Coach's Corner

Coach's old Vail nemesis Cedrick Trout has jumped on the Redskins / Steve Spurrier bandwagon, but Coach figures he's at least a year or two early. And in college -- surprise, surprise -- UT's really as good as their hype

Cedrick Trout is a Redskins fan. You may recall I made the acquaintance of the scruffy Trout, an intermittently employed house painter/chair lift operator/biker wannabe last summer in West Vail's Dancing Bear Saloon. He was perusing a Kids Sports Illustrated. This caused me to strike up a conversation. It doesn't take long to sense you're in the presence of a psycho: the malevolent, disconnected way the eyes wander across their sockets, the facial tics, the bad dental work. Trout wasn't the kind of guy you'd want your sister to be dating.

Anyway, we became the most casual of barroom acquaintances, friendly you might say, in an edgy kind of way. Our budding friendship came crashing down during an Oakland Raiders exhibition game. Trout was at the Dancing Bear in full Raider Fan regalia: a pirate hat and a tight, torn Raiders T-shirt (with a faded "Stabler" stenciled on the back) that highlighted his many crude tattoos. If you were to draw a caricature of what the common perception of the Oakland fan is, Trout could be its poster child. The night ended quite badly, with Trout reacting violently to a non-existent, imaginary slight. I was threatened with a cheap steak knife. It was time for me to go home.

One of the oddities of Vail life is the difficulty encountered trying to find somewhere to eat breakfast. The Dancing Bear's the only place in West Vail to get a pancake or an egg. Cedrick Trout's the last thing on my mind when, on a sunny, cool mountain morning, I stroll into the Dancing Bear for a ham and cheese omelet. I approach the counter to place my order, when who do I spot, flinging the proverbial hash? Cedrick Trout. He's sporting a brand new red and gold Redskins hat and a T-shirt that proclaims "Impeach Bush, Spurrier for President."

Trout, apparently forgetting our mishap of a year ago, greets me with hail-good-fellow wave of his greasy hand. A few minutes later the apparently gainfully employed Trout brings out my omelet and honors me with his precious break time. He appears sober so I inquire, with some trepidation (recalling the incident with the steak knife), as tactfully as possible, about his change in team loyalties.

Trout, it turns out, "spent a lot of time" in Florida (probably prison, I'm thinking), where he became a Gators/Spurrier fan. The Raiders are yesterday's rotten mackerel. Trout, typically, tends toward the hysterical in his views ... any views. I don't argue as he lines out the entire '02 Washington schedule (impressive, I must admit) with a game-by-game rundown for me. He has the Redskins going 13-3.

This is sheer lunacy of course ... but you tell that to Trout. Add me to the list of fans glad Steve Spurrier's coaching in the NFL. The last coach with any obvious personality was Mike Ditka. I'll root for any team with a coach who doesn't speak in monosyllable clichés (or less). But Washington plays a tough schedule and, come on Cedrick, he's starting Danny Wuerffel at quarterback. Spurrier does have a way of making mediocre quarterbacks look like Dan Fouts, but the hard truth is his receivers were better in Gainesville last year than they'll be in Washington.

A few rational thoughts on the Redskins: 1) Wuerffel will be ditched, early, for Shane Matthews, who showed he can play -- decently -- in Chicago. 2) Spurrier's smartest move, showing an uncharacteristic humility, was hiring Marvin Lewis from Baltimore. Defensively, the Skins will inflict some concussions, keeping games close so Danny can toss a last-second interception in the red-zone. 3) The Redskins might go 8-8. That would be an accomplishment. By that time, Spurrier will have learned some basic NFL truths: no matter how smart your schemes are, or how clever your post-game comments, you need talent to win. The Skins are indeed, Cedrick, a team with a bright future, but not this year.

Since Trout got me thinking about football, I'm going to comment on one of life's more useless affectations: the pre-season college coaches' poll. I don't expect the coaches to display much imagination; nobody's picking LSU to be No. 1, for example. Too many teams in the Top-10 are seriously overrated, living on reputations from back in the day -- in particular, Nebraska. A one-eyed bunny could see the Cornhuskers slip, a little, each of the past five years. Now, without Eric Crouch, there's nothing left in the kitchen except the enraged red-clad farmers who fill Memorial Stadium. Oklahoma, also, coming off a deceptive 11-2 season, where if the defense didn't score two touchdowns they'd lose, is overrated. Stoops is an outstanding coach, but there's nothing but subtraction from last year's team. Number 1 Miami hasn't lost a game in two years. But they lost a lot of top players and they play three tough games -- Tennessee, Florida, and Florida State -- sandwiched in between the usual Big East flotsam. One team not overrated is Texas, a painfully galling admission for me to make. Let's be honest, if Mack brought back the wishbone, Willie Nelson could lead the Horns to nine wins. This year they have to go on the road to Kansas State and Huskerville, but both teams, though still dangerous, are shadows of their old selves. I'd be surprised if Texas loses more than one game ... but I can (and will!) always hope.

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