regrettable, but what's a guy to do?

Oh well. The Sloppy Joes are ready. My wife even made them! Ain't married life grand? Then time for Sportscenter. In bed by 11. Oddly, exactly my old departure time for the clubs. Life can have a comforting symmetry.

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