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The Semi-Tougher Adventures of Billy Clyde Puckett and Them


Simon and Schuster New York

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, andincidents either are the product of the author's imagination or areused fictitiously. Any other resemblance to actual events or localesor persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1984 by Term Themes, Inc.

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole orin part in any form

Published by Simon and Schuster

A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Simon & Schuster Building

Rockefeller Center

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, New York 10020

SIMON AND SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon &Schuster, Inc.

Designed by Barbara Marks

Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Jenkins, Dan. Lifeits ownself.

I. Title.

PS3560.E48L5 1984 813'.54 84-14086 ISBN: 0-671-46024-2

This one was always for my ownself.

You win football games with them horny old boys who want to eat thecrotch out of a end zone.


Order us another drink, Billy Clyde. I'll go ask those girls whatcolor cars they want.


There's nothing wrong with my marriage that a faith healer can't fix.


Laughter is the only thing that cuts trouble down to a size where youcan talk to it.


It was never true that I loved my medial collateral ligament morethan I loved Barbara Jane Bookman. That was a rumor Barbara Janestarted. She started it while I was still active in the NationalFootball League, back in the days when I, me, Billy Clyde Puckett,your basic all-pro immortal, was expected to go out there everySunday and crack open a 220-pound can of whipass. She also spread itaround that I loved Kathy Montgomery more than I loved Barbara JaneBookman, but, hell, Kathy wasn't my wife. Barbara Jane was. God damnwomen, anyhow. Sometimes I think T. J. Lambert was right. He alwayssaid if women didn't have a pussy, there'd be a bounty on 'em.

As most people know, an injury to the medial collateral cut my profootball career down to an interesting size. All of a sudden, I couldsit on a cow chip and swing my legs.

What actually put me out of the game was this thing a speed freaknamed Dreamer Tatum did to the ligament one Sunday afternoon. WhatDreamer did was, he hit me a lick that turned my right knee into adish of Southern-cooked turnip greens, and when you get a "knee"in pro football, you might as well have a rare strain of incurable,scab-flaking Asiatic gonorrhea. Here's how they talk about you in thefront office:

COACH:Wish we had Billy Clyde Sunday.

OWNER:He's got that knee, you know.

COACH:He'd give us everything he's got.

OWNER:On one knee.

COACH:He's the best we ever had.

OWNER:On two knees.

COACH:Maybe his knee's okay.

OWNER:YOU can't fix a knee.

COACH:What do you think of our foreign policy in the Middle East?

OWNER:It's fine, except for Billy Clyde's knee.

Fate rolled over on me in the opening game of the season on thatSunday a year ago. Me and the New York Giants were playing DreamerTatum and the Washington Redskins. I was in the best condition of mylife, ready to start my tenth year with the Giants. In nine seasonsas a running back in the NFL, I'd been all-pro six times. Jim Brown'srecords were safe, but I ranked in your top ten on the all-timerushing list with 9,863 yards. The Giants had been to nearly as manyplayoffs as the Dallas Cowboys. We had even won a Super Bowl my fifthyear when we went out to Los Angeles and whipped the dogass New YorkJets.

Not a bad record, some said, for a rascal out of Texas who had comeup to Manhattan Island with two pairs of jeans and four dirty shirtsand thought veal piccata was a fucked-up chicken-fried steak.

Sorry about the stats. I only recited them because it was myhigh-gloss reputation as a football hero that made my knee injuryseem more important around town than world peace.

If you'd been reading the New York Daily News last autumn, you'd havethought the Commie Chink Iranian Palestinian Nicaraguan Cubans hadbombed all the quiche Loraines on Madison Avenue.


And other headlines.

The game was on national television that day, so a lot of fansremember the play. They like to bring it up at banquets when I doQ-and-A.

Somebody will say, "Hey, Puckett, tell us about old DreamerTatum!" I generally respond with something hilarious, like, "Aw,he still works for the Kremlin."

Maybe it was a Kremlin deal. That injury was the first in a series ofpreposterous events that not only changed my life but the lives of myfriends. It was a year we were going to look back on as the dumbestin the whole history of pro football, and I mean from the flop-earedhelmets of the old Canton Bulldogs to the slow-motion instant replay.

All in all, the year was semi-depraved.

My knee turned out to be the least thing anybody had to lose.

The game where I caught the lick wasn't played in Yugoslavia, it justseemed like it. The New York Giants had left Yankee Stadium and movedto New Jersey.

We left New York because our owner, the debonair Burt Danby, gotstruck with the notion that we would play better football and makemore money—mostly the latter—if he took us across the HudsonRiver and put us down in a landfill for toxic waste.

I hadn't believed we would leave Gotham, even after the New Jerseystadium was under construction.

It wouldn't go unused, I figured. They could always hold ganglandrub-outs there. Picnics for turnpike employees.

I had said to the team, "We can't go to New Jersey. What wouldthey call us, the Bridge and Tunnels?"

Nobody was hotter than me about the Giants leaving New York. All ofour glory years had been in New York, including the season whenMarvin (Shake) Tiller, T. J. Lambert and myself carried us throughthe playoffs at Yankee Stadium and on into the Super Bowl.

Yankee Stadium was my favorite relic. It reeked with charm andatmosphere. Lacework on the tall bleachers. One end zone along thefirst-base line, the other out in left-center near the baseballmonuments. Ghosts of the past all around you. Urban renewal up therein the sky with the punts and field goals and kickoffs.

There was no sound like the thunder of the crowd in Yankee Stadium.The place had personality. The stadium at the Meadowlands is just thereverse, stark and slick, like walking into the world's biggestskillet.

But Burt Danby is no different from any other owner. They're all inthe grueling business of tax avoidance. They all want somebody togive them a modern facility that holds 80,000 people and a winecellar. If it happens to look more like a Sheraton Hotel than a placefor a sports event, so what?

You can dance to this: an owner's taste and sense of history onlystretch as far as his greed.

After we moved to New Jersey, nobody in our live-wire publicityoffice could think of a way to use a hazardous chemical for ourhelmet logo. The "NY" was simply changed to "GIANTS"—aminor concession to New Jersey's potential ticket buyers. But wecontinued to be known as the New York Football Giants, thanks to theundying support of our hero-worshiping sportswriters and sell-outbroadcasters.

The fans started calling us other things, however.

Comedians, for one. Pricks was popular. Fuckheads caught on.

Back then, T. J. Lambert said, "We just like a little babywhat's come out of the womb, Billy Clyde. Little baby can't hurtnobody, and neither can we."

T. J.—nobody ever called him Theodore James—was far morefrustrated about the pitiful team we had become than he was about ournew area code. He was a lunatic outside linebacker, once a defensiveend from Tennessee, who hated the very thought of losing a footballgame. He'd have an orgasm on every play. From the opening whistle,he'd be as mad as a redneck truckdriver who'd heard a fag come backon his CB.

T. J. truly played football with intensity, which is a word I neverheard a coach use but never failed to hear a play-byplay announceruse. T. J. liked to stick his head in there, as they say, which iswhy he came out of every game with his face looking like a tamponpizza.

T.J. was unique in another way. He was one of those linebackers whodidn't need pharmaceuticals to get ready to play.

One day a sportswriter asked him how he always managed to get "up"for the games. T.J. said, "Aw, Coach just comes by and knocks onthe door."

T. J. played only one season in the New Jersey stadium. Hevoluntarily retired after twelve seasons in the league. His careerstats were impressive. T.J. accounted for 840 sacks, 84 fumblerecoveries, 48 interceptions, 18 permanent injuries, 12 quarterbacktrades, and 336 limpoffs.

T. J. retired to do what he'd often talked about: become a collegecoach.

His first coaching job was at Holt-Reams College, a little school outin Kansas that was so rural, the dust bypassed it.

The day he left New York, I went out to LaGuardia to say goodbye toT. J. and his wife, Donna. Donna Lambert was a feisty pine knot of agirl who'd never been as happy living in New York as she was in thedays when she twirled a baton in Knoxville.

"We're gonna be fine, Billy Clyde," Donna said at theairpojt, giving me a hug. "I suppose we'll be on a septic tank,but there won't be no Jews around."

T. J. squeezed my hand and squinted at me. He said, "It's mylifelong ambition come true. Think about it, son. I'm gonna get tomold the minds and bodies of our young piss- ants."

I thought about it. I hoped the black kids T. J. coached wouldn'tmind being called niggers if they fumbled. T.J. would frequently say,"In football, they's niggers and they's blacks. Niggers is whatplays for them, blacks is what plays for us." T.J. had drunkwith blacks, been laid with blacks, and his roommate on the Giantshad been a black guy, Puddin Patterson. Together T.J. and Puddin hadwiped out more redneck honky-tonks than cheap whiskey. But when itcame to football, a black better not fumble unless he wanted to be anigger, just like a white kid better not fumble unless he wanted tobe a Polack, a Hunky, a fag, or a Catholic cocksucker. Footballplayers were machinery to T.J. Lambert. Racism was the 220 and the440.

As a head coach, T.J. amazed all of us who knew him. He quicklyturned out two winning teams in Kansas, teams that were loaded withblack athletes. Then he upgraded to Southwest Texas State, where histeams went 12-1 and 13-0 and even won the small-college nationalchampionship.

I was semi-astonished, if you want the truth. I could just hear himsaying to his black quarterback, "One more interception, Leroy,and I'm jerkin' ten pounds of watermelon outta your ass!"

Maybe Joe Paterno wouldn't have been impressed with T.J.'s coachingmethods, but I was.

"Fear," T.J. said, explaining his secret to me. "They'vetook fear out of football, Billy Clyde. Face mask. Quick flags. Can'ttouch the quarterback, he might get constipated. All I've did is putfear back in the game. Them little fuckers don't win for me, I takeaway they cars, they dope, they girls, and some I even put in jail.The deputy sheriffs work with me pretty close."

What happened next to T.J.'s career comes under the heading of ironicoverload. He moved on again, this time to the head coaching job atTCU, our old school—mine, Shake Tiller's, and Barbara Jane's.

T.J. negotiated himself a five-year contract at Texas ChristianUniversity in the bigtime Southwest Conference. The school hired himto restore gridiron greatness to a school which had known it in thedays of your Sam Baugh and your Davey O'Brien and your Bob Lilly, notto mention your Puckett and your Tiller.

T.J. went to Fort Worth full of confidence. As he said to the oldgrads, me included, "We gonna turn this loveboat around. ThemFrogs been fartin' upwind."

He had one big problem. It was called recruiting. T.J. soondiscovered that the blue-chip athletes coming out of Texas highschools rarely chose to become Horned Frogs.They would enroll at theUniversity of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, SMU, or Texas A&M.

T.J. began to moan about it. He'd call me up and say, "You knowwhat, Billy Clyde? You buy them little shitasses a Trans Am, but ifthey don't like the way you holler at 'em in practice, they justdrive that sumbitch down to A&M and stay there!"

The reality of coaching at a major college sunk in on T.J. his firsttwo years at TCU. The Horned Frogs lost 18 games and won only 4. T.J.was stunned, but he didn't lose his determination. "Our clockain't stuck on this two-and- nine shit," he promised the oldgrads. "We gonna out-work they ass."

I think I can pin down the exact moment the Frogs started on theirroad to recovery. It was the night I got another phone call fromCoach Lambert. In his half-whiskey, half-sleepy voice, he said, "Son,you and Shake Tiller got to help me get that nigger down in Boakum."

Shake Tiller, my oldest and closest friend, didn't like to admit thathe cared as much about football as T. J. and me.

Shake's attitude about life in general could be summed up by anexpression he often relied on: "It ain't hard to fuck up, itjust takes time."

The friendship between Shake Tiller and me—and Barbara Jane, forthat matter—dated back to grade school in Fort Worth. Destiny waskind enough to let Shake and me be teammates in high school, thencollege, and on into the pros. We were as close as you could bewithout buying each other jewelry.

By close, I mean we were rendered brilliant on countless occasions bythe same bottles of young Scotch, we were quite often transformedinto Fred Astaire and Noel Coward by the same polio weed, and fromour friendly neighborhood druggist we shared the same long-standingprescriptions for preventive fatigue.

Less important to both of us was the fact that we found ourselves inbed with some of the same women, including my wife, the formerBarbara Jane Bookman.

For the time being, I'll put aside my recollection of the bulge inShake's jockstrap, which always brought to mind a boa constrictor.I'll only say that nobody on this planet ever caught footballs theway he did. He had a knack for making the big plays look effortless.

Shake was a pass receiver who ran his routes like a ghost ship. He'dswoop up out of nowhere and hang in the air like a date on acalendar. Then he'd come down with the football on his fingertips,and dart for a touchdown as if the two or three defensive playerssurrounding him were only out there for set decoration.

One Sunday after he made four leaping catches for touchdowns againstthe Green Bay Packers, I said to him, "You sumbitch, you're morecommercial than water."

He said, "It's not what you've got inside, Billy C., it's howyou hand it to the people."

Shake's cavalier approach to life's serious issues almost got medisfigured during a high school game in Fort Worth one night.

Our school was Paschal High. It was south of town, out near TCU, inwhat was considered to be a "good" area because there wereno Mexicans and no trailer camps, your basic tornado targets.

The guys at our school wore clean Levi's with creases in them, golfshirts with little animals on the pockets, and we all had our hairdone like Jane Fonda.

On this particular night, we happened to be playing a team from theeast side of town, from a school where the guys fancied Mohawkhaircuts. They came from a neighborhood where people thought ashopping mall was a self-serve gas station with Ralph's Fill Dirt &Drainage on one side and Wanda's Ceramics and Mill-Outlet Panty Hoseon the other.

All through the game, Shake kept getting clipped, speared,arm-hooked, tripped and piled-on by a rather celebrated East Sideassassin named Aubrey Williams. My own theory was that Aubreydisliked Shake because he wasn't just a good football player, he was"cute." Aubrey was known to us as someone who liked topuncture tires on cars and hit people with long-handled wrenches. Hisentire vocabulary consisted of "shit," "piss,""fuck," and "more gravy."

Near the end of the game Shake decided to deal with Aubrey Williams'abuse. He called a time-out and ambled over to Aubrey, removing hishelmet and affecting the look of a guy on a peace mission.

But after Shake dug his toe in the ground, the thing he said was,"Uh... listen, Aubrey. If you don't get off my ass, BillyClyde's gonna break his hand on your face, and he won't be able tofingerfuck your sister no more."

Aubrey swung instantly, but Shake ducked out of the way, which wasmore or less how Referee E.L. Burden's jaw got broken. I only losttwo teeth and had a bite taken out of my neck in the gangfight thatfollowed.

Shake escaped without a hangnail, naturally. As a matter of fact, inthe middle of the brawl, I caught a glimpse of him over on thesideline. He was talking to Lisa Kemp, the only cheerleader we hadwho didn't make you wear a rubber.

One spring while we were still in Paschal High, Shake performed aseries of the greatest athletic feats I've ever witnessed.

It started on the playground during P. E. Some of us on the varsityfootball squad were playing a game of touch, just jacking around. Ourgame and a softball game were kind of intruding on each other, andnone of us were far from the high-jump pit.

Shake caught a pass in the touch football game and began sidesteppingpeople, me and others. On his way to a touchdown, he scooped up agrounder between second and third in the softball game and threw outthe runner at first base, and without breaking stride, he sprintedover to the high-jump pit and cleared the bar at 6-6.

Later that afternoon at Herb's Cafe, he set a new high-score recordon the pinball machine. And that evening when we double-dated inBarbara Jane's family Cadillac, he not only screwed Barbara Jane inthe front seat—they were sweethearts then—but he smooth-talkedMary Alice Ramsey into screwing me in the back seat as a personalfavor to him.

After all this, I never had any doubt about Shake accomplishingwhatever he might set out to do in life.

Football came so easy for Shake, he really didn't have much respectfor the game. The pros paid him well, which was why he played as longas he did. He was all-pro three years out of his six seasons. But hewas always jabbering about wanting to do something more worthwhile,more important, more "meaningful," which is a hard word forme to use without my lip curling up.

A famous book author was what he wanted to be.

There were hints of this illness in college when Shake sought out somany movies with sub-titles, watched so much Public Television, andread so many books.

TCU wasn't Stanford-on-the-Trinity, and Fort Worth wasn't Cambridge,but we did have bookstores and first-run theaters—and a lot moretits. You can't beat Southwest Conference women. Take it from a manwho's been in the trenches.

Shake's books were heavier than Godzilla, written by people withslashes and hyphens in their names.

Thick God-damn books. Books that told you why life its ownself was asuit that didn't fit, how your soul was apt to get thrown up on aroof where you couldn't get it down, and how nobody knew a fuckingthing except some European with a beard who sat in a dark room andplayed with himself.

Eventually, Shake decided he knew as much about life as any livingAmerican. He said it would be a tragedy not to share his knowledgewith mankind. He would become a writer, and why should it be sodifficult? All you had to do was sit at a desk and let the Olivettigo down on you.

Frankly, I thought the best reason to become a writer was because ofwhat Shake told me about scholarly women. He said that if he became afamous book author, he could go out on lecture tours and nail a lotof ladies who wore glasses.

Many of those ladies were a hidden minefield of delight, Shake said.Their arrogant expressions intrigued him. Their manner ofdress—Terrorist Chic—was deceptive. Underneath the fatigues, theplump ones wouldn't be that plump, and the skinny ones wouldn't bethat skinny, and the truth was that when you got behind their icyglares and worked your way down to the goal line with one of them,the thing you would have on your hands was a closet treasure—asquealing, back-clawing, lust-ridden, talk-dirty-to-me, won't-spill-a-drop nympho-acrobat.

"Billy C., we've been severely handicapped all these yearsbecause we're nothing but athletes," he explained. "Ifyou'd ever read a novel, you'd know what I mean. What's happened is,you and me have missed out on a whole bunch of literary pussy."

Shake played one more year of football after our Super Bowl season,but I'm not sure you could have called it football.

We spent most of our spare time in bars and honky-tonks, holding ourSuper Bowl rings up to our lips and speaking into them like they weretwo-way radios.

The rings were beautiful. They were huge, gold, diamond-encrusted,had a bright blue stone in them, and were fun to talk to.

"Crippled Chick to Mother Hen, come in, Mother Hen," one ofus would say to his ring, usually when ordering another young Scotchor Tequila Suicide.

We might be in Runyon's, Clarke's, Melon's, Juanita's, McMullen's,even all the way up to Elaine's, hitting every candy store on Secondand Third Avenues in search of Christianity.

Or we might be on the road in a city like Atlanta where they havethose after-hours clubs that offer you a little packet of dread withevery third drink and don't announce last-call till February.

Wherever we might be, it was inevitable that somebody would holler athis ring, "Mayday, Mayday!"

That would be a signal for everyone to look at the young lady cominginto the saloon. If the young lady happened to resemble the thirdrunnerup in the Miss Homewrecker Pageant, you'd hear another battlecry from our table.

"Face mask!"

That would be the ultimate compliment to the young lady from one ofour freelance gynecologists.

There were evenings when Barbara Jane went out with us. She, too,would get around to speaking into a Super Bowl ring.

What she most often said was:

"Leaving now. Bored."

Our world-championship team broke up pretty fast after Shake Tillerquit to pursue commas and apostrophes.

The next player to retire was Hose Manning, our laser- visionquarterback. Hose moved back home to Purcell, Oklahoma, to sellfront-end-loaders.

Puddin Patterson, my roadgrader, our best offensive lineman, fell inwith Dreamer Tatum of the Jets and tried to organize a players'strike. It never got organized, but that's why the Jets tradedDreamer to Washington and Burt Danby traded Puddin to San Francisco.

As Burt Danby put it, those cities were perfect for your "mondo,craze-o, leftist derelicts."

Puddin was pleased about going to the Bay Area. He had always wantedto open a gourmet food store.

Bobby Styles, our reliable free safety, beat the rape charge, but hisheart was never in the game after the scandal. He married thefourteen-year-old girl, settled in Baton Rouge, and became a partnerin Shirley's Tree & Stump Removal. Shake always said Bobby worehis I.Q. on his jersey. Bobby was No. 20.

Rucker McFarland turned queer. He was the first defensive tackle tomake a public announcement about his genes. We were all disturbed tohear about his problem, but at least it cleared up the mystery of whyhe had kept so many rolls of designer fabric in his locker.

Story Time Mitchell, our all-pro cornerback, was the saddest case.They called it "possession with intent to sell." He wassentenced to fifteen years in a Florida joint.

He handled it like a trooper. Got pardoned after three. Guys fromaround the league wrote to him regularly and sent him CAREpackages—cakes, cookies, video cassettes, beaver magazines—becausehe refused to name any of his customers. Story Time was a competitor.

These guys were the guts of our team, along with me and T.J., ofcourse, so when they left, there was hardly any reason to wonder whythe Giants went downhill.

In the middle of the decline, Shoat Cooper, our coach, dug a deepone&out of his ass one day, spit on the floor, and said, "Youknow what you jokers look like to me? You look like somebody's donelicked all the red off your lollipop."

Our brain trust, which was Shoat Cooper and Burt Danby, tried torebuild the dynasty. The record shows how good a job they did.Through our portals swaggered the grandest collection of scum everperpetrated on a squad room.

When we didn't welcome a sullen, millionaire rookie who wouldn'tlearn his plays and traveled with a business manager, we inherited amalcontent who'd been with five other clubs and came to us with anickname like Dump, Point Spread, or Bail-Out.

It seemed like the harder I played, the more games we lost. Shake hada good football mind. I asked him one evening in a tavern what hethought our biggest problems were.

He looked off from his cocktail for a minute, then turned back to mewith a sigh. "Billy C., I'd rather try to tell somebody what anoyster tastes like."

Shake was busy on a novel before his last football season was over.For a time, he flirted with the idea of giving up his penthouseapartment in the high-rise at 56th and First Avenue and buying a loftin SoHo, thinking the artistic environment would stir his creativejuices.

SoHo had become a desirable area of lower Manhattan for reasons thatcould only be answered by the friends of dissident poets or rabidsculptors. It was the newest place to go watch activist groups eatcroissants.

Shake dismissed the idea of moving after Barbara Jane pointed out tohim SoHo had an abundance of vegetarian restaurants with no-smokingareas.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Shake Tiller the Writer. Maybe Ithought he would take to wearing a Lenin cap or something, but hislifestyle didn't change. He did begin to jot things down on napkins,and he grew a short beard, which looked surprisingly good on him.

The title of his novel was The Grade-B Plot. I have aconfession. Like the vast majority of Americans, I didn't read muchpast the first paragraph either.

Originally, his first paragraph consisted of three words.

This said Riley:

That was it. New paragraph.

When Shake handed me the manuscript to glance at one night, I said,"You got a semi-colon in there real quick."

"Colon," he corrected.

"Well, colon, semi-colon, what the fuck," I said.

It was the kind of response Shake might have expected from a guywho'd once made an effort to write a book of his own, your typicalprofessional athlete's memoir—why I'm great because I know how totalk to a tape recorder and get a sportswriter to clean up thegrammar.

I had failed in my literary attempt, not because it wasn't art likeThe Grade-B Plot, but because I took the trouble to read itand thought it sounded like a joke book that had been put into ablender with The Sporting News.

Unlike I would have done it, Shake re-wrote the first paragraph ofThe Grade-B Plot sixty times, but when the novel made its wayinto the bookstores, the only improvement I saw was in the length.The book began:

The moon was a half-scoop of vanilla that night and Riley had theslab of raw liver strapped to his bare chest when he entered thecampus library. He knew Laura would be in there somewhere, screamingat Proust as usual, or mutilating pages of Dostoyevsky. He figuredthey might as well go over the edge together. Funny how much she hadchanged since the Okefenokee Swamp.

Like most first novels, The Grade-B Plot sold extremely wellin northeastern Kentucky. The publisher, Wanderjahr Books, asubsidiary of Haver & Giles, ordered a first printing of 2,000copies. Shake's agent, Silvia Mercer, said this was very good, as didhis editor, Maureen Pemberton, a good friend of Silvia Mercer's.

Shake said literary pussy was overrated, after all. Maybe thebetter-known authors in Silvia Mercer's stable could appreciate her187 pounds of energy, her pigtails, and her smock, but Shake hadknown pulling guards with straighter teeth and more reverence for thewritten word.

He was happy to be published, of course, but he wondered how oftenThomas Hardy had stooped to "duty fucking."

The reviews of Shake's novel ranged from vicious to— hisword—disorienting.

A reviewer in The New York Times called it a book for anyonewho had "lost faith in the human race."

The reviewer, a professor of English at the University of Arkansas,went on to condemn the publisher for even sending the novel to theprinter and binder. "How long," the man asked, "mustserious artists go unrewarded while crude athletes, solely on thestrength of their names, are allowed to achieve the permanence ofhardcover and sit smugly on bookshelves?"

Shake said, "That's interesting. I can't find the fucking bookanywhere."

Silvia Mercer got excited because Time magazine reviewed thebook.

"A bad review in Time is very important," she saidto Shake. "It's better than being ignored."

Shake would rather have been ignored.

The Time critic wrote:

In The Grade-B Plot, First Novelist Marvin (Shake) Tiller, aformer professional football player, devotes 279 pages to thequestion of inaccessibility. Exactly how far should the writer removehimself from his characters and story? Tiller would have us believethere is no limit.

"What'd I do wrong?" Shake asked his agent.

"You didn't take any risks," Sylvia Mercer said. "Youdidn't stretch yourself."

"I was too busy typing."

The commercial failure of Shake's novel drove him straight intonon-fiction. He started to work on The Art of Taking Heat, ahow-to book designed to help the average person cope with life itsownself, and he took up expose journalism. He started doing piecesfor Esquire, Playboy, Rolling Stone, New York, Texas Monthly.

This in itself wasn't so bad. Who among us doesn't like to know thatcertain leading men in Hollywood are only five feet tall and stuffwashrags into their elastic briefs? Or learn that certain UnitedStates Congressmen have fathered dozens of illegitimate children inLatin America who will now blow you up with homemade bombs?

I think it's fair to say that Shake's journalistic exploits in nosmall way added to the confusion in our lives after Dreamer Tatumbusted my knee.

About that play.

We were down on Washington's 6-yard line in the third quarter, behindby 14 points. A touchdown could turn the momentum around. Fourth downcame up and I expected us to throw the ball, so you can imagine mysurprise when our quarterback called Student Body Left.

Student Body Left was a power sweep for me, Old 23. The play had beena moneymaker for us when I had Puddin Patterson to block for me. Itwas the play I'd scored on in the last four seconds to beat thedogass Jets 31-28 in the only Super Bowl that was ever worth a shit.

The situation wasn't the same, though.

For one thing, Puddin Patterson was no longer around. He was busilyselling rabbit pates in San Francisco. He had been replaced on theleft side of our offensive line by Alvin (Point Spread) Powell. PointSpread Powell's idea of a block was to assume the fetus positionabout one second after the ball was snapped.

And there was this other thing. Obert (Dreamer) Tatum, The BlackDeath, was across the line of scrimmage, which was where he had notbeen in that Super Bowl when we made our game-winning drive.

Any loyal fan of the Jets would be quick to remind you that DreamerTatum had sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter of that SuperBowl. Dreamer had been watching from the sideline when we punched itin.

Loyal Jets fans were easy to recognize in my day. You just looked forthe little old lady being mugged, and there they were.

Well, Dreamer was not only out there wearing the braid of his fiveyears as an all-pro cornerback, he had something else going for him.I had noticed earlier in the game that Dreamer had fortified himselfwith a handful of amphetamines.

Dreamer and I had known and respected each other a long time. We hadtraded enough licks to be married. And nobody knew better than methat you didn't spend a lot of time running the football at him whenhis eyes had a maniacal gaze and he chewed his gum so fast, theslobber ran down his chin.

Dreamer's condition prompted a minor rebellion in our huddle when thequarterback, Floyd (Dump) McKinney, called the running play.

"Are you crazy?" I said to Dump. "Dreamer'sover there!"

"We'll hit at their strength. Cross 'em up," he said.

"Who will?"

"Let's go, Billy Clyde. We'll take his ass to the parking lot."

"Have you looked at him lately?" I said. "Put the ballin the air!"

"My hand hurts."

"Your hand hurts?" I blurted out. "Did you betWashington?"

"Fuck, no," Dump said. "They went to ten and a half."

Now, then. I don't happen to be a person who goes through lifelooking for signs of impending doom. Even so, I hadn't come incontact with a cross-eyed Mexican that morning. I hadn't seen ared-headed spade, or a gray dog shit on the sidewalk, or a lone goosefly across the marsh.

All of which was why I shut up in the huddle and took the handofffrom Dump McKinney and ran the ball in my normal way—not fast, notslow, not fancy, but sort of in a threading, weaving, determinedfashion.

The blow came while I was in the air.

I was jumping over Point Spread Powell when Dreamer's shoulder flewinto my knee. It wasn't the lick itself that did me in. I landedawkwardly and 2,000 pounds of Redskin stink came down on top of me.

I didn't hear the tear of the medial collateral ligament andeverything else that got cross-threaded. Maybe it did sound likesomebody opening an envelope, as a newspaper guy wrote. All I knewwas, the inside of my knee was on fire. You couldn't have moved myleg with a tractor-pull.

Everybody was untangling when I said, "You can turn me over,Dreamer. I'm done on this side."

"Aw, shit, Clyde, are you hurt bad?" He scrambled to hisfeet.

"Yeah," I groaned. "I think your pharmacist finallygot me."

Dreamer made frantic gestures toward our bench. He was genuinelyconcerned. He helped the trainers lift me onto a stretcher and hewalked all the way to our sideline with me.

The last thing I saw in the stadium was a fat woman wearing an Indianheaddress and a buckskin pant suit. She screamed at me like apsychopath as the trainers carried the stretcher into a tunnel.

"We got you, Puckett!" she yelled, waving a tomahawk in theair. She glared down at me over a railing. "We got you good!Does it hurt? Oh, I hope it hurts you good! I hope you limpthe rest of your life, you slimy bastard!"

Given a choice, I suppose I'd rather have heard the woman sing achorus of "Hail to the Redskins."

We moved through the tunnel beneath the stands, and one of thetrainers looked down at me.

"How'd you like to be married to that, Billy Clyde?"

"You'd have one problem," I said. "With all thosedirty dishes in the sink, there wouldn't be nowhere to piss."

In the dresing room, the team physician, Dr. Fritz Ma- honey, pushedaround on my knee.

"Won't know til I see the X-rays, old chum, but I'm afraidyou've been Dick Butkused," he said with a hum .

It would have been more accurate if Dr. Fritz Mahoney had said I'dbeen Gale Sayersed. Sayers had been a running back, Butkus alinebacker. But I got the drift.

Damage to the medial collateral, a vital ligament in the middle ofthe knee, had prematurely ended the careers of Dick Butkus and GaleSayers, two of your legendary Chicago Bears. Overnight, they hadbecome famous medial collateralists.

I knew enough about the injury to realize that if I ever did go on afootball field again, I'd have to wear a knee brace the size of aToyota Cressida and play with considerable pain, but even though Iunderstood all this, the competitor in me came out. To the doctor, Isaid, "This ain't the end of my ass!"

Dr. Fritz Mahoney said, "Spunk helps, Billy Clyde. Neverunderestimte the value of spunk. We in the medical profession place agreat deal of trust in spunk."

"I'll play again—you want to bet on it?"

"Spunk can do wonders," the doctor said. "But I'll behonest. Spunk can't help you this season."

"Next year!" I said. "Football's not through with metill I say it is!"

Dr. Fritz Mahoney clasped my upper arm and looked at me proudly.

"I like your style, Billy Clyde."

"Good," I said. "Me and spunk want a corner room atLenox Hill with a cable-ready color TV."

The most esteemed guests to visit the hospital that evening were BurtDanby; his wife, Veronica; and Shoat Cooper, the old coacher.

"Kiss on the lips, big guy!" Burt said, as he exploded intothe room, doing a little dance step. "Hey, I know you're down,right? But are we talking down-down? No way! We're not talking MondoEndo here. We're talking Johns Hopkins, baby. We're talking HoustonMedical. We're talking Zurich!"

I raised myself in the bed slightly. Veronica took a seat, browsedthrough a magazine. Shoat Cooper dabbed at a tear, his eyes fixed onmy right leg. His whole offense lay in my bed.

"Them niggers is gonna pay for this," Shoat said.

Burt Danby kept moving around. "Get this," he said. "Knowwhat I told the media about Twenty-three? I said, Whoa, assholes, myman'll be back next season with a Gucci knee, and it's look out,Super Bowl! Whammo-spermo! Right up the old anal! Listen, you goteverything you need here? How's the food? Right in the shitter, huh?Let me order you some Chinese. How 'bout some minced pork withlettuce? Fuck it, I'll call Pearl, she'll bring it over herself!"

Burt Danby was a wiry little man who had never stopped talking likean advertising executive. His old agency, DDDF, had purchased theGiants from the Mara family in the early Seventies. Burt had beennamed the club's chief operating officer. He had presided over ourSuper Bowl victory. He had suffered so much throughout the turbulentcontest that he had sworn to God he would give up drinking andcheating on his wife if only we could win that one game. I laterheard that after I scored the winning touchdown, Burt had jumped tohis feet, shook his fist at God, and hoarsely screamed, "Fuckyou, Skipper, if you can't make it in Big Town, go to Des Moines!"

A year after the Giants won the Super Bowl, Burt had somehow gainedmajority control of the franchise in a mysterious stock transactionand left the agency. It was said Burt had a silent partner in thedeal. It was also said he might wind up living in Costa Rica if theJustice Department ever took a close look at the stock transaction.

"TV!" Burt said, brightly, feeling the need to cheer me up."You'll go straight into television when you bust out of here!You got a season to jerk off; why not?"

Burt said the networks were sure to offer me a job as a colorannouncer. CBS and NBC would get in a bidding war. Billy ClydePuckett would be the only winner.

"You serious?"

"Does the Pope shit in the woods?"

I laughed at that and Burt pressed on. "You think you make gooddough from me? TV is God's way of telling you to rape, steal, andplunder. It's a fucking souffle! You know what those guys make?Gifford... Summerall... Madden? Cosell? Meredith? They can buy theVatican and redecorate!"

Burt went into a crouch. He stared at an imaginary object in front ofhim. "Here's the network, you're the Canadian sheepdog, okay?"

He humped the thin air.

"Uh... uh... uh!" he moaned, then straightened up. "Nowyou scoop the coin; see you later!"

"I wouldn't be any good on television," I said.

Burt looked astounded.

"Good? You want to talk good? Good is who wears a blazerand has a microphone. Know how you make it big in

TV, Billy Clyde? First, you're an athlete, then you go to makeup. Allyou gotta be after that is deaf, dumb, and blind!"

Shoat Cooper's eyes were still misty. He said he guessed he'd bettershove off.

"Africa," Shoat said, taking another look at my leg. "Youcan trace the whole blame back to Africa."

Burt's wife, Veronica, comforted me by commenting on how unattractivehospitals were.

Veronica Danby was an ex-"fashion person," a cadaver whosedark brown hair had been styled into a shower cap. She was two-thirdscheekbones and one-third pout. She seemed disappointed that my roomwasn't a boutique in which she might pick up a little something fromUngaro for $1,500.

Veronica did ask if Barbara Jane had done anything to her eyes yet.

Not that I was aware of, I said, but what did I know? Barb was out inL.A., working on a pilot for ABC. Anything could have happened.

"She's thirty-four, isn't she?"

"Will be," I said. "Is that the age when your eyesgo?"

"One never knows. Wrinkles are so treacherous."

I accepted that piece of information with a nod.

Veronica said, "I'm sure she doesn't use strong cleansersanymore. I've learned to stay strictly with non-alcoholic lotions."

"Oh?" I said.

"They refreshen the pores," said Veronica. "Occasionally,I put on a light cream to soothe the skin and increase circulation,but when I have a facial massage, I make sure I tell the masseuse Donot pull the skin! It's the worst thing you can do!"


"Oh, yes," Veronica said. "The idea is to keep theskin taut and firm."

Burt beamed at me as they were leaving.

"Got one for you, big guy," he said. "Pal of mine atDoyle

Dane goes with this actress on The Guiding Light. He thoughtthey'd done all the sperm capers but he made a hell of a discoverythe other night. Eyelashes on the clit. Says he can blink her off inno time."

I had a while to think about that before the phone started ringing.

Dreamer Tatum called. T. J. from Fort Worth. Ex-teammates like HoseManning and Puddin Patterson. Jim Tom Pinch, an old newspaper buddy.Others. Hang in there, they all said.

Shake Tiller phoned from Houston. He was swinging through the Southon a promotional tour for the paperback release of The Art ofTaking Heat. His book had been a non- fiction best-seller theprevious year.

The book had been published in hardcover by Viva Press, a subsidiaryof Quillam, Dupe & Strike. Silvia Mercer, Shake's agent, hadpeddled the idea to an editor friend named Rosemary Compton, arguingthat The Art of Taking Heat would appeal to that mass ofreaders in the Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous category who mightbe fed up with diets, exercise, and money-managing.

Shake's book sold over 200,000 copies in hardcover, though it neverdislodged Get Rich in 30 Seconds as the No. 1 best-seller onall of the heavy lists. Still, the book's success had turned ShakeTiller into a semi-known author. This not only meant he'd had toappear on drive-time radio shows and early-morning TV shows aroundthe country, he'd been obligated to fuck Silvia Mercer again, andthen Rosemary Compton.

He had once said that Xeroxing was the toughest part of writing, buthe had changed his mind.

Paperback tours differed from hardcover tours, Shake had discovered.You didn't sell books or autograph many of them on either tour, butthere was drastically less literary pussy on the paperbacktour—unless a man had a weakness for the pudgy girls who ran thecheckout counters at supermarkets.

On hardcover tours, Shake had spent most of his time apologizing tothe cultivated owners of bookstores because his book had beenpublished and theirs hadn't. Occasionally, he would sit and smoke ata table in the store and point out to a browsing customer where thebird books could be found. On the paperback tours, he would millaround the grocery stores, occasionally be recognized as anex-football star, and be asked to autograph twelve slices of Virginiaham wrapped in butcher's paper.

Now on the phone from Houston, he said, "Hi, gimp. Luckiestthing ever happened to you, B.C. You can go into TV. Rob everybody'sass."

"You're the second person who's told me that tonight."

"You went out perfect, man. A wounded warrior whose career wasstruck down by tragic fate. Fuck 'em. Football's not the sameanymore, anyhow."

"There's still eleven men on a side."

"Not on the Giants," he said. "Go for the slick, B. C.Sit up there in the booth with Summerall. Tell everybody how thequarterback wants to isolate on the linebacker. Hell, you might windup in a beer commercial."

"I drink Scotch."

"We'll do some of that when I get back."

"How's the book going?"

"Selling like salami."

The conversation with Shake didn't necessarily boost my spirits.

For the next hour, I squirmed in the bed. I was half- rooting for thepainkillers to get with it, half-wondering if I would ever playfootball again.

Was it really possible I'd never climb into another uniform, nevertrot into another stadium, never blow another one in there for six,never hear the crowds again?

Football was the only thing I'd ever done.

I was in a fairly miserable state of mind, feeling a terrible senseof loss, when the phone rang for the last time that night.

I fumbled for the receiver and greeted the caller with a weak hello.

"Quasimodo, how you doin'? A little trouble up on the belltower, huh?"

It was the witty voice of my sympathetic wife.

Somebody once described marriage to me as one year in Heaven andtwenty years in the Light Heavyweight Division.

It couldn't have been my Uncle Kenneth who said that. He stored up abacklog of ex-wives for sure, but he never stayed married long enoughto know their bathroom habits.

Not that my uncle was ever torn up when the ladies walked out on him,usually in a foaming rage over some domestic misunderstanding.

Uncle Kenneth would just shake his head, light a Winston, and say,"There goes old Connie. God help the world if she'd been borntwins."

Having been raised by my uncle in Fort Worth, I was privileged towatch a steady stream of bimbos go in and out of our duplexapartment.

Some of their names were easier to remember than others.

Dorothy was the one who had hair the color of V-8 juice. Ina Fay ranup the department-store bills. Patsy had an epileptic brother we usedto imitate. Teresa played the radio loud and jitterbugged around theliving room in her shortie nightgown. Bobbi Lynn had trouble withfever blisters.

All of Uncle Kenneth's wives knew how to cook butter beans. They hadjobs. They either answered the phone for optical companies or lickedenvelopes stuffed with freight invoices.

They looked like funeral wreaths when they dressed up to gosomewhere. None of them drove air-conditioned cars.

Connie was the one who could outcuss Uncle Kenneth.

She was kind of attractive for a woman whose hair was always in ablonde beehive and whose skirts were too tight, but she wasn't toopretty when she was displeased with my uncle.

If Uncle Kenneth would come home late from a hard day of bettingfootball games at the pool hall, and if he happened to have a can ofBudweiser in his hand, and if there was the normal amount of vomit onhis tasseled loafers, Connie's lecture would have a little somethingextra in it.

She would say:

"Fuck you, Kenneth, and everything your lightweight ass standsfor! You smell like four kinds of turds in a Goddamn fillin'-stationtoilet! What whore's ass did you crawl up and die in tonight? Youthink you're a slick cocksucker, but you ain't no slicker than twosnakes fuckin' in a barrel of snot! Don't come near me, youlimp-prick motherfucker, unless you want to wear that beer to theemergency room!"

Uncle Kenneth learned not to step up the backtalk with Connie. Hewould just stroll quietly across the room and stretch out on the pinkchenille spread that covered the day bed from Montgomery Ward andturn on TV to watch what he called the "ambulance news."

Once he had responded to one of her tirades with "Connie, areyou sayin' my poem don't rhyme?"

That was the night she whapped him on the ear with the metal bar froma Eureka vacuum cleaner.

I used to wonder why Uncle Kenneth kept getting married. It alwaysturned out the same. One day I put the question to him at the TexasRecreation Parlor.

"Aw, I don't know, Billy," he said, studying a tout sheet,trying to figure out why Purdue came 3V2 over Duke. "I think youhave to blame it on Wilbur. You can't talk no sense to him."

Wilbur was the name of my uncle's dick.

My momma and daddy split up when I was six years old. As UncleKenneth liked to tell it, my dad, Steve, unfolded a Texaco road mapone evening and laid it out on the kitchen table. He drew a verticalline down the middle of the United States. He then turned toDalene—that was my momma's name—and said:

"You take this side and I'll take this side right here."

"Fine," Dalene said. "Are you sure half the country'senough room for you to chase after your little girls with the yellowcurls and the merry eyes?"

Steve said, "That's what I'll be looking for, fond as I am ofyour hair-curlers."

"Butt Hole!" my momma shouted. "If you don't get whatyou deserve in this life, you can thank God for His kindness!"

Steve said, "What I'll thank him for is that you ain't gonnahaunt my heart like a damned old movie star! You won't even be amemory!"

"Is that a fact?" said Dalene. "Well, all I'llremember is your zipper go in' up and down like a window shade!"

Life is a series of choices. I was told I could either go toCalifornia and watch Steve sell floor covering, or I could go toMobile and watch Dalene take care of her sick mother and look for anew husband.

Evidently, what I said to both of them was "I want to go toUncle Kenneth's house. He likes sports and he don't holler."

I never saw Dalene again.

She did send me $5 every Christmas until she died when I wasfourteen. She had remarried by then and given birth to three otherkids. Apparently, the kids jumped up and down on the furniture somuch, a headache did her in.

Uncle Kenneth took me to the funeral in Mobile.

It was my first funeral, but I figured out from the seatingarrangement in the funeral parlor and at the cemetery that her newhusband, Raymond, was the man on the front row in the windbreaker andthe Schlitz cap.

Being at the funeral was a strange feeling because I didn't know mymomma at all, but the trip wasn't a complete loss. After the funeral,Uncle Kenneth and me drove up to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Ole Missgame.

I saw my dad only one time after he moved to California. It was whenI was a junior at TCU and we played an intersectional game againstUSC in Los Angeles.

On the morning of the game, I was standing around in the lobby of theCentury Plaza Hotel with Shake and Barbara Jane. We were killingtime. Shake and I were waiting to board the team bus to the L.A.Coliseum. We were laughing at all of the TCU fans in their purpleblazers and purple leather cowboy boots when this man came toward us,and I couldn't help staring at him because of his outfit. He woregreen slacks, a pink Munsingwear shirt, a red-and-yellow-checkedlinen coat, and white mesh-top shoes. He had an admirable tan. Ithought he was just another California nitwit who wanted an autographfrom me and Shake, your basic All- Americans. He didn't look anythinglike Uncle Kenneth, his brother.

"Hello, Billy," the man said, sticking out his hand. "I'myour dad."

Before I could speak, Shake said, "What's your name?"

"Steve." The man looked blankly at Shake. "StevePuckett."

"What was his mother's name?" Shake gestured.


"What street did you live on in Fort Worth?"

Steve stammered.

"Uh.. .Travis. Then over on Hemphill."

"Could be him."

Barbara Jane folded her arms as she studied Steve. She said, "Sir,I'm sorry, but I've known Billy Clyde's mother and father a longtime. They're both named Kenneth."

Out of embarrassment for Steve, I led him aside, seeing no reason tosubject him to Shake and Barbara Jane's wise-mouth.

We had a brief visit. He said he was proud of me. He said he followedmy "dipsy-dos" in the newspapers. He said he had meant towrite several times over the past fifteen years, but things had beenhectic in the floor-covering business. He said he'd bought a new setof MacGregor irons and they had lowered his handicap to 12.

He glanced around the lobby at my teammates, some of whom were black.

"How you get along with the nigs?"

"Fine," I said. "They're good guys."

"Nigs is?"


"Don't steal nothin'?"


"Don't even borrow nothin'?"

"No. I borrow some of their albums."

He said, "Lord, I seen one the other day that gimme a pause. Hewas one of your hippie nigs? He stood there on Wilshire Boulevard andtook a piss in broad daylight!"

"No fooling?"

"Yep, right there on Wilshire Boulevard. I said to myself, Well,is this the end of civilization as we know it, or is it just anothernigger pissin' on Wilshire Boulevard?"

"It's a great country."

My dad apologized for having been semi-halfway responsible for makingme the victim of a broken home.

I said he didn't need to apologize for a single thing. Uncle Kennethhad given me everything I'd needed, plus a good many laughs.

He said, "Billy, I was sorry to hear about your mother. I neverwanted her to bogey eighteen. I did root for a sore throat from timeto time. Damn, she had a temper."

"You got married again, didn't you?"

"Twice," he said, sheepishly. "Learned my lesson. Coraburned my name in the eighteenth green at Rancho Park. Eileen threw abrand-new set of Pings in the ocean—can you believe that?"

My dad was killed two years later. You could make him sound like hewas a successful businessman if you said he got killed in aprivate-plane crash. The fact is, he got killed on the golf coursewhere the private plane crashed.

He hadn't been able to get his Titleist 4 and Wilson wedge out of asand trap in time to avoid a Cessna that lost power and suddenlydropped out of the smog and made the bunker a little deeper.

Old Steve was no big authority on relationships, but that morning inthe Century Plaza lobby, he left me with some words I never forgot.

"Billy, I ain't too smart or I wouldn't be trying to sell corktile," he had said. "I know you play a tough sport. You gotthem big, mean tackles comin' at you. But I'll tell you one thingabout life. You ain't took no lumps at all till you've tried maritaldiscord."

Given the mood I was in while I floundered in the hospital bed for aweek, you couldn't blame for me for the ludicrous things I thoughtabout.

I spent days watching elderly patients creeping past my room, and Iwondered how many of them would be shuffled into a nursing home wherethey'd live out their days playing dominoes until they swallowed thedouble-6, believing it to be an Oreo cookie.

I tried to estimate how many patients might be dying of malpracticebecause of my floor nurse. She continually looked flustered and saidthings like "This God-damn place is comin' down over my ears!"

But mostly I thought about all of the obstacles life puts in the wayof marriage.

There in my room at Lenox Hill—me, my knee, and a mound ofmagazines and newspapers—I pondered the fact that I was now in mythirties and I only knew two couples who hadn't been divorced orestranged.

One couple was Barbara Jane's parents, Big Ed and Big Barb Bookman.They had exchanged some sharp language, but they would neverentertain the idea of divorce for two reasons. First, it would besocially inconvenient, and second, it would take Big Barb and herlawyers the rest of their lives to dig up West Texas and find all ofBig Ed's money.

Big Ed once said, "Show me a woman who wants a divorce, and I'llshow you a beady-eyed lawyer comin' out of her closet!"

The other couple was T. J. and Donna Lambert. They would never splitup because they both liked Stouffer's chicken pot pies.

But almost every guy I'd ever known had been married two, three, andfour times, most often to an undiscovered actress or airlinestewardess—er, excuse me, flight attendant.

This didn't include Shake Tiller. He had been on record for years assaying he would rather be confined to a Syrian prison than have todiscuss furniture ads with a female roommate.

Dump McKinney came to mind with no trouble. I thought of how he mightjust as easily have fumbled the handoff to me the way he had fumbledall of his marriages, in which case I'd still be playing football. Iwouldn't be in a hospital trying to read a story in People magazineabout a meditative movie actor who recommended tofu with sage as analternative to a heavy Thanksgiving dinner.

Dump McKinney held one pro football record that would never betouched. He married three flight attendants and two Dallas Cowboyscheerleaders. I learned of his fifth marriage and fifth divorce oneevening watching television.

It had come to the attention of 60 Minutes that theprogressive city of Dallas had spawned a flurry of drive-in divorcecenters in which lawyers were handling as many as 175 quickiedivorces a day. I was watching the program when who should pop ontomy screen but a disheartened Dump McKinney and his new ex-wife,Cheryl.

"I can't explain it," Dump said to the camera, his headdrooping sadly. "I thought we were the two happiest people inthe world."

The TV reporter turned to Cheryl. "How long were you married?"

"Three days."

"Three days?" said the reporter, trying not tolaugh. "What can go wrong in only three days?"

Cheryl ran a brush through her long blond hair, and said, "Wejust didn't have nothin' in common."

Love was brutally outnumbered. That's how I saw it in the hospitalthat week. Maybe love could hold his own during depressions and wars,but if you gave people a little money and leisure time, love was indeep shit.

I made a list as I lay in the hospital bed. There wasn't much else todo but glower at the cast on my leg or watch vampires make rock musicon cable TV.

As I observed it, love was forced to go up against the followingenemies:

  • The insane cost of living.

  • The stranglehold of analysts.

  • Male-chauvinist jerks.

  • Male-chauvinist feminists.

  • Liberated wenches.

  • Bizarre sexual demands.

  • No sex at all.

  • His or her lack of political "awareness."

  • Whiskey.

  • Recreational drugs.

  • Born-again.

  • Porsche overhauls.

  • Rumors.

  • Gossip.

  • Confidant fags.

  • Overly familiar barmaids.

  • People "preoccupied with success."

  • Partners "suffocating" for undisclosed reasons.

  • Partners who have stomped on all the magic.

  • People who change.

  • People who refuse to change.

  • Architectural Digest.

  • Pornography.

  • Bumper stickers ("NUKE THE FAG WHALES FOR JESUS").

  • Office flirtations.

  • Jogging.

  • Business travel.

  • Dinner parties.

  • Sports on TV.

  • No-smoking areas.

  • Discos.

  • Cold pasta salads.

  • Betamax.

  • Bloomingdale's.

  • Perrier.

  • Ingmar Bergman.

  • She's too "assertive."

  • He's not "supportive" enough.

  • Numbing boredom.


  • "I'm a person, too, you selfish mutant!"

There was a time when Barbara Jane would have agreed with me thatnone of those things could have affected us. We were too clever. Andthen some of them did affect us— and there we were, as humanas everybody else.

Nothing in our history had indicated we would ever become human. Ifanything, the opposite was true.

Barbara Jane and Shake Tiller and I had known each other since thethird grade. It was in the third grade that we had formed our ownprivate club, a society dedicated to laughing at life its ownself.

We began by laughing at the things other kids put in their sandwichesat Daggett Elementary. Chunky peanut butter? Then we laughedat everybody's clothes, and everybody's parents. I suppose you couldsay it got out of hand because everything after that seemed humorous,especially anything serious, except Barbara Jane didn't laugh muchabout Kathy Montgomery later on.

Growing up, the three of us developed the same outlook on learning,achieving, surviving. We came to share the same beliefs about all thebig stuff. Observing grownup behavior, I suspect, had more to do withit than anything.

We agreed you had an obligation to take whatever you were blessedwith in life and try to keep a shine on it.

We said you shouldn't live out your favorite songs too seriously.

We took an oath not to hurt anybody on our way up, but we said it wasokay to use some lip if you started to slip.

We thought the main thing you had going for you in life was what youdid.

We considered it dangerous to place our complete trust in anybody whohadn't gone to Paschal High.

We nominated pretension as the gravest sin of all.

And we were willing to argue that a chicken-fried steak and creamgravy at Herb's Cafe could duke it out with any phony Frenchman whoever wore a chef's hat.

We were armed with these notions when we moved to New York City.

Shake and I had made a pact. We would either play for the same NFLteam or go to the Canadian League. We had some bargaining power,having been your sought-after All-Americas. We also had Big EdBookman for a "bidness" consultant.

Big Ed talked a lot about bidness. The oil bidness, most often. "Theoil bidness is America's bidness," he would say.

The New York Giants went for our deal, probably because Burt Danbygot tired of hearing Big Ed drop the names of Lyndon Johnson, JohnConnally, John Tower, and Gen. William Westmoreland, who hadn'tinducted us into the army during Viet Nam because we'd had the wisdomto be born white and our hair didn't hang down below our earlobes.

The Giants selected me in the first round of the NFL draft; then theytraded a future No. 1 and some cash to the Cleveland Browns toacquire Shake Tiller.

Barbara Jane moved to New York at the same time we did. Her parentsdidn't get to vote on it. She was still about half in love with Shakeat the time, or thought she was.

We lived at the Westbury Hotel while Barbara Jane hunted for anapartment that would be suitable for the three of us. She came upwith a Park Avenue co-op for us to buy. It had four terraces andthree wood-burning fireplaces.

Shake and I agreed it was suitable for the three of us. Luxembourgcould have slept in the living room.

Barbara Jane had majored in English and minored in journalism at TCU.She had expected to walk into one of the TV networks, pronounce DienBien Phu correctly, and get a job as a production assistant, but shenever had the opportunity.

Fate kept on happening.

Barb was "discovered" by Burt Danby the first time Big Edand Big Barb treated us to a night at "21," Big Ed'sfavorite New York restaurant. We were fresh faces in town. BarbaraJane was still buying Oriental rugs for the apartment. We hadn't evenfound out what bars not to go in—like "21."

But in we waltzed, and there was Burt at the bar with all the littlemodel airplanes, trucks, cars, baseball caps, and polo malletsdangling over his head.

Burt was swirling in a clump of network biggies when his eyessuddenly feasted on Barb.

"Holy shit," he said, "who put the tits on Lassie?"

Burt sprang into action right away. His introductions set all themachinery in motion that helped turn Barb into a high-rent model.

Few people ever blitzed Big Town quicker than Barbara Jane. Shekissed it on the lips and backed up the trucks.

All of a sudden, she was not just in our apartment, she waseverywhere. You looked at a magazine ad, and there Barb was, tellingyou what to smoke or drink. You looked up on a billboard and sheshowed you how to get a suntan in your bikini. She slinked acrossyour TV screen, advising you to stay in a specific chain of hotels.She saucily tossed her hair at you on TV, daring you not to drive onher steel-belted radials. And she washed her hair on TV, stronglyhinting that your own hair would come out by the handfuls if youdidn't use her shampoo.

None of this surprised me. One way or another, I had figured Barbwould trick New York. She was too good-looking for it not to happen.

Barbara Jane was so heart-stopping pretty, she could raise theblood-pressure on a marble statue. She had flowing hair of streakedbutterscotch, skin that tanned easily, and dark brown eyes thatseemed to approve of everything you were thinking or saying. Her bodywas merely perfect—not the kind to set off burglar alarms in atri-state area, but simply a luscious body with nothing out ofproportion.

When she walked down Fifth Avenue in a pair of snug jeans and flashedher pretty smile, guys tripped over street vendors and fell intopiles of stolen jewelry. In the summers when she'd walk into arestaurant wearing something white and semi-revealing over thatwood-stained figure, forks dropped all over the room.

Barb could have scooted by on looks alone. Most beautiful women do.But she had all of the extras—the ones I admired, at least.

She had spirit, independence, street smart, book knowledge, wit, aquick laugh, and a lethal tongue. Unlike most models, she was alive,energetic, inquisitive.

Being intelligent, Barb never had any respect for the modelingbusiness, even though she earned some disgraceful amounts of money atit. Not respecting the business didn't make her stupid. Like shesaid:

"Hey, if the agency dopes want to pay me this kind of bread towear their corsage, I'll go to the prom, okay?"

She playfully described herself as a "prime-time hooker."

Shake liked to tease Barb about modeling. He'd try to get her toconfess that she believed her talent was essential.

We were hanging around the apartment one night when he said, "Don'tbe ashamed, Barb. Models are great for the economy. They createactivity in the marketplace. You believe in some of the products yousell, right? I think you're protecting the consumer from inferiormerchandise."

Barbara Jane thought this over for a moment, then slowly broke into asmile.

"That dog won't hunt," she said.

Through all the years of Barbara Jane and Shake's on- again,off-again love affair, I was the good friend. I scoured thecountryside to find a Barbara Jane of my own, but there was only one.

Barb didn't help my cause. Not once did she ever give her totalapproval to any girlfriend I had. Oh, sure. She would be nice to thegirl if I happened to be in the middle of a romance, but she wouldnever say something like "Gee, Mary Alice Ramsey's a greatgirl," or "Golly, Rachel Watson's a lot of fun."

What Barbara Jane would be was tolerant. Great word. She would beall-out, full-on, no-holds-barred tolerant.

The days and nights weren't without laughter and frivolity in thedays when Barb and Shake and some girl and I would go out on the towntogether, or stay home together, or even take a trip together. Andoccasionally there would even be the unique entry—the keeper—thatBarb might adopt as a friend. But eventually my relationship with thegirl would be ruined—buried, forget it—because Barbara Jane's"review" would come in.

Sometimes I would ask for the review, but even if I didn't, thereview would come in. One word. Maybe two. A short review but akiller.

And dead. The poor girl would be a goner. She might be apile-driving, bone-crunching showstopper, but Barb's review wouldreduce her to the lame, gnarled, disease-trodden, nuisance-peddlingintellectual dwarf I urgently had to get rid of.

Take high school. Mary Alice Ramsey was a prize. She was beautiful,stacked, sweet, generous, kind. But one evening at Herb's Cafe, asShake and I and Barbara Jane were sitting around—a major-leaguesport in Fort Worth—I made a tactical blunder. I elaborated on thevirtues of Mary Alice Ramsey.

"Daddy," Barbara Jane said, slipping a word in.


I was looking up from a cheeseburger as I reacted to the word.

"Mary Alice talks about her daddy a lot, doesn't she?"

I thought it over. Barb had been right. Scratch Mary Alice Ramsey,that filthy bitch.

After Mary Alice, I had a good run with Mopsy New- some, a very sexyJunior Favorite whose talent for lap- dancing was far ahead of itstime. The affair ended after one word from Barbara Jane.


Our senior year in high school, I became an item with Rachel Watson.Rachel was a knockout, cool and sophisticated, a girl who stayedahead of the trends in music and fashion.

"You like Rachel a lot, don't you?" Barb got around tosaying.

"She's different," I said.

"She's awfully pretty," said Barb, "but..."

"But what?"

Barb held me in suspense.


Barbara Jane shrugged apologetically.

"Clothes Nazi."

And so it went. On through college. On into New York.

Only a fool would have dropped some of the convivial helpmates I wasinvolved with, but Barbara Jane's reviews knocked them off like21-point underdogs.

Cissy Walford?


Charlene Gaines?


Becky Taylor?

"Grateful Dead."

Dede Aldwyn?


Sally Anthony?


Melinda Rideout?

"Nose whore."

Tiffany Howell?


Ginny Beth Martinson?

"Y'all come out to the ranch."

Eileen Brice?


Cynthia Rogers?

"Sushi bar."

I once made it through two months without a review. It was our thirdyear in Manhattan, the football season I fell in love with JanFletcher.

I had first seen Jan Fletcher on television. She had burst onto thescreen one night as a reporter for a local independent station.

Jan was intoxicating, a girl with long black hair and eyes as blue asa soap wrapper. I would later discover she didn't have a blemish onher entire miraculous body.

I called Jan up for a date the first week she was on the air. Therewas something engaging about her delivery. If she looked into thecamera and said, "The fire apparently started on the fourthfloor of the tenement," it came out as if she had said, "Pleasefuck me, somebody."

Jan was more than ravishing and sultry. She was good- natured,carefree, quick as Barbara Jane. Shake found nothing wrong with her.I certainly didn't. And neither did Barbara Jane—-not for twomonths, anyhow.

Then I blew it. I as much as challenged Barbara Jane on the subjectone evening as we sat at the bar in McMullen's and I rambled on toolong, too rapturously about Jan Fletcher's flawless face, body,intellect, and personality.

Barbara Jane interrupted me with two words.

"Pina colada."

The words came out softly, but there was a gleeful look in Barb'seye.

I clung to my drink for a moment, the words twisting deeper into myheart. I could only stare off into a void, past the other models inthe room and all the guys suffering from acute hay fever. I wastrying to deal with the undeniable fact that Jan Fletcher dranknothing but pina coladas, and probably because she liked the sound ofit.

We didn't break up the next day. Our relationship just graduallydecayed, passed into oblivion. Shake observed that I crawled awaylike a sick rat looking for a drain.

There were those who said Barbara Jane saved me from an enormousamount of torment. It developed that Jan Fletcher was more concernedabout her career than anything else.

She hopped into enough beds to get a job as a network correspondentand moved to Washington to cover the merry pranksters in our nation'scapital. There, she indulged in a public affair with a marriedCongressman, then with a married Senator. Her own well-publicizedmarriage to a New York magazine editor didn't work out. Neither didher second well-publicized marriage to a music company mogul. Thatmarriage led her to Hollywood. The last I heard of Jan, she wasfeverishly screwing her way up the production ladder at a majorstudio, one of those Universals, and she seemed to be living happilyin the condo she had built in Liz Smith's column.

Not to give myself a greater sense of honor than I deserve, but Iwould never have had a serious romantic thought about Barbara Jane aslong as she and Shake Tiller were in semi-love.

Many's the night I yearned for her. She was the reason I searched sodiligently to find a girl with all of her attributes. But it wasn'tuntil she and Shake realized they weren't in a married kind ofentanglement that I looked at Barb with my eyebrows raised.

All but close friendship was over between Shake and Barb by the timewe were pushing thirty. About a week after the game in the winter ofthat year we won the Super Bowl, Shake made a big decision. He wantedto explore foreign lands. Alone. He explained to Barbara Jane that hewas twenty-eight and three-quarters, he hadn't written Madame Bovaryyet, and he needed to seek adventures that would enhance his literarytalents. Also, he wanted to get laid by a variety of accents.

We were sitting in the back room at Clarke's the night he broke thenews to Barb.

"This is something I have to do alone," he said. "Iwant to see if it's true what they say about French women."

"What, that they're a size five?" said Barb.

"I need to absorb some of the culture of the Old World."

"You do have this thing about cathedrals, don't you?"

Shake threw down a young Scotch, motioned for another, and said,"Barb, old buddy, I'll be honest with you. There's no girl I'drather be with than you. Never was, never will be. But I've got thisweakness in my character, as we know. I can't be faithful to onewoman. Great as you are in the sack, I'll always be looking foranother Flying Wallenda."

"Eighty-eight," said Barb, putting her hand on Shake'sshoulder and calling him by his football number, "I look aheadtwenty years from now, and you know what I see? I see a lonely maneating dinner by himself in a Piccadilly Cafeteria somewhere in northFlorida."

Shake said, "Not if there's a friendly bartender left in thecivilized world. Besides, I'll always have you and Billy C."

Shake loafed around Europe for three months. Researching life itsownself, he called it. He spent most of his time in London.

"They speak real good European in England," he reported inone of his letters.

We received a dozen letters and postcards from him. He dismissed theRiviera as France's revenge for the Battle of the Somme. Scotch wasup to $10 a glass, and the beaches were so crowded that trying tofind a patch of sand was like going to the Rose Bowl on New Year'sDay. Madrid had a layer of smog that would choke a werewolf. Rome wasfalling apart. Ruins everywhere. The sidewalk cafes of Paris were nolonger bristling with novelists. They had been taken over by Japanesetourists and guerrilla-theatre groups. Switzerland was extremelytall. London was the only city. People faithfully curbed their dogs,shepherd's pie was tasty. Everybody kept their brass polished. Andyou could even meet the friendly barmaid who knew a supplier formonologue- inducing chemicals and the ever-popular paralysis weed.

One of his letters meant more to us than the others.

He wrote:

Hidy, gang-

By now, it has probably dawned on you goofy kids that you've alwaysbeen in love, subconsciously anyhow. You belong together. Remember,Barb, you only started dating me instead of Billy Clyde in the firstplace because I won more medals in the j'unior high track meet.

You have strong physical attractions for each other's body parts. Allof us know it. It's been very honorable of you not to ravish oneanother behind my back, but now it would be stupid. Two people whothink so highly of Home Ec ought to get married. If you do, I promiseto be there, even though they're yelling at me to finish the novelabout Brett and Jake.

We have to keep Barbara Jane in the family, B.C. Overaged preppiesare lurking around every corner, trying to grab her. I wasn't manenough to make the sacrifice, but you are. Running backs are tougher.

You will find going out together awkward at first, I imagine. That'sbecause of our history. But there's a solution. Go to picture showsand hold hands for a start.

Then some evening when you get back to the apartment, I find that, byand large, it makes a difference in a relationship if one of you willtie the other to a bedpost and lick their whole body.

Jesus used a Smith-Corona,

Old 88

Shake had been right about the awkward part. I mean, there we wereliving in the same apartment and "dating."

It wasn't so much a case of dating. More accurately, we were just acouple of old friends keeping each other company as dinner companionsand drinking buddies. Barb would go out with other guys, but it wasusually a business dinner of some kind. She'd spring loose early andcome and meet me.

One night we both got very drunk, likewise adventurous, and we didout best to make love. Barbara Jane kicked me out of her bed beforewe got too far along. It had something to do with my wisecracks aboutMopsy Newsome and Mary Alice Ramsey.

Everything changed one evening. We were staying home to enjoy a pacenight from the saloons. We were sprawled out on opposite ends of thesofa in the living room, watching the fire, drinking bottle-cap wine,listening to soft country music. Elroy Blunt was singing an old one.

I'll be feelin' better later,

Mr. Mood-Elevator.

Reach into my jeans

For more amphetamines.

Then I'll start to hum,

Me and Librium.

But soon I'll get my fill,

And I know one thing is true.

Ain't no druggist got a pill

To get me over you.

I didn't see Barb coming when she slid over next to me.

"I want to try an experiment," she said, putting her armsaround my neck.

"I better call Nine-one-one," I said, being a wise guy. Itwas the police emergency number in New York, or as Burt Danby oncesaid, a nickname for the Puerto Rican Day parade.

"Shut up," Barb said. "Don't laugh. Don't say anythingabout high school or college. Don't even grin. I mean it, Billy C. Ifyou say one word right now, I'll tear your fucking throat out."

She then kissed me in a way I had often dreamed about.

I returned the kiss with what you might call a dedicatedinventiveness. That kiss lasted a month. When our tongues came backfrom dry cleaning, we went to Fort Worth and got married.

The ceremony took place in a chapel of the University ChristianChurch, which was across the street from the TCU campus. It wasn't aformal wedding. We only rounded up some people who looked as if theyhad nothing better to do before going to lunch at Herb's Cafe.

Shake Tiller returned from Europe to be my best man and BarbaraJane's maid of honor. Big Ed was there to make sure the minister gottipped properly. Big Barb rearranged her shopping schedule to bepresent. Uncle Kenneth didn't have a baseball parlay working untilthat night. He was free to attend.

That was the guest list. Dr. Elwood Lindley blessed everybody at TCUand in most parts of Forth Worth. He blessed Big Ed's oil bidness,said young people were the hope of the world, acknowledged thetalented tap-dance team of Jesus and Mary, forgave the Catholics andJews, and pronounced us man and wife.

Then we went to Herb's Cafe.

Herb's had been our hangout on the South Side since before we wereold enough to drink beer, but did. It was an old, lopsided, add-ontoplace with a bar on one side and a dining room on the other. If youcould stand the smell of grease and cheap perfume, Herb'schicken-fried steak was probably the best in town.

At Herb's, we celebrated with extra cream gravy on our chicken-friedsteaks and biscuits. We gathered around a table in the bar andlistened to the jukebox and the chimes of the pinball machine. BigBarb reiterated her disappointment that Barbara Jane hadn't wanted aproper Fort Worth debutante wedding. Nonny Fulton's wedding dress hadbeen fabulous, Big Barb said. Woody Herman's orchestra had played.

"Nonny Fulton's a pink balloon" Barb said to her mother."She married an ice sculpture."

Big Ed expressed relief that his daughter had married one of us, meor Shake. "I was beginning to think you people had one of thosemenage-la-twats going on," he said.

I've always found it impossible to explain good friends, old friends,to others. Most people don't have close friends, probably becausethey drive everyone away with their grinding small talk about smallproblems. Whatever it was that held Barb and I and Shake togethermight have seemed strange to Big Ed, but it was as natural to us asit must have been special.

We never thought there was anything odd about the fact that we loved,respected, understood, forgave, trusted, and looked out for eachother. That was what good friends did— and did better than mostfamilies.

What happened over the next four years was that Barbara Jane and Imade love like alligators eating marshmallows and still never misseda cocktail party or night out in New York to pay our respects to allof our cozy barstools.

Barb combined the roles of homemaker and famous model with an easethat everyone, myself included, found bewildering. How could thatlovely cover girl have been such a good little cook and scrubwoman,too? I felt luckier than Cary Grant.

I continued to be regarded as an all-pro runner despite the nosediveof the New York Giants and the fact that I had to learn how to changelight bulbs and carry out trash bags.

We invited Shake to keep living in the Park Avenue apartment after wewere married. He said he would hold on to his co-op shares as aninvestment, but he really thought he should have his own place.Domestic serenity made him seasick. And he said he needed privacy forhis clacker.

Clacker was what he called his typewriter.

He said, "Writers have to dwell a lot. They need privacy fortheir clackers when they work on their dwells."

The Two Crazy Kids in Love were now Barb and me, not Barb and Shake.We kissed in public places, shared secret glances. We might as wellhave thrown snowballs, rode bicycles, and gone to street fairs.

We were the boy and girl in those movies that always have a sequencein which the lovers romp in a park or stroll past a river whileleaves turn and dialogue is suspended long enough for a MarvinHamlisch song to fall out of the sky.

If Barb and I would begin to act a little too cuddly, Shake wouldsay, "Begin Central Park montage."

Shake by then had become the guy who occasionally found himself inthe company of your killer-stud disco maven.

Barbara Jane reviewed Shake's girls just as she had once reviewedmine, but her reviews had no effect on Old 88.

"Some people call it spirituality; I call it a swallow," hesaid.

Barb often had difficulty finding something to discuss with Shake'sfiancees.

There was this night when Shake was with another Shellysomething-or-other, the usual twenty, the usual creamer, the usualsix months removed from Hermosa Beach. The four of us were sitting ina booth at Runyon's.

We discussed a number of topics and Shelly listened patiently. Sheinterrupted only once to ask if Nigeria was where Zulus came from.

Barbara Jane made an attempt to lure Shelly into a conversation.Leaning into the table, sipping a fresh young Scotch, she peered intoShelly's vapid eyes and said:

"Surf, ski, scuba, or skydive?"

Shelly's "huh?" was punctuated by a frown.

"What are you interested in, Shelly?"

Shelly wrestled with the question carefully; then with a bolsteredsmile, she said:

"I like shopping!"

That was when Barbara Jane spewed her drink on the table, and racedmadly into the powder room. Barb's howling laughter could be heard atour table.

Those four years of marriage were the happiest of my life, footballexcluded. I rigidly believed that if you couldn't be the King ofMorocco, the next-best thing was to be married to Barbara JaneBookman.

Then came television.

Now it was that night in early September and I was lying in ahospital bed in New York with a knee that looked like condemnedproperty, and the woman I loved was speaking to me from Los Angelesin a somewhat cheerier voice than I had wished.

After her opening line about Quasimodo, Barbara Jane said, "Ididn't get to watch the game. We rehearsed all day. I looked in thecontrol room to see if they had it on, but they were watching theDodgers."

Barbara Jane was calling from her suite at the Westwood Marquis, ahotel to which Hollywood celebs were fleeing now that the BeverlyHills Hotel had been overrun by Midwest paving contractors and LongIsland dentists.

"You missed one of the great two-yard runs," I said.

"How long will you be out?"

"It's the medial collateral."

"Not the medial collateral we know and love?"

She had heard me talk about football knees, about the medialcollateral. She had seemed to understand that a football player wouldrather surrender a lung or an eye than a knee ligament. I wasn't oneof those athletes who thought his body was a temple, but I'd keepmyself in good condition the year round to avoid injuries.

"I'm out for the season, Barb."

There was a pause. Then she said:

"Aw, babe, I'm sorry. I know it must kill you, but, hey, all isnot lost! You're a cinch to wind up on TV!"

"That makes three."

"Three what?"

"You're the third person tonight who's said I'm going to be ontelevision."

"You'll be terrific. Just talk natural. Be you. Say all thethings you say in bars, only leave out the fucks and shits."

"I'd rather play football."

"Babe, I know how much you love the game, but think about it.We're getting more mature, aren't we? This is a blessing! Now youhave to find another career. You should go with CBS, even if themoney's less than NBC's offer. CBS has higher ratings. ABC might beinterested, but I doubt it. They've already got more announcers thanevents."

"Is this what mature people talk about? Television?"

Another pause.

"Do you hurt much?" she asked.


"Poor babe."

"They're gonna cut on me tomorrow. Tie stuff back together. I'llbe in a cast for four or five weeks, who the hell knows."

"I'll take the red-eye tomorrow night after rehearsal. I canspend a whole day with you. They won't mind me taking a day off. Imean, they will mind, but they'll understand."

"Don't bother to do that, Barb."

"I want to be with you."

"One day won't make any difference. I'm fine."

"Sweetheart, I'd stay longer—you know how much I want to bethere—but an awful lot of people are counting on me out here. Ican't let them down."

"Stay there, please."

"You mean it?"

The honest answer was no.

I said, "I wouldn't want to make a bunch of Hollywood guys somad, they'd beat me to death with their pendants."

There had been a tenderness in Barbara Jane's voice but now it hadvanished.

"Come on B. C., you're not being fair! We're talking about afootball knee, not a heart transplant ... a kidney removal!"

"Football knees are worse, if you play football for a living.I'm serious about you staying out there."

"I'm coming to New York."


Not for only a day, I was thinking.

She said, "Okay, I know you feel rotten. You've blown theseason. And I know you're worried. You're thinking it's curtains forOld Twenty-three if the knee doesn't mend. I know you're in pain. I'msorry for all that, I really am, but, sweetheart, give this somethought: this show has a chance to make a big difference in ourlives."


"You mean aside from money, fame, and fortune?"

"We have that."

"Major money, B.C. If the show clicks, we can buy our ownfootball team! What do you want to call them?"

"What about the Hollywood Pendants?"

"The new script came in yesterday," she said. "It'sbetter than the others. It's not Mary Tyler Moore, but... ithas charm. That's what everybody said today. Tomorrow they'll call ita piece of shit, but I have to hang in, don't I? Is it my fault thedippy network wants to spend a billion dollars to get a pilot theycan fondle? Anyhow, I'm not a quitter."

Nobody was asking her to quit. I had only thought she would want tocome back to New York and baby-sit me in my hour of need.

But just then, I only grunted, or sighed, whatever.

And she said, "If it were urgent, I'd be there and you know it!You're trying to make me feel guilty."

"You are guilty."

"I'll call you every hour. Well, every two or three hours. Itdepends on rehearsals."

"There must be more to showbiz than rehearsing. Don't you get togo to a lot of those 'in' restaurants where they invented troutpizza?"

"I love you," she said.

"Isn't there a lot of talk about heightening the dynamics of thestoryline?"

"It'll be great to have you out here—even on crutches."

"Can I tour a studio?"

"I want you here as soon as you can travel. God knows how longI'll have to stay. If they like the pilot, we'll go right intoepisodes. You have to recuperate, anyhow. Do it with room service."

"I'll think about it."

"No, you won't think about it, you'll get on a fucking plane andyou'll be here!"

Our conversation ended after I yawned—the pills were starting tokick in—and said, "Barb, I didn't mean to start an argument.You have too big an edge. Women can't remember pain."

Dreamer Tatum was the first person to autograph the cast on my kneethe next afternoon, but his visit to the hospital was only partlysocial.

"We need you, Clyde," he worked up to saying. "We needyou more than ever now. You can put your limp on the media, look realpained, and say, 'God, grant me the strength to march with mybuddies.' We can do some shit with your ass, baby."

Dreamer was vice-president of the NFL Players Association, and whathe wanted more than anything in the world, what he had always wanted,even more than another vintage Mercedes, was a strike.

He wanted football players to become auto workers, coal miners,teachers, machinists, garbage collectors, public- utility employees,and elevator operators.

For the fourth time in his career, Dreamer was trying to encourageall of the players on all of the teams in the National FootballLeague—about 1,300 guys—to walk off the job. Quit. Not playfootball. And stay on a picket line for as long as it would take toforce the twenty-eight owners to pay us more money and give us morefreedom of movement, to put it in simple terms.

I had never been in favor of a strike. I had debated the issue atother times with Dreamer and Puddin Patterson. In my judgment, astrike had no chance to succeed, and never would, for an excellentreason that I now put to Dreamer in the form of a question.

"How the fuck can you picket a yacht?"

"They got the tents but we got the dog acts, baby," Dreamersaid. "We have the 'names.' You'd be a great spokesman for us,Clyde."

"You can't win, Dreamer. The owners have too much of thatborn-rich money behind them. They're members of the Lucky Sperm Club.You guys strike and they'll cancel the season, start over next yearwith new players."

"They need the 'names.'"

"You know how long it takes to make a 'name'? One headline."

"Sixty-five percent of the guys are ready to go out now. Therest will follow if we can get more people like you involved."

"How much have you got in the bank, Dreamer? Even if you sellall your cars, you can't live the rest of your life on it. A footballteam is just another toy to an owner. In the spring, they sailregattas around their off-shore drilling rigs. You strike and you'rehistory. The Players Association will be the Window CleanersAssociation. The dope dealers will be all right, but they're stillthe minority."

Dreamer said, "You don't understand about rich dudes. They hateto lose money worse than anybody. If we go out, they blow fifteenmillion apiece on their TV contract."

"Pocket change. A franchise is worth seventy, eighty millionnow."

"The common man's on our side, Clyde."

"The common man doesn't know shit about us or them. The commonman thinks Vince Lombardi's still alive. All the common man caresabout is something to bet on besides ice dancing. How do you bet onthat—which one has the tits?"

"Clyde, you could double your salary if you were a free agent.Thought about that?"

"Not now, I couldn't," I said, glancing at the cast on myleg.

"The thing we're trying to do, man, is get us a salary scalethat's determined by the players, not the jive-ass owners."

"I know what you're trying to do," I said. "I read inthe paper where you said our demands are 'etched in stone.' That's agreat way to bargain."

"You talk tough in the papers. That's what newspapers are for."

The free-agent issue had been a nagging one in pro football foryears. Pro football was the only professional team sport that didn'thave free agents. It worked like this: if you played out yourcontract with the team you belonged to—because they drafted you outof college—you couldn't go to another club unless that club"compensated" the club you were with. That was the kicker.Let's say I had wanted to leave the Giants and play for the L.A. Ramsbecause the Rams offered me a higher salary. Fine, Burt Danby wouldsay. If the Rams pay the Giants ten million dollars, they can haveyou. But the Rams wouldn't do that, so I would be stuck with theGiants. Collusion was what the players called it.

The owners argued that if it weren't for compensation, the bestathletes would choose to play only in the glamour cities, places likeNew York, L.A., San Francisco. Nobody would want to play inCleveland, Buffalo, St. Louis, K.C., Detroit. The owners were deadright about that in my case.

Dreamer now said, "If we don't strike, we're never gonna get thefree-market value for our services."

I couldn't hold back a laugh. "Dreamer, what would your olddaddy do if he heard you use a phrase like 'free-market value'? Ithought we played the damn game because we loved it."

In that singular remark, I had hit upon the main reason I was opposedto a strike. Granted, the owners were richer than doctors, but theyneeded some deductions. We were paid better than sheetrockers. Theaverage salary around the league was $130,000 last year, and that wasfor only working half a year playing a game. And guys like Dreamerand I probably made more money than the chairman of the board atChrysler.

"Do me a favor, Dream Street," I said as he left. "Beforeyou call a strike, give me the name of your broker."

Everyone had been right about television. That same day, an NBCexecutive called on the phone and offered me a lucrative contract tosit in a broadcast booth and babble.

Then the CBS executive came to see me in person.

Richard Marks was his name, and I decided he had been the head of CBSSports for at least thirty minutes. He took a seat by my bed andbegan cleaning the lenses of his tinted glasses with a pocket sprayand a Kleenex.

Richard Marks was a fit-looking thirty-five. He wore a black suit, awhite shirt, and a regimental tie with a collar pin. He had analarmingly short haircut, and his nails had been done. His face wasboyish but humorless. It was a good guess he ran in marathons and hadconquered wok cuisine.

He explained how it would be a major coup for him, being new in thejob, if he could "bring Billy Clyde Puckett aboard." Iwould be his first notable acquisition.

Like the three men who had preceded him as the president of CBSSports, all of whom had come and gone within the year, stepping overcorporate bodies to loftier jobs, Richard Marks had been unearthedfrom the Business Affairs division of the network. This meant he wasa lawyer.

But now he knew everything about television production, live or tape,and he had a "vision" of what CBS Sports should be.

"We have to become more dimensional," Richard Marks wassaying as I admired his nails and envisioned a pedicure. "Wehave to redefine our goals as broadcast journalists. The bestannounce teams have what I like to call an 'interplay,' n'est-cepas? Do you like Summerall and Madden?"

I uttered an approving sound.

"I take a little credit for putting their act together," hesaid. "The idea was to marry Pat's infectious believability withJohn's scatalogical humor and informative expertise."

"Informative expertise is the best kind," I said.

Richard Marks said I had "potential" as an announcerbecause I was "natural." I was also "current." Heconsidered it to be an inducement that I would work with Larry Hoageon NFL games.

"Excellent traffic director," Richard Marks said of LarryHoage.

Larry Hoage was possibly the worst play-by-play announcer in theannals of television. He was a man who had successfully defended hisFluff Dry Award against all comers for a decade. More to the point,Larry Hoage had a way of making an off-tackle run for no-gain soundlike a mid-air collision of 747's. But I didn't say any of this tothe person who might want to pay me good money to go to severalAmerican cities and get drunk. What I said was:

"Larry Hoage has a familiar voice."

"Yes, he does," said Richard Marks, offering me a fruit-flavored Cert. "Ideally, I would like for Larry to get fewernames wrong when he's calling a game, but he has a high recognitionquotient, and you can't overlook this in television."

Richard Marks then outlined the future of CBS Sports for me.

"I want to enhance audience sympathy for the athletes aspeople," he said. "There are many instances duringtelecasts when we need to spend more time humanizing sports. You canhelp us do that. I plan to see to it that my network becomes the onethat enriches the viewer. I want us to be frothy, keenly focused onissues; comedic at times, yes, but never pessimistic. Wary but notcynical. Aggressive but never inaccurate or chaotic. I see us as thenetwork with texture, depth, spark, clear concepts, spontaneity, andabove all, perhaps, the network with the inner conviction that aprofessional football game is very much a part of the humannarrative."

I said, "Most of my friends seem to like announcers who justgive you the score and the clock and otherwise shut the fuck up."

"That, too," Richard Marks said.

He asked if I was represented by IMG.


"Mark McCormack."


"The Hook?"


"Ed Hookstratten."


"Mike Trope?"


"Don't tell me you're with ICM! I didn't know they handledathletes."

"I'm not."

"Ron Konecky, of course. I'll give him a call and we'll bang thedents out of the fenders."

"Who's Ron Konecky?"

"Who's your agent?"

"I don't have an agent."

"How can you not have an agent? Everybody has an agent or abusiness manager. You don't have an agent?"

Richard Marks didn't seem to know whether to be flabbergasted oraccuse me of an out-and-out lie.

"All I do is play football," I said. "My wife has anagent in L.A. Actually, he's a lawyer. She's never seen him, but hedoes her stuff. Barry somebody."

"Barry Sloan?"

"Could be. All I know is, some guy told her that in Hollywood,she'd better have her own Jew or they'd play racquetball with herliver."

"I'll give Barry Sloan a call."


"Why? You and I can't talk money, Billy Clyde. Things aren'tdone that way."

"Make me an offer. I'll probably accept it. What's the bigdeal?"

Richard Marks took a pocket calculator from his coat. He beganpecking on it.

"Hmmm," he said. "Twelve games left in the regularseason... playoff possibilities... these darn lashups are gettingmore and more expensive. Looks like our budget can stand to make youa... one-year deal for... well, let's round it off...a hundredthousand."

I cleared my throat. I wasn't balking. I honestly had to clear mythroat.

So Richard Marks said, "Heck, I know you've talked to NBC. Makeit one-fifty and we'll wrap it up."

NBC had only offered me $75,000. Richard Marks had already doubled itbecause I cleared my throat. It made me wonder what a violentcoughing spell would have done.

"NBC mentioned something about expenses," I said.

"Look," he said, "I hate this bargaining business. Ofcourse you'll get expenses at CBS. We fly first class. Let's say twohundred thousand for the regular season, we'll negotiate the playoffslater—okay?"

I took the job with CBS. I would begin work the first week inOctober. A regional game. Me and Larry Hoage.

Some people might have thought that being paid $200,000 for going totwelve football games was sinful. Ordinarily, I would have agreed.But later on, when I thought about the fact that I would have tospend three hours at each of those games with Larry Hoage, and notelling how many dinners the night before, I decided I had sold outtoo cheaply.

Before he departed that day, Richard Marks said, "I don't thinkyou need voice lessons. You still have your Texas accent. Good! Itwill create an aura of sincerity on the air when you're discussingthe socioeconomic backgrounds and behavior characteristics of yourfellow athletes."

Barbara Jane was delighted with the news that I had taken the colorjob with CBS.

"You'll like the grownup world," she said on the phone fromCalifornia. "What did you think of the new head of CBS Sports?It's fantastic he came to see you personally. They usually send adrone."

"He's just another TV guy, as far as I can tell," I said."Throw a Ping-Pong ball in a boxcar and you've got a RichardMarks."

T.J. Lambert said he would fold me up like a taco if I didn't stop inFort Worth on my way out to the Coast to join Barbara Jane.

He demanded I be on hand for TCU's home opener against the fearedRice Owls. Rice was the only school in the Southwest Conference witha worse football record than TCU over the previous twenty years.

A week had gone by and I was out of the hospital.

The cast on my right leg reached from mid-thigh to the ankle and mademy leg look like a parenthesis, but I could get a pant leg over it. Iwas on crutches, but I could hop around without them if I could grabon to things. And I could drive a car.

I rented a Lincoln from Budget at the D/FW airport and pointed itwest on a freeway. The skyline of Fort Worth sprang up and loomedahead of me, taller and fatter than ever, and I marveled at how myold hometown was beginning to resemble Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, allof those cities that were striving to become a bigger Dallas.

Certain cities would always have their own look, their own feel. NewYork, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., part of L.A., Chicagobelow the skyscrapers, even a Jacksonville, Florida. But all othercities in my mind were starting to look alike, think alike, livealike.

Take the snow out of Minneapolis and you had Phoenix. Take the cactusout of Phoenix and you had Denver. Take the crab cakes out ofBaltimore and you had Kansas City. Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta werethe worst examples of progress. They were already Freeway Heaven,cities intent on linking high-rise suburbs to new shopping villagesto new country clubs with condos. Cities where people in the futurewere only going to communicate by word processor or over strawberryMargaritas at Happy Hour.

Now it was slowly happening to Fort Worth, once the worldheadquarters for white socks, Western music, and Tex-Mex food, anhonest town where a man wasn't considered drunk unless he was lyingdown in a livestock pen and couldn't speak his native language.

Fort Worth was giving birth to clusters of those steel- and-glasstowers of its own, needles rising among boxes of reflective glass,and its suburbs were starting to crawl with eateries overdosed inblond bentwood furniture and imitation Tiffany lampshades.

For some, a rowdy night out in Fort Worth was still a fistfight, atwo-step, and a high school football game. But for most guys it wasan inane conversation with a racy receptionist while a hot stock tipwas passed across a platter of plastic nachos at Mommie's Trust Fund,the newest singles bar in town.

Prairie geography was responsible, I was convinced. Fort Worth wasthe same size and had the same lack of pretension of a Jacksonville,but it didn't have an Atlantic Ocean, a St. Johns River and anintracoastal canal to keep the land developers from shredding everyoutlying oak into mortgage paper.

Fort Worth seemed as determined as Atlanta to imitate Dallas. One daysoon, if the planners had their way, everybody in Fort Worth couldstep gingerly into a restaurant specializing in fern salads andcarrot boats.

Although I was surrounded by modern architectural wonders as Imotored through downtown, one thing had yet to change. There weren'tany people around. It wasn't a bomb scare, it was just Fort Worth.The rich folks were as cloistered as ever, and the people I did seewere either bent over from age or had dents in their foreheads andprison haircuts.

I dropped off my bags at the Hyatt Regency and drove to the TCUcampus for an audience with T. J.

"Your cast and them crutches is gonna help inspire my pissants,"T.J. said. We were sitting in his office in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseumon a Friday in mid-September, the day before the Rice game.

T.J.'s office had a big window looking out on my old stadium. Theoffice was almost entirely decorated in purple and white, TCU'sfighting colors.

Each new head coach over the past two decades had added more purpledecor to the coaching offices. He had then lost more football gamesthan the coach he had replaced.

The carpet in the office was purple, T.J.'s desk was purple laminate,the walls were purple with white trim, and there were the mandatorymessages on the walls that were intended to motivate the collegeathlete who could read.

One sign said:


Another said:


My eyes lingered on the catchiest sign in his office. It said:


"Has the chancellor seen that?" I asked T. J. innocently.

"He's a good old boy. Wants to win."

T.J. was probably right about the chancellor, Dr. Troy (Tex) Edgar, aman with an ever-present smile who wore purple, Western-cut suits andwas more interested in raising funds for the university than anythingelse. Dr. Edgar could live with a T.J. Lambert who won footballgames. Like most chancellors, Dr. Edgar had no doubt been promised byhis well-to-do alums that he could scare up more endowment in the endzone than he could at all of the Christian Fellowship dinners heattended.

One of the things T. J. had in mind for me while I was in town was anappearance in the TCU dressing room before the game. He wanted tointroduce me to his players, whereupon I would say something to maketheir little hearts beat quicker.

"Tell 'em one of them bullshit Gipper things," he said.

"Like what?"

"Fuck, I don't know. Tell 'em how you went whistle to whistleagainst Rice one time when you had three broken ribs and a sore onyour dick."

T.J. also instructed me to attend a reception for the coaching staffin the Lettermen's Lounge after the game. It was going to be a verynice function. I would see a lot of ex- teammates, probably, andseveral ex-TCU greats who had progressed from Honorable Mention toFirst Team All-America in the thirty years that had elapsed sincethey had worn the purple.

"Tonsillitis will be there, too. I want you to meet him,"T.J. said.


"Tonsillitis Johnson."

"Is that his real name?"

T. J. looked at me sternly. "Tell you what, son. TonsillitisJohnson can turn our whole program around if we can get him."

Tonsillitis Johnson was something to behold, if I could believe T.J.He was a once-in-a-lifetime running back from Boakum, Texas, a littletown in the central part of the state. He was 6 feet 3, 235, and sofast, he made Herschel Walker and Earl Campbell look likeparaplegics.

Fast was only half of it. Tonsillitis had a 34-inch waist, a 52-inchchest, and could benchpress the King Ranch.

"He has a three-point grade average, right?" I said. "Overa thousand on his S.A.T.'s?"

T. J. blushed and looked away for a second. He opened a drawer of hisdesk and took out a document.

"I hadn't ought to show you this," he said, holding whatlooked like a questionnaire in his hand. "Lord knows, I wouldn'twant no English professors to see it."

T.J. studied the questionnaire.

"They's a conference rule what says a high school athlete has tofill out one of these in the presence of the head coach. I askedTonsillitis to fill it out this morning. He said he'd take it homeand send it back to me. I said, naw, you got to do it here, hoss. Itain't hard, I said. Just put your name down there... your address...your high school. That kind of thing. Your momma and daddy's name. Hestarted to fill it out. When he come to the place where he wassupposed to put down his favorite sport, he looked at me and said,'What we be doin' ratch ear?' I said, Put down your favorite sport.It's football, ain't it? He gimme a nod. I said, Write it down, hoss.So he did. Only...here's what he wrote."

T. J. handed me the questionnaire.

Tonsillitis Johnson had written down the word "booley."

"Booley?" I looked up at T.J.

"Something like that."

"Booleyball," I said, rolling the word around, unequippedto fend off a grin.

T.J. snatched the questionnaire away from me. He put it back in hisdesk, locking the drawer hastily.

"Booley," I said again, repeating the word to myself as Igazed out the window at the stadium, a fine old gray concreteedifice.

"He can make a difference around here, son," T. J. saidfirmly. "We get Tonsillitis Johnson wearin' that purple, we'llkick some serious ass."

Later in the afternoon I caught up with Uncle Kenneth at Luther'sBarbecue, a reliable emporium on a decaying side of town. No goodbarbecue joint ever flourished or even lasted in a swankneighborhood. Why would anybody eat in a place where they mightencounter nouvelle brisket?

A platter of coal-black ribs sat in front of Uncle Kenneth. Theyreminded me of how much I hated Continental restaurants. I orderedtwo slabs of mesquite-smoked ribs, sauce on the side, with pintos,fries, cole slaw, and garlic bread. I then wallowed in all of itwhile Uncle Kenneth told me what was wrong with pro football.

Everything, he said.

The sixteen-game regular season was too long. Teams didn't try halfthe time, not until December. They held back, hoped to coast onthrough. The result was that every team was sloppy, undependable.

You shouldn't be allowed to lose seven games and reach the playoffs,much less the Super Bowl. The pros were the best thing that everhappened to college football.

In college, you had to tee it up every Saturday, and you'd better notlose more than one game if you wanted a shot at No. 1.

The draft and the parity scheduling were making every NFL teamordinary. Why reward mediocrity? Make the weak sisters work their wayback to the top.

The no-bump rule was a disgrace. Why were they making it harder andharder to play defense? So they could turn humdrum quarterbacks intoheroes?

How come the pros had a way of taking a great ballcarrier out ofcollege and teaching him how to fumble and slip down?

How come the pros had a way of turning great college pass receiversinto split ends who dropped key passes?

How come most NFL teams had a head coach you never heard of?

Where did all of the 300-pound subhumans come from and why were theyneeded to fill gaps and paw each other?

When was everybody going to wise up to artificial turf? It madeplayers bounce higher than the ball.

Who the hell watched Monday-Thursday-Sunday-Friday Night Football onTV? Gamblers were even tired of it.

Where were all the characters in the game, men like Bobby Layne,Sonny Jurgenson, Alex Hawkins, Bill Kilmer, Paul Hornung, Mean JoeGreene, Doak Walker, Jim Brown, Max McGee, Bubba Smith, Jake Scott,and Fred Dryer?

It had become the NRL, the National Robot League.

When did breathing on somebody get to be pass interference?

And did anybody really know what offensive holding was, other thanthe fact that it was something a zebra called when it was time tofuck you out of your bet but win him his?

"You left out dopeheads and guys who want to strike," Isaid.

"Billy, it's a shame. Your game's become a damned old bore. I'dalmost just as soon watch pro basketball."

He sipped his Budweiser, and said, "No, I don't think I want togo that far."

"You still bet football," I reminded him.

"Over and under is all I'd fool with right now. Smart moneydon't bet teams the first ten or twelve weeks of the season. Youdon't know who's gonna have the rag on. When they start gettin' downto the playoffs, you can get some idea about form. Aw, I'll bet azebra now and then."

Uncle Kenneth kept charts on game officials. Zebras. He was ascertain there were notorious crooks among the zebras as I was certainthey were only incompetent.

"Who's your favorite zebe these days?" I was gnawing on anexceptionally meaty rib.

"No contest. Charlie Teasdale."

Charlie Teasdale had been in the league for ten years. He was anexperienced referee, lived in Dallas. He'd been involved in a numberof controversial plays through the years, but I had chalked it up tohis age—he was in his fifties— his blindness, and his stupidity.The replays had rarely proved Charlie right. When he had ruled nofumble, it had been a fumble. When he ruled in-bounds orout-of-bounds, it had always been the opposite. The fortunes of wholeteams and individuals had often hung in the balance on CharlieTeasdale's first-down measurements and holding penalties. "Kingof The Call-back" was what Uncle Kenneth had nicknamed him.

"Last year the dogs covered fourteen out of the sixteen gamesCharlie Teasdale worked," Uncle Kenneth said. "He's adandy. Man in Vegas told me he'd rather own Charlie Teasdale thanMobil Oil. Shake was asking about him the other day."

"Shake Tiller?"

"His ownself. He called me from somewhere."

"He called you about Charlie Teasdale?"

"He said he was trying to do some kind of magazine article. Hesaid he wouldn't use my name or nothin'. He asked me about one thingand another. How the odds had moved on this game and that. He wantedto know what games I thought had been real funny over the past two orthree years."


"You know what I mean. All them games where they weren'tsupposed to do it but they did."


"Prison offenses."

I didn't know anything about an article Shake was working on. Hehadn't mentioned it to me.

"I guess he don't want to put you on the spot. You're still aplayer."

"That's debatable," I said. "I might be a broadcaster,but that's debatable, too."

"That's probably another reason Shake hasn't talked to you abouthis story. Broadcasters ain't journalists. They're Establishment.Ain't no NFL broadcaster gonna look down there on the field at oldCharlie Teasdale and say, 'Welcome to Flag Day, sports fans. Thisone's for Charlie Teasdale and all of his close friends in Vegas."'

"Vegas," I said with disgust, motioning to the waitress forthe check. "Vegas doesn't know every God-damn thing. Vegas sayssomebody went in the can every time there's an upset. Vegas thinksWorld War Two was fixed!"

"I reckon some of 'em did have Germany."

Outside Luther's, my uncle helped me climb into the Lincoln.

I zipped down the window. "Let me ask you something, Kenneth. IfVegas is so fucking smart, how come it's in Nevada?"

I was obligated to have cocktails with Big Ed and Big Barb thatevening, but I hadn't minded. They were sometimes more fun thanwhiskey. They had long ago secured their places among the mostself-important people God had ever put on Texas soil.

I met them at River Crest Country Club, the oldest and most exclusiveclub in Fort Worth, a haven for local peerage and new WASP money. Theclub had a funky old golf course woven through well-shaded two-storyhomes. The homes would have been considered mansions in the Twentiesand Thirties.

The clubhouse had once resembled one of those tasteful homes. Now ithad been rebuilt into something that was either an architecturalmasterpiece or the Babylon Marriott. The design of the new clubhousehad been approved and the construction had begun while Big Ed was outof the country. When he returned, he had stomped into a board meetingand said, "Who's the silly bastard that thought the thief ofBaghdad was a God-damn architect?" It was Big Barb's darkestsecret that she had recommended the architect.

In character, every city had a River Crest, though in other places itmight be called Brook Hollow, River Oaks, Timaquana, East Lake, orBurning Jew. It was a club in which you were likely to find more thanone member who had yet to acknowledge the Supreme Court decision of1954, and would strongly argue that The New York Times hadexaggerated the death toll of the Holocaust by five and a halfmillion people.

A high school kid took my car at the club's entrance. Monroe openedthe front door of the building for me. Monroe was a congenial,elderly black man who looked no older to me now than he had when Iwas in Paschal and Shake and I had terrorized the club as guests ofBarbara Jane.

As we shook hands, Monroe said, "I knew you wasn't gonna get upthe minute you was hit, Billy Clyde. Ooo, that looked like it hurt."

"You ought to see Dreamer Tatum," I said. "My kneebent his mind out of shape. How are all the rich folks, Monroe?"

"Jes' fine."

"Jes' rich, you mean."

"That's it," he laughed. "Jes" rich, is all."

Big Ed and Big Barb were in the Mixed Grill.

They were at a table having drinks with a pale middle- aged fool, whostood up to leave as I arrived.

We were introduced. I didn't get his name—J. Thomas something—butI did get his Ivy League stutter and the tail- end of a conversation.

"I q-quite agree with the older chaps," the Ivy Leaguer wassaying to the Bookmans. "The toilet seats in the men's lockermust be raised, hang the expense!"

"Sounds okay to me," I said, sitting down and saluting abartender who recognized me and held aloft a bottle of )&B as ifto ask if that was what I still drank.

The Ivy Leaguer's eyes were on Big Ed as he said, "Most of ourolder members have had hernia problems, you see. They simply can'tsit on those toilets in the men's locker anymore without their ballsdangling in the water when they make cah-cah."

Glancing at Big Barb, he said, "Excuse me, Barbara, but it'srather a s-serious problem."

"I should think so," said Big Barb, looking uncomfortable.

Big Ed said, "I'll vote with the majority of the board."

"That's all I ask," J. Thomas something replied. "Justw- wanted you to know I'm m-making it an agenda item for the springmeeting."

The Ivy Leaguer moved on to another group of members, all of whomwere sinking deeper into drunken slumbers.

Other tables were occupied with men and women who sloshed theirMartinis and stared at each other testily, except for those whostared at me, possibly wondering why a cripple had been allowed inthe club.

My drink came while Big Ed and Big Barb devoted two full minutes todiscussing my knee injury. Then Big Ed brought up a familiar topic.

"Here's to dinosaurs," he said, raising his glass ofStolichnaya on the rocks. "Had to remind the scamps at BookmanOil and Gas today that we're in the bidness of finding dinosaurs, notdry holes! We're in the wine bidness, I said. Dinosaur wine!"

Big Ed smoked Sherman cigarettellos. As he lit one, he said, "Youknow where to find dinosaurs, don't you, Billy Clyde?"

I tried to look inquisitive.

"Well, they ain't in the God-damn Petroleum Club where mygeologists hang out. Most dinosaurs either drowned in the ocean orthey laid down and died of a happy old age in Texas and Arabia!"

"Makes sense," I said.

"See, what you got to do in my bidness is find you a big oldcave under the ground where a bunch of dinosaurs have flopped down.When you find you a whole pile of 'em and they've fermented justright, you stick your straw in the ground and you drink that dinosaurwine."

He sipped his vodka and looked at Big Barb with a glint.

"Porosity—ain't that right?"

"Porosity," Big Barb said, noticing her hair in herreflection on the window glass.

"Big underground rock with enough pore space in it to store thatwine for a million years," Big Ed said. "That's what I toldmy office today. I said you monkeys better get off your ass and grabme by the pores!"

"How is the oil business these days?" I asked, trying to beconversant. I was about as interested in the oil business as I was incomputer science.

Big Ed sighed.

"We'll always have one problem. We got to deal with Dune Coons.More dinosaurs died in Arabia than anywhere else."

"Dune Coons?"

"Sand niggers," Big Ed said. "Your A-rabs cause theglut and they cause the gasoline lines. Whatever suits their ass. Iwas tryin' to deal with a Dune Coon the other day. I told him, Isaid, 'You know what would make this a better world to live in? It'dbe a lot better world if all you OPEC sons-of- bitches didn't knownothin' about seismic instruments and infra-red satellite photographsand just went on to Mecca and hummed a bunch of shit!"

Big Ed and Big Barb were physically attractive people. Big Ed hadwavy gray hair. He wore finely tailored suits, kept an out-of-seasontan. Acapulco was close if you owned a Lear. Big Barb was a regalbrunette with the Rolls-Royce of face-lifts and butt-tucks. The worthof the diamonds and emeralds she might wear on a given night wouldfeed West Virginia for a year.

We got around to talking about their daughter, my wife, and whatBarbara Jane was up to in L.A., and were we having any maritalproblems that Big Ed and Big Barb could solve with money or phonecalls to Senate subcommittees?

We were getting along fine for two people who seldom saw each other,I said.

"I just think it's absurd," Big Barb said. "Why in theworld does Barbara Jane want to be an actress?"

I had wondered the same thing. All of the actors and actresses I hadever met, mostly through sports, had sooner or later exposedthemselves as paranoid children.

They could give wonderful performances with the proper direction,cutting, and editing. They could appear to be perfectly natural andappealing on talk shows or at social gatherings. But they shouldn'tbe mistaken for human beings. They were aliens who were terrified anddistrustful of anyone who didn't heap constant praise on them ordidn't agree with every absurd thing they thought at all times. Theymeasured artistic achievement in terms of fame and money. They had acliche-clouded outlook of people outside their industry: smartbusinessmen were in a hurry, serious writers talked about the soil,the great athletes worked with kids, honest politicians lookedconcerned. Some performers could make me laugh or cry on the bigscreen, but that didn't mean I wanted to have dinner with them. Itwas a curious thing.

Barbara Jane had practically been dragged into the business. Thehard-hitters who ran the entertainment division at ABC had triedbefore to get her to do a series. In her commercials, they thoughtshe had "delectability," "likability," and"recognizability."

She had agreed to give it a try after she had been presented with anidea for a show in which she would play a young woman very much likeherself, someone who would get to wise off regularly, who would beexpected to look good, who would be supported by talentedprofessionals.

So it was that the only answer I could give Big Barb for why herdaughter wanted to be an actress was:

"It's a new challenge, I guess."

Big Barb then said, "She can't join Los Angeles Country club."

I wasn't sure I heard that right.

"L.A. Country Club won't accept show-business people. Everybodyknows that. We have friends who are members."

Big Ed confirmed this horrid fact.

He said, "They let Randolph Scott join, but only after he quitthe movies. Hell, Bing Crosby lived across the street from thefourteenth fairway for twenty years, but they never let him in!"

I said I did not recall, in all honesty, Barbara Jane saying she hadwanted to join Los Angeles Country Club.

Her mother said, "Not now, maybe, but what will happen if shechanges her mind? If she's an actress, they simply won't have it. Ithink it's something you and Barbara Jane need to discuss."

Big Ed wondered who watched television, anyhow. News, sure. Sports.Space shots. But what else? All he ever saw when he turned it on atnight was a bunch of faggots hopping around a living room beingsilly.

"Is Barbara Jane in one of those faggot shows?"

"She's making what they call a pilot," I said. "It'sthe first episode in what could be a comedy series if the networkbosses like it. But that doesn't mean it will be any good— or evenfunny. Don't you want to see your daughter on Channel Eight everyTuesday night?"

"Not with faggots." Big Ed waved at a waiter.

The show was called Rita's Limo Stop. Barbara Jane played"Rita." The show was based on the premise that a prettyyoung divorcee who happened to be going blind would try to open arestaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

I had asked Barb the same question she had asked the producers. Whywas "Rita" going blind?

"We had to think of something to make you more vulnerable,"a producer had explained to Barbara Jane.

To the Bookmans, I said, "Rita has a partner in the restaurant.Amanda. It's kind of a Lib thing. Rita and Amanda cope with all theseproblems in the business world. The restaurant is a big load oftrouble, and weird characters are supposed to come in and out."

"I hope one of them is an eye doctor," Big Ed said.

"I don't think Rita goes completely blind if the show gets goodratings," I said. "Maybe things will get a little dim nowand then."

Big Barb didn't understand the name of the show. What did Rita'sLimo Stop mean?

I said, "There are truck stops, right? The title's supposed tobe a gag. New York? East Side? Rich people? Texas has truck stops,New York has limo stops."

"I always hire a limousine in New York," said Big Barb."It's the only way you can shop and get anything done."

Big Ed asked what chance the show had to be funny.

None, I said, based on one of the scripts I had tried to read. Butthat didn't mean the show might not be a success. With fewexceptions, sitcom humor catered to the intellect of a rooster.

I had saved the script I'd tried to read, thinking it would beinvaluable evidence if Barbara Jane were ever called into a courtroomto explain why she had murdered Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman, theexecutive producers and lead writers of the show.

The first two pages alone would have ensured my wife's acquittal. Averbatim reproduction follows:







I'm starved!



No, you Rita! Velly good owner!


Thank you, Ko. I'm glad you agree. Now stop putting bean sprouts inthe onion soup!



We've run out of lamb!


I wish we'd run out of bean sprouts.


This is serious, Rita. What are we going to serve?


Chili dogs.


Again? We're supposed to be a Continental restaurant!


Our chili dogs are made with the best French mustard! If we can servebean sprouts in the onion soup, we can serve chili dogs.


How did we get into this? We're getting our brains beat out.


I've got that part down. It's all those days off I can't get used to.



I wouldn't send a pornographic mugger to this restaurant! The foodstinks and the service is rude!


I'm sorry but I've forgotten your name.





That was your husband's name, wasn't it?


You won't see me in here again!


What have you got against grease?



Rita, what's wrong?




Yes, there is!


I'll be fine, Amanda, as soon as the bean sprouts go away.


Is it another one of those headaches?


Really, it's nothing a million dollars can't cure.


You must see a doctor.


He'd only find something wrong with an entree.


Do you ever wish we were still married— away from all this?


It's the car pools I miss the most.



Oh, no!


I wish they'd stop overtipping.



Oh, my God!


It's all right. That could be the last of the bean sprouts!



"Can Barbara Jane act?" Big Ed was now asking.

"I don't think it matters, but I'll find out when I get toL.A.," I said.

"When's it gonna be on TV?"

As I understood it, there was something in television called a"mid-season replacement" and something else called "asecond season." The show had a chance to go on the air in lateOctober or late January. In October, the networks looked at theratings to see which car wrecks people were watching and which carwrecks they weren't watching. They did the same thing in January. Thecar wrecks nobody watched got canceled and were generally replacedwith better car wrecks.

Big Ed said, "I never see car wrecks. All I see is faggots inliving rooms."

"Those are the hits. They never change."

"What network is it?"


"Which one's ABC?"

"The one without Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw," I said in aneffort to be helpful.

Big Ed and Big Barb still seemed confused.

"Helicopter crashes and car wrecks?"

Still no clue.

"Olympics?" I said.

"Faggots," Big Ed scowled.

"Fags in the Olympics?" I couldn't avoid a look ofastonishment.

"Hell, look how they dress when they compete in those sillyevents," he said. "Everything they wear crawls up theirass."

"ABC is the network with Howard Cosell," I said, taking afinal stab at it.

"Oh, shit," said Big Ed, guzzling his vodka.

The plight of TCU's football program came up for discussion. Big Edwas an influential TCU alum, a major contributor to the athleticfund. Through the years, he had provided new lights for the stadium,artificial turf, a modernized weight room, four or five quarterbackswho excelled at throwing incompletions, a dozen or more ball-carrierswho ran backwards, a bevy of linemen who never learned to block, anda vast amount of purple paint for the coaches' offices.

All Big Ed wanted for his untiring generosity was one more SouthwestConference championship. TCU had won championships regularly when hewas a kid, but he hadn't enjoyed one since Shake and I had led theHorned Frogs to an 8-3 record in the early Seventies.

T. J. Lambert was the right man at the right time, Big Ed wasconvinced. He was the coach who could get the job done if the Frogscould only recruit a little more aggressively.

"I don't want any NCAA probations,, but I can live with a fewreprimands."

He was aware of Tonsillitis Johnson.

"Tonsillitis can do it all. He can take us to the Cotton Bowlstraight as a Indian goes to shit."

"That's quick," I said.

Big Ed reached for another Sherman cigarettello. "T. J.'sworried we can't outbid Texas or Oklahoma for Tonsillitis. They'llgive him a car, an apartment, a summer job that'll make him richerthan two orthodontists. I said, Hell, I know how we can get thatnigger. We'll give him his own 7-Eleven, tell him he can rob it anytime he wants to!"

Big Barb shushed Big Ed with a look and a gentle tug on the sleeve ofhis coat.

I had never been able to shush Big Ed. Neither had Bar­bara Janeor Shake. Big Ed had been saying nigger for as long as we couldremember.

We all said it as kids without realizing the hurt it caused. But ifyou have any feelings, you change when you get older and life dropssome smart on you. You can even get pissed off when you hear itapplied to a teammate who blocks his ass off for you and accepts youas his equal.

I don't know if Shake and me had become totally color­blindthrough sports, which is the best thing about sports. I hope so. Westill said nigger in a joking way around black guys who acted likethey understood there wasn't any hate in our hearts. Anyhow, the wordwasn't going to disappear, no matter how loud your Eastern liberalshollered at your truck-stop Southerners.

I'd stopped worrying about the way people talked a long time ago. Itwas what a person was that mattered. And the truest thing of all wasthat I didn't have a black friend who wouldn't understand that youcan't shush anybody worth $60 million.

At River Crest, all I did was seize the moment to excuse myself fromBig Ed and Big Barb's company, telling the lie that my knee wasstarting to act up. What I really intended to do was go back to myhotel and get drunk alone.

It had become a pre-game ritual. After all, I had to help that othergreat liberal, T. J. Lambert, beat the Rice Owls the next day.

Blue and gray crepe paper—Rice University's colors — clutteredthe ceiling, crawled up the walls, and wrapped around benches in theTCU locker room. Over in a corner, a stereo blasted away with ascratchy recording of "Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet," theRice fight song.

"It's inspired," I remarked to T.J. as we stood near acoffee urn, watching the gallant Horned Frogs lazily suiting up forthe game.

"We've had it lookin' like this all week," T. J. said. "Theequipment people done it. I've had 'em playin' that song all week,too. I figured it was a way to get our crowd sick to death of themChinese cocksuckers."


"Yeah, fuck them rice-eatin' turds."

T. J. wheeled on his squad.

"Fuck Rice! Fuck ever grain in Uncle Ben's fuckin' box! Piss onChina!"

T.J. was getting his game-face on. Two players responded with zeal.

"Rice eats shit!" somebody hollered.

"They eat owlshit!" came another cry.

I stirred the coffee in a paper cup. "Uh...T.J., what's Chinagot to do with anything?"

"Chinks eat rice, don't they?"

I looked at the floor.

"Well?" he said.

"Well, what?"

"Well, I ain't gonna lose no football game to a fuckin' bunch ofChinks!"I said, "T.J., they haven't moved Rice from Houstonto Peking while my back was turned, have they?"

"Fuck Houston!" T.J. reminded the room.

I shook my head. "Coach, I guess I don't understand. Has Ricegot a Chinese quarterback or something?"

"Naw, they got a nigger. Why?"

"No reason," I said. "I was just trying to pick up thethread of the plot."

T. J. bellowed at the Horned Frogs again.

"Who eats shit?"


"What with?"

"Rice!" It was a group reply.

I refilled the coffee cup. "T.J., you do know where the namecomes from, don't you? An old rich guy named William Marsh Ricefounded the school. He was a person, like a Duke or a Vanderbilt or aStanford."

"Them's schools," said T. J. He bit off a chunk of chewingtobacco.

"First, they were people," I said. "Leland Stanfordwas a robber baron. William Marsh Rice was a cotton-farmer robberbaron."

"Billy Clyde," T. J. said to me with a sympatheticexpression, "what the fuck's wrong with you? John Brodie and JimPlunkett and them studs didn't play football for no sissy namedLeland."

"You're right," I said.

He said, "Let me explain something to you. Rice pricks isengineers, ain't they? Scientists? Computer technology and all thatshit? Well, who knows more about computers than anybody? Chinamen,that's who."

"It's the Japanese, isn't it?"

"Japs, Chinamen. God damn, Billy Clyde, gimme a fuckin' break!"

"I'm beginning to understand."

"Awright, then," T.J. said. "Fuck Rice!"

Out on the field during warmups, I met three of T.J.'s assistantcoaches. Like the head coach himself, they were all dressed in purpleknit shirts, khaki trousers, and purple baseball caps. They all had amouthful of gum or tobacco.

It was a warm September afternoon. Being down on the field was a goodfeeling, a fanciful experience. I was looking around at the crowdthat filled only half of the 46,000 seats in TCU's stadium when MikeHomer came up to me. He was the Frogs' offensive coordinator.

I asked Mike if TCU was ready to play a good game.

"You can't ever tell," he said, his eyes fixed on a cuteTCU cheerleader who wore a white tank top and a short pleated purpleskirt. She had frizzy blond hair and tanned, curvy legs. "Lotsof high-class beaver up in New York, huh?"

"Yeah," I admitted, largely to please him. "We got athrower?"

"Guess you get it lobbed at you from all directions."

"Pretty much. How good's our passer?"

"That there's old Sandi," he said.

Now I was staring at the cheerleader.

Mike Homer said, "Lord, I know she's somebody's daughter, butI'd wet her down."

The assistant coach then raced onto the field to slap a player on theside of his purple helmet for not throwing the ball with enough steamon it.

A few minutes later, I was shaking hands with Red Jeffers, thedefensive coordinator.

"We ready?" I asked him.

"God damn, there's old Sandi," he said, feeling around onhis crotch.

Sandi was in a huddle with the other TCU cheerleaders. While I wasn'tall that fond of midgets, I said:

"Old Sandi's all right."

"You ain't shittin'," Red Jeffers said. "'Course, Ireckon she ain't nothin' to compare with New York whup."

"New York whup?"

"They got it up there, don't they?"

"Pretty much."

"Damn." he said, clawing at his balls again. "All themWops and Jews with big titties. I'm gonna get my ass up there one ofthese days."

Red Jeffers then raced onto the field to slap a player on the side ofhis purple helmet for not digging out hard enough on a sprint.

The last assistant coach I met was Ronnie Bob Collins. He was incharge of the defensive secondary.

"Looks like we have some speed in the secondary," I said toCoach Collins. "Will they hit?"

"Not like that little shit over there," he said, looking atSandi. "How'd you like to get hooked up with her? Tell you onething. You wouldn't need no kick-starter on your tongue!"

The teams returned to their dressing rooms for last-minuteinstructions and nervous pisses before the opening kickoff. That waswhen T. J. formally introduced me to his valiants.

The introduction was moving enough. I was an All-American, anall-pro, a man who had once sneaked out of a hospital where I wasrecovering from three broken ribs to beat Notre Dame almostsingle-handedly on a Saturday very much like this one.

T. J. put his hand on my shoulders as he faced the Horned Frogs. "IfBilly Clyde Puckett was eligible and I needed him today, he'd draghis butt out there—cast and all—and find some way to win!"

I didn't know what in the name of the Gipper I would say to the TCUplayers until I sat on the edge of a table and looked out at theirfarm-kid faces, their street-smart glances, at the white numerals ontheir purple jerseys.

Like most major college teams, and most NFL teams, T.J.'s currentbatch of Horned Frogs were predominantly white with certain positionsreserved for black athletes.

T. J. went along with the thinking that had clouded the minds ofother head coaches throughout the history of integrated football. Aquarterback should be white, even if he was a lanky senior like SonnyPlummer, who knelt on the floor in front of me and whose arm remindedT. J. of a seal. A ball-carrier ought to be black, even if he wasWebster Davis, a tailback T.J. hoped to replace next year withTonsillitis Johnson, Davis being a runner T. J. described as havingno right to be black because he was "too fuckin' slow."Elsewhere, tight ends were white, wide receivers were black; centerswere white; offensive and defensive linemen were both—size was allthat mattered; linebackers were white, cornerbacks were black.Safeties could be either shade if they were good outfielders.

There was more country-boy prejudice than scientific logic behindthis thinking—the Hall of Fame is littered with exceptions. Butnearly every coach is an ex-player who remembers the time some blackathlete screwed up in a critical game situation. White players screwup, too, but a coach rationalized this by saying the white playersare only trying too hard to win, whereas black players screw upbecause they aren't trying hard enough, seeing as how they're black,of course. A coach detests careless mistakes.

Coaches don't care if you understand their logic in the matter, andthey don't give a shit whether you condemn it or not. All coaches arecautious and conservative by nature, mainly because their jobs oftenhang on the bounce of a fumble—and most of them spend their careersgetting fired for not winning.

A coach creates his own mistakes at times, and he'll frequently do itby assigning his black athletes to the "hot- dog" positionsthat he insists are best suited to the mind and body of the blackathlete, positions in which the blacks themselves are the most"comfortable." These are the positions that require speed,skill, and strength, ideally all three, but don't necessarily requirebrainwork.

Coaches remind themselves and each other that a quarterback has tocall plays or audibilize, a center has to pick up the blitz, alinebacker has to "read" before he reacts, and a tight endhas to like the dirty work of blocking more than he likes to catchpasses—and you want a coach to trust a black guy to do thosethings?

A coach in the 1980s had yet to be fooled by any of history'sexceptions to his rules. Coaches had yielded to the changes insociety but somewhat on their own terms. Coaches still hadn't seen agreat black center—that must prove something.

But with the emergence of the black athlete had come another problem.Kids today, white or black, wanted to be told "why" beforethey jumped in the slop in the name of duty, honor, the old schoolcolors—and that "why" was just too God-damn-much fuckingtrouble for most coaches to explain to a kid who was getting a freefour-year education and all the pussy he could handle.

You jumped in the slop because a coach like T. J. Lambert said so oryou got your ass benched or fired.

And now it was to a group of TCU athletes that T.J. wanted tofire—lazy, prideless losers—that I was expected to say somethinginspirational before they went out to challenge the Rice Owls.

I began by saying how fortunate they were to be playing football fora character-builder like Coach Lambert and his dedicated staff, menlike Mike Homer, Red Jeffers, Ronnie Bob Collins.

Fear of losing an audience may have accounted for what I said next.

"Men, I saw something out on the field a while ago that remindedme of another Rice game," I said. "I saw one of yourcheerleaders. Cute little girl named Sandi."

"Awwright," said Sonny Plummer, there on the floor in frontof me. He and Webster Davis exchanged a high-five and pointed attheir crotches.

I acknowledged them soberly and continued.

"My junior year we had a cheerleader who looked enough likeSandi to be her older sister—and it was. Her name was Tracy. Iguess you could say Tracy was the most popular girl on the campus.Pretty little blond devil...vivacious, outgoing. Well... the Saturdayof our game against Rice, right here on this field, she startedwalking over to the stadium from her room in the Tri-Delt dorm and aterrible thing happened. That great little girl...Sandi's oldersister...she got run over and killed by a crazy, drunken Rice studentin a sports car. Our team... we didn't find out about it till afterthe game—a game we lost."

I paused a minute, as if the thought of Tracy's death had made menauseous all over again; then I went on.

"Maybe you guys know what I'm gonna say next. Sandi's going tobe out there yelling her heart out for you this afternoon. She'll beyelling for you to beat the Rice Owls the same way her sister wouldhave cheered us on if she'd lived. So how 'bout it, gang? Let's eventhe score. Let's win this one for Sandi and her sister!"

T. J.'s voice boomed out. "Get them low-life fuckin' murderers!"

The Horned Frogs tore out of the locker room like maniacs, whooping,cursing, banging on locker doors, aching for the blood of the RiceOwls.

T.J. shook my hand.

"You did real good, son."

"Thanks, Coach."

"Was that a true story?"

"Part of it. We did have a cheerleader who looked a lot likeSandi."

"What'd she do?"

"The main thing she did was give Shake Tiller the clap."

The score was 12-3 at halftime in favor of Rice.

No touchdowns were scored. Rice recovered four fumbles inside TCU's20-yard line and kicked four field goals to get its 12 points. TheFrogs salvaged 3 points on a field goal in the last minute before thehalf. A 40-yard pass-interference penalty gave TCU the ball on Rice's1-yard line. Three running plays lost 5 yards, and T.J. settled forthe field goal.

In the locker room, T.J. was livid. He wasn't outraged so much at thescore, at the fact that his team was down by 9 points, as he was atthe indifferent way the Frogs had performed.

They had shown no zip. They weren't hitting. They weren't alert. Theydidn't even look concerned.

"I'm takin' the blame for the way you puked up them twoquarters," T.J. said to the team. "It ain't a question ofno guts, it's a plain case of no energy, and it's my fault. Yourproblem is, you done left your blockin' and tacklin' in a bunch ofthat sorority whup!"

Girls were the enemy of football players, T.J. said. "If thetruth was known, ever damn one of you got spermed out last night.Don't nobody look at me like I'm wrong!"

He spit tobacco juice on his pants leg, wiped off his chin, and said:

"I've give up on this game. Fuck it! You can let them slant-eyedsumbitches embarrass you if you want to, but next week things isgonna be different! The women on this campus is gonna get a lot lessfootball cock on Friday night!

"When I was a young shitass, they said it was bad to mastrebate.Well, it took some time, but we put an end to that myth—and you'regonna do the same thing! Mastre- bation is good for a footballplayer! It's particularly good for a football player on the nightbefore a game. Mastrebation takes the pressure off. Mastrebation hasbeen the secret to more than one football team what kicked somebody'sass!

"You're gonna find out if you mastrebate instead of dippin' yourwick, you'll conserve energy. It'll take the pubic hair off yourbrain. You fuckers done pubed me out in the first half. Embarrassedyourselves in front of Billy Clyde Puckett, a great All-American, anda good many of your mommas and daddys no doubt. If you'd mastrebatedlast night—right hand fast, left hand slow, don't make a shit— itwouldn't have happened, and it ain't gonna happen again to the TexasChristian University Horned Frogs, you can bust my ass if it does!Now get outta my sight! I ain't got no more time today to watch wormsfuckin'."

The Frogs thoroughly dominated the second half. Sonny Plummer flappedhis seal-like arm for two touchdown passes—they were end-over-end,but they worked—and Webster Davis plowed 12 yards for anothertouchdown, the longest run of his career. TCU won the game, 24 to 12.T.J. was triumphantly carried off the field on the shoulders of threebeefy linemen.

I may have been the only observer who could appreciate the jubilantgestures the Frogs made with their left and right fists as theytrotted past the south goal posts and disappeared into the tunnelleading to the Coliseum dressing room.

It may also have been true that others down on the field couldn'thave understood what several of the Frogs were chanting as theypumped their fists up and down:

"Right hand, left hand, don't make a shit!"

Tonsillitis Johnson was a staggering sight.

There would have been no mistaking him as he stood in a corner of theLettermen's Lounge after the game. Apart from the maroon satin warmupsuit and yellow mirrored sunglasses he wore, he was the young manwhose terrifying thighs threatened to burst out of his pants, whosechest, shoulders, and arms were carved from granite, and whosetowering, rounded Afro looked capable of nesting a flock of tundraswans.

Before meeting him, I asked T. J. to refresh my memory aboutsomething. Wasn't it against the rules for a Southwest Conferenceschool to bring in a prospective athlete to visit the campus beforehis high school football season was over?

T.J. answered with a suitably logical question of his own.

"Who the fuck's gonna tell anybody?"

Tonsillitis was accompanied by his older brother, Darnell, aconfident-looking man of about twenty-seven. Darnell wore a beigepolyester suit, a wool checkered tie, and he carried a valise. He wasbuilt as if he might have played football himself, but his physiquewas nothing to compare with that of Tonsillitis.

And it didn't take a person from Harvard Grad School to figure outthat Darnell was his brother's agent and financial adviser. Come tothink of it, a person from Harvard Grad School wouldn't havefigured it out.

A high school athlete with an agent was nothing new. It was as old asa university's desire to win football games, as old as asports-minded daddy who wanted to get the best deal for his kid. Itwas older than Knute Rockne—not that the discovery of it didn'tconstantly send a ghastly wave of shock through the minds of yourbeard-stroking educators and your naive sportswriters.

When Shake and I had been persuaded to become Horned Frogs, we'd hadUncle Kenneth for an agent, and Big Ed Bookman for a financialadviser. We joked later on that we had been undersold. I got aPontiac Grand Prix and Shake got a Mercury Cougar. Uncle Kenneth gotfour tickets on the 50-yard line for all of TCU's home games. Big Edgot a couple of listless roughnecks on one of his drilling rigs inScogie County during the summers.

These were small prices to pay for a couple of guys who becameAll-Americas and put some folks in the stands, but TCU was going toget our services anyway. We had planned to stay home. It had to dowith Barbara Jane selecting TCU even though she'd had a choice of thefinest institutions. She wanted to make her mother hot, I think. BigBarb's heart had been set on sending her daughter off to Holyoke,Sweet Briar, or Wellesley.

"Mom, I already know which fork to use for dessert," Barbhad said.

Shake and I never regretted going to TCU, even after we'd heard talesabout the real world.

In the real world, there was a thing called The Million Dollar Walkin Norman, Oklahoma.

The Million Dollar Walk at OU was a path that led from Owen Field tothe dressing room. After an Oklahoma victory, the path would be linedwith wealthy boosters eager to shake hands with those Sooners who haddone the most to crush a Missouri Tiger or a Kansas Jayhawk.

A guy could shake hands, we heard, for as much as $5,000 on a goodSaturday. Multiply that by five or six home games, it could keep akid in beer and cigarette papers for a whole semester.

We understood that mail returned to the sender for postage due was anice thing to receive if you happened to play for the Crimson Tide atAlabama. The player wouldn't be the actual sender, of course. Phonyname. Which left everyone blameless. All the student-athlete had todo was count the crisp hundreds in the envelope, donor unknown, whenAlabama was hovering around No. 1 in the polls.

The Designated Cigar Box in Athens, Georgia, was a receptacle for arecruiting fund, money used to entice blue-chippers to learn how tosay "How 'bout them Dawgs?" at the University of Georgia.

We were told the box would move around from one motel to another eachSaturday of the season in Athens. Generous Georgia alums would hearon the sly where the motel room was going to be—"210,Ramada"—and they would be expected to drop by before or afterthe game.

An off-duty redneck cop would guard the door and refuse admittance toanyone who looked like an NCAA investigator or a reporter. Inside theroom, the Dawg supporter would find no people, no cocktail party,only a cigar box on a dresser with a slit in the top that wasconveniently large enough for folding money.

Around the Southeastern Conference, it was suspicioned that whenGeorgia's slush fund fell below the $3.5-million level, there weredesperately fewer Herschel Walkers on campus.

Dump McKinney had been a highly recruited quarterback from Daytona,Florida. All through his senior year of high school, every week, hewould find a parcel of twelve prime New York strips on his doorstep.They were the gift of an anonymous University of Florida fan whohoped Dump would transport his gifted arm to Gainesville. The parcelof frozen steaks would include a note, something on the order of "GoGators, beat hell out of them Dawgs!"

To this day, Florida fans rarely get to celebrate a victory overGeorgia, even though the rivalry is bitterly intense and their annualclash in Jacksonville's Gator Bowl takes on the dimensions ofDisneyland Meets Holy War.

But Dump liked New York strips. He did indeed seek his highereducation at the University of Florida. And he kept on getting theprime cuts of beef until the middle of his junior year. They stoppedcoming after the Gators lost yet another close game to Georgia.

All Dump received after that game was the usual unsigned note, onlythis time it said:

"You heartbreakin choke-up motherfucker, I'm shippin your assback to Oscar Mayer!"

Before the quest for Tonsillitis Johnson, T. J. had worn out a set oftires in the relentless pursuit of a most-wanted running back namedArtis Toothis, a 188-pound speedster from Willow Neck, Texas.

T.J. made six illegal trips down to the Big Thicket, to ArtisToothis' home, a little shack which harbored the athlete's mother,father, aunt, and eight younger brothers and sisters, three of whomwere squealing infants, not to mention six cats and four cur dogs.

On each visit, T.J. would sit for two and three hours with the familyand animals, everyone watching soap operas on daytime TV. T. J. wouldsmile politely as he bounced the babies on his knee and let the curdogs hump his right leg.

As only T. J. Lambert could describe it, the house smelled like sixhairy dykes playing anthill in a room with no ventilation.

On his last visit, Artis Toothis was not at home, but T.J. waspromised the kid would be along any minute. Four hours went by. T.J.bounced the babies on his knee, gasped for fresh air, and watched thedogs hump his leg.

Artis Toothis finally stuck his head in the door, and said, "Beright back, Coach, I forgot somethin' at the library."

Seconds later, T. J. glanced out of a window. He saw Artis Toothisslide behind the wheel of a new white Jaguar in the company of anassistant coach from SMU.

Driving back to Fort Worth that night, the battle lost, T.J. almostturned his Ford Escort around three times.

"I wanted to go back and kick them fuckin' dogs," he said.

Coaches and faculty members will always insist that recruitingviolations are minimal and can usually be blamed on "overzealousalumni," who are impossible to control. It helps theirindigestion to believe that.

Getting the best available athletes on your team is one thing.Keeping them eligible is another. USC raised this to an artform.Thirty-two Trojans on one of USC's Rose Bowl teams were oncediscovered to have passed a Communications course they didn't knowexisted.

The cold, hard truth is this: no team that's ever appeared in yourTop Twenty over the past 100 years is guiltless of cheating in oneway or another, and this includes that pious campus with a goldendome out there in South Bend, Indiana, the unindicted Notre Dame.When USC and Notre Dame collide every year in their bigintersectional game, they ought to call it the Transcript Bowl.

But if you stop to think about it, what's so criminal about giving akid a football scholarship, supplementing his income, or doingsurgery on his grades? College football takes a bunch of kids off thestreet and exposes them to something besides car theft and armedrobbery.

And college football is big business. The money it generates fromendowment has built more wings on libraries than all of the intimatefriends of Beowulf.

College football has raised more than one chemistry professor'ssalary and bought more than one computer on which some chinless wimpcan get a business degree by learning how to fuck up my bankstatements and credit references.

If you can get a free ride through college by playing the oboe orrepairing participles that dangle, why can't you do it by putting50,000 people in a football stadium?

I didn't need to use those arguments on T. J., Tonsillitis, orDarnell. They were realists like me. And the four of us were now in aprivate confab discussing money while purple-blazered TCU immortalsdrank spiked punch in other nooks of the Lettermen's Lounge.

"Look here," Darnell said. "We can max out at Oklahomaat thirty thou a year. At Texas, we can max out at twenty- five ayear, but Tonsillitis be startin' as a freshmens in Austin.Tonsillitis don't be needin' that E.O.S. shit, you dig?"

"E.O.S.?" said Coach Lambert. I was equally puzzled.

"End of sentence, baby. OU don't guarantee freshmens to start.Tonsillitis be winnin' the Heismans his first year."

"We'll start him as a freshman," T.J. said. "He cancall plays if he wants to."

"Tonsillitis don't be callin' plays. Tonsillitis' brain beneedin' to res' up for G.B.O.S."

"G.B. who?" I said.

"Get bad on Saturday."

Tonsillitis was also a person of character, Darnell said. When Feb. 8came around, the national signing date, Tonsillitis would honor theL.O.I, he signed.

"Letter of intent?" I said.

"You cool."

I attempted to engage Tonsillitis in conversation by asking if he wasworried about injuries this season, his senior year in high school.

"It could be expensive," I took pleasure in saying.

"Tonsillitis don't be gettin' hurt," Darnell said."Tonsillitis be hurtin' other folks."

T. J. patted Tonsillitis on the back. "You're the best, hoss.Best I ever saw."

I kept looking at Tonsillitis for his answer. I would liked tohave seen his eyes, but I could only see my forehead in his yellowsunglasses.

Tonsillitis said, "You have ast me if I am worried aboutinjurin' myself in my las' season. My answer to you is no. That wouldbe undue worriation."

Darnell related a story about their childhood, the purpose of whichwas to convey to us that Tonsillitis had always been a toughcompetitor.

There was this night when the two boys had been taken to adouble-feature by their father, a handyman. Tonsillitis was onlyseven years old at the time. The movies they had seen were BloodBeach and My Bloody Valentine.

"Kids is funny," Darnell said, smiling. "We came homeand the first thing Tonsillitis said was 'Daddy, I'm gonna get aknife and cut you up.'"

Darnell and I laughed together, he at what Tonsillitis had said, meat the double-feature their daddy had chosen.

Tonsillitis' name had been intriguing me. I was compelled to askDarnell where it came from.

"He was named for his uncle, Tonsorrell," Darnell said."Everybody had trouble sayin' it right. We started callin' himTonsillitis when he was little. Might as well be his real name."

The meeting adjourned with T.J. urging Tonsillitis to have a greatyear at Boakum High and not make any college decisions until hechecked with the Horned Frogs.

TCU's head coach was asking for the right of last refusal.

"What number you want to wear on that purple jersey, hoss?"T. J. squeezed Tonsillitis' shoulder lovingly.

"Thirty grand," I said, answering for him.

"My man!" said Darnell, offering me his palm to slap.

Satisfied I had done all I could to help T. J.'s recruiting for themoment, I left to go meet an old newspaper buddy and see if FortWorth nightlife had anything new to offer.

Mommie's Trust Fund was on the southwestern edge of the city in ahalf-finished shopping village bordered by half-finished condominiumunits. Beyond the condos lay infinity—and the dreams of otherdevelopers.

There was no room to park near Mommie's Trust Fund. I eased theLincoln around a corner to another area of the shopping village andfound a space by a Red Lobster, next door to an Arby's, pretty closeto a Houlihan's, three doors from a TGI Friday's, just behind aBennigan's, half a block from Chi Chi's, and directly in front of atopless-bottomless club called The Blessed Virgin.

I almost took a look inside the topless-bottomless club because ofits marquee, which said:

Now appearing:





Jim Tom Pinch was waiting for me at the horseshoe bar in Mommie'sTrust Fund. The bar was already crowded with singles types. Risingyoung executives were deeply engrossed in conversation aboutcommodities and tax-shelters with herpes carriers of all ages. Theyglowed beneath the imitation Tiffany lampshades.

I said hello to Jim Tom. He gave me a nod as he continued talking tothe girl standing next to him, a retro gum-chewer in fishnetstockings and a pop-art minidress.

To the girl, Jim Tom said, "I'm lucky I inherited the same rodmy daddy had. When he died, it took seven days to close the casket.That thing stuck straight up like this."

"I ain't heard that shit before, have I?" said the girl,sipping her strawberry Margarita and looking bored as she reached fora Vantage 100.

I demanded that Jim Tom and I take a table because of my leg, whichwe did. We quickly ordered three young Scotches apiece to save timeand trouble for the ballet instructor moonlighting as a waiter.

"You wrote fast," I said to Jim Tom.

"Yeah, I just turned it over to Dexter and Vivian. Did the storyon how good the Frogs looked, did the column on how bad Rice looked.Pure crap; don't bother to read it."

Jim Tom was the sports editor and columnist for The Fort WorthLight & Shopper, a man I had known since my playing days atTCU. He was the only sportscaster I trusted. Dexter and Vivian wereDexatrim and Vivarin, the caffeine bombs, Jim Tom's best friends injournalism.

"Saw you down on the field," Jim Tom said. "Why didn'tyou come up to the press box?"

"I figured Dexter and Vivian were having a spat."

Jim Tom was a twice-divorced man in his late forties. His hair wsspeckled with gray, he was developing a paunch, and he moved hisright arm with difficulty. Arthritis was setting in. He was asmentally whipped as any newspaperman his age, just as underpaid,resigned to staying one jump ahead of the creditors.

He was the sportswriter who had helped me write the book that Icalled an autobiography and Shake called a diary. I dictated it intothe tape-recorder, and Jim Tom typed. Jim Tom thought up the title:Semi-Tough. Then I decided not to have it published. It wouldhave embarrassed too many of my teammates.

It wasn't the first time Jim Tom had blown a shot at literary fame.He'd once been offered a job with Sports Illustrated, but hepassed it up because he hadn't wanted to change his by-line to JamesThomas Pinch and bemoan the fate of the otter. Jim Tom had beensentenced to the newspaper business for life, but he said he could bereasonably happy if he didn't lose his mind and get married again.

As we settled in for a long night at Mommie's Trust Fund, Jim Tomadmitted that his sleepovers were even becoming less frequent.

The pain was getting to be too much trouble to explain. He referredto the pain that would go shooting through his right arm and up intohis shoulder just as his guest was about to pleasure herself.

I asked him if it was the arthritis that had driven away his twowives—the ambidextrous Earlene, who could hurl a clock-radiothrough a windowpane with either hand, and the incomparable Dottie,whose dress always seemed to get blown up around carpenters.

"No, it's the hours," he said. "A newspapermanshouldn't get married. All he cares about is his work. We go throughlife bitching at retarded editors... having heart attacks because oftypographical errors in our stories, like what we wrote in the firstGod-damn place was Farewell to Arms! We go home wore out withnothin' left to give anybody. All a newspaperman needs is a bar wherehe can sign his name, some friendly conversation, and a typewriterwith a ribbon that'll reverse. It takes a saint to be married to ajournalist. Women ought to know better. Women ought to marry estateplanners."

On napkins, spurred on by the steady flow of J&B, we made a listof morning-after lines, things a man had heard— or would hear—froma shapely adorable or a not-so-shapely adorable who had taken him upon his drunken invitation for a sleepover.

In the Top Ten were:

  • "Hey, this is Saturday! I have the whole day free!"

  • "Are these clean towels?"

  • "That's a neat picture. Your wife is really pretty."

  • "It's actually in remission."

  • "You probably shouldn't drink so much. It would help."

  • "Oh, don't worry, I would never pick up your phone."

  • "What were you doing with that pinlight last night?"

  • "Is it hard to get back on the freeway from here?"

  • "Rich will answer if I'm not there, but it's cool, he's just agood friend."

  • "In the bar, I thought you were the most cynical person I'dever met."

Mommie's Trust Fund was about to max out at a hundred guys playingbackgammon and two hundred girls wearing straw cowboy hats, tightT-shirts, designer jeans, and brass belt buckles that had "BULLSHIT"engraved on them.

"Why do you go to places like this?" I asked Jim Tom.

"It's my neighborhood pub."

As another tray of drinks arrived, Jim Tom said, "A couple offriends may join us in a minute. You care?"

"I'm not leaving with one of 'em," I said with alarm.

"That's all right. I might do a quickie in the forecourt, two onone. Not that I can get it up. You know what I yearn for, BillyClyde? Old age. I won't have to do anything but lay on my back andbat clean-up."

"I didn't know you have to be old to do that."

"Maybe I'll grow a mustache, hit 'em with the whup- broom."

I drew Jim Tom into a conversation about sports. He was always goodfor a few lines I could use at banquets.

Twenty years of covering sports events had left him with anassortment of prejudices. He had never been in the cheerleader classof sportswriters, anyhow. It didn't take long for him to unload onhis pet hates, which included almost every sport but collegefootball.

The mention of ice hockey got him started.

"Who's ever seen a goal?" he said. "Forget a fuckingassist. It's a bunch of guys named Jacques. Know what ice hockeyneeds? A five-thousand-pound puck. Two teams, East Coast, West Coast.They play one game. That's the season. Whatever ocean the puck windsup in, you've got a winner. You're gonna be a TV announcer. You couldstand there in Omaha and say, 'Hello, everybody, I'm here in Nebraskawhere the puck will be arriving almost any day.' Fuck ice hockey."

"I heard you went to Wimbledon last summer."

"The linesmen were all wing commanders, squadron leaders, andgroup captains. McEnroe shot down six of 'em. He should have worn aswastika on his arm. I never could figure out which Swede had thedirtiest hair."

"Did you watch the girls?"

"I watched 'em double-fault and frown at their mothers."

"I saw Uncle Kenneth yesterday. He's still fond of probasketball."

"Oh, me, too. The fucking season's ten months long, fourthousand teams get in the playoffs, and all the armpits look alike.I'd rather watch cross-country skiing."

"I didn't know that was a sport."

"It's not. Cross-country skiing is how a Norwegian goes to theSafeway."

"You like college basketball," I said. "The HoustonCougars."

"Only when the cheerleaders turn it into a disco. You can watchtits bounce while they drag the coaches off to an asylum. You'reright. I like the Coug-roes."

"Is there a copyright on that?"

"I called 'em the Houston Coug-roes in print," Jim Tomsaid. "When the hate mail came in, I pleaded typo."

I knew how much he despised baseball. I asked him how often he wentto a Texas Rangers game.

"I like it when they change pitchers," he said. "Youget to sleep an hour."

"Sounds like golf on television."

"Golf is a good game to play—if you don't have to keep score.Nobody can identify with those guys on the tour. They all drive theball three hundred yards. Some blond guy makes a putt. Another blondguy misses a putt. Golf was fun when Arnold Palmer sweated throughhis shirt and chain-smoked. But you could see the same thing at aTennessee Williams play and not get sunburned."

I tried boxing.

"¿Habla espanol?"

"Shake Tiller's working on some kind of pro football expose,"I said. "I don't know who he's writing it for."

"Playboy. Sounds like a hell of a piece."

"You know about it?"

"I've talked to him."

"Everybody's talked to him but me."

"He said he'll be in L.A. when you get there. He came throughhere on his book tour. We got drunk. I think he got laid. I mean, Idon't see how he could have avoided it. You'll meet her. She's one ofthe debs I invited over."

I didn't like the playful look on his face.

"What have you got me into, Jim Tom?"

"It's just a family outing," he said. "I thought we'dgo to Six Flags, put the kids on the log ride, stop off somewhere andbowl a few frames, pick up a barrel of Kentucky Fried, and call it anight."

We were both looking around the room for our ballet instructor whenJim Tom leaped to his feet.

He had seen the debs, his lady friends, coming up behind me.

He pulled two chairs over to our table. Not being an impolite person,I started to struggle up for proper introductions, but my shouldergently bumped into Kim Cooze's awesome bosom.

"Oh, sweetie, do that again," said a husky female voice.

Exotic dancers did not have a track record of putting me into a stateof euphoria, but I respected them as athletes. They were sometimesfun to talk to.

It was now after 2 A.M. We had moved our act to The Blessed Virgin,which was wholly disrespectful of closing times. Jim Tom and I eachfaced one of those medieval Scotches, the kind that looks more likerust than amber at that hour. We were sitting on barstools with thedebs.

Kim Cooze was on my left and Brandy, a Baby Sitter, was on Jim Tom'sright.

Jim Tom was in a dark lull, muttering that Vivian had let him down.Brandy, an eighteen-year-old ravager, was drinking straight shots oftequila and accusing the bartender of holding out on the dread.

"Ralph will be here in a minute," the bartender said.

"Yeah, he will," Brandy smirked. "Meanwhile, let's dosome of yours."

"I'm empty."

"Uh-huh," said Brandy. "For somebody who's empty, yousure got a lot of snot on your sleeve."

Kim was an honest 44-22-38. She had short platinum hair done up in aThirties look, large green eyes with false lashes that could havesupported a string of Christmas lights, and makeup a half-inch thick.I estimated her age at somewhere between forty and Medicare.

Her awesomes were barely constrained by a scanty white halter. Shewore black leather pants that fit like an oil-base paint. Herspiked-heel shoes had little pink bows on the instep.

I had caught her last performance of the evening, and couldn't resistcomplimenting her on originality. I had never seen an exotic dancerwho opened her act with a brief sermon, and then dry-fucked a copy ofthe Bible.

"I'm an ordained Minister of Mystical Theology," she said."I have a certificate."

Kim went on at some length about how we all reached God in differentways. I did it through football, she said. She did it by sharing herbody and her beliefs with the world. Exposing your body was no sin,she said. She had analyzed her soul and concluded that she wasmystically united with God. Her psychic dreams had told her to savethe souls of others by reaching out with her extravagant body, whichGod had given her, and touching others.

I said, "Do you actually go so far as to fuck for God?"

"I don't like that kind of language."

I apologized.

"What's old Count Smirn up to?" Kim asked the bartender."Better put two of him on the rocks for me."

The bartender slid her a double vodka.

Kim pressed her awesomes against my arm and rubbed her knee againstmy good left leg.

"When there's a bigger crowd I do a longer act," she said."I left out the rosary tonight and a thing I do with arhinestone cross. This jukebox isn't great, either. It's mostlycountry. I don't think God is opposed to country, but I seem to reachmore souls through old-fashioned jazz and big-band sounds."

I asked Kim how she had gotten along with Shake Tiller.

"He's a very devout person," she said.

"Yes, I know."

"I cried when he told me the story about the crippled nuns. Howthey changed his life?"

"The who?"

"You were there, he said. The time you were little kids andskipped church to play touch football on the lawn by the convent? Andit caught on fire?"

"Oh, yeah, that's right."

"That was so heroic," said Kim. "Not many kids wouldhave gone in that burning building—and you weren't even Catholic!"

"Shake did it all. I just turned on the garden hose. It's solong ago, I can't remember how many nuns he saved."


"Well, I'd have said six. The old memory sure plays tricks onyou."

"Six were in wheelchairs."

"Right. It's all coming back to me. The flames were terrible.Some of those poor nuns were flying out of the windows like bats."

"God repaid you. He persuaded you it was all right to playfootball on Sunday. You see? Help others and God helps you."

"Shake spoke to God, I didn't. But I guess getting the word froma holy person like Shake is the same thing, isn't it?"

"It is!" said Kim, still rubbing her knee on my leg. "Itransfer goodness and I receive goodness in return. My boyfriend inDallas says he can sense the vibrations in the audience when I'mstripping for God."

Jim Tom backed off his barstool. He took Brandy by the arm.

"I'm outta here, Billy Clyde. I've had eight dozen Scotches andfour million Winstons. I've had it."

"I didn't know you came in here to try to quit smokin',"said Brandy.

"See you next trip," I said to Jim Tom. "When Kim andI get settled in our mobile home in Bakersfield, you'll have to comeout and visit."

Stretching his right arm and massaging his shoulder, Jim Tom wobbledbehind Brandy and they went out the door. I turned to Kim with a yawnand patted her hand.

"It's not easy for me to confess this to a Minister of MysticalTheology, but I'm an atheist, Kim."

"That's not true."

"Also, I'm a happily married man," I said. "And...Ihave an early flight in the morning. Today, I mean."

"Happily married men are the only kind I know. My boyfriend'smarried."

She ran her fingers up and down my thigh.

"It's been fun, Kim. You took my mind off the Middle East...Afghanistan... inflation... unemployment. Should I thank you or God?"

"Take Communion with me."

She put my hand on one of her 44s and held it there.

"God is good." She smiled sweetly.

"I don't see how I can take Communion with my leg in a cast."

"There's more than one kind of Communion, Bozo. Ever heard ofOral Roberts?"

"Uh... where do you generally hold Communion?"

She dumped her vodka into a plastic cup for the road. "I'm atthe Holiday Inn on University. Pay up and let's blow this pop stand."

There were two versions of what happened next. There was mine, whichwas the truth, and there was Shake Tiller's cynical fantasy, whichwas guaranteed to get a laugh from the guys in the bars.

Kim's motel was on the way to the Hyatt Regency downtown. I didfollow her car, a new Camaro, but I left her with a friendly honk asshe turned into the Holiday Inn. Fifteen minutes later, I was tuckedunder my Hyatt Regency covers with nothing but three Anacin.

The way Shake liked to tell it, J&B had grabbed the steeringwheel out of my hands. J&B had tracked Kim's turn signal likeradar, parked the Lincoln with great haste, yanked me into her room,and made a $100 donation to her church.

Articles of clothing had then gone sailing in all directions, and Ihad quickly found myself pinned down on a motel bed listening toKim's little exclamations of relish as something damp traveled towardmy pelvis.

How a close friend could accuse a mature, responsible person likemyself of such wretched behavior was beyond my comprehension, but ofcourse I had learned to live with other vicious rumors about mycharacter.

The next morning, curiously enough, I was surrounded by Shake Tilleras I limped into a gift shop in the D/FW airport. Shake's book, TheArt of Taking Heat, was displayed everywhere.

I bought a copy to take on the plane to Los Angeles. I needed it fora prop.

I slumped into the seat I always requested—6B, aisle, smoking—andopened Shake's book to let the dry-wall salesman sitting next to meknow in a pointed way that I would be unable to chat during theflight.


Heat is shit—and we all take it.

We take married heat, kid heat, boss heat, car heat, bank heat,credit heat, political heat, IRS heat, health heat, appliance heat,and every other kind of heat you can think of.

And all it ever does is make us grumpy and irritable.

But we can't talk about it until we start calling it what it is.

Shit. It's important that you get used to the word. It's moredescriptive than heat.

It would have been in the title of this book if I hadn't taken someshit from the publisher.

The point is, the shit-givers of this world think that giving youshit helps you become a better person.

Well, we all know they're full of shit, don't we?

Shit-givers come in two basic categories. There are those who don'tknow they're doing it, and there are those who give it to you onpurpose.

The unknowing shit-giver is a person who goes along thinking it's hisor her privilege to do it, like it's something you grow into as anadult.

This type can't seem to figure out why you're always mad at them.They're too busy giving somebody shit to understand that the peopleyou genuinely like are the ones who don't do it.

Shit for your own good is the worst kind.

First of all, it means that somebody is giving it to you on purpose.

And of course you know what's good for you a hell of a lot betterthan anybody else— and you don't need that shit, right?

This is a book about how to turn it around on the poeple who bringall the heat into your life; who give you the shit, in other words.

I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. You wouldn't have boughtthis book if you'd wanted to read that shit.

I'm just a person like yourself with one big difference. I got tiredof taking it and decided to do something about it.

I don't have all the answers. For instance, I don't know how tohandle death shit, particularly in a case where it happens to you.

What I mostly think you do is dress up real nice and go talk to thatguy across the river.

But I do have some thoughts about the other stuff.

Let's start with a common example of the kind of everyday shit we runinto.

A repairman comes to your home to fix your G.E. icemaker. He saysit's fixed after he's been there a while and he leaves. But theminute he walks out the door, it doesn't work. Sound familiar?

Five times he comes to fix it, and five times he leaves and it stilldoesn't work even though by now you've paid him $1,657 for his labor.

Finally, on his next visit, he says it looks like you need a newicemaker.

That's when you give him the shit.

Here's how you do it.

You smile and say, "I need a new icemaker? Fine. I hope you haveone with you."

He says he does.

"Great," you say. "Can you install it now if I makeyou a sandwich and give you a glass of iced tea?"

"Well, I don't know," he says.

"Aw, come on," you say. "There's a big tip in it foryou, Guido."

"How big's the tip?"

"We're talking big. Do you really have a new icemaker in thetruck?"

"Sure," he says.

"How much will it cost?"

"Two million dollars, plus tax."

You say, Terrific. Sounds fair enough. Oh, by the way, your officecalled before you got here. It was something about your wife."

"My wife?"

"Yeah, has she been ill?"

"No, not really."

You shrug and say, "I'm sorry I didn't get the whole message. Iguess I was busy. It was something about a biopsy. The only word Iremember is 'malignant.'"

The flight to Los Angeles was uneventful except for the manner inwhich an attentive stewardess—Dallas, killer bod—autographed thecast on my leg.

She wrote:

"Randi. 214 555-1488!"

"My wife will love it," I said to the girl.

"How long have you been married?"

"Almost five years."

"Perfect!" she sparkled. "You're about ready to bolt,Jack!"

The cab ride from the L.A. airport to the Westwood Marquis gave mesufficient time to dwell on the fact that foreigners who spoke nomore than ten words of English were now driving as many cabs in LosAngeles as they were in New York City.

My driver acted as if he knew right where the hotel was, but insteadof taking a northbound freeway to Wilshire or Sunset and hanging aright, he insisted on getting lost in a maze of side streets and thentrying to recover by plodding his way along arteries peppered withstoplights. We passed all of the familiar places: shabby health spas,boarded-up karate schools, cut-rate camera shops, out-of-favorItalian restaurants, Trudy's Records, Tapes, Vitamins & Jogwear,Rusty's Bikes & Bagels, and several denim outlets for thin-legged pygmies.

I knew we had overrun the hotel when we cruised by the Hello,Dolly! set at Fox, but soon we crawled through the Beverly Hillsflats and went by that house with the statue of the elephant in theyard. When we hit Sunset I shouted out the only thing I thought thedriver might understand. "UCLA!" Happily, he turned leftand we finally made it to the Marquis.

I didn't complain about the meter going $10 over what it should havebeen. The driver was of indefinable origin, but he obviously had anIranian-Syrian connection, and I knew he would be dead in a matter ofmonths. He would volunteer for a suicide mission on behalf of someinsane cause and ram a truckload of TNT into an office building. Witha bit of luck, he might choose a structure teeming with networkprogrammers.

I checked into Barbara Jane's suite—our suite now— and called thenumber of the sound stage at the Sunset- Gower Studio to let her knowI had arrived safely.

I had known she would be at rehearsal. Yet another try on the Ritapilot was coming up for a taping session before a live audience in afew days. It was touch and go for everyone, not a moment to relax.

"I'm here," I said after she was summoned to the phone.

"You're there. Good."

"You're busy."


"You're very busy."


"That comes as no surprise to this reporter. You also soundmad."

"Yes, but practicing genocide is improving my frame of mind.I'll be jolly tonight. Half the membership of the Writers' Guild willbe dead by then. I'll see you at Enjolie's for dinner."

"Enjolie's?" I said with apprehension.

"Shake knows where the restaurant is. He's in our hotel."

I tuned in a pro football game on television to keep me company whileI unpacked. The game was a lackluster affair in which the WashingtonRedskins were allowing the L.A. Rams to romp down the field like theGrambling band.

The Rams were ahead by 44 to 14 when I turned on the set. It wasearly in the fourth quarter. The picture on my screen came into focusas Dreamer Tatum artfully stumbled and fell, letting a slow-footedRam trudge by him on a 26- yard touchdown jaunt.

Dreamer was already on strike, I thought. He just hadn't walked offthe job.

The sound that ricocheted around my room before I lowered it wasLarry Hoage crying out to his viewers that he had just witnessed thereincarnation of Tom Harmon.

"Incredible!" screamed Larry Hoage. "Unbelievable!What a move he put on Dreamer Tatum!"

"Flag," said another voice, quietly. "They're bringingit back."

Undaunted, Larry Hoage yelled, "Talk about your O. J. Simpson!Talk about your Walter Payton! Talk about your Franco Harris!"

"Holding," the other voice said. It was the voice of thecolor man, Don Avery, a former linebacker for Miami.

Larry Hoage forged onward.

"That makes it fifty to fourteen, Rams, with the extra point tocome! But we've still got a ball game, Don Avery! These Redskins area fourth-quarter team, remember! We'll be right back!"

Larry Hoage was calmer when the telecast resumed after a commercial.

"Don, it's amazing how these Rams have overcome so manypenalties today. That was their eighth holding call, their sixteenthinfraction of the game! But you sure can't tell it's hurt them whenyou look at the old scoreboard!"

The color man said, "We've seen a lot of mistakes. RefereeCharlie Teasdale and his crew have been pretty busy. The Rams haven'tbeen smooth at all, but the Redskins haven't been able to takeadvantage of those mistakes. It's definitely an off day forWashington."

"Golly, Miss Moses, the Rams have put the old soo-prise on 'emtoday!" Larry Hoage chattered.

On the next play, the Rams ran the same sweep as before, this timefrom Washington's 41-yard line. As deftly as on the previous play,Dreamer Tatum let the Los Angeles ball-carrier brush past him. Twoother Redskins tripped over themselves. And the Ram loped for atouchdown.

Larry Hoage was incoherent for ninety seconds, after which Don Averymentioned the flag that had once again been thrown. This time it wasclipping. No score.

Just then, my phone rang. It was Shake Tiller.

"Turn on the game," he said.

"It's on," I said.

"Great, isn't it? Dreamer bet the Over and Charlie Teasdale'sgot the Under. It's a hell of a contest."

"I think it's mostly a case of work stoppage where Dreamer'sconcerned."

"Could be," said Shake, "but it looks like he's tryingto build up the strike fund while he's at it."

I went around to Shake's room and watched the rest of the game withhim.

Due to a grotesque combination of penalties and Washingtonineptitude, neither team scored again. In all, the Rams had fourtouchdowns called back in the fourth quarter.

Shake couldn't have been more delighted with the final result. Rams44, Redskins 14. This put the total points scored in the game at 58.The over-and-under betting number had been 58½, Shake said. RefereeCharlie Teasdale had skillfully thrown enough flags to hold theUnder.

"The guy's an artist," Shake said. "He doesn't usuallyhave to resort to grand larceny, but fuck, he was up against thewhole Redskin team!"

That was as good a time as any for me to ask Shake about the articlehe was working on.

"I'm gonna give the sport an enema," he said. "It'soverdue."


"For its own good."

"That's the worst kind of shit. I read it in a book."

"Absolutely. That's why pro football deserves it. I'm gonna geteven."

"For what? All the game did was make you rich and get you laid."

"You kidding? I made Burt Danby rich and got my ownself laid.It's a different game, man. It's a fucking bore. It's Wall Streetfootball—a bunch of drones doing what a computer tells 'em to.Shit, B.C., you know how it was. We wanted to win every week. I mighthave acted casual, but I never played casual. We got aftereverybody's ass. We didn't take days off. Pride wouldn't let us. ButI saw the poison coming. I didn't bitch about it? I didn't say theywere using the rules and the zebras to make everybody equal? Thecompetition's not on the field anymore. It's in the TV ratings. It'swhich owner has the best hors d'oeuvres in his luxury box. But youknow what? They've tricked themselves. The greed's passed down. Noweverybody's in on it. In a sixteen-game season, who'll remember thosethree or four games when the guys went south and bet the other side?The broadcasters will keep on saying how great they are—even whenthey hike their leg and call it a pass route. Don't be critical onthe air, B.C. It won't sell. And I sure wouldn't want you to say azebra can call holding on every play if he wants to, and isn't itcurious how often it affects the game when he does call it? I'vetalked to receivers today, man. They come out of the huddle, theydon't read defenses. They read zebras. Try to figure out which waythey've bet!"

Shake poured himself a cup of coffee from a room-service table.

"I think the public's wising up. TV ratings are starting todrop. There are more no-shows in the stadiums. It's NFL roulette.There's six cylinders in the gun, right? Used to be, you had fivechances to catch a bullet when they pulled the trigger. There wasalways one lay-down artist. Now you've only got one chance out ofsix. One bullet in the gun. One guy who wants to win the game. On theGiants before you got hurt, that was you. You know what's in theother five cylinders? You have a coke-head... a gambler... a labororganizer ... a millionaire who's too rich to care... and a zebra.

"Hey, we won a Super Bowl and it's great, man. Love my ring. Iwouldn't take anything for it. But I gotta tell you something. Ourlast drive? We scratched and clawed and fought our ass off. Youfinally scored and the rockets went off, but I was a nervous wreck. Iknew we had the best team. We deserved to win. That's what made itworse, especially when we got down close and could smell it. On everyplay from their thirty on in, I was thinking, Uh-oh, here it comes.Here's where Hose lays one up there for them instead of us. Turns outhe bet the Giants."

"Hose Manning wasn't Dump McKinney."

"No, but I'm glad he never had a phone in the huddle."

"Uncle Kenneth said he talked to you."

"He confirmed some things."

"What are you trying to do to poor old Charlie Teasdale? He'sworked some funny games, but so what?"

Shake did five minutes on Charlie Teasdale. Charlie was ahousebuilder in Dallas in real life. High interest rates had almostburied him three years ago. He had been woefully in debt, but he hadsomehow worked his way out from under it although he hadn't sold anyhouses. Charlie Teasdale was also a degenerate old bastard who hadwhup stashed all over Dallas and Fort Worth. What did it add up towhen you put all this together with the games he had officiated,games where the final scores had looked stranger than hieroglyphics?

"An unfortunate set of circumstances," I said.

"Try Charles Manson."

For the sake of argument, I said, "Some friends probably bailedhim out of debt. Charlie's a dunce, Shake. He's inept. They ought toretire him. If you write what I think you're gonna write, you'reliable to get your ass sued—and it'll be a hell of a lot easier forCharlie Teasdale to prove he's a fool than it will for you to provehe's a thief."

"He gave somebody a game," Shake said with calmsatisfaction.

"To bet on?"

"Somebody we know."


"How was Fort Worth?"

Shake was savoring the moment.

"Not Uncle Kenneth," I said. "If Uncle Kenneth hadhold of something that good, he wouldn't tell anybody, least of allyou and me. He wouldn't trade it for a ticket to Heaven!"

"It wasn't Kenneth and it wasn't Jim Tom. It was a femaleacquaintance of ours."

Call me dense. I was stumped.

"She's a Minister of Mystical Theology."

"Kim Cooze told you Charlie Teasdale gave her a game?"

I didn't often sing soprano.

"She took it to the rack. Came back with a Camaro."

"Jesus Christ," I said, limply.

"Yep, tits finally got him," said Shake. "Now I've gothim."

As a rule, I seldom created a disturbance in a restaurant when awaiter shattered me with the news that he was out of both themonkfish and the scallop mousse with dill and fennel.

But this was too much.

Rodney, our waiter at Enjolie's in Beverly Hills, was now apologizingto Shake and I because we were so late in ordering, he could nolonger offer us the casserole with snails and chanterelles, or eventhe turbot with green peppercorns and hazelnuts.

"Rodney, you really know how to hurt a guy," I said.

We had been at the bar in Enjolie's for two hours. Barbara Jane,still at rehearsal, had got around to calling and telling us to goahead and dine without her. She would be along as soon as she could,or, failing that, she would see me back at the hotel.

Enjolie's was the hottest new restaurant in Beverly Hills that month.It had blue Provengal wallpaper, dainty lace curtains framingimpressionistic murals, Plexiglas dinnerware, and maybe not as manytrees as the Black Forest but surely more shrubbery than theEverglades.

Shake and I had taken the precaution to wear conservative suits andties. Experience had taught us to dress that way in Beverly Hills orelse you ran the risk of being mistaken for someone in theentertainment industry.

Producers and directors wore sport coats with open-collared shirtsunless they had come directly from a location, in which case theymight feature a scruffy ensemble from Western Costume or afoul-weather sailing jacket and a cap with a braided bill.

Hollywood writers leaned toward windbreakers and fatigue jackets,occasionally an old crewneck sweater, although a writer had to becareful about the sweater and not have it thrust around the shouldersof his polo shirt like a junior studio executive.

Actors fell into the category of Formula One jackets, Dodger jackets,Laker jackets, Davis Cup jackets, anything sporting, with a two-daygrowth of fuzz on their jaws and sunglasses atop their heads. Theidea was to look virile, athletic, and working.

An actress was less predictable. She didn't always find it necessaryto rush into a bistro with a scrubbed face, looking as if she hadjust picked out any old raincoat and thrown it over her aerobicleotard and tights, and only had time for a squab salad and a littlewhite wine because she had an early call tomorrow. An actress couldlook splashy, trendy, tempting, room-stoppingly beautiful, because itcould always be assumed she had come from an exclusive party whereshe had mingled with the elite and powerful, men who had bravely puttheir artistic reputations on the line to produce such locomotives asPorkula and Revolt of the Scumbags.

Amid the shrubbery at Enjolie's, we were encompassed by three dozenof the most vibrant forces in the industry that week, but I had noway of being sure of it except to assume as much by the way they weredressed.

What I could be sure of was that I had no intention of letting Rodneypawn off the Trois Petites Merveilles on me.

"Goose liver sateed with what?" I asked the waiter, lookingup from the menu he had wanted to snatch out of my hands.


Shake and I exchanged looks over the tops of our menus.

Rodney said, "Goose liver sauteed in Xeres, delicately seasonedquail, and wonderfully flavored medallions of lobster. That is theTrois Petites Merveilles."

Shake finished off a young Scotch as Rodney tapped his footimpatiently.

"I do have the lamb. We coat it in bread crumbs,"said Rodney. "I do have the escargot wrapped in a chickenbreast. I can get you the venison. It comes with pears and creamedspinach on a puff pastry with poivrade sauce."

"How's the duck?" Shake wanted to know

"I'm afraid I don't have the duck, either. It's verypopular. We smother it in papaya, blueberry, and kiwi sauce."

"Shit, Rodney, you're out of all my faves," said Shake.

"We've been extremely busy, as you can see."

"Tell you what," Shake said. "Just bring me two moreJ&Bs and a cup of coffee on the side."

"Me, too," I said.

Rodney performed an indignant pirouette and evaporated from oursight. But then Burrell came up to our table.

Enjolie's was one of those places that double-teamed you with BadWitch, Good Witch.

"Has anyone taken your order?" Burrell said in aheartfelt tone with an apologetic look.

"Rodney's right on top of it," Shake said.


"No joke intended," Shake said.

We drank another hour at Enjolie's. We might have left sooner if wehadn't become enthralled with the conversations at the tables aroundus.

Shake started writing on napkins when we heard a sport jacket say toa crewneck:

"Sidney's got the biggest balls in this town. Becket'sripe for a re-make. He'll get Pryor and Murphy both in it."

We couldn't have missed the suede king who rushed in to join thestarlet.

"Sorry I'm late, angel. My daughter got lost. My wife gotpissed. Everything's okay now. You look terrific!"

Two deal-makers walked past our table, as one of them was saying:

"There's no downside. I wouldn't give you a downside. Did I evergive you a downside?"

They were followed by two secretaries, one of whom was greatlysaddened because:

"They painted his name out of the parking space at noon. He wasout of the building by five."

The historian pouring wine for the ingenue intrigued us. He said:

"You didn't know Hitler did coke? It's the entire explanationfor World War Two. I can't believe no one's picked up on it."

Two screenwriters brought us up to date on their craft. First, one ofthem said, "It's in turnaround. Ned says grownups don't doforeign."

And a little later, one of them said: "Bob's the only writer whocould have broken the spine of that script. You know how he did it?He made him the amnesia victim, her the skateboarder,and saved the reveal for the last page!"

Shake and I wrapped up the evening with dinner at Fatburger. I foundBarbara Jane asleep when I got back to the hotel.

I gave her a long hug and several kisses, but she was more or less ina coma. "Hi, honey," she stirred. "Glad you're here."

She was exhausted. Show biz was taking its toll on her. Further proofof it lay on the bed beside her in the form of a wadded-upmemorandum.

It was the latest "inter-communication" that had come fromthe story department at ABC. It was for the eyes of everyone involvedwith Rita's Limo Stop; all of the people— performers,writers, directors, producers—who had been slaving on the pilot forweeks, never really knowing how many insecure, terror-strickenexecutives they were trying to please.

There had been blood spilled on every square foot of the set. Onelead had been replaced. Supporting actors had been fired andre-hired. A guest star had been written out. Another guest star hadbeen written in. The network had threatened the director withstrangulation. The director had threatened the assistant directorwith expulsion from the business. The executive producers had filedcomplaints with every guild in town. The eighth team of writers hadbeen brought in to "punch up" the script, and each pagethat flew out of a typewriter had made the show less humorous andless charming, if it ever was either of those things in the firstplace. All this to produce a half-hour of television comedy thatwould come up to the esthetic standards of Three's Company.

The cast would rehearse all day, and then somebody from the networkwho had once had a writing credit on a Grizzly Adams episodeand was now a VP in charge of development would drop by and say,"Where are the jokes?"

The writers would pound their machines until dawn, the cast wouldrehearse all day again, and somebody else from the network who hadonce written questions for a game show and was now a VP in charge ofdeli orders would drop by and say, "It seems to lack charm."

And on and on.

All of the efforts to improve the script and turn the principalcharacter into a more sympathetic, more vulnerable person had found"Rita"—Barbara Jane—being switched from a restaurantowner to the proprietor of an antique shop, then to the head of anadoption agency, and then back to a restaurant owner. At one sessionwhere everybody "went to the table," as they called it,"Rita's" eye problem had become a spot on the lung.

Hearing all of these reports periodically, I had been fearful thatBarbara Jane would purchase a handgun and go prowling through thehalls of the ABC building in Century City. Now I wondered how this"inter-communication" had affected her. I wouldn't knowuntil she awakened.

The "inter-communication" had obviously been drafted by arecent graduate of a West Coast film school, but some facelesssuperior had initialed it, doubtless unread, and it had beencirculated.

In its entirety, the memo said:




We are very excited about the potential of RITA'S LIMO STOP, and itis our feeling that we are well on our way toward creating a highlyoriginal and truly funny female buddy series. In an effort to makethe best possible pilot, however, we have a few suggestions which wethink will improve the story. Since we are so close to a blockbuster,it seems to us that it would be a shame not to further strengthen anddelineate the characters so that the relationship of our principalswill be the main focus and driving force of this unique comedy.


First, we must deepen and enrich Rita and Amanda so that their bondis more realistic and substantial, so that we might attain the hotmix we are all seeking, the magic you would find, for example, if Hudwere to have a head-on collision with Chinatown, or,literarily, if certain segments of Crime and Punishment wereblended into the fabric of Death in Venice. To make this buddyrelationship as dimensional as possible, therefore, we might want toconsider not having Rita and Amanda be friends at the start.Perhaps they don't know each other, or, for that matter, even likeeach other throughout the 60-second cold opening.

It might be that the street smart Rita regards Amanda as dim-witted,and, conversely, Amanda might not appreciate Rita's pessimisticapproach and cynical attitude toward life in general. It is ourfeeling that a more antagonistic start between Rita and Amanda wouldprovide more texture to their burgeoning friendship.

Second, as their uneasy bond grows into a symbiotic relationship,they should grow and change. Rita should drop her unyielding facade,and Amanda should become more focused and directed as a result ofRita's Pygmalion tutelage.

Third, we must emphasize their backstories and personalhistories even more. We should really get a sense of why lifeis so difficult for all of us. By establishing this, the audiencewill be rooting for them even more to succeed as career women. As inany classic buddy relationship, separately they would fail, butcollectively they triumph, outlasting the troubled, rocky watersbecause they have each other as anchors.

Fourth, their vulnerabilities must be revealed at least five times inthe pilot episode, but we shouldn't let this obscure their durabilityand self-discovery.


We would like to eliminate the chaotic situation with the beansprouts and reroute the humor more specifically toward our maincharacters and their enslavement in the restaurant. The best comedycomes out of real characters, and in line with that, we feelthat some of the secondary and supporting players are too broad—the"Evita"-singing drag queen, for instance— and that,additionally, there are times when the dialogue goes too far in termsof bawdier humor. With regard to this, we recommend losing allreferences to "dykes" and "limp wrists," as wellas Rita's quip— ad-libbed in the last rehearsal—about toxic wastebeing something the United States could export to Puerto Rico.

In short, we would like for the humor to explode from motivationalrather than parenthetical origins.


Page 1

Rita's power over Amanda must be clarified. And as of now, howwell do we know Amanda really?

Page 2

We are concerned that Rita is depicted too brazenly when she remindsKo, the Chinese chef, of his need for cosmetic dentistry.

Page 4

At present, our general feeling is that the relationship between Ritaand her ex- husband might be extraneous to the storyline. His motivesmust be embellished. If he does want Rita back, why is he withthe teenage fashion model? More backstory here.

Page 9

We like Ron, the 18-year old guru, and plan to build him up in futureepisodes, but as he now stands, he raises many plot points that arenot fully explored. Rethink.

Page 12

The friendship that Rita strikes up with the Columbia professor seemsforced. We think that by changing his character to an NBA basketballplayer, we can less inhibit the humor and achieve more of a nowflavor overall.

Page 17

Rita cannot be this tough and cynical or the audience will view heras totally unsympathetic. Why does she hate the salespersonnel at Bloomingdale's so much that she wishes a birth defect onall of their grandchildren? Here again, we are apparently dealingwith an ad-lib.

Page 19

In order to explore the predicament of our women more deeply, weshould hear and see the breaking of dishes morefrequently. We are not saying we want to stick to thestructure of farce exclusively, but we are suggesting thatthere may be some very real opportunities for double entendre, which,after all, is at the core of all great comedy.

Page 23

It seems to make more sense to us for Rita, rather than Amanda, tooverpower the transvestite who bursts in with the automatic weaponand insists on doing her recital of arias and folk songs.

Page 26

While the 30-second epilogue is very well crafted—an entree spilledin Rita's lap is quite funny and the perfect ender—we would like tosuggest one tiny change. Isn't it more likely that the entree wouldbe a beef stew? All of us here agree that curried lamb is ratheroblique. Rethink.


"They all have to die," Barbara Jane was saying the nextmorning as we had breakfast in the room.


"Not the actors, they're okay. They don't hear what they'resaying, anyhow. It's just words to go with the faces they make andthe fists they beat against the walls. You know how Carolyn...'Amanda'... studies a script. She thumbs through it and says,'Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, my line. Bullshit, my line, my line,bullshit, bullshit.'"

Barbara Jane was looking around on the room-service table forsomething other than orange marmalade to spread on her rye toast.

"Has anyone ever eaten orange marmalade?" she asked. "Hasanyone ever actually requested orange marmalade? Nobody in the wholeworld eats orange marmalade! So what happens? Every hotel serves it,every airline serves it, every place you go, there's nothing butorange marmalade! It's like chocolate-chip ice cream. Who eats that?You eat chocolate ice cream. You eat vanilla ice cream. But you don'teat chocolate-chip ice cream—and you don't eat orange fuckingmarmalade!"

"Here's some boysenberry," I said.


It was a tossup whether the director, the writers, or the executiveproducers should die first.

Barbara Jane said, "My first day on the set, the director seemedlike a pretty shrewd guy. He said, 'We're all in this together and nomatter what happens, remember one thing: the network is alwayswrong!' He says this, which I think is kind of neat; then he doesevery single thing every jerk from the network suggests! If somebodyfrom ABC's mail room came by and mentioned pirates, the directorwould hand me an eyepatch!"

So far, there had been a total of sixteen writers assigned to theproject, most of them working in pairs, none of them lasting morethan two or three days, and none of them overburdened withoriginality.

Barb said, "Here's a sitcom writer's idea of humor. Say, 'I'mtired.'"

"I'm tired," I said.

'"You're tired, what about me?'"

Barbara Jane looked at me vacantly.

"That's a laugh line," she said.

The other day, a new team of writers had come in to "punch up"the script. They had changed the line to "You're tired, whatabout moi?"

"I won't say moi," Barbara Jane had told thedirector, whose name was Jack Sullivan. "At gunpoint, I won'tsay moi."

The director had said, "It'll get a laugh, trust me."

Barb had said, "It's corny. It's dumb. It doesn't improveanything. Why can't I say something like 'You're tired, what aboutthe plumbing?'"

The director had laughed. The writers hadn't laughed. The writers hadonly stared at Barbara Jane as if she had a deformity.

An argument over the line had lasted half a day. Barb had eventuallywon. She would say something besides moi. No one knew what itwas going to be, but it wouldn't be moi. The writers neverspoke to her again.

She said, "It's like they thought they'd written 'late in thesummer of that year,' and I'd drawn a grease pencil through it."

"I've read about you temperamental stars."

"Oh, God, I know," she said. "That's the thing. I feelawful when we get into this crap. But it's not like I'm runningaround the set with a meat cleaver, threatening careers— which aremore valuable than lives out here. I'm not Barbra Streisand. I'm nottelling some director he'll never work in this town again unless hemoves the Renaissance to a more recent century so I can costume itbetter! I just don't want to say dumb lines."

The show's executive producers, Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman,should be tortured first, then put to death.

Barb said, "As bad as the writers are, the executive producersare worse. They get to re-write the writers. Sheldon and Kittycouldn't write a bad check. Sheldon wears a ten-gallon cowboy hat.Kitty's about as big as a rodent."

Barbara Jane had asked Sheldon and Kitty why they were permitted to"polish" the scripts.

"Because we're the ones who have to deliver," Kitty hadsaid.

And Sheldon had said, "We know what works, Barbara Jane. Wewrote for Fantasy Island."

It had been pretty hard to think of a comeback for that.

My wife was dashing around the suite now, gearing up for another dayof show biz. She invited me to come along and observe the turmoil. Ideclined, opting for naps, magazines, movies on TV, and more roomservice.

"I'd better stay away until the taping," I said. "Idon't like violence."

"Things should go smoother from now on," she said.

Tempers had peaked yesterday and the air had been cleared.

Barbara Jane had been rehearsing a scene in which she was supposed towalk across the room and answer the phone.

Sheldon had pushed the director aside and told Barbara Jane to grab acracker off a table and eat the cracker as she walked toward thephone.

"Nope," Barb had said. "Sorry. No way. Dustin Hoffmaneats a cracker when he walks across a room. Robert Redford eats acracker when he walks across a room. Al Pacino eats a cracker when hewalks across a room. I don't eat a cracker when I walk across a room,and neither would Rita."

Sheldon had said, "Please, don't be difficult. We know thischaracter better than you do."

Barbara Jane had turned to the director for support, but JackSullivan had only shrugged and practiced his golf swing.

"I'm not going to eat the cracker, Sheldon," Barb had thensaid.

Kitty had stepped in.

"Barbara Jane, you haven't fleshed this out fully, and we have."

"Dadgumit, you know, I meant to, but I just got busy andforgot," Barbara Jane had laughed.

It was structured into the business that executive producers weregiven a good deal of authority on a pilot, as much as they couldcommand when an empty suit from the network wasn't around. And theywere needed. Somebody would have to "stay with the show"after it got on the air. Live with it, in other words. That would bethe executive producers.

The performers would have it easy. They would only have to come infor a run-through, then the tape session. They would have the rest ofthe week free to play softball, change agents, and complain aboutShirley MacLaine getting the part they had been up for in a featurefilm.

The director wouldn't be overworked, either. He could wander in offthe golf course, do a take one and a take two, and leave word with anunderling to make sure a cassette was sent to his home.

And the writers could go on to other things. They could grind out thesame swill for other dreary pilots, punch up other mindless episodes,discuss burning issues within the Writers' Guild, and maybe completea page or two on the outline of the novel they'd been working on forthe past seventeen years.

But Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman were the people who would staywith Rita's Limo Stop if the network gave it a "go"and "ordered thirteen," which would mean the network hadliked the pilot and wasn't going to "pass on it" or "burnit off in four."

It would not only become Sheldon and Kitty's baby, they wouldsuddenly become mogulettes and might even be able to get a table in aBeverly Hills restaurant.

Barbara Jane said, "Can you imagine the mind it takes to want todo that—live with a sitcom? Executive producers aren't talentedenough to create anything of their own. Rita was conceived by somepoor, starving writer whose name we'll never know...who's probablykicking himself in the ass for ever mentioning the idea to Sheldonand Kitty in the first place. Yesterday they punched up gags, todaythey're executive producers. As we speak, I assure you Kitty andSheldon think they're whipping Hamlet into shape."

"Do you eat the cracker when you answer the phone?"

Barb's reaction to my question—a hearty laugh—assured me thatSheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman had brought out the Texan in her.

Yesterday on the set, Kitty had said to my wife, "Barbara Jane,we just can't have an impasse like this every day. Eating the crackermay not seem important to you, but certain stage business can helpdevelop a character, and in some circles, they call it acting. You'veheard of that? You might also try to keep in mind that it is Sheldonand I—not you—who happen to be responsible for making this showhomogenous."

"Aw, gee, I didn't know about the homogenous part," BarbaraJane had said. "Homogenize this, motherfucker!"

In the week that passed I saw Barbara Jane about as often as she sawthe staff in our hotel lobby, but I did get updates on the woundedwho were littering the alleys around the studio as the taping of theRita pilot crept nearer. That event was now only twenty-fourhours away.

I wasn't worried about the job my wife would do in the leading role.She could play Barbara Jane better than anybody.

And there were other matters to keep me occupied.

October had arrived and I had begun to get a little nervous about myown television career, a career that would be launched in a week'stime.

I hadn't gone into television with the idea of winning an Emmy. Ithad just been something to do—something to keep me from playing inthe streets. But like Barb, I didn't want to look foolish on the air,and yet I wasn't sure how I was going to avoid it working with LarryHoage. Somehow, I had the horrible, sneaking suspicion I would befound guilty of stupidity through association. Was there life afterstupidity? There was for Larry Hoage, but there might not be for me.

I was relieved of some of the worry after Richard Marks came to town.The head of CBS Sports called from the Bel Air Hotel to say he was onthe Coast for a few days to "doll up an affiliate." Hewanted to have a drink at my convenience. We discussed his crowdedbusiness calendar and worked out a time at his convenience.

He came by the Marquis late one afternoon. We sat in the lounge atone of those round tables where he could see into the lobby and notmiss Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, John Denver, Jack Nicklaus, or anyother celeb who might arrive to check in.

In the first five minutes of our meeting, Richard Marks complainedabout the food he'd eaten at Chasen's the night before, the food he'dtried to eat at The Palm at lunch, and the fact that he had only beenable to hire a stretched white limo. He had preferred somethingsmaller.

He only stayed long enough to have a Perrier and lime, sign a fewpapers in his briefcase, and let drop the news that he had fired DonAvery, the color man who had been working with Larry Hoage.

"I had to cut him loose" was the way he put it.

For a disturbing moment, I was fearful Don Avery had been fired tomake room for me, but that wasn't the case.

"He made two very tasteless comments on the air," saidRichard Marks. "Did you catch the Redskins-Rams game a weekago?"

Only the fourth quarter, I said.

"You must have heard them, then."

Not that I recalled.

"First, he said there had been a lot of 'mistakes' in the game.Then he said it was an 'off day' for Washington. Larry Hoage'senthusiasm counterbalanced it. Larry has drawbacks, but he's apositive guy. He gave the Rams the credit they deserved. Bob Cameroncalled me at home before the telecast was even over. I can tell youthe Commissioner wasn't very happy. He reminded me that NFL teamsdon't have off days, their opponents have good days. He wasn'tpleased that the number of penalties was mentioned, either, but Ireminded him that we're broadcast journalists. We have a job to do."

I was beginning to wonder if I would last fifteen minutes as a colorman.

"Was it all that bad?" I asked. "What Don Avery said?"

"It's a question of credibility," Richard Marks revealed,checking the time of day on his 400-pound Rolex. "You, forinstance, can say what you please."

"I can?"

"You're Billy Clyde Puckett. You've had a marvelous career.Viewers have been programmed to accept you as an authority. Who's DonAvery, anyhow? He was a journeyman linebacker at best."

"I can say somebody fucked up? The zebras blew it?"

"If that's how you see the game. I'll back you up on yourcontent every step of the way. I would hope you'll watch yourlanguage."

"I'm not Alistair Cooke."

"Clean is all I meant."

"I can do clean."

My first game would be in Green Bay. The Packers against theRedskins. Richard Marks had assigned me to a Washington game onpurpose. He wanted me to conduct a thoughtful, incisive interviewwith Dreamer Tatum, the man who had put me in television.

"It'll make a fantastic insert," he said. "Now, thatis broadcast journalism!"

An insert was one of those pre-recorded interviews a network liked toput on the air in the middle of a touchdown drive. Instead of gettingto see a 30-yard pass completion, you got to watch Phyllis Georgetalk to a rotund lineman about his off-season interest inneedlepoint.

Shake wandered down to the Marquis lounge after Richard Marks left.For a week, Shake had hardly been out of his room. He was finishingup his Playboy piece on the wonderful sport of pro football.He was nearing his deadline. The magazine wanted to publish thearticle in its January issue, which would be on the newsstands inDecember when the NFL playoffs would be starting.

Perfect timing. The public's interest in pro football would be at afever pitch while Shake would be telling America the game was afraud.

I passed along elements of my conversation with Richard Marks toShake as we turned our backs to others in the room, mostly agentswatching their clients have sneezing fits.

"You've got it made," Shake said. "You know why hefired Don Avery? Because he didn't hire Don Avery. His predecessordid. He has to back you up on everything you say on the air or admithe's made a tragic error in judgment. You know the likelihood of anetwork mogul admitting a mistake? You're golden, man."

T.J. Lambert put us on a conference call. It was later that night andT. J. wanted to speak to Shake and me at the same time. We picked upseparate phones in Shake's room and heard the joyous news. TCU wasgoing to win a national championship next season. Not the conferencechampionship, the national championship, the one that puts a coach ina class with "all them Darrell Royals." The Horned Frogswere going to be No. 1 in so many polls, the mascot might have to bechanged to a Trojan or a Cornhusker.

T. J. was a little drunk, but he said he had good reason to be. Andhe just wanted to share this happy moment with a couple of oldfriends and stalwart Horned Frogs.

He said, "It looks like I'm gonna have me a Tonsillitis Johnsonand a Artis Toothis in the same backfield!"

T.J. coughed, then belched. We heard him holler at Donna, his wife,"Damn, honey, I done cheated my ass out of a fart!"

Now he came back to us on the phone to explain how this recruitingmiracle was going to happen.

"I got Tonsillitis in my pocket," he said. "Ain't noquestion about that. Big Ed Bookman gimme a blank check and said,'Here, T.J., throw a net over that nigger and haul him in.' I donelaid a Datsun 280 on his ass, and six charge cards. My coaches hastalked to our sororities. Tonsillitis has got so much white pussywaitin' for him in Fort Worth, he's gonna have to get Riddell to makehim a wooden dick!"

Artis Toothis was another story, a bit more complicated. ArtisToothis, the speedster from the Big Thicket, last year's most-wantedblue-chipper, had wound up at SMU all right, but he had dropped outof school. His explanation to the press was that he had been lonelyand unhappy in Dallas, which was to say that he had been forced toenroll in a freshman English class, and he had heard a rumor that hismeal allowance of $3,000 a month was far below the figure a runningback at the University of Texas was getting.

Artis had gone home to Willow Neck in the sleek white Jaguar he haddecided to keep. He was mostly just lolling around the house now,playing with the cur dogs and watching one of the 240 TV channels hecould pick up from the satellite dish an SMU alum had had installedin the yard.

SMU's coaches couldn't very well complain about Artis' keeping theJaguar. It would be an admission that he had received anunder-the-table gift in the first place.

But the vital thing was that Artis Toothis hadn't played a singledown of football for the SMU Mustangs. From the start of two-a-days,he had complained of a pinched ankle, thereby giving himself time toshop around for better opportunities. Under the rules, therefore, hecould lay out a season—this one—and be eligible to play foranother school next year. And the other school was going to be TCU.

I asked T. J. why he was so certain of it.

Big Ed Bookman was arranging it, the coach said. Big Ed had come tothe conclusion that looking for chaparrals was more challenging thanlooking for dinosaurs. Big Ed had already proved himself in the oilbidness. Big Ed had realized that if he could bring the No. 1 collegeteam to Fort Worth, it would be the crowning accomplishment of hislife. They would probably re-name River Crest Country Club after him.

Any project this big had to have a solid foundation. Big Ed had begunlaying the groundwork for it by hiring Tonsillitis' brother, Darnell,as his personal assistant at Bookman Oil & Gas. He was payingDarnell a whopping salary and he had given him a big office next doorto his own. Darnell's job had nothing to do with oil or gas, ofcourse. Darnell's job was to put Tonsillitis Johnson and ArtisToothis in TCU's backfield.

Only today, T.J. reported, Darnell had visited with Artis Toothisdown in Willow Neck and it looked like they weren't that far apart inthe negotiations. It was nothing Big Ed couldn't handle with Grovers.Grover Clevelands. Thousand- dollar bills.

"You know Big Ed," T.J. said. "Ain't nobody gonnaout-Grover Big Ed when he gets that look in his eye."

T.J. let out a delirious hoot. Then he said:

"Can you imagine what it's gonna be like to have them twoburners in my backfield? Good God a-mighty! I won't have to donothin' but get out of their way and mastrebate!"

The head coach of the Horned Frogs couldn't wait for the presentseason to be over so he could start putting in his two-back offensefor next year. Since the victory I had witnessed over Rice, the Frogshad beaten only one other foe, UT-Arlington. They were 2-and-4, andthey still had to face Ohio State in an intersectional game alongwith the strongest teams in the conference, Houston, Baylor, Texas,and Texas A&M.

It looked like another 2-9 record for T.J.

"I done writ this sumbitch off," he said.

Of the gloomy prospect of having to go to Columbus, Ohio, T. J. said,"I don't know what pea-brain scheduled that cocksucker!"

Shake and I congratulated T.J. on his re-building job. We had neverdreamed the day would come when TCU would start to operate like abig-league school. Now it was upon us.

"This thing could snowball," said the coach. "Big Edwants Darnell to keep representin' athletes as a sideline."

"Sideline to what?" I said, laughing.

T.J. said, "Darnell is a geologist, in case anybody wants toknow. We got a fuckin' scroll hangin' on his wall."

Shake said, "Coach, it looks like we could be good for years tocome if we don't go to jail."

"I ain't worried about them NCAA phonies," said T. J. "Theycan come down here and sniff around all they want to. We'll strapsome perjury on they ass and send 'em home!"

I owned up to T. J. that a thought was making me dizzy but giving meconsiderable pleasure at the same time. I said it was not easy for meto envision a black man—Darnell Johnson—sitting in an office inBig Ed Bookman's oil-and-gas building, not far from River CrestCountry Club, right there on the fashionable West Side of Fort Worth,Texas, USA.

"Big Ed don't give a shit if he's polka-dot. All Big Ed wants isa winner."

Barbara Jane was a little edgy the following morning, but she hadgood reasons. The grand final Rita taping was set for thatnight at eight o'clock, and even before the cameras would roll, shefaced a busy day. Something had to be done about her hair. Decisionshad to be made about her costumes. Two dress rehearsals werescheduled during the day. And why had it turned into a Broadwayopening?

No longer was the show going to be taped before an ordinary TVaudience, the usual vagrants and loons they swept up off thesidewalks in front of the studio. I would be there. Shake would bethere. A throng of bicoastal network executives would be there. BigEd and Big Barb were flying out for it in their Lear. Burt Danby andVeronica were flying out for it in their Lear. And who could say howmany real actors and actresses might be in the audience?

Barbara Jane had known it was going to be like this, but she had putit out of her mind until now. Other things had been more urgent, likestamping out the hated moi, and letting Sheldon Gurtz andKitty Feldman know who had the fastest gun.

Now she was thinking about it as she changed the contents of a purseinto another purse, and had cigarettes going in three differentashtrays.

"I'm not sure I could get through it without Jack," shesaid.

"Nicholson?" I was looking up from the sports section ofthe Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

"Sullivan, Biff. My director."

Biff was an old joke between us. Biff was how Barbara Jane addressedme on those occasions when I would get something wrong, say somethingdumb, or do something forgetful, like not stub a check or lose adinner receipt.

By calling me Biff, it kept her from getting angry, but it alsoreminded me that I had been semi-negligent in some way.

Her use of Biff dated back to college days when we had only beenfriends.

The origin of it was a Jim Tom Pinch column in The Fort WorthLight & Shopper. My name had appeared in the openingparagraph of Jim Tom's column as "Biffy Clyde Puckett."

I was slightly surprised by the change in her attitude about thedirector, Jack Sullivan.

"I thought the director had to die?" I said to Barb as shesnuffed out one of the three cigarettes.

"He did, but now he doesn't. He's been wonderful. He hastaste... a great sense of timing. He's terrific."

"Why was he keeping it hidden?"

"It's his style," she said. "He was getting to knowthe people. He likes me—and he likes Carolyn Barnes. He knows howto work around all the crap, make it seem more intelligent."

"What's he ever done?"

"A ton of things. Features in England. He's directed on thestage. TV movies. All kinds of stuff."

"Why is he fooling around with a sitcom?"

"Money, Biff." A look sometimes went with Biff, too. "Mondoscratcho, as Burt Danby would say."

I saw Barb to the door.

"What does Jack Sullivan look like?"

"Oh, nothing special."

"I guess his crooked arm and clubbed foot only make him moresensitive, huh?"

Barbara Jane said, "He's handsomer than you, as a matter offact. He's far more thoughtful, much better educated, and dynamite inbed!"

She kissed me and left.

That afternoon I kept an appointment with a bone specialist inBeverly Hills. It was time to see how my knee was getting along.

Dr. Tim Hayes was supposed to be the top bone guy on the Coast. BurtDanby couldn't have recommended him more strongly. "Hell of aguy," Burt had said over the phone. "Member at Bel Air...ranch in Santa Barbara. Married to a juicy broad I'd love to nail.Jesus, is she something! She used to pull the curtain on one of thosegiveaway shows. All legs and teeth. Tim'll take care of you, ace. Hedid Jimmy Caan's shoulder and I think he did Lee Majors' elbow."

I went to see Dr. Hayes anyhow.

His office was in the heart of the Beverly Hills shopping district.It was on the second floor of a narrow space in a block where thediscerning ornament seeker could buy a silver-plated tennis ball foronly $1,700, where the anorexic wife of a studio boss could find the$8,000 jumpsuit she had been trying to buy, and where ardent musiclovers could spend up to $32,000 to correct the sound on theirstereos.

In Dr. Hayes's wood-paneled anteroom I announced myself to JoanCollins, the receptionist. She was whispering into a phone as shepointed me toward a glass partition, behind which sat two nurses, theLinda Evans twins. They were both snickering into phones. One of theLinda Evans twins pressed a buzzer, a door opened, and I was met byVictoria Principal, another nurse. She led me around a corner, whereI exchanged a hello with the Dyan Cannon nurse. Victoria Principalthen rapped on a door, turned the knob, and I entered a room in whichTom Selleck held an old Tommy Armour putter and was stroking golfballs across the carpet.

"Billy Clyde!" the man smiled. "You are some kind offootball player, fellow!"

"Dr. Hayes?"

We talked about the par-4s at Bel Air for a while, then about theRams, Dodgers, and Lakers. He finally got around to giving me anexamination.

The doddering old clowns in New York had done a pretty fair job on myoperation, he said. My cast could be removed in about ten more days.I could stow the crutches. Just don't overexert myself. Too bad ithadn't been a cartilage. These days, they could zap a cartilage backinto shape like magic. Put you right back in the lineup. Ligamentswere different. Ligaments took time—and rehabilitation.

The doctor said, "Billy Clyde, it's a damn shame, but I wouldn'teven consider playing football again, if I were you. Another bad blowon that knee and you'll be a mess."

"I'll just have to see how it goes."

"I'm quite serious," he said. "You want to ride on arim the rest of your life? You don't need that. I know what I woulddo. If I were Billy Clyde Puckett? A guy your age? With yourreputation? I'd rest on my laurels and ball myself into a stupor! Iguess you have to beat 'em off with a machete, right?"

"I was thinking the same thing about you," I said. "Inoticed one or two distractions when I came in here."

Dr. Hayes reacted with a look of pain. "The staff? Not hardly. Ionly keep those bitches around to dress up the office. No, sir. Ilearned my lesson about war babies a long time ago."

"War babies?"

Dr. Hayes explained that war babies were the storm troopers of thefeminine population. It must have had something to do with being armybrats. Their fathers had never been home and they'd watched theirmothers get fucked over by guys with ducktails and long key chains.War babies ranged in age from, oh, 38 to 44, and their main thing wasto get even with men.

"War babies can look terrific," he said. "But don'tlet that fool you. They're meaner than wild dogs, pal, and they canslam-dunk Rodeo Drive!"

Dr. Hayes's advice was to stick with the "smooth babies."

In fact, he knew of a smooth baby who could help with myrehabilitation. She was a bonafide therapist. Her office was in thenext block.

"I know how to exercise," I said.

"Don't say no till you've seen her," he winked. "We'retalking redhead, twenties, great tits...mouth like a crocodile."

"I have a knee," I said. "I don't need a prostate togo with it."

I left the bone specialist's office that afternoon thinking the worldwas badly in need of a treatment center for whup victims. But thenthe more I thought about it, the more I realized the world alreadyhad a treatment center for whup victims. It was called Beverly Hills,wasn't it?

Big Ed Bookman poured himself another glass of vodka and said he knewfor a by-God fact that Lucille Ball was dead.

"Lucille Ball's not dead," said Shake, dealing with aconvulsion.

"Damn sure is," Big Ed said, plunging his hand into thebucket of ice.

We were in our suite at the hotel. Big Ed and Big Barb, Burt Danbyand Veronica, Shake and myself. I had ordered up some whiskey so thatwe might prepare ourselves properly for the Rita taping.

I, for one, was not about to go into that studio and watch my wifeperform before a "live" audience of 500 people withoutgetting keenly, not so prudently—and yet cunningly—shit-faced.

From what I could gather, Shake, Big Ed, and Burt had the same ideain mind.

Big Ed, Burt, Shake, and I were standing in the middle of the livingroom of the suite. Big Barb and Veronica were on a sofa, deploringthe rising cost of Hermes handbags.

Big Ed now said, "You know so God-damn much, Shake Tiller, tellme why Lucille Ball's not dead."

"She just isn't," Shake said.

"You eat dinner with her last night or something?"

Shake laughed a no.

"That's because she's dead," Big Ed said. "I forgetwhen it was... four or five years ago. She died about the same timeas that old fat boy. There's another son-of-a-bitch who wasn't funny.What's his name? I can't remember. Don't matter. Show biz was allover for Ed Bookman when Gary Cooper died."

"Gary Cooper died?" I glanced at Shake.

Big Ed gave me an explicit look. "I'll guarantee you Gary Cooperis dead. Gary Cooper is deader than soccer!"

"When did it happen?"

"I don't know," said Big Ed, "but he hauled off anddied, just like Lucille Ball."

I turned to Burt Danby.

"Lucille Ball's not dead, is she?"

"Blanko," said Burt with a shrug.

To Shake Tiller, Big Ed said, "All right, answer this! IfLucille Ball ain't dead, what's her God-damn show doin' on televisionin black-and-white?"

Big Barb and Veronica meandered over to our conversation group.

"What's this about Lucille Ball?" Big Barb wondered.

I said, "We're trying to decide whether she's alive."


Shake tumbled onto a couch.

"That's right," he said, starting to wheeze from laughter."Why is it important? I don't need to know. Do you needto know, Billy C.?"

"I'd sort of like to know," Burt said.

Shake came up from the couch, gave Big Barb a hug, and said, "Youjust asked the greatest question I've ever heard."

Big Ed held an unlit Sherman in his teeth as he said, "I gotone! Jimmy Stewart!"

He turned down the flame on his Dunhill, and said, "No, wait!It's Gregory Peck! It's either Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck, byGod!"

Shake said, "If it's Gregory Peck, we can say goodbye to thescreenplay as we know it."

"Why's that?" I said, reaching for the young Scotch.

"I know a guy out here who told me how to write screenplays,"said Shake. "On page forty-two, Gregory Peck stands up in histrenchcoat and tells everybody what the movie's all about. On pageeighty-four, Gregory Peck stands up in his trenchcoat and tellseverybody what the movie's all about again. On page a hundred andfifteen, the movie's over. Gregory Peck slings the trenchcoat overhis shoulder and gazes into a spiritual dawn."

"That was a God-damn-good movie, too," Big Ed said. "GaryCooper wasn't in it, but I liked it."

"They can't make movies like that anymore," said BurtDanby, looking depressed. "What are they gonna do, put atrenchcoat on one of those Italian gnomes, let him go up in the B-l 7and teach the crew how to breakdance? Jesus... this fucking town."

Big Ed wanted to know what the names of those "silly newspapers"were.

"Barbara Jane refers to 'em," he said.

"The trades?" Burt volunteered. "Daily Varietyand The Hollywood Reporter?"

"That's them," said Big Ed. "They could provide a hellof a public service. They ought to print a list every day. Who hadn'tdied yet."

Shake said, "I'm with you, Ed. I say if Lucille Ball's not dead,let's tell people."

"Don't have to be a big story or anything. Just a list. JimmyStewart... Gregory Peck... Lucille Ball—if they're sure of it."

Shake clinked his glass of J&B against Big Ed's glass ofStolichnaya. "You got it, Ed. It's time to eliminate all thisdamn guesswork."

I was cornered by Veronica Danby down on the street before our limoparade left for the studio.

"We have something in common," she said.

"We do?"

"You're going to be exercising your leg. I study with thisamazing woman who used to be a soloist with the Ballet Russe. Hergrasp of body alignment is not to be believed! I have learned how toisolate so well! Most people don't know there's a correct way to useyour feet when you exercise. Are you aware of the feet?"

"I think so."

"Feet are so critical."

"Feet are right there."

"Of course, I know my body will have to be re-shaped eventually,even with all of the aerobics I'm doing now, but I hope to prolong itthrough proper exercise for ten years or more. What I wanted to sayto you is that the right kind of exercise is every bit as importantas skin care and diet, it rrreally is!"

"Thanks for the tip," I said.

Shake insisted on riding in the limo with Big Ed. He wasn't going tolet a good thing get away.

"You're tired, what about Poland?"

The show was in progress, and Barbara Jane (Rita) got her first amplelaugh from the audience with that line. She now moved away fromCarolyn (Amanda) to see about a table of "customers" whowere dining at Rita's Limo Stop.

The next thing we heard was the muffled voice of the director as itcame over the loudspeaker from the control room.

"That's a better ender for Scene One than what we have,"the director's voice said. "Let's set up in the living room,please."

All of us were sitting on the second row of an elevated grandstand inthe studio. We looked down on the television set, at the cameramen,technicians, lights, and cables.

The set consisted of the restaurant as a large centerpiece, thekitchen of the restaurant to our right, and the living room of Rita'sapartment to our left.

To one side of us in the bleachers, as part of the audience, were thebicoastal network executives, a blend of dark-suited men and tailoredwomen, all looking morbid. Their drones were seated around them,earnest young people who were filling up pages of yellow legal padwith production notes.

Directly across the aisle from us were two harlequins who couldn'thave been mistaken for anybody other than Sheldon Gurtz and KittyFeldman.

Sheldon Gurtz was a chubby man of medium height, about fifty. He hada beard and wore thick glasses, a denim suit, a string tie, his white10-gallon cowboy hat, and sneakers. When he crossed his leg, Idefinitely noticed an Argyle sock.

Kitty Feldman wore a beret, dark glasses, Cossack boots, a sackdress, and smoked with a cigarette holder. Kitty Feldman wasn'tactually as small as a rodent, but she would fit in your carry-onluggage.

I pointed out Sheldon and Kitty to our group. Sheldon and Kitty wereenemies of the people, I said.

Big Ed studied the executive producers for a moment that dragged on.His eyes were still on them as he said to himself:

"Big Silly and Little Silly."

The cameras rolled again after a man held aloft a sign that said,"QUIET, PLEASE," and another man adjusted his headset andsignaled to Barbara Jane.

Barbara Jane, who was standing in the living room of the set withCarolyn, had changed from something smashing and casual by some kindof Adolfo into something more smashing and more casual by some kindof Gianni.

As the action began, Barb walked across the living room but stoppedto pick up something off of a coffee table.

"Robert Redford's been in my apartment!" She wheeled onCarolyn.

Nobody laughed but Shake and me—and Carolyn.

"Is that a cracker?" said Carolyn (Amanda), fighting tostay in character.

"Yes!" said Barbara Jane (Rita). "And there are onlythree people in the world who leave a half-eaten cracker lying aroundin your home! Dustin Hoffman, A1 Pacino, and Robert Redford!"

Carolyn said, "How do you know it wasn't Dustin Hoffman or AlPacino?"

"They're too short to reach the table!"

I surveyed the audience. Sheldon and Kitty weren't laughing.

Buoyed by the audience's response, Barbara Jane and Carolyn set aland-speed record for ad-libs.

Carolyn said, "Rita, Dustin Hoffman's a wonderful actor. Didn'tyou like Kramer versus Kramer?"

"I didn't see it."

"Why not?"

"I know how to make French toast!"

I reached behind Big Ed and tapped Shake on the shoulder.

"She's going down in her own flames," I said.

"That's our girl," said Shake.

Back on the set, Carolyn lit a cigarette—stage business— andsaid, "I've been thinking about the restaurant, Rita. Maybe weought to take toxic waste off the menu."

"Too expensive?"

"Well, that, and...we've never been able to get the seasoningright. Jerry called you today."

"My ex-husband?"

"He's still your husband. The divorce isn't final yet."

"His personality is."

"Jerry thinks you're being tough with the lawyer because he'sgoing out with a younger woman."

"You call that girl young? Just because she hasn't beenpotty-trained?"

Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman left their seats and started up theaisle, still unamused. Perhaps it wasn't pleasant to see a showkidnapped before your very eyes.

In the final scene, a network-ordered script change had turned thetransvestite with an automatic weapon into a punk rocker who had comeinto the restaurant for dinner, the logic being that a young musicianwas more of a now character.

Barbara Jane hadn't liked the change. I was wondering how she mighthandle it.

The young musician's hair was orange and purple, he wore a peelingT-shirt, and there were four safety pins stuck in his cheeks.

Barbara Jane measured him momentarily, and said:

"Are you here to dine or would you just like to sit and bleedawhile?"

Looking at the menu, the kid said, "What have you got in the TopForty?"

"The lamb curry is nice. But you probably aren't into New Wave.It's too Rock Perennial, I suppose."


Barbara Jane said, "It doesn't bother me if a group can expressalienation with a beat I can feel—a rudimentary, garage-bandrock-and-roll, so to speak, but you probably like to break furniture,don't you?"

Barbara Jane lifted a plate of curried lamb off the tray of a passingwaiter.

"Uh... like... far-out," said the punker.

"Can you describe your music?"

"Right!" he said, overjoyed to hear a familiar cue. "Wehave a technocratic, mystical quality combined with the hostility ofHeavy Metal, you know?"

"That's what I thought," Barbara Jane said. "Here'show Duke Ellington and I deal with that!"

She shoved the plate of curried lamb in his face.

This of course got a huge laugh from the audience. The crew broke up.Carolyn stumbled across the set and collapsed in a chair.

"That's it, gang," said the muffled voice of the directorover the loudspeaker. "They call it a wrap."

The audience shifted from laughter into prolonged applause as BarbaraJane, with gestures of acute apology, began helping the stunned youngactor wipe the food off his face and neck.

The reviews from our group were all good.

Shake and I had always said that if we were ever going to watch asitcom again, it had better have a good friend or a close relative init.

Big Ed said, "That was enjoyable. By God, old Barbara Jane knewhow to handle that faggot."

Big Barb and Veronica were certain that Barbara Jane's smashing andcasual outfit in the second act had been a Versace.

"Isn't Gianni wonderful?" said Veronica. "He combinesCalvin's understatements with Oscar's flamboyance."

Big Barb said, "We met him last month in Palm Beach. We flewdown for Klaus and Mimi's horticulture party at The Breakers. Hedesigned Mimi's coveralls. Everyone dressed like a gardener andcarried a hoe. It was a delight."

Burt Danby remembered Carolyn Barnes from another period in his life."Jesus," he said, "I didn't know Carolyn was stillaround. I could have sworn she ate six miles of cock and lived inHolmby Hills now."

The Bookmans and Danbys went on to the Polo Lounge so they would feellike they had been to Los Angeles. Shake and I waited for BarbaraJane. I also wanted to congratulate the director.

Jack Sullivan was a nice-looking guy in his late thirties. He had aneffiminate way of running his hand through his hair when he talked,and I detected the hint of a British accent, but he must have beenstraight or my wife wouldn't have embraced him so enthusiastically.

Shake and I were down on the set. The studio had emptied. thedirector had emerged from the control room when Barbara Jane, havingalready received our plaudits, lurched from my arms into his.

"You beauty!" said Jack Sullivan, giving Barb a hungrykiss.

Other husbands might have read more into their behavior thanfriendship and relief, but I didn't. I knew show-biz people huggedand kissed often, even when they detested each other.

"She was great," I said to Jack Sullivan.

And Shake said, "Not since Carole Lombard have we seen—"

But Shake was interrupted by Jack Sullivan, who said, "Great?She's beyond category!"

Almost before any of us knew it, we were being encircled by thenetwork bicoastals and their drones along with Sheldon and Kitty.Everyone was assembling for the post-mortem.

Two of the bicoastals bothered to introduce themselves to Shake andme. We weren't intruding on anything, they said. Stick around. One ofthe bicoastals said the New York Giants were his team. He asked whatthe odds were on the Giants' making the playoffs.

"They're a mortal lock to lose twelve games," Shake said.

The bicoastal didn't seem to grasp the fact that I was out of theGiants' lineup. I would never know what he thought my cast andcrutches were for.

The troops congregated in the living room of the Rita set,some sitting, some standing, some pacing. Sheldon and Kitty, afraidto go near a dark suit or a tailored woman, huddled in a corner withan earnest drone and looked as if they were explaining to him thatwhat he had seen had nothing whatsoever to do with their ingenuity.

No one seemed to want to speak at first, and I never did figure outwhich dark suit and tailored woman had the most authority. None ofthem had an overabundance of it. Even I knew that the phantomdecision-makers were somewhere back in New York.

The silence was broken when Jack Sullivan said, "Well, I likedit!"

This got the bicoastals talking.

"It has a chance," said a dark suit.

"I think it has a chance," a tailored woman agreed.

A second dark suit said, "Are you saying it has a chance- chanceor just a chance?"

"It has a very good chance," the first dark suit said. "I'dliked to have heard more jokes."

"I'd liked to have seen a little more charm," said thetailored woman.

Another dark suit said, "I don't see how we can give it a goyet."

"We could give it a limited go," said a different tailoredwoman.

"Yes, we could," the second dark suit spoke up again."Or... not."

"What about a tentative go?" the first dark suit asked thegroup.

Bicoastals shook their heads affirmatively.

"We'll get more jokes in the episodes," someone said.

"And build up the charm."

The second tailored woman said, "It certainly has a betterchance than it did."

The first dark suit turned to Jack Sullivan.

"Jack, I need to know this before I go back to New York. If wegive it a tentative go... or a limited go... or even a full go... howlong can you stay with it? Can you stay thirteen?"

"It depends," Jack Sullivan said. "I can stay with itfor six. Thirteen? Hard to say. I've been talking to Paramount abouta feature. They have Brooke Shields committed, but I'm not surethey're going to get the cooperation they'll need from thePolitburo."

The director came back to the hotel with us for a nightcap in thelounge.

That was where we learned that Rita's Limo Stop was a cinchfor a full go of thirteen episodes. Jack Sullivan was more aware ofwhat was going on in the entertainment division of the network thanany of the dark suits and tailored women. One of the phantomdecision-makers in New York was an old buddy. They had shotcommercials together. The network was desperate for Rita andplanned to throw it into the prime-time lineup in late January as amid-season replacement.

Had the pilot been the worst piece of shit anyone had ever seen, itwouldn't have mattered. But the pilot wasn't that awful, JackSullivan said. The pilot was well into the upper half of mediocre—andBarbara Jane was fetching, a potentially fine actress. With herlooks, her spark, and her built-in familiarity as a model, she mightjust hit the old demographics in the heart.

Rita was practically the same thing as on the air, he said.

ABC was going to cancel two shows for certain, Car Wrecks andJerome. Rita's Limo Stop was going to get one of theslots and Celebrity Car Wrecks the other.

The network's whole schedule was being juggled.

Just Up The Street was shifting from Friday night to Thursdaynight. Buffed Up, the comedy-adventure series about a group ofdaredevils from Redondo Beach, was taking over the eight-o'clock spoton Sunday night.

The network hoped to blow everybody away on Saturday night with apowerhouse lineup. ABC intended to throw Kindergarten Discointo the hammock between Don't You Love It? and Cruds!That would give the network three big winners in a row.

Rita would fall into the nine-o'clock Sunday-night slot. Itlooked like a rating-getter. Buffed Up would be the lead-in,and Return of the Humans had been rock-solid at nine- thirtyfor more than two years.

Jack Sullivan smiled at Barbara Jane and said, "I didn't want totell you this before. We couldn't afford to let up. Looks like youand I are in for some steady employment."

Barb said, "I'd feel a lot better about it if they'd put usbehind Cruds! on Saturday. We'd be a mortal lock."

She rattled the ice in her empty glass at the bartender.

Shake said to Barbara Jane, "Let me see if I understand this.You're an actress?"

"Uh-huh," she said.

Shake turned to me. "Billy C., I don't know what we're gonna dowith Barbara Jane Bookman."

I said, "She always had a missing gene. I knew it when she quitthe Pi Phis."

The three of us laughed together. Barbara Jane leaned over and gaveShake a kiss; then she leaned over and gave me a kiss.

And the more we exchanged looks, the more we laughed—as we had somany times in the past about so many things that other people hadn'tunderstood.

Jack Sullivan was observing us with a faint, puzzled grin.

Barb finally said to the director, "Jack, you'll have to excuseus old boys from Texas if we think all this shit is pretty funny."


As a place to visit, Green Bay, Wisconsin, had never meant much moreto me than a night in a motel room, three hours of football on anArctic grassland, and a chartered jet making a getaway in a blizzard.

Therefore, in any discussion of Green Bay, I had always been at adisadvantage when sportswriters I knew had compared it to having avilla in Sorrento or taking a cruise around the Greek islands.

But I no sooner hobbled inside the terminal of the Green Bay airportwhen I was given reason to wonder if this trip— my first announcingjob for CBS—might have something more interesting in store for me.

Kathy Montgomery met my plane.

My leather overnight bag was swinging from my shoulder and a crutchwas under each of my arms when she stopped me in the airport lobby.

"Hi," she said. "Welcome to Leningrad."

She introduced herself as a member of the CBS crew and said she wasgoing to be my "stage manager."

She took the bag from me. Easier on the hobble.

"I'm not supposed to meet people at airports," she said,"but, golly, Billy Clyde Puckett! How could I turn that down?"

In the beginning, I said I would be talking about events thathappened a year ago. The drinking man's memory becomes all the moreclouded in a year's time, so I wouldn't want to exaggerate my firstimpression of Kathy that day.

She was just your average, friendly, likable young girl oftwenty-four who happened to be outrageously fucking gorgeous.

As Kathy Montgomery drove me to the motel where the CBS crew wasstaying, I learned some things about my stage manager.

She was a graduate of Berkeley, but she was ingrained with the sanityof a South Dakota childhood. She had grown up in Sioux Falls. She hadbeen with CBS for three years, having gone to work for the network asa secretary just out of college "to get in the door." Shehad just been promoted to stage manager from "broadcastassociate," which used to be called "production assistant,"or "PA," or, more to the point, "go-fer." Stagemanager was another step toward becoming a producer or director of"live" events, news or sports. That was her goal in life,to work "behind the camera."

"When it's live, I'm spun," she said.

I took that to mean she was enthusiastic about live telecasts.

She would be up in the broadcast booth during the game with LarryHoage and me. Her job was to keep us coordinated with the producer,give us cues, hand us promo cards, alert us to improvisations—andsee that we didn't run out of coffee. She had been assigned to our"announce team" for the rest of the football season.

"Like it or not, you got me," she bubbled. "I'm yourtrusty sidekick."

I didn't do the old line about what's not to like, but I'd be lessthan candid if I said it hadn't entered my mind.

This was a gray, misty Saturday in Green Bay. A bite was already inthe wind although the date was only Oct. 9. The work clothes on thesidewalks would soon be blooming into mackinaws.

"When did you get to town?" I asked Kathy.

"A month ago yesterday."

By the time we reached the motel, I had found out from Kathy that myappointments for the afternoon and evening were plentiful.

Wade Hogg, the Green Bay coach, was expecting me to drop by hisoffice. Ray Hogan, the Washington coach, was expecting me to drop byhis motel room. It was customary for the TV color man to visit withboth head coaches before a game. The color man needed to know whatsurprises, if any, to anticipate. The Redskins were headquartered atour motel. That would make it easy for me to knock off theall-important insert with Dreamer Tatum.

Kathy said, "I spoke to Dreamer Tatum. He's real happy you'regoing to be here."

"He's a friend."

"Dreamer's the guy who whaled on your knee, right?"

"He didn't mean to."

"That's how it was for us in college. At Cal, you're supposed tohate Stanford. But everybody I knew liked Stanford. Everybody I knewat Stanford liked Cal. I think the hate's more for the Old Blues andthe Down-on-the-Farms. Stanford has a neat band. "White Punks onDope" is one of their fight songs. Ever heard it?"

"It missed the charts, I guess."

It was Kathy's information that Larry Hoage would be arriving in theearly evening on somebody's corporate jet— one of those Tennecos,Nabiscos, or Fritos. Some rich guy was making sure the celebrityannouncer reached his broadcast assignment from a speakingengagement.

"You know Larry Hoage?" Kathy asked.

"I've only loved him from afar."

"He'll complain about his room. That's always first."

A dinner reservation had been made in the motel's "gourmet"restaurant for me, Larry Hoage, Mike Rash, the telecast director, andTeddy Cole, the telecast producer. Rash and Cole were bright youngguys, really good at their jobs, Kathy said.

"What about you?" I said to the stage manager, who couldhave retired the Miss South Dakota Trophy if she had ever entered thecontest.

Kathy was an exquisitely built 5-8, a golden-haired beauty withmischievous, sea-blue eyes and what you call your radiant complexion.

"Dinner's just for the big guys," she said.

"Used to be. If you're gonna be my trusty sidekick, dinner'spart of the deal."


"I've always had a weakness for the Nordic combined."

Body. Eyes. Hair.

"The what?"

"Nothing. You're coming to dinner."

"Great! I brought a clean pair of sneaks."

Inviting Kathy Montgomery to come along to dinner was a harmlessenough thing to do, I thought. There was no point in letting ourprofessional relationship begin on an awkward social footing.

Contrary to what Shake Tiller would say about it in the months tocome, I'm certain I would have extended the same invitation to mystage manager if she had been a sawed-off little bilingual, eruditebeefo-dyke from an Eastern girls' school instead of the winner of theNordic combined.

Here again, I knew how to deal with the unfounded accusations ofthose who questioned my moral fiber.

A man simply told the truth.

Or lied.

Before America had been brain-washed by television, a professionalfootball coach had never been called brilliant. A coach was wily,crafty, shrewd, inventive, determined, cagey, respected, innovative,sometimes even lovable, but never brilliant. He wasn't called abrilliant organizer, administrator, delegator, thinker, or teacherbecause he didn't know anything about self-promotion. He kicked aplayer in the butt and told him to win games.

Every coach in the National Football League is brilliant now. He'sperceived as brilliant for many reasons. One, he speaks a foreignlanguage: "Zone, gap, flex, crease." Two, he has a loyalstaff. Three, he has an energetic organization. Four, his ownerstands behind him. Five, his computerized scouting system hasrevolutionized the game. Six, the whole community's on his side.Seven, he has an unselfish family. Eight, he's earned the respect ofevery player on his team. Nine, he never panics during a game. Andten, he has a vague past in which he learned some kind of secret fromeither Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, or Bear Bryant.

But the main reason he's brilliant is because television says so.

Meanwhile, there are things about the brilliant coaches that puzzleme. If they're so brilliant, why do they all use the same offense anddefense? Why do they all say, "We like to establish our runninggame, then throw"? Why do they then say, "You win withdefense"? And why can't they answer a simple question about whathappened in a game until they've seen the films?

Players always know what happened in a game. If it's a game you lost,it's because some dumbass missed a block or dropped a pass. If it's agame you won, it was because the quarterback ignored the brilliantcoach's "game plan" and threw a pass on a busted play and aleaper went up and outwrestled somebody for the ball.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Seventies had stuck with ChuckNoll's game plans, they would have lost three of their four SuperBowls. They'd still be running Franco Harris on trap plays. But TerryBradshaw, the quarterback, happened to notice that he needed to getsome points. So he chunked the ball a mile into the twilight, andLynn Swann jumped 10 feet off the ground and caught it, and this madeChuck Noll brilliant.

Shoat Cooper had been brilliant when Hose Manning would throw theball away and Shake Tiller would go catch it.

Shoat could explain it to the sportswriters with brilliance. He wouldsay, "Our reference was Red all the way. They showed us Blue butthey jumped into Yellow. Naturally, we had to switch from Odd toEven. Against a Concealed Zone, you have to go underneath. We knewthe Crease was there."

Shoat often talked like this to the players, but when his terminologyoverdosed the alphabet, we would only pretend to listen.

Nobody on our team would have understood the play if Hose Manning orDump McKinney had come into the huddle and said, "Brown left,eighty-nine flex, overload K, Y-sideline, Z-trap motion on two."

We would have had to call time-out until the laughter stopped.

That was the kind of thing they said in the Dallas huddle, which waswhy the Cowboys, despite their enviable record all these years, hadnever beaten a team that was physically worth a shit.

What Hose or Dump was more likely to have said in our huddle was"Their right corner looks a little stoned to me. I'm gonna throwit over the fucker's head. Y'all try to block somebody."

Much of this was going through my mind as I now sat in the presenceof Wade Hogg, Green Bay's brilliant new coach.

The contrast between the offices of Wade Hogg and T. J. Lambert wouldhave gone a long way toward reinforcing Uncle Kenneth's argumentabout the college game being more fun. In Wade Hogg's office, I feltat first like applying for a personal loan, but then it became aproblem to maintain a dignified posture as I studied the signs on hiswalls.

Wade Hogg's most prominent sign was framed and hung on the wall overhis Portabubble. The sign said:


Given enough time and thought, I decided Green Bay's defensive unitcould probably understand the wisdom of that, but I would have defiedanyone other than Wade Hogg to explain the sign that said:

W = 1/2 MVT. + 1/2 INSP.

"Simple," said Wade Hogg. "Winning equals one-halfmotivation plus one-half inspiration."

I studied the sign another moment as the coach said:

"One of the things I've introduced to the Packers—it's new inthe league, by the way—is the correct use of energy. We're prettysold on it around here. What we tell our people is this: the energyof an object will grow as its speed increases. We want our energy togrow! If you're a football team and your energy doesn't grow,you've got a kinetic problem. What we believe is that worktransformed into energy exerts force. There's no questionabout that. And a growing force is a football team to contend with!"

I wished Wade Hogg luck and said I hoped he didn't run into too manyteams that stressed blocking and tackling.

"Oh, I think fundamentals will always be a part of the game,"he said. "Where we've taken the lead is in the way we've learnedhow to transfer our kinetic energy from a gravitational to an elasticobject. How's the knee coming along?"

"Okay," I said.

"Those damn gravitational injuries," he said, shaking hishead. "Wouldn't have happened if you'd been in our elasticprogram."

I had tried to picture Wade Hogg as the prehistoric interior linemanhe'd been when he played for the Detroit Lions. It was easier thanpicturing him as the head coach of the Packers, but it was my guesshe wouldn't have the job much longer if he didn't stop reading thatfucking book, whatever it was.

Later, I was up in Ray Hogan's room at the motel with my headswimming in X's and O's.

The Redskins' coach was more of the old, traditional taskmaster, thekind who drew diagrams as he talked—and talked in a language thatonly a football coach could decipher.

"We don't care what they do tomorrow," said Ray Hogan,scribbling on sheets of motel stationery. "If they show us this,we're here. If they're here, we're right here. You can't do this tous. We'll do this. Let's say they're in a three. Hell, that gives usthis! They go to a four, we do this. Or this. If they bring in thenickel, this is open. We'll take what they give us. I'm not worriedabout our offense. They'll play Redskin football."

"Like they did against the Rams?" I didn't think it wouldhurt to give old Ray a jab.

"Aw, that was just one of those given Sundays," he said."All teams have 'em. Your people have 'em. We had this open allday. Never could hit it. We could have run here till Christmas. Putthis guy out here, they have to do this. Look what that leaves? Hell,it's a landing strip! Of course, we kept trying to do this—and theywouldn't give us that."

"Zebras tried to help you out."

"They dropped a few, didn't they? Well, they get a lot ofcriticism, but they do a pretty good job overall."

"You think all of them are honest?"

"In the National Football League? Our game officials?Goodness, Billy Clyde, that's the craziest question I ever heard! Ofcourse they're honest! They're wrong half the time but they'rehonest! It's those dang judgment calls! Did he or didn't he? Was heor wasn't he? All coaches die of a judgment call sooner or later."

"Charlie Teasdale makes his share of them," I said.

"Charlie will drop a flag for you. Old Quick Flag, we call him.He likes to drop one early, let you know who's boss out there. I'veaccused him of wanting to get on television too much."

"What does he say?"

"You can't talk to an official. You can talk to a Pope or a kingor a president, but you can't talk to an official. Charlie's a realbad official, but he's not dishonest."

Ray Hogan said you had to know how to use the officials to youradvantage.

"They almost never call the same penalty twice in a row. So ifwe get a holding call, we tell our people to grab anything that moveson the next play. In other words, you hold after a hold, don't you?If we get a pass-interference call, we tell our people to undress thescoundrels on the next play! But this isn't anything new, BillyClyde. Hell, I bet they taught you this in high school in Texas,didn't they?"

Yes, they had.

I pressed the other point one more time.

"Coach, you don't think there's even a remote chance an officialwould do some business?"

"Not a chance," said Ray Hogan. "For one thing,they're too stupid."

I asked the Washington coach if there was anything I needed to knowabout his defense.

"We'll be in this most of the time," he said, returning tohis diagrams. "It's been good to us. We may show 'em this nowand then, try to get 'em to come here. Right here's where we'd liketo keep 'em. You're not going anywhere here. We'll come if they dothis. We'll come if they do that. We love for 'em to try this! It'sall up to Dreamer tomorrow. If Dreamer decides he wants to come tothe dance, our defense will be all right. They'll play Redskinfootball."

Was Dreamer Tatum coming to the dance?

I asked Dreamer the blunt question as the two of us had a drink inthe motel bar. We were waiting for Kathy and a camera crew so wecould do the insert.

Dreamer gave me a look when I put the question to him.

"Between you and me, Clyde?"

He could trust me, I assured him.

"I'm Dixie," he said.

I told Dreamer I had assumed as much when I saw the Rams-Redskinsgame on television.

"You changed the future of pro football," Dreamer said."Our conversation when you were in the hospital? I got tothinking about it later. You were right. We couldn't win a strike.I'm leading the Players Association in a new direction."

The problems were the same, he said. The players didn't havecollective bargaining, the owners had completely undermined thefree-agency system. A football player was less able to get afair-market value for his services than a steel-worker. A player'ssalary was still determined by the "whim" of the owner.

"We threatened a strike," he said. "We made a bignoise about wanting a percentage of the TV revenue, trying to force awage scale on 'em. They only called us Commies. They don't realizeit's only another form of profit-sharing. Profit- sharing is ahundred years old in this country, man! The owners' grandfathersinvented profit-sharing! Looks like the grandfathers were smarterpeople, doesn't it?"

We were alone in the bar. Dreamer lowered his voice anyhow and had agleam in his eye as he said, "We're going to Plan B, Clyde.Operation Dixie. That's the code name. It came out of ourboard-of-directors meeting."

"Play bad on purpose?"

"We're all goin' Dixie," he said.

"What do you think you'll accomplish?"

With satisfaction, Dreamer said, "An inferior product!"


He said, "The big turn-off is coming, man. The public will wakeup one day and say, 'What's this shit coming down?' We keep our jobs,but the game becomes a joke. TV ratings drop. This hits the owner inhis pocketbook. Stadiums are empty. Coaches get fired by the dozens.Players get traded frantically. Every team is a bag of garbage. Aseven-nine record gets you to the playoffs! The press gets hot. Ballclubs are an embarrassment to their communities. Owners commitsuicide. We figure in less than two seasons, we can create masshysteria."

"How many players are going along with you on this?"

"In a strike action, we were never going to get more thansixty-five percent. That became apparent. Too many Republicans in theleague. Operation Dixie takes it out of the realm of politics. Wethink we have ninety-five percent right now. Among other things,there's less risk of injury."

"Sorry you didn't think of it sooner," I said. "I'dstill be in a uniform."

"You could play on crutches now and you wouldn't get tackled!"

Dreamer said the Players Association had appointed a ScriptCommittee.

Members of the Script Committee were in charge of thinking up ways tobreak the hearts of the owners and fans. Missed field goals fromclose in, fumbles on key downs, dropped passes for touchdowns. Thesewere only a few. The possibilities were limitless.

Everybody was looking forward to the hilarity of it, Dreamer said. "Ateam drives all the way down the field. A field goal will win it.They're on the five-yard line. The owner's up in his box celebrating,but—"

"It's blocked?"

"Bad snap," Dreamer's grin was what you'd call sinister.

How was it all going to be resolved in the master plan? I inquired.

Dreamer said, "The owners will figure out what's going on andask for a meeting. We'll get a wage scale and free agents withbargaining power. In return, we play football again."

"If it goes on too long, you won't regain the public'sconfidence."

"That's true, but it's a problem of the owners', not ours.What's the worst thing that'll happen? The NFL dies, right? So what?Somebody starts a new league. Rich guys will always want to ownfootball teams and they'll always need athletes. We've got 'em,Clyde. We've got 'em right here."

Kathy and a two-man camera crew came into the bar. There was a nicespot where we could do the insert, she said. It was over in a cornerof plastic flowers near the indoor swimming pool.

On our way to set up for the interview, I said to Kathy, "Dreamerwas just telling me how the Redskins are ready to get after 'emtomorrow."

She looked at Dreamer, and said, "Pumped up, huh?"

"I've never seen a team as well prepared," he said.

Kathy positioned Dreamer and I on a small brick wall that separatedthe indoor swimming pool from the motel's Pong games, vendingmachines, and AstroTurf putting green. She handed me a microphone.

"Just chat informally for about ten minutes," she said."Try to look relaxed. It'll help with the editing if you cankeep your questions and answers as short as possible."

"How much of this will they use?" I asked.

"About sixty seconds," said Kathy. "Maybe ninety."

"That much?"

"Go!" Kathy said, as a hand-held cameraman moved in closerto us.

Our faces—Dreamer's and mine—grew solemn. Holding the mike, Iturned to the Redskins' cornerback and said, "What about thisWashington team, Dreamer?"

"They're the most dedicated athletes I've ever been associatedwith, Clyde. Our workouts have been the most intense I've everseen—and you know the old saying: if you practice well, you playwell."

"You're a vice-president of the Players Association. There'sbeen a lot of strike talk, as we know. Has this had an effect on thefootball we're seeing this year?"

"I'm glad you ask that question," Dreamer said. "Wehave our differences with the owners, of course, but I look for asettlement in the near future because the players and the owners havea big thing in common: love of the game. From the players' point ofview, we would never let our negotiations interfere with thecompetition on the field. We're football players first. To answeryour question, I've never seen the quality of play on a higherlevel."

"The injury," said Kathy, intruding. "Talk about theinjury."

"My injury?" I said.

"Keep going, we're rolling!"

To Dreamer again, I said, "Uh... let me ask you about a rumor,Dreamer. Is it true you've been seeing a psychiatrist since youcaused the injury that put me out of pro football?"

Dreamer was alert.

"Uh...I haven't actually sought professional help, but I'vediscussed it at length with a good friend who studied psychology inschool."

"At Ohio State?"

"Yes. He reminded me I'd played football for Woody Hayes and Icouldn't be held responsible for my violent actions in an adultsociety."

"I would agree with that. And I'd like to take this opportunityto tell America I don't hold a grudge. You had a job to do, Dreamer.I respect that."

We shook hands with sincerity—on camera.

And Dreamer said, "It's a tendency I haven't been able to bringunder complete control. I see a ball-carrier and there's this crazy,animal urge that takes over my body. It's like I'm possessed and theonly emotional release I have is to hurt somebody. Quite frankly, Iwouldn't want to be in a Green Bay uniform tomorrow."

"Great!" Kathy said, stepping in to take the mike. "That'sincredible! Richard Marks will go bonkers."

"All a man knows is what people tell him," I said.

Kathy said, "It's fantastic! We have the scoop on the strike! Wehave the inner feelings of the man who injured you! We have—"

"Kathy," I said, cutting her off. "We'll chat later,okay?"

I led Dreamer off to the side for a moment. In a half- whisper, Iasked him if he was aware of the magazine piece Shake Tiller had beenworking on.

"We helped him on it," Dreamer said. "He's not gonnacome out and say Operation Dixie is an official position of thePlayers Association. He's gonna lay it out as his own theory—arumor. This'll get their attention, baby."

"Who, the FBI?"

"The owners, man."

I hadn't known exactly what would be in Shake's story, other than alibelous condemnation of the zebras. Shake hadn't wanted me to readthe article before he sent it off to Playboy. What I didn'tknow wouldn't hurt me.

"We laid it all out for him," Dreamer said. "We wantedit in print, like a trial balloon, you understand what I'm sayin'?There's a better-than-even chance the owners are idiots and theycan't figure out what's going on. Shake's story will tell 'em. We'lldeny there's an Operation Dixie, but the idea will be planted. It'llfester in their minds. The more it festers, the quicker they'll cometo the bargaining table."

"I'm trying not to be troubled by the logic," I said.

In parting, Dreamer said, "If you'd been more active in theassociation, Clyde, you'd know this is what's called creative use ofthe media. It's just another way for us to tell the owners how it is.We're saying if you fuck with us, Jack, you're fuckin' with yourheartbeat!"

Larry Hoage's firmly held layers of streaky gray hair somehow lookedheavier to me in person than they had on television.

He had come to dinner that night in a cashmere hounds'- tooth jacketover a white cashmere turtleneck, and—it was more than ahunch—makeup.

The color of his face was in that area between an orange golf balland coffee with cream. The face had undergone a couple of lifts, andhis teeth had been painted. Larry's face also told you that the mindwhich controlled it had never, in all his forty-odd years, given athought to anything more complicated than his own personalappearance.

Larry Hoage was not the Talking Head on which all other televisionpersonalities had been patterned, but he was the perfect example of aman who had made a fortune out of radio and TV through the sheerlunacy of his profession, and had mistakenly attributed this accidentto his intelligence.

Like so many others in his business, Larry Hoage had become apersonality on looks and voice alone. He was everything wrong withbroadcasting, but you couldn't convince anyone in broadcasting of it.Larry had become a recognizable face, therefore he was a star.

He had come up the usual way. He had done it all for a TV station inLos Angeles—news reader, weather reader, editorial reader. Oneevening he had filled in for the sports reader, and somebody hadliked his enthusiasm, his delivery. Sports was fun and Larry's ho,ho, ho's made it even more fun, somebody thought.

The network began to call on him in emergencies to do play-by-play oncollege football and basketball games. Another fool thought he hadtalent. One of Richard Marks's predecessors. Larry was thus assignedto the NFL. That's when Larry got serious. The NFL wasn't sport, itwas patriotism. A new NFL shill was born. The league liked shills,hence the network liked Larry.

All this started fifteen years ago. Larry had since becomeestablished, a big name. He knew how to shake hands with affiliates,tell jokes to sponsors. He never refused an assignment, nevercomplained about being overworked. If you needed a guy to fly allnight and host a surfing show or interview a Bulgarian weightlifter,Larry was your man.

The network publicity department promoted him as hardworking,studious, reliable. He was a "good family man," it wassaid, because he had a dopey wife and two dopey kids and lived in adopey house in Orange County. I had no doubt that on the walls of hisden you would find photos of Larry lounging in golf carts in PalmSprings with Gerald Ford, Gene Autry, and Bob Hope.

Perhaps worse than anything, Larry believed that the endless clichésin which he spoke were his own original thoughts.

I stood up to greet Larry when he arrived at our dinner table."Number Twenty-Three," he said. "Shake Tiller, Eighty-Eight; T.J. Lambert, Fifty-One; Hose Manning, Seventeen— one of thegreat New York Giant teams!"

"Hose was Number Nine," I said.

"Pablo Patterson, Sixty-Seven," said Larry.

"Puddin Patterson?"

"How 'bout that game in the snow? Everybody on their feet atYankee Stadium, the field a virtual quagmire, the wind whippingthrough the bleachers. I thought the Eagles were home free, but oldEighty-Eight showed 'em! Whatta catch!"

"I caught it."

"Glad to have you aboard, Billy Clyde! At ease, sport, we'llcarve out a niche for you!"

Larry shifted us around so that he could sit at the head of thetable. This way, he could face the room; rather, the room could facehim. Kathy and I were on his left. Kathy looked more grownup in askirt, sweater, and heels. Mike Rash and Teddy Cole were across fromus. Mike and Teddy could have passed as twins in their jeans, fatiguejackets, uncombed hair, and laid-back attitudes.

Every time I looked at Larry during dinner I remembered an old Texasexpression. In a convenient moment, I'd murmured it to KathyMontgomery: "If Larry had a brain, he'd be outdoors playing withit."

Only Larry had complained about the frozen lobster tails, thelukewarm baked potato, and the salad bar in the motel's gourmetrestaurant.

The others were finishing off the remains of a good Michigan wine,and I was finishing off the remains of a young Scotch, as Larry said,"Well, chilluns, I think we're in for a real old-fashioned,gut-bustin' sidewinder tomorrow! This is going to be some kind offootball game!"

Nods and hums greeted Larry's statement.

He turned to Kathy and said, "Before I forget, tell the frontdesk to put me in another room. These walls are so darn thin. The guynext door to me has a bladder problem. I don't want to listen to thatall night!"

"No problem, be right back," said Kathy, bolting out of thedining room.

A waiter brought the dinner check while Kathy was away. Larry Hoagewas handed the check, an act that startled him. But he quickly lookedrelieved as Teddy Cole reached over, picked up the check, andcasually signed it.

"Can't argue with the producer," Larry said to me."Producers have the big pencil!"

My colleague held out his wineglass to Mike Rash.

"How 'bout it, El Directo? Any vino left?"

Mike Rash emptied the last of the wine into Larry's glass as Kathyreturned to the table. Larry was being moved to a suite.

"I gave the bell captain five dollars to make sure he does itnow," she said.

"Now, you put that on your expense account, young lady!"said Larry.

"She's not allowed," Teddy Cole said, digging lazily intohis pocket. He tossed a $5 bill to Kathy.

"It's no big deal," Kathy said, hesitant to pick up themoney.

I took out my moneyclip and pulled off a $100 bill. Offering it toKathy, I said, "Here, I'll put you on my expense account."

Kathy poked me on the arm.

I put the hundred away, having had my little joke. Mike Rashmentioned to Larry that I had done a "very good" insertwith Dreamer Tatum that afternoon.

"Excellent job," Teddy Cole said.

"Really neat," said Kathy.

"Dreamer Tatum!" Larry Hoage blustered. "NumberThirty-Two! You don't run the football at him, boy! You'llcome up a day late and a dollar short!"

"He's a good one," I said.

"Yes, sir, chilluns, you don't stick your hand in the cookie jarwhen Dreamer Tatum's around! He'll snatch you bald- headed!"

"Billy Clyde interviewed him today," Teddy Cole said.

"Dreamer Tatum is one of the all-time greats!" Larry Hoageguaranteed us. "He'll come after you like a hookin' bull!"

"We're not on the air yet, Larry," said Mike Rash.

Larry stood up.

"Okay, chilluns, I've enjoyed it, but it's time for the OldProfessor to do his homework!"

He looked down at Kathy.

"Press guide in my room?"


"Flip card?"


"Today's papers?"


"Gate pass?"


Now he looked at me.

"Glad to have you on the flight deck, Billy Clyde. Don't worryabout a thing. Any problems, I'll get you down out of the fog, nosweat!"

"Thanks, Larry."

"Who do you like in this melee?"


"I'll tell you who I like. When you've been around this sport aslong as I have, you kind of get an inkling, you know? I've got afeeling the Redskins are going to cut the old wolf loose when theyring that bell tomorrow! Yes, sir, I think Washington's gonna put thebig britches on 'em!"

On his way out of the restaurant, Larry paused to sign autographs forpeople at two different tables. I thought of getting their names andturning them over to the proper authorities. With such lunatics onthe prowl, I figured no one in Green Bay was safe that night.

Kathy, Mike, Teddy, and I walked into the lobby. I presented theoption of a nightcap in the motel bar before bedtime. Everyonepassed.

Mike and Teddy said goodnight. They shuffled away down separatehallways.

"Sure you don't want a drink?" I said to Kathy.

"No, thanks. I have to be up at dawn."


"There's a lot of stuff to take care of."

"The kickoff's not till one o'clock."

"It's sleaze work, but that's what trusty sidekicks do."

She offered me a handshake.

"Hey, listen, it's really neat to know you. This is gonna befun, having you around," she said.

Unexpectedly, then, she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

"See you up in the booth!" And she walked away. I watchedher all the way down the hall. When she had disappeared around acorner, I hobbled toward my own room to call the missus.

Things were certainly hopping at Enjolie's in Beverly Hills, whichwas where the long-distance operator had managed to locate BarbaraJane Bookman, star of Rita's Limo Stop.

It was official. Word had come in that afternoon. Rita was afull go for thirteen episodes. It was slotted into ABC's prime-timelineup in January.

Naturally, everybody had to celebrate. Barbara Jane had gone over toEnjolie's to meet Carolyn Barnes and Jack Sullivan. And the old DomPerignon corks were flying all over the room, soaring into thebucketed trees and bouncing off the threadbare sweaters ofscreenwriters who were discussing the use of the CUT TO as Dickenswould have applied it.

"I'm afraid we're making a scene," Barb said.

"How are the witches taking it?"

"The good witches think we're somebody important. They aren'tsure who, but they're smiling. The bad witches are watering theflowers."

"You did good," I said. "I guess now I'd better findout where Sheldon Gurtz has his suits made."

Only half the war was won, Barb said. Now the show had to get theratings. It had to make the Top Twenty—like Notre Dame everyseason, even with 5 losses—or it wouldn't be renewed for next year.This made it all the more important for the scripts to be good, andall the more necessary for Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman to die.

"You didn't invite them tonight?"

"They're having their own party in the Valley."

"Hardly as festive as where you are."

"Might be better. They'll have Hula Hoops."

"So Barb, what does it all mean—in terms of life its ownself?"

What it meant was, Barbara Jane was going to stay at the WestwoodMarquis for another three months for sure. I would try to be there asoften as possible. If the show was successful in the ratings, shewould stay on even longer because the network would want to startshooting episodes for next fall.

The prospect of becoming a bicoastal myself did not thrill me, but Ididn't want to bring up a selfish point at the moment, not in themidst of a gala occasion.

"All we can do is root for good scripts," I said.

"Jack's going to write some of them."


"Jack Sullivan, Biff."

"Oh, right."

"I think—I hope—Jack can take over as executive producer. Itcould make the whole difference in whether the show takes off."

"Seems like a good guy," I said. "Shouldn't Icongratulate Carolyn Barnes? Put her on a minute."

"Uh...she's in the ladies' room. I'll tell her for you. How's itgoing out there? Ready for the big debut?"

Other than Larry Hoage, I said I had only met the director, producer,and stage manager. They were all good people.

"Who are they?"

"Mike Rash is the director. Teddy Cole produces. They're acouple of young hotshots."

"Did you say stage manager?"

"It's a person in the booth who helps coordinate everything. Thestage manager's sort of a step above a go-fer, your own trustysidekick. The stage manager met my plane."

"Good guy?"

"I like him okay. His names's...Ken Montgomery."

"I have to get off the phone, babe. Three adorables are waitingto call their service. Be yourself tomorrow. Have fun. Enjoy it. I'mgoing to tape the game."

"Did you get a Betamax for the room?"

"Jack has one. We're going to watch it at his house."

There was more than one reason why I had trouble getting to sleepthat night. I was hyped-up about the telecast, of course. I was alsobeginning to feel a growing concern over my wife's fondness for herdirector, Jack Sullivan. But I wouldn't want guilt to slip awaywithout a share of the credit.

I had lied about my stage manager and it had been a cowardly thing todo. Why had I lied? I hadn't laid a glove on Kathy Montgomery. Whythe guilt?

Well, I knew why. I had flirted with Kathy. And why had I flirtedwith Kathy? Because she was a good-looking rascal and I was a man—andall men have that one-eighth of a gangster in them.

As Connie had once said to Uncle Kenneth, "They couldn't anymore get the sorry out of you than they could scrape the shit off aNavajo blanket!" That was it. Men were one-eighth gangsters, butwomen were one-eighth bitches. Jump ball. It was called life itsownself, and you had to learn to laugh at it, live with it.

But I still hadn't been able to go to sleep that night until I'd readthe chapter of Shake's book that had been inspired by his childhood.


Most married people are unhappy.

The main reason they're unhappy is because they can't go to movies asoften as they once did.

This breeds a restlessness that spreads poison all through therelationship.

They start to expect too much from each other, to make unreasonabledemands, and

look for things to give each other shit about.

Married people give each other more shit about money than anythingelse.

That's because money is what it takes to eat, buy clothes, go tomovies, and take vacations.

The big difference between married men and married women is theiroutlook on money. Women like to spend all the money on wallpaper anddrapes but always have the same amount of money in the bank in caseof an emergency. Men like to spend all the money there is on goodtimes, then make some more when they run out, or maybe not buy newwallpaper.

One of the reasons married men like to talk to single women isbecause single women almost never talk about wallpaper or drapes.Single women mostly talk about dope.

A few years ago, single women liked to talk about hard-ons, which wasstill better than wallpaper. And married women hardly ever talkedabout hard-ons.

That's changed. Today, married women probably talk more abouthard-ons than single women because they know more deckhands. Marriedwomen meet the deckhands on cruises their husbands shouldn't havetaken them on because the money should have stayed in the bank whereit belonged.

Loretta Lynn, the singer, once said the truest thing in the world:"Love don't grow old; people do."

The result of that truth is a tired marriage. And big trouble. Theshit starts to fly.

First thing a man knows, he's told he can't have a Labradorretriever. So to get back at his wife, the man says if she wants togo to a

movie, she can go hire a fag to take her.

Then they start to argue about everything that happened twenty yearsago—and naturally it all comes down to where'd the money go thatwas here the other day?

There ought to be a marriage boutique that sells a certificate forthe husband to keep around the house to show his wife when she giveshim heat about money.

He can whip out the certificate when she looks at the bank statement,sees they're broke, and starts to raise blood-curdling hell.

He can show her the certificate and say, "Heck, Matilda, Ithought it would earn more if I took it out of savings and put it inthe Corporate Income Fund."

"How much do we have?"

"Gee, I don't know, but I'll ask the broker Monday. I'm sureit'll be worth more after he rolls it over."

This will relieve her mind. She can go look at wallpaper and the mancan relax and watch the Texas-OU game in peace.

I have long advocated government-sub- sidized marriage. Withoutmarried people, our society would collapse. Married people are theonly ones who vote, and somebody has to elect the vermin who callthemselves servants of the people and appoint the bureaucrats whofuck up our lives.

Thus, if married people are going to be the backbone of ournation—and if these same married people are going to suffer themost abuse from each other—they should be paid by the government todo it. This would take the heat off love and put the heat on hardwork, which is what a lasting marriage requires.

Social diseases have caused a fair amount of shit in marriage.

Husbands and wives alike tried unsuccessfully for years to sell theirpartners on the toilet seat, drinking glass, bedsheet explanation forsocial diseases.

Recently, I have noted a trend toward more creative thinking.

Wives who initially contract the dose from a deckhand have nowlearned to blame their husbands for passing it on to them. Since allhusbands are guilty of cheating anyhow, they believe it, accept theirtime in the penalty box, and buy presents to make up for their sins.

What of the man who catches the dose and is certain he's transmittedit to his wife and can't afford to buy presents? In the old days, aman threw himself on the mercy of the court, but the gutters becamelittered with divorced men who were financially ruined because theythrew themselves on the mercy of the court.

A pro football player named Dump McKinney once gave his wife the clapand saved the marriage for a year with one of the most inspiredschemes I've ever heard of. The trick was to get his wife to take apenicillin shot for a reason other than the clap. One night they werepaying bills together when an idea came to him.

He hit her in the hand with a staple gun.

"Honey, you better get a penicillin shot," he said. "Youcan't be too careful with tetanus."

Pride of ownership is the biggest reason married people take shitfrom each other. People feel they have a right to give their mates

excess heat because they married them in the first place. They couldeasily have married the other people they were fucking, but theydidn't. They married who they married, which means their partnersbecame "property."

This one is easy.

All marriages should have a loan-out clause. A couple would agreebeforehand on how many loan-outs they were going to need, per week,per month, per year.

If the husband wants to loan himself out to a ball game for a night,it would be his privilege. And if the wife wants to loan herself outto a deckhand, it would be her privilege.

People being only human, of course, any system might be takenadvantage of by the self-indulgent personality.

There would be those husbands and wives who would claim they had lostcount of their loan-outs and had gone over the limit.

Oops, sorry.

Well, there's a very good way to put an end to that kind of marriedshit.


"Holy Roman smokin' candles, Billy Clyde Puckett! You know whatthey say about that kind of football player, don't you?"

"No, Larry, what do they say?"

"They say he may have a small belt buckle but it's what he's gotin the gut that counts!"

Larry Hoage referred to the Green Bay fullback, Edgar Morris, who hadjust gained two yards on a draw play at mid-field in the secondquarter of a football game in which neither team had scored.

It hadn't been the fault of Charlie Teasdale that no points were onthe scoreboard. The referee had marched both teams into scoring rangewith his penalty flags, but luck didn't seem to be going anybody'sway.

Bad snaps had cost the Redskins two field goals from inside GreenBay's 10-yard line.

Green Bay had driven to Washington's 1-inch line, first down. But thePackers' quarterback, Beaner Todd, had fumbled on first down, EdgarMorris had lost yardage back to the 7 on second down, a third-downpass had been dropped in the end zone by Elbert Sweeney, Green Bay'stight end, and a 17-yard field-goal attempt had failed because of astrange mixup.

The Packers' soccer-style placekicker, Gerhard Munger, an EastGerman, was right-footed. But Loren Doss, the holder, had positionedthe ball for a left-footed kicker. Because of his deep concentrationbefore the snap, the East German hadn't noticed this. When he swunghis leg, he had caught the holder in the rib cage.

It had been a small price for the holder to pay for his union, but Ihadn't betrayed Dreamer Tatum's confidence by saying this on the air.I had only said:

"That's how Gerhard got out of Berlin. He went through the wallinstead of over it."

Now it was almost halftime and Larry Hoage was barking at themicrophone again.

"It's first down, Packers. They look like they're ready to takesomebody to the woodshed, Billy Clyde Puckett! You had an in-depthlook at these two teams before today's kick- off. What'd you find outabout the way they prepared for this donnybrook?"

"They practiced offense and defense."

"And what a great football team they are!" Larry shouted.

He hadn't heard me at all. The whole game. He had never heardanything but his own voice from the moment he went into broadcasting.

"Don't go 'way, chilluns. We've got a real old-fashioned,gut-bustin' sidewinder going for you out here in meat-packin'country! We'll be right back!"

Larry whirled around in his swivel chair and glared at

Kathy Montgomery, who wore a headset and stood behind us.

"This coffee's cold!" Larry snarled. "What the devil'sgoing on up here? It's pretty darned unprofessional, if you ask me!"

Like the superb stage manager she was, Kathy magically produced abackup thermos of hot coffee, a jar of Coffee- Mate, a box of sugarcubes, and some plastic spoons.

She poured a fresh mug for Larry, who didn't leave his chair; for thecameraman at the end of the booth; for the color man—I wasbroadcasting from a standing position on Larry's right—and for HoytNester, a man who took his job quite seriously.

Hoyt was seated on Larry's left. He was the play-by-play man'sspotter and statistician, a man I judged to be in his seventies.Hoyt's beard was a white Vandyke, his tam was dark green, hisEisenhower jacket a lighter shade of green. Hoyt Nester lived nextdoor to Larry Hoage in Orange County. A bigtime announcer like Larrycould choose his own assistant. The network paid Hoyt some loosechange and picked up his expenses.

Earlier in the day, I had pointed at Hoyt and said to Kathy:

"There's an oldtimer with some stories to tell. What's it costnot to hear any of them?"

Now, I thanked her for the coffee. Which wasn't the only thing shehad produced for us before, and during, the telecast. She hadprovided hotdogs, soup, notepads, ballpoint pens, well-sharpenedpencils, paper clips, rubber bands, statistical summaries from theleague, magazine and newspaper tearsheets, media guides, a tub ofice, a pitcher of water, cold drinks, a trash basket, all of thepromo cards in perfect order, and a little flask of J&B as awelcoming gift for me. She had even recruited Vivian and Dexter, incase the need might arise.

While we were in this commercial break, she said, "You're doinggreat. How do you like it?"

"You can see more up here."

"That's it?"

"Smells better, too."

"Is there much talking down on the field? To the other team?"

"Oh, sure."

"What kind of things do you say?"

"It depends."

"On what?"

"I don't know. How the game's going. If it's a close game you'dboth like to win, there's not much talking. Lot of cussing. But ifit's pretty well decided one way or the other, a guy might ask you ifyou've seen old What's-his-name, or how's old So-and-so doing? Hemight tell you he's got some good Colombian, if you want to meet himoutside the dressing room after the whistle."

"What do you say when you cuss each other?"

We each had one ear off of our headsets.

"You really want to know?"

"Sure, it's fascinating."

"Well, let's say we're down on the goal line. I might wink at acouple of linebackers and say, 'Here I come, girls, y'all ready?'"

"Good. What would they say?"

"Oh, one of them would probably say something like, 'You ain'tgot enough shit in your pants to come this way, motherfucker!'"

Kathy shrieked.

Over the one ear of our headsets, we both heard Teddy Cole's voice.

"It's okay, Billy Clyde. Your mike was off."

There wasn't much to do during the halftime but eat another hotdog,drink more coffee, and go to the john. Not until the last two minutesbefore the second-half kickoff. That's when Kathy told me to put onthe headset and watch the monitor.

On the headset I heard the voice of Brent Musburger, who was back inNew York in a studio. He seemed to be saying that CBS's newest colorman—me—had raised the flag on Iwo Jima, invented the cure forcancer, and in my spare time had taught crippled children how to walkagain. And on the monitor I watched as Old 23, wearing a TCU uniform,broke,loose for several long gains against the Arkansas Razorbacks,Texas Aggies, and Baylor Bears. Old 23 then appeared in a New YorkGiants uniform and broke loose for several long gains against theMinnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles. Next, Old23 was in slow motion, scaling up the ass of Puddin Patterson anddiving into the end zone to score the winning touchdown against thedogass Jets in the Super Bowl. Finally, Old 23, in a clip from a homemovie, was out on the terrace of his Manhattan apartment, hugging,kissing, and having a laugh with a windblown Barbara Jane Bookman.

"You're live with Brent," said Kathy, as the cameraman inthe booth wheeled the lens toward me.

Looking away from the camera, I said, "Hello, Brent. We've got agut-bustin' sidewinder out here in Green Bay."

There was static on the headset. I couldn't hear the reply. Ishrugged at Kathy. She shrugged back.

"Just vamp," she said.

I frowned.

"Say something... anything!"

"Brent?" I said into my equipment mike. "I appreciatethe insert. Sorry they left out the stuff about the Viet Nameserefugees I've adopted and all the civil rights legislation I'vepassed, but tell everybody thank you."

The third quarter of the Redskins-Green Bay game was highlighted byDreamer Tatum's defensive play.

Dreamer managed to be tying his shoelace when Tommy Maples, a GreenBay receiver, caught a flat pass and scored from 35 yards out. In hisown end zone, Dreamer juggled a sure interception into the hands ofthe Packers' tight end. Touchdown, Green Bay. The fastest Dreamer ranwas when he and a teammate, Jamie Brock, took off in pursuit of GreenBay's Edgar Morris, who broke clear on a dive play and went 75 yardsfor a touchdown. Dreamer didn't catch the Green Bay runner, but hedid catch Jamie Brock, tripping him just as the Packer was about tobe overtaken.

In between these awesome maneuvers, Dreamer acted like a man in afrenzy. Before the ball would be snapped, he would hop around in anervous fit, looking as if he had never been so eager to hitsomebody.

This moved Larry Hoage to a higher decibel level.

"What a competitor!" he raved. "You don't close thebarn door on that fella, no, sir! Dreamer Tatum is some kind offootball player!"

Charlie Teasdale kept trying to put the Redskins back in the game,but Washington couldn't take advantage of the penalty flags he threwat the Green Bay defense.

From the control truck, Mike Rash asked if I wanted to make a commenton the officiating.

I waited for the right moment. It came when Charlie resorted to anobscure call, defensive holding. He called it against Green Bay whenWashington had tried a quarterback sneak for a first down. Who woulda defense hold on a play like that—and why—even if it had time?

On the air, I said, "If Charlie Teasdale's flag stays on theground much longer, they're gonna have to send out for plant food."

Kathy Montgomery tapped me on the shoulder. I looked around to seeher thumbs-up sign.

The last two minutes of the game took an eternity, as usual. Moreoften than not, this is because the zebras call extra time-outs sothe networks can get all of their commercials in.

Green Bay was going to win the game, 21 to 0. Hoyt Nester was packingup his statistics and reference material as he said, "Looks likethe hay's in the barn."

Hoyt yawned and unwrapped a homemade tunafish sandwich.

I heard Teddy Cole tell Larry Hoage to surrender the air to me. Theproducer wanted me to deliver some expertise on why Green Bay haddominated the second half.

"Throw it to Billy Clyde, Larry. We may have to go with a panicclose," Teddy said.

"Right you are, Ted," Larry Hoage said over the air,leaving what viewers we had left to wonder who "Ted" mighthave been.

Larry then said, "Well, Billy Clyde Puckett, the old Green BayPackers lived high on the hog today—Wade Hogg, that is! Yes sir, itlooks like the Pack is back! They came out of the chute with fire intheir eyes and a tiger in their tank and turned this old-fashioned,gut-bustin' sidewinder into a cakewalk! They'll be singing anddancing in the streets of Green Bay, Wisconsin, tonight! The peskyWashington Redskins came in here to play a good football game, butthey got crawled on, climbed on, and laughed at by a bunch of angryGreen Bay Packers who look like Super Bowl contenders if I know athing or two."

Hoyt held up an index card to Larry. The card said: "TEETH ANDCLAWS." Larry acknowledged it as he kept talking.

Still at the mike, Larry said, "The Redskins were lucky to getoutta here today with their teeth and claws. That's how it looked tome. So, Billy Clyde Puckett, you're a man who knows what it's likedown there in the trenches where the mayhem is, where it's muscle onmuscle, what's the story behind the story of this Green Bay verdict?How'd the Pack tie a knot in 'em today?"

"Larry, it all came down to one thing. Green Bay scored morepoints."

Clandestine activity was a course I had flunked as far back as highschool. You could drop me behind enemy lines and the first farmer whocame at me with a pitchfork could find out the location of ourairfields and all the schedules of our troop trains. No man evercaved in to torture any quicker than I did. I would confess to thingsI hadn't even thought of if it would prevent an argument.

Normally, Barbara Jane only had to look at me suspiciously when Iwould come home from a road trip with the Giants, and I would blurtout the names of everybody I had been with in every bar, even if someof the names were Micki, Misty, and Trixie and I hadn't gone anywherenear the little dumplings.

It was astonishing, then, that I handled the Kathy Montgomery problemas craftily as I did over the next two months. To the West Coastdelegation, my stage manager's name was still "Ken Montgomery,"if the name came up at all, which it rarely did.

In the meantime, and by necessity, I lived the life of an airlinepilot. I was Barbara Jane's bicoastal husband on Monday, Tuesday, andWednesday every week, lounging around the suite at the WestwoodMarquis, whereupon I would leave for my next TV assignment onThursday. This meant that on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,or for most of those days and nights, I would be with KathyMontgomery, my trusty sidekick.

But if I was with Kathy more than I was with my wife, my wife waswith her director more than she was with her husband. The only way wecould have changed this would have been for one of us to give up whatwe were doing, but we both liked what we were doing, and it wouldhave been foolish to turn down the money on top of that. So I didn'tknow who, or what, to blame for the situation we had worked ourselvesinto, other than life its ownself.

Modern living is what some people call it.

After my first telecast in Green Bay, I had received relatively highgrades from everyone at the network. Mike Rash and Teddy Cole said Iought to be nominated for an Emmy simply for not talking too much.About a thousand letters came into CBS in New York that said the samething. Comments in newspapers around the country were generallyfavorable. Jim Tom Pinch's column was naturally a rave.

Jim Tom wrote:

Billy Clyde Puckett is living proof that action speaks louder thanwords, even when the action is as rancid as it was in the GreenBay-Washington game. The proper words to describe that game couldnever win the approval of Standards and Practices. Much to thepleasure of any intelligent viewer, Billy Clyde shut the hell up asoften as he could, save for his shrewd line about Referee CharlieTeasdale's flag, which must have made everyone wince in theCommissioner's office.

Two days after my debut, the head of CBS Sports called to give me hisprofessional opinion of it.

"I thought you brought a lot to the dance, old man," saidRichard Marks. "Not to be picky, but in my view, you ought tospeak up more. People want to hear what Billy Clyde Puckett thinks.I'm sure you were being cautious your first time out, but don't beafraid to jump in. You have an open mike."

"Larry doesn't let you in much," I said.

"I don't have the same negative feelings about cross-talk thatsome of my predecessors did. Cross-talk often adds to the excitementof a telecast."


"When you both talk at once. For instance, if you jump in, butLarry keeps spinning a yarn. I say let it play."

"Mike and Teddy want me to avoid that."

"Mike and Teddy work for me."

"More cross-talk. Got it."

"I'm not saying it's something you should plan. I'm onlysuggesting you address yourself to the audience more often. Look,Larry Hoage isn't the best announcer in the business, but he's farfrom the worst, and he brings an enthusiasm to a broadcast thesponsors like."

"They do?"

His statement shouldn't have surprised me. I'd known a few agencyguys in my day. They could derail an elevator.

Richard Marks said, "Oh, yes, Billy Clyde. With our friends whobuy time, Larry Hoage ranks right up there. Larry doesn't give youmuch dead air, you see."

Like none, I thought.

"That's why sponsors love him," Richard Marks said. "Don'tplace too much importance on what Larry says. Keep in mind that hiswords are only a bridge from the last commercial to the next."

I said, "You guys know more about it than I do, Richard, but Iwonder if there aren't some people out there who might like a quietstroll from one commercial to another?"

"No such animal," he said. "Our surveys would haveturned them up by now."

My talk with Richard Marks convinced me of only one thing: I had toget as much money out of the networks as I could before they weredoomed to oblivion by their own surveys—and movies on cable.

My cast came off that week, which was the same week Dr. Tim Hayes'sright foot was in a bandage.

I didn't notice his foot at first. I was in such a good mood at theprospect of being released from prison, I was busy droppingwitticisms on the Dyan Cannon nurse who assisted the bone specialistin removing my cast.

"You're from Texas, aren't you?" the Dyan Cannon nurse hadasked.


"What part?"

"Just about all of me."

Dr. Hayes said my leg looked pretty good, by gosh, considering thosedecrepit New York butchers had worked on it. I should startexercising slowly, he said. Walk whenever possible. Climb stairs.

"It'll be a while before you can break into a dead run," hesaid.

"I'd better not run into a war baby, then."

"Not the one who chased me out of the house," he said.

That's when I saw him limp across the office on his bandaged foot.

"What happened to you?" I said.

"Oh, it's just a little strain on the metatarsal-cuneiformligament," said Dr. Hayes. "Unfortunately, it's theligament that connects the first metatarsal to the mid-foot area.It's the, uh... ligament you use to push off on... to walk or run."

"Sorry," I said. "You were running from a war baby?"

"My wife, actually. Phyllis."

"You're married to a war baby?"

"Why do you think I know so much about them?"

"He married three war babies," said the Dyan Cannon nurse.

The nurse looked at Dr. Hayes.

"Tell him how you hurt your foot," she said.

"I'm sure he's not interested," the doctor said.

"I am now," I said.

"They got in an argument," the nurse said. "He calledher a war baby. Phyllis went after him with a steak knife. Hestrained the ligament trying to keep from falling in the pool."

Dr. Hayes said, "You can't joke with war babies. That's anotherthing, Billy Clyde. I kidded Phyllis about the plastic sandwich. Isaid it was the only thing she liked to eat."

In the doctor's terminology, a plastic sandwich was an AmericanExpress card between a VISA and a MasterCard.

"Is everything okay now?" I asked.

"It will be, as soon as I get my things out of the house,"Dr. Hayes said. "It'll probably take a week or two. War babiesdon't simmer down too quickly."

"I'm glad they never had a team in the NFL," I said as Ileft that day.

By the end of October, Barbara Jane had done two more episodes ofRita, neither of which was satisfactory as far as she wasconcerned. Sheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman were still the executiveproducers. They had written both of the episodes themselves. BetweenBarb and Jack Sullivan, nearly every line of dialogue had beenchanged, but there hadn't been enough time to re-work the storylines.

In one episode, Barbara Jane had been expected to become romanticallyentwined with a foreign race-car driver, a handsome dumbbell with aFrench accent.

"If I'm going to have a love interest, why does it have to be ajerk?" Barbara Jane had said to Kitty.

"Paul is attractive," Kitty had said. "Women areintrigued with men like Paul."

Barb had said, "Beverly Hills women, maybe. Rita lives in NewYork. Rita wouldn't let Paul sell her a pair of shoes."

Sheldon had stepped forward and said, "Barbara Jane, you haven'tstudied the great films. Paul always gets the girl."

"Paul doesn't get the fucking girl." Barb had raised hervoice. "Paul gets the luggage!"

The character of "Paul" stayed in the script, and"Rita"did act somewhat taken with him, but through the efforts of BarbaraJane and the director, it became clear that "Rita" had onlyacted interested in "Paul" because she wanted to hire himas a waiter for Rita's Limo Stop.

In the other episode, Sheldon and Kitty had scripted a story in which"Rita" was talked into seeing "Amanda's" shrinkand ended up almost having an affair with him.

"Rita hates shrinks," Barbara Jane had argued.

"Why does Rita hate shrinks?" asked Kitty.

"Because I hate shrinks," Barb said. "There'snever been a shrink that somebody didn't go to high school with!"

The shrink had stayed in the script—and so had that line of BarbaraJane's. "Rita" used it on the shrink after telling him thather parents weren't responsible for the time she broke her SusieHomemaker oven.

One morning in the Marquis suite in late October before I had toleave on another assignment, I asked Barbara Jane some questionsabout Jack Sullivan. I found out he was separated from his wife andtwo kids, who were in London. He was, in fact, British, but he hadlived in California for a number of years, long enough to have becomede-cricketed.

"Does he date anybody besides you?" I said to Barb.

She gave me a hard look.

"That's a funny choice of words," she said. "We callit work."

"All those dinners?"

People in show biz often have to eat, she said.

She then asked me why I had found it necessary to leave town on aThursday for a Sunday broadcast.


I explained to Barb that Thursday was only a travel day, and it tookall of Friday and Saturday to familiarize myself with the personnelon the ball clubs, and to do all of the inserts, to spend enough timewith the coaches to feel confident about the things I would be sayingor not saying when we did the game on Sunday.

I said, "In broadcast journalism, we don't do a lot of playingaround like you people in the entertainment division. We're live."

I didn't say I got spun when we were live.

She said, "Well, I don't suppose there's anything wrong with ourmarriage that a faith healer can't fix."

"We have a good marriage, Barb—if you look at the totaluniverse."

She had smiled, then, and we had been drawn into an embrace. We hadkissed with a warmth and passion that had been missing lately becauseof our lifestyle.

In that moment, we were reaffirming something besides love. Adevotion of some kind that reached far back in the past.

As I left her in the hotel that day, she had said, "See you nexttrip, Biff."

The absurd thing about the deal with Kathy Montgomery was thatnothing had developed between us but friendship.

I considered myself a grizzled veteran at spotting indicators. Butwhile Kathy had littered the countryside with adoration for me as ahuman being, and while she knew how to make a man feel like he wasthe nicest, wittiest, most charming and talented person who had everentered her life—I had even been saddled with the responsibility ofbecoming her "best friend"—she had not given me theslightest hint that she wanted her body molested.

So we had settled into a friendship that was fun but, well—let's behonest—frustrating. I mean, two months of lunches, dinners,relaxing, work sessions, of constant companionship, with one of themost delicious creatures I had ever been around was getting to be astrain. Like all lookers, Kathy had some temptress in her.

What I really wanted to do, as I told Shake Tiller, was make thediscovery that Kathy had this disgusting birthmark on her hip; then Icould put her in perspective.

Shake had met Kathy by now. We had spent a couple of Sunday nightswith him in New York when we had bailed out early after a telecast inPhiladelphia and another in Atlanta.

"Face mask," Shake had said when he was introduced to her.

We drank away those evenings showing Kathy our Manhattan, the oldtrudge up and down Second and Third Avenues—the quest for theperfect jukebox.

Shake recognized right off that Kathy, aside from her stunning looks,had other things in common with Barbara Jane. Like Barb, Kathy knewhow to sit around, she could hold her whiskey—drank Scotch, ofcourse—didn't fancy dope, and laughed infectiously at all the rightthings.

Kathy lived in a Manhattan that was unfamiliar to Shake and me. Itwas the Manhattan of inexpensive restaurants, of neighborhood tavernswhere the biggest celebrity to walk in the door was the bar ownerfrom across the street, the Manhattan of tiny apartments in which thetop of the dinner table had to be lifted off before the occupantcould bathe.

I had taken Kathy's word for these things. I hadn't been invited toher apartment, and I hadn't asked her over to see mine.

On those Sunday nights when we had been with Shake, we had donenothing but laugh at life its ownself and damage our brains withalcohol.

Kathy had never broken through and stayed with us until dawn. She hadgone home at the reasonably sane hour of 2 A.M.

It was on the second of those evenings, after Kathy had left us in aback booth at Runyon's, that Shake alerted me to what he called aneon indicator.

Earlier that night, we had spent five or six hours at a table by aplate-glass window in T.J. Tucker's. Kathy had monopolized theconversation with a discourse about the splendors of Barbara Jane.

"She's my idol, really, " Kathy had said more than twice."I can't wait to meet her."

Shake had looked amused by this, a fact that wasn't lost on me. Kathyhad gone on to pronounce Barbara Jane the most beautiful girl she hadever seen in a magazine or a TV commercial. And she was certain Barbhad to be the most incredible person in the world, marvelous in allways, or, I, Billy Clyde Puckett, wouldn't have married her.

"It's so neat," Kathy had said. "You three guys allgrowing up together and being so close and everything."

She said she still had some good friends back in Sioux

Falls, but they were nothing like us. They hadn't "beenanywhere," or "done anything." The Zip Feed Mill wastheir favorite skyscraper. And as for her chums at Berkeley, well,who could say what they were up to now. Melissa had gone pre-med,Christina had gone punk, and Eric had been locked in his bedroomsince his junior year with a buffalo head, black window shades, andblue light bulbs.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere near South America when Ericbusts out of there," Shake had said.

Now it was only Shake and me at Runyon's. We were welcoming a seriouslast-call for youngster as Shake was telling me I'd blown theindicator.

"What do you think all that shit about Barbara Jane was?"he said. "You think Kathy doesn't want to fuck the guy who'smarried to the most beautiful woman in the world? Forget the factyou've got some dough... that you're an 'older man,' but not thatold... that you're a famous athlete... and you're on TV. She wants tomake it with Barbara Jane Bookman's husband, man."


"To prove she can," said Shake. "She's a woman, BillyC. She knows God-damn well she's every bit as good-looking as Barb,and she knows something else, too, you better believe it. She knowsshe's got ten years on her!"

What, I wondered, had Kathy been waiting for?

"What are you waiting for? It's there, man."

I liked her, I said. I genuinely liked her as a walkaround pal, atrusty sidekick. Kathy was fun to be on the road with. What was Igoing to do on the road, talk about the advances in hairspray formulawith Larry Hoage?

"If you fuck her, does that mean you can't like her anymore?"

"It means I'd get involved," I said. "I need an affairlike I need to take a shit and fall backwards."

"Why do you think Kathy wants to have an affair? She's probablygot a boyfriend with a guitar full of dread."

"I don't think so. She's not a chemist. She seems older...morecareer-minded than most girls her age."

Shake said, "She acts older around you, sure."

"Why don't you fuck her?" I laughed. "That'll solveeverything."

"I feel like I already have."

Shake couldn't have thought Kathy was that ordinary. The winner ofthe Nordic combined?

"You don't think she's better-looking than your averagehomewrecker?" I said.

"Yeah, she's a killer, but there's a lot of that going around."

An Elroy Blunt song came up on the jukebox. We stopped talking tolisten, to pay homage to our old friend.

Life don't owe me a living

But a Lear and a limo ain't bad.

I could do without dope and women

But Beverly Hills would be sad.

I stole this song from Willie.

I guess I've made him mad:

He said Life don't owe me a living

But a Lear and a limo ain't bad.

Elroy had been dead three years. He was a high-rolling friend of ourswho had once played ball with us and had then made it big as acountry-and-Western singer and songwriter.

The world had been a safer place without Elroy in it. The year wewent to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, Elroy rented an estate inBeverly Hills and threw a party that lasted a week and almost cost usthe game. He didn't invite anyone who wasn't from Peru, Nashville,Austin, or didn't have tits.

Elroy was anti-sleep. I don't think chemicals let him sleep the lastfive years of his life.

He had said, "What's the good of havin' a wet dream if you'renot awake to enjoy it?"

Elroy was only thirty-one when he spun out, which means he out-livedhis hero, Hank Williams, by four years. Elroy and all five members ofhis band were killed when their bus hurtled off a bridge and droppedinto a valley about two miles below Aspen. Apparently, the groupieson the bus had been giving everyone a blowjob at the same time andunfortunately this had included the driver.

Life don't owe me a living

But a Lear and a limo ain't bad.

They've sure made it easy

To have all the fun I've had.

If I can't find Willie to thank him

I guess I'll take out an ad.

He said Life don't owe me a living

But a Lear and a limo ain't bad.

When the song was over, I said to Shake, "Maybe everything'sokay like it is. If Kathy throws me down in the back seat of a rentcar some night, fine. It'll be self-defense. If she doesn't...on withtelevision."

Shake said, "Stop being a starry-eyed 'good friend.' If youdon't, she'll drive you nuts and break up your home, man. Then shewon't even respect you. Do one of those Jim Tom lines on her and fuckher, get it over with."

"What kind of Jim Tom line?"

Shake said, "Some night when you're with her in a bar, make aconfession. Tell her you always have to sit down when you take apiss, the doctor doesn't want you to lift anything heavy."

The distressing news from Fort Worth in early December was thatTonsillitis Johnson's mind had been warped by an East Indianswami—and T. J. Lambert's whole future was heaving in a sea ofdisaster.

Just when T. J. and Big Ed Bookman had been so sure that everythingwas under control, that Tonsillitis was as good as theirs—TCU's,actually—Darnell Johnson had brought them word of this sudden andunforeseen complication.

Tonsillitis, it seems, had fallen under the spell of SwamiMuktamananda, and the blue-chipper was seriously thinking aboutgiving up football. Swami Muktamananda, also known as Haba, had allbut convinced Tonsillitis that he should move to New Delhi, live in aditch, and seek life's fulfillment by washing down elephants.

"Mooka banana who?"

I had asked the question sleepily because T.J.'s phone call hadawakened me in the dead of night at the Westwood Marquis.

"I don't know how you say it," T.J. said, "but thesum-bitch is about to ruin my life."

The point of T.J.'s call was to beg me to come to Fort Worth as soonas possible. Shake Tiller was already on the way. There would be ameeting between me, Shake, T. J., Big Ed, and Darnell to try tofigure out what to do about reclaiming Tonsillitis' mind.

Going to Fort Worth wasn't all that much of an inconvenience for me,as it happened. My last telecast of the regular NFL season wasscheduled for Dec. 12 in Dallas—

Cowboys against the Giants, my old team. All it meant was going toTexas a few days early.

On the phone that night, T. J. told me some of the sordid details ofwhat had happened to Tonsillitis.

Because of the swami, Tonsillitis had refused to play in his lasthigh school football game, Boakum's annual bloodbath againstarchrival Eula. Swami Muktamananda had passed through town and hadgiven a lecture at Boakum High. Tonsillitis, being president of thestudent body, had met the swami. They had talked about "thevalue of life." And the next thing anyone knew, Tonsillitis hadbeen in a trance before the Eula game and wouldn't move from thebench.

Boakum's coach, Mutt Turnbull, had pleaded with his star to go out onthe field and defend the honor of Boakum. Tonsillitis had onlymumbled, "What I be wearin' a helmet for? What I be doin' onthis planet?"

Darnell, Tonsillitis' older brother, was more frustrated than anybodyDarnell had been at the game and he had reminded the running backthat big money was at stake, never mind the natural hatred that onehad been born with for Eula.

Tonsillitis had said to Darnell, "Folks be hittin' one anotherfor no reason. I wants to quit football and grow my own food."

Darnell had said, "Hey, baby, we're talkin' gusto here, youunderstand? Mucho Dolores."

"Swami say life don't be measured by numbers," Tonsillitissaid. "Swami say happiness don't be livin' in no end zone."

Darnell had almost lost his temper.

He had said, "Yeah, well, swamis be fuckin' with incense andshit. Get your ass off that bench!"

Nothing had worked. Tonsillitis hadn't played in the game, and, as ofnow, he wasn't planning to play for TCU or any other college. He wasmeditating and eating rice and lentils.

Neither T. J. nor Big Ed had seen Swami Muktamananda.

Darnell had been in contact with him, however, and was trying to workout an economic solution.

For enough money, Swami Muktamananda might be tempted to persuadeTonsillitis to play football again.

"I ain't sure you can buy swamis," T. J. said.

T. J. sounded very low on the phone.

He said, "It's a hell of a thing, ain't it, son? Here I got methe greatest football player in captivity and somebody's done jackedwith his brain. What does that tell you about our God-damneducational system?"

I asked if there was anything new on the Artis Toothis front.

"Looks like we're okay there," T. J. said. "ArtisToothis is an ambitious young man with a good business head on hisshoulders. He's the kind of person America can be proud of."

Artis Toothis was ready to wear the purple-and-white and look afterhis real estate investments. Only the nuts and bolts of his contractwere yet to be worked out. For example, he was insisting on aguarantee that he would play the same number of minutes and carry theball the same number of times as Tonsillitis.

T.J. returned to the mournful subject of Tonsillitis by saying, "Canyou believe TCU's luck? I just wish somebody would tell me how arobe-wearin', meditatin' cocksucker can get a nigger worried aboutthe value of life!"

T. J. was badly in need of friends around him.

He said, "I'll tell you the truth, Billy Clyde. I feel like Ibeen eat by a coyote and shit off a cliff!"

With one week of regular-season games left in the NFL, everything wasworking out splendidly for Dreamer Tatum and the Players Association.There wasn't a team in the league with a record you could sell to ajunk dealer.

The best won-lost record in pro football was 8-7.

This record was shared by twelve teams. San Francisco, Los Angeles,and New Orleans were tied at 8-7 in the National West. Green Bay,Minnesota, and Detroit were tied at 8-7 in the National Central.Miami and Buffalo were tied at 8-7 in the American East. Seattle andDenver were tied at 8-7 in the American West. And Pittsburgh,Cleveland, and Cincinnati were tied at 8-7 in the American Central.

As for my old division, the National East, the standings were funnierthan a society column.


Dallas Cowboys 780

Philadelphia Eagles780St. Louis Cardinals780WashingtonRedskins5100

New York Giants0150

Two things about the standings were unique. The winner of thedivision, Dallas in all likelihood, would be going into the playoffswith no better than a .500 record, and the Giants were having theirworst season ever.

Washington's season had been a big disappointment, but not to DreamerTatum. He said the Players' Association could be justly proud of itsRedskin members. Having begun the year as favorites in the division,the Redskins had crushed the hearts of fans all over D.C.

Dreamer had boasted to me that the union had never been in a strongerposition. Mediocrity was rampant throughout the league.

Against the brunt of this mediocrity, the Commissioner's office wasstrenuously trying to sell the myth that parity was a blessing.Through the TV and radio broadcasters and the few journalists theycontrolled, the Commissioner and his staff peddled the propagandathat America's fans were excited about the closeness of thedivisional races, that the country was ecstatic over the fact that 21out of the 28 teams still had a mathematical chance to make theplayoffs after 15 long weeks.

Most sportswriters knew better and said so. They were attacking theleague for killing a great sport.

As of late November, nobody had dropped more napalm on the NFL thanJim Tom Pinch, but of course Shake's article in Playboy had yet toappear. It was due out the week we would be in Texas.

One of Jim Tom's columns hit harder than most.

PINCH'S PALAVER by Jim Tom Pinch

Here is a list of things I would rather do than watch a football gamein the NFL:

  1. Buy a condo in Lebanon.

  2. Go to a rock concert.

  3. See a movie with special effects in it.

  4. Join a religious cult.

  5. Sit in the no-smoking area of a restaurant.

  6. Discuss wine.

  7. Watch a marathon.

  8. Talk to a swimmer.

  9. Eat a fishhead.

  10. Get married again.

Here is a list of people I would rather spend an evening with thanany coach, general manager or owner in the NFL:

  1. Bert Parks

  2. Minnie Pearl

  3. Renee Richards

  4. Boy George

  5. Jerry Lewis

  6. Michael Jackson

  7. Liberace

  8. Andy Warhol

  9. Sonny Bono

  10. The Dukes of Hazzard.

Here is a list of franchise moves that would improve the quality ofplay in the NFL:

  1. Dallas to Bogota.

  2. Giants to New York.

  3. The Raiders to Vegas.

  4. Miami to Cuba.

  5. Rams to Warner Brothers.

  6. Green Bay to Tahiti.

  7. Houston to the Bermuda Triangle.

  8. Jets off the board.

  9. Natchez to Mobile.

  10. Memphis to St. Joe.

Wake me up when the Super Bowl's over, but don't bother to tell mewho won. I already know.


The Script Committee of the Players Association had been composed ofsix players, one of whom was Dreamer Tatum. The others were TomBuckner, a center for the 49ers; Randy Hall, a quarterback for theEagles; J.D. Sealy, a linebacker for the Raiders; Harold Coleclaw, adefensive end for the Dolphins; and Tommy Crouch, a wide receiver forthe Patriots.

The scripts for all of the games had been placed in the hands oftrustworthy union members. The scripts couldn't always be followedprecisely because of the zebra factor, but Dreamer said the PlayersAssociation had been more than satisfied with the results.

Personally, I thought the Script Committee paid too much attention toplot.

In a San Diego-Seattle game, the Chargers blew a 39- point lead andlost a close one to the Seahawks. The Chargers couldn't have pulledit off without the artistry of their quarterback, Scott Thirsk. Aloyal union man, Thirsk threw seven interceptions in the second half.

A punter for the Cleveland Browns, Parker Knowles, lost a game to theSteelers in the final minute by missing the ball with his foot.

The old Statue of Liberty play was resurrected in a Buffalo-Chicagogame. A1 Donahue, the Buffalo quarterback, held the ball long enoughfor Willie Hughes, a Chicago Bear linebacker, to pluck it out of hishand and gallop 57 yards for a decisive touchdown.

On a field-goal effort from Atlanta's 5-yard line, the 49ers' TomBuckner snapped the ball 40 yards over the place- kicker's head,which in turn led to a game-winning touchdown for the Falcons.

Harold Coleclaw and Tommy Crouch made a real show of it in aMiami-New England game. Coleclaw intercepted a pass and rumbled 50yards for what looked like a touchdown, but he absent-mindedly spikedthe ball before he crossed the goal. Tommy Crouch picked up the balland ran it out to mid-field before he fumbled it back to theDolphins, who then drove to a winning field goal.

This was the Cowboys' first season under John Smith, the longtimeassistant who had replaced the retired Tom Landry, but Dallas stillsent in the plays from the sideline. Temple Stark, the Cowboys' tightend and a staunch union man, shuttled in the wrong plays all day in agame against the Eagles. Nothing came of it because no one with theCowboys, including the new head coach, knew the difference. And inany case, the Cowboys couldn't outfumble the Eagles' Randy Hall.

"We have some dedicated people," Dreamer said.

Now it was December and I had gone to Fort Worth.

I checked into the Hyatt Regency again. Later in the week, afterKathy and the CBS gang came in for the Cowboys-Giants game, I wouldmove to the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. TV crews needed to staytogether.

Shake had left word at the Hyatt for me to meet him at Mommie's TrustFund. Jim Tom and the Junior League would be there.

Before slipping into my combat clothes for the evening—jeans, sportcoat, golf shirt, loafers—I called Barbara Jane, as I always did,to let her know the plane hadn't been hijacked to Cameroon.

Someone at the studio gave me a number where she could be reached.

I put through a call to that number and an Oriental answered.

"Who's this?" I said.


"Could I speak to Mrs. Puckett, please?"

"No Miz Pluckett."

"Is Barbara Jane Bookman there?"

"Babla Blookman?"

"Yes. Very pretty lady."

"She here, no can talk."


"Miz Blookman on tennis court."

"Is this Mr. Sullivan's residence?"

"Yes, Mr. Sullivan house. No can talk. Velly busy on tenniscourt."

I left a message for Barbara Jane: "We'll always have Paris."

"Who message flom?" Ying asked.

"Martina," I said.

Mommie's Trust Fund was packed with the predictable array ofdebutantes and entrepreneurs.

I pushed my way up to the bar, where Shake and Jim Tom had staked outsome turf. Shake greeted me by saying, "Order us another drink,Billy Clyde. I'll go ask those girls what color cars they want."

Jim Tom was already trying to break up an argument between Vivian andDexter.

I was hardly there long enough to order my first youngster when JimTom made a recruiting move on a blonde adorable with a fearsome setof homegrowns inside a T-shirt that said: ORDER A LA CARTE.

"Hold it!" Jim Tom said, as he grabbed the girl's arm. "Youfrom a foreign country?"

"If you count Hurst-Euless," said the girl. "Who wantsto know?"

"I'm Jim Tom Dexter. Who're you?"

"Somebody who ain't got time for your bullshit."

The adorable tried to remove his hand from her arm.

Jim said, "What's that say on your shirt, darlin'? I had to dropout of school to fight a war."

"It says you can't afford the full-course dinner."

"Want a drink?"

"I have a drink on the other side of the bar, thank you."

Jim Tom said, "I want you to meet my celebrity friends." Henodded toward Shake and me.

"Hi," the girl said.

Shake and I both stuck out our hands.

"Hello," I said. "My name's Fat Chance."

"I'm Raw Deal," Shake said.

"We got some dope," Jim Tom said to the girl.

"You don't have enough," she sneered.

"Seriously, darlin', what's your name?"


"Cash Flo?"

"You got it!" The girl sprang free and dissolved into thecrowd.

"I love these places," I said to Shake.

"It's the most fun I've ever had," he smiled.

Two hours later the three of us were standing outside The BlessedVirgin, admiring the marquee, which now said:

Appearing Nightly:





Our wrists were stamped at the door by a 6-5, 250-pound psycho. Wemoved into the darkness of The Blessed Virgin.

From the jukebox came the sound of an old Dixieland rendition of"Baby, Won't You Please Come Home?" Kim Cooze wasperforming on the stage.

As we edged toward the bar, we watched Kim slip out of her nun'shabit and get down to her G-string and pasties. She then began toco-exist erotically with a religious cross that was covered inrhinestones.

"The Medicis never got enough credit," Shake said. "Wherewould art be today?"

We ordered enough Scotch to see us through a gloomy winter. Kimcontinued to save souls in the audience. When our eyes adjusted tothe light, Shake was the first to spot Charlie Teasdale. The zebrawas sitting at a table with three other men.

"I'll be damned," I said, as Shake pointed him out.

Seeing the zebra in The Blessed Virgin relieved my mind about theelegy to pro football that Shake had coming out in Playboy.

Until that moment, I hadn't been a hundred percent convinced that KimCooze had told him the truth about Charlie Teasdale.

There was enough youngster in my veins to make me want to wander overand say hello to the zebra.

"Go ahead," Shake said. "I'm curious to know what hesays."

I carried a fresh Scotch with me and pulled up a chair at Charlie'stable.

"What do you say, Charlie?" I smiled. "I didn't knowyou were a fan of the ballet."

Charlie looked surprised to see me, but he didn't seem overlyembarrassed to be caught in The Blessed Virgin.

"Why, Billy Clyde Puckett," he said, "how in the worldare you? How's your knee?"

He introduced me to his companions, Roy, Wayne, and Hank. There was ahomebuilders' convention going on in Dallas, Charlie let me knowquickly. He had thought his friends, Roy, Wayne, and Hank, should geta taste of Fort Worth nightlife, too. Fort Worth was more fun thanDallas in some ways, he said. They were going to leave in a minute.Maybe they'd go out to the stockyards area and hear some Westernmusic at the White Elephant or Billy Bob's.

"You're doing real good on TV, Billy Clyde," Charlie said."I don't get to see you, of course. I'm always working, butpeople tell me you're not a bad announcer. Don't talk too much."

Roy wanted me to autograph a napkin for him. I did. Then Waynedecided he better have an autograph for his eight-year-old boy.

"What's his name?" I asked.


"Wayne junior?"

"Naw, just Wayne."

Roy directed our attention to the stage, where Kim Cooze writhed onthe floor and tantalized her tummy with rosary beads. The jukebox hadprogressed to a Dixieland version of "Who's Sorry Now?"

At an opportune moment, I said to Charlie, "I know you guysdon't like to talk to journalists, but can I ask you a question?"

He said, "Hell, Billy Clyde, I don't mind talking to anybody,but the league has these rules."

"I kind of thought since I was Establishment, it wouldn't hurt."

"Go ahead," Charlie said, taking a drink of his draft beer.

"Why do you throw so fucking many flags in a game, Charlie?"

"I knew you were going to ask me that," he cackled.

Roy, Wayne, and Hank weren't listening to us, preoccupied as theywere with the entertainer on the stage.

Charlie said, "I want to tell you something, Billy Clyde. Youdon't have any idea what a hard job we have. Nobody does. You can'thave a thin skin and wear a whistle around your neck in the NationalFootball League. I'm a purist, I suppose. I don't like to see aplayer get away with anything. Our job is to see that a team doesn'tget an unfair advantage over another team. There's too much at stake.Shoot, I'm just like everybody else. I like to see the best team winbecause of the skills of their players and coaches, not because of ajudgment call. But I'm not going to let a team win because they'regetting away with something, not if I can help it."

Charlie had gone into officiating like most zebras—as a hobby, asideline. And like most zebras, he had come out of the ranks ofcollegiate officials. He had refereed in the Southwest Conferencebefore he had joined the NFL.

The way it worked was, a college zebra would apply for a job in theNFL on the sly. He wouldn't want his conference to know he wasthinking about going into the pros. The NFL would watch him for acouple of seasons. If the league liked his work, he would beaccepted, pending a physical, an eye test, and a rules test.

The zebras in the NFL were required to take these tests regularly. Ioften wondered how Charlie passed the eye test every year.

The referee was the boss zebra in a football game. He could overrulethe field judge, the back judge, the umpire, or the head linesman.They all made the same amount of money, but the referee had power. Nozebra had ever used his power like Charlie Teasdale, according toShake Tiller.

Zebras worked as teams in the NFL. In other words, Charlie alwaysofficiated a game with the same field judge, back judge, umpire, andhead linesman. The league wanted it this way. If the zebras knew eachother's mannerisms, tendencies to be in or out of position on certainplays, thought processes, prejudices, strengths, drawbacks, physicalstamina, they could function better. It was supposed to make for abetter game.

Shake had uncovered no evidence that anyone on Charlie's crew wasguilty of "doing business." Charlie had been working allyear with Bob Stewart, an experienced field judge from Chicago; BenKincaid, a good back judge from Terre Haute, Indiana; Sam Pugh, aveteran umpire out of Birmingham; and Raymond (Rat] Farmer, anex-pass receiver for the Lions who had become a head linesman.

The fact that Shake had no proof of wrongdoing on the part ofCharlie's crew members didn't get them off the hook with him. NFLcrews got their game assignments ten days ahead of time and Shakesaid this left them with plenty of opportunity to tell their friendsor business associates which game to put a circle around.

The league instructed—and trusted—the zebras to keep theirassignments a deep, dark secret, even from their families, right upuntil the opening kickoff. The NFL saw it as a way of safeguardingthe officials from the influence of gamblers, death threats,mobsters, and so forth.

But as Shake said, if the zebras were so good at keeping secrets, howcome everybody from Uncle Kenneth to the valet parking guys in Vegasalways knew what game Charlie Teasdale and his crew would be working?

Now in The Blessed Virgin, after Charlie had made his noble speech, Isaid, "Charlie, you do know you've made more controversial callsthan any zebra who ever lived, don't you?"

"Camera angles," he said.

"Camera angles? That's where the losers go to file theircomplaints?"

He said, "Billy Clyde, television is the worst thing that everhappened to officiating. Oh, I've blown some. I've been out ofposition. But at the time, I thought I was right—and most of thetime, I was. Our league cameras have different angles from thenetworks. On most of those calls you're thinking about—the Miamifumble, the Cleveland out-of- bounds, the 49er end zone—our leaguecameras proved I was right."

"My first broadcast, the Green Bay-Washington game? You had adefensive-holding call that was a beauty."

"They held up the tight end."

"It was a God-damn quarterback sneak!"

"Could have been a quick-out."

I finished my drink.

"Charlie, how come every bettor I've ever known thinks thezebras do business?"

"Well, they have to blame somebody when they lose. The dumb guyshave been robbing the smart guys for years, Billy Clyde."

"I'm a little drunk, Charlie, or I wouldn't say this to you, butthe fucking zebras sure turn a lot of games around."

He said, "You've got it wrong. We don't turn the games around.Players turn the games around by trying to take advantage of therules. All we do is catch 'em."

I stood up.

"Good to meet you," I said to Roy, Wayne, and Hank.

They glanced at me hastily. Their eyes then returned to the stage,where Kim Cooze was now totally nude. She had discarded her G-stringand pasties and was sensually rubbing her whup against a lifesizecardboard statue of Jesus.

Charlie Teasdale had seen the act before, I presumed. He kept facingme.

He said, "Billy Clyde, I'm willing to lay my knowledge and myjudgment on the line every time I go out on the field. If I know I'mright, they can burn the stadium down and I won't care. Part of thepleasure of officiating is being able to walk off the field knowingyou were right."

Back at the bar, I reported to Shake that Charlie had made a goodcase for his integrity.

"So does Kim," Shake said.

Kim's routine ended as she faked an orgasm with the statue. Charlieand the homebuilders left.

It was a good hour before Kim, wearing a peasant blouse, jeans, andboots, came walking past the bar and discovered Shake and me standingthere. Jim Tom was still with us, but then again, he wasn't. He waswhispering sincerities to a Campfire Girl named Kelly Ann.

Kim squealed when she saw us. She smothered us with hugs and kissesand demanded that we remain silent for a moment while she said aprayer, thanking God for sending us back to The Blessed Virgin.

"Have you heard what's happened to me?" Kim said to Shakeexcitedly. "Playboy took my picture! It's going to be inthe magazine with your story!"

"I saw Charlie here," Shake said.

"Every other night," Kim said. "I was just talking tohim outside in the car. He won't say what game he's working nextweek. Claims he doesn't know yet. I said, Well, when you find out,there's an apartment over on Hulen I sure would like to buy. One moregame might do it."

"Thinking about settling down in Fort Worth, are you?" Isaid.

"The Lord wouldn't want me to leave at a time like this."

Shake asked if there was anything new happening to her show-bizcareer.

"Yes!" she chimed. "The photographer who took mypicture for Playboy? He said after the issue came out, he bethe could sell a whole layout on me to Hustler."

"The literary quarterly," said Shake. "I've heard ofit."

"I can work here as long as I want to," said Kim. "Afterthe joint gets all that publicity, they'll pay anything to keep me.Listen, I've got two more gigs tonight. What do y'all want to dolater?"

Shake and I traded looks.

I said, "We have a business meeting in the morning, Kim. I'mgoing Dixie."

"So am I," said Shake.

"We could have a nice party," Kim said.

"Another time," Shake said.

"I can get Brandy to go with us," Kim suggested. "Youremember Brandy, don't you, Billy Clyde? She went with your friend?"

"Brandy's a great American," I said.

Kim said, "She's a wise-mouth little thing, but I pray for her,and I've never heard any complaints about her athletic ability."

Shake said we really had to leave. Kim wouldn't let us pay the barcheck. She hugged and kissed us again, and did something with each ofour hands to remind us of her 44s, not that it had been necessary

I interrupted Jim Tom to see if he was interested in going with us.He wasn't.

"This here's Kelly Ann," Jim Tom said, introducing us tothe Campfire Girl, who was about eighteen, a sleaze-style lookalikefor Sandi, the TCU cheerleader.

Kelly Ann fished around in her handbag, came up with a black capsule,and chased it down with a shot of tequila.

Jim Tom grinned at us. "Kelly Ann's twelve but she's got thebody of a nine-year-old."

"Why don't you swallow my farts?" Kelly Ann said to


Jim Tom fell against the bar rail. "Zing went the strings of myheart," he said.

Shake and I said goodnight to the lovebirds and went to get some eggsand talk about a swami.

Through the two glass walls of Big Ed's office on the eighth floor ofthe Bookman Oil & Gas building, you could almost see every stump,scorpion, and mesquite tree in West Texas.

On the two wood-paneled walls of the office, you could see a dozenoil paintings of the drilling rigs and producing pumps that hadbrought immense wealth to Big Ed.

Some of those holes had been dug by the grandfather Barbara Jane hadnever known—except through legend. "Deep Salt" Bookmanwas a rowdy old West Texas wildcatter who earned his nickname bydrilling deeper and hitting more saltwater than just about anybodybefore he finally got lucky and hit oil.

"Deep Salt" Bookman wasn't in the same league with thegreats of the Texas oil bidness. He had never been as revered as CapLucas, who hit Spindletop, or Mike Benedum, who brought in the Pecospool, or Dad Joiner, who discovered the East Texas field when hedrilled the Daisy Bradford No. 3. But "Deep Salt" had madeand lost three fortunes in the Twenties before anyone had ever heardof Haroldson Lafayette Hunt or Sid Richardson.

Barb's granddaddy had given Big Ed a leg up in the bidness, which wasenough production to see him through college and buy him a '36 Fordroadster. But it was to Big Ed's credit that he had taken big rich onhis own.

Big Ed Bookman, who had lettered as an end at TCU— he was 6-2 andthat was considered big in those days— actually amounted to morethan a big voice and a drawl he liked to exaggerate when he was inthe company of pretentious Easterners. He held a degree in geologyfrom TCU and he had gone through law school at the University ofTexas.

And he had fought a war. Big Ed had flown P-38's in the Fifth AirForce during World War II. He had been a highly decorated fighterpilot who had come out of the Air Corps as a twenty-four-year-oldcombat major. He had been in the air battle over the Philippines inJanuary of '45 when his friend Tommy McGuire, America's second topace, had been shot down and killed. Big Ed's war experiences alonewould have made him a superpatriot.

Big Ed had come home from the war and started looking for oil. He hadfound Big Barb first—Barbara Jane Bender, a pretty girl from anice, middle-income family in Fort Worth.

Barbara Jane's mother had not been called Big Barb until little Barb,their only child, had come along in the early Fifties.

The early Fifties was when Big Ed had made the strike in ScogieCounty. Scogie wasn't any Pecos or East Texas field, but it had beenalmost as big as the Sprayberry discovery out around Midland andOdessa.

Since then, Big Ed had found more oil and gas in Erath County, PaloPinto County, in Wyoming, Canada, and Florida. He had also found timeto stalk big game in Kenya and Rhodesia—he still called itRhodesia, none of that Zimbabwe nonsense—to sail the rough watersoff the coast of Australia, to play killer tennis, shoot golf in thehigh 70's, and pilot his own Lear.

He was a man who loved his country, his state, his city, his family,his friends, and his bidness, and he wouldn't give you a dime foranybody who didn't feel the same way.

Big Ed said what he damn well thought, did what he damn well pleased.

"That's what fuck-you money is all about," he tooksatisfaction in saying.

The Ed Bookmans were as close to Texas royalty as you could be—BigEd through birth and performance, Big Barb through marriage. Buttheir daughter and I and Shake still thought they were kind of funny.

And now in Big Ed's office that morning, I could see on his face thelook of a man who wanted to have Swami Muktamananda measured for acement robe.

Big Ed, T.J., Darnell, Shake, and myself were all sitting around aconference table, warming up each other's coffee cups, as Big Edsaid:

"You think I can't get it done? I'll call Vegas! I can get itdone quicker than that swami can say shish-ka-bob! It won't cost me awink of sleep, either! Foreign sons-of-bitches are bad enough whenthey wear their black suits and their mirrored sunglasses and try totell me how to run the oil bidness! Now I got me a Hindu lunaticwho's fucking around with college football! God damn, I wish I had myown hydrogen bomb!"

"India ain't good for shit," said T.J. "What they gotover there? A bunch of fuckers in bedsheets makin' mudpies, is all."

Shake made the valid point that murder wasn't the answer to theproblem. He said that Swami Muktamananda, or Haba, might be the onlyperson through which we could reach Tonsillitis Johnson and get hismind straightened out.

Darnell said, "Swami's a tough dude. I've had three meetingswith him. Mr. Bookman gimme the authority to offer him three hundredthou, but he just sit there cross- legged."

The number impressed me. So did Darnell. Darnell talked that jiveshit that he thought white people expected of him, but his face toldme he was no dummy. You know how some guys have a smart look? Darnellhad it. I'd found out he'd not only played ball at Texas Southern, hehad graduated with a business degree. Until now—until he had becomeBig Ed's "geologist"—he'd been a bookkeeper for BigRufus, a fast-food chain that specialized in barbecue, headquartersin Houston.

Darnell had been determined to get out of Boakum, not to wind up likehis daddy—be a handyman the rest of his life. Football had got himout. And football was going to get him somewhere else, you couldtell. Football and Tonsillitis.

All I knew about the mother of Darnell and Tonsillitis was that shestill cooked the chicken and dumplings—"C's and D's,"Darnell said—for the Boakum High cafeteria.

"Would you really pay three thundred thousand for Tonsillitis?"I said to my father-in-law.

"For a national championship?" said Big Ed. "I'd go alot higher. That's all it'd be. Tonsillitis and that Toothis kid cantake us straight to Number One."

"Where would you max out?"

While Big Ed was making up his mind about it, Darnell said, "Swamidon't care about money. Swami be talkin' about America—howAmericans confuse style with substance."

"Hear that?" T.J. said, a little wild-eyed. "Try thatshit on!"

Shake said it sounded like Big Ed hadn't come up with enough"substance" yet.

"Half a million," said Big Ed, arriving at a figure. "ButI'd damn well want the assurance that Tonsillitis was back to normaland wasn't hangin' upside-down in his bedroom."

"Upside-down?" I looked at Darnell.

Darnell said, "Tonsillitis be hangin' upside-down thirty minutesever day before lunch."

Tonsillitis was also into incense, meditation, exercises. He wasstaying in shape—that was one good thing. Darnell didn't know whatyou called it when Tonsillitis placed his hands on the brick magnetsand hummed for an hour.

"He's chanting," Shake said.

"Rrr-i-g-h-t," said Darnell. "You know about thatshit, baby."

"What the fuck difference does it make, hummin' or chantin'?"T.J. said. "All I know is, the best football player in Americais sittin' down there in Boakum, Texas, with his head out of whack,and I'm sittin' up here at TCU tryin' to pull a string out of aduck's ass."

Big Ed came up with a plan. He wanted Shake and me to go to Boakum,make an effort to talk some sense into

Tonsillitis. There was a chance he would listen to a couple of famousfootball players. If we had no luck with Tonsillitis, we were to meetwith Swami Muktamananda.

We were to offer the swami $500,000 to convince Tonsillitis that theonly way to purify his soul was to play football for TCU. The swamicould take the money all at once or in deferred payments; whateverhis tax man suggested. This was Big Ed's final offer. The swami couldtake it or leave it.

Darnell said he might need twenty-four hours to set up the meetingwith the swami. The swami didn't live in Boakum. He was commutingfrom Austin.

"It's all I know to do," Big Ed sighed. "If this don'twork, we'll just have to find us another nigger. Excuse me, Darnell."

Darnell had a good feeling about the plan. Five hundred thousanddollars was "mucho Dolores." Big Ed might have boughthimself a swami, he said.

Shake's article on pro football hit the newsstands that afternoon. Webought two copies of Playboy in the hotel gift shop andbarricaded ourselves in the Hyatt Regency suite. We gave the hoteloperator a list of the only people we would take calls from. Weordered two quarts of youngster, a gross of BLT's and French fries,and a vat of coffee from room service. We kicked off our shoes,pulled out our shirttails, turned on TV, and settled in for thenight.

The list of people who tried to reach us and left plaintive messageswere Bob Cameron, the NFL Commissioner, Burt Danby, Shoat Cooper,Richard Marks, Kim Cooze, somebody from The Today Show,somebody from 20/20, representatives of The New York Times,the New York Daily News, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe,the Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, the SanFrancisco Chronicle, and The Miami Herald.

Plus a man named Mort from the Coast who left word that he was anindependent producer who knew a rich Arab.

Barbara Jane's call was the first one the operator put through to us.

Barb said she liked Shake's story. It had all the elements of a goodmovie. Boy meets flag, boy loses flag, boy gets flag.

I asked how her backhand was coming along.

Jack Sullivan's house in the Hollywood hills was marvelous, she said.He had a lovely pool near the tennis court. Everything in the houseworked, as opposed to the continual problems of a New York apartment.Houses like Jack Sullivan's were so nifty, they almost made you thinkLos Angeles wasn't a penal colony.

Progress was being made on Rita, so much so that everyone wasbeginning to feel good about the show. And this was making everybodynervous. What if they had a hit? What if she were to win an Emmy?

"What if I win an Emmy?" I said. "They'retalking about nominating me."

"Dueling Emmys."

Barbara Jane said the episodes were going more smoothly. SheldonGurtz and Kitty Feldman were easier to work with. The hours weren'tas long anymore. There had been time to rest and relax, catch yourbreath.

Strange, but these changes had taken place in the last forty-eighthours. Show biz was like that, Jack Sullivan had said. Somewhere,sometime, on every project that had any merit something clicked,visibility improved, and everybody started to "cook."

Jack Sullivan's house had become a country-club hangout for the cast.

"Are you talking to me from poolside?" I said.

"Of course."

"You're in a lounge chair with a cordless phone, right?"

"Yes," she said. "And I have a plate of fried wontonbeside me."

"There's something I'll never understand about cordless phones,"I said.


"When they ring, how'd they know where you were?"

Barbara Jane said to congratulate Shake on his article and ask himwhat country he planned to move to.

I mentioned to Barb that I couldn't hear a lot of gaiety coming fromJack Sullivan's pool or the thump of any tennis balls, but perhaps itwas the less-than-ideal connection on the cordless phone.

"Carolyn's here but she's in the sauna," Barb said. "Theothers are on their way over."

Barb said she was sorry I wasn't going to be there over the weekend.It looked like they weren't going to be working on Rita. Wecould have spent some time together, darn it.

It was too bad, I said. She would just have to work on her serves andsuntan without me, but she could think of me toiling away in abroadcast booth, trying to score a completed sentence against LarryHoage's prevent defense.

Shake took a congratulatory call from Dreamer Tatum, and another fromJim Tom.

Dreamer predicted the Players Association would vote Shake its Man ofthe Year.

Jim Tom said the photo of Kim Cooze had sold the story. Playboyhad only used a two-column "accent" picture of Kim on thelower lefthand corner of a page, but the photographer had capturedher bare 44s from a very flattering angle.

Jim Tom also said the picture of Kim was going to turn CharlieTeasdale into a folk hero.

He said, "The only thing a reader's going to wonder is whyCharlie didn't give her two games—one to go with each of thosethings!"

When Kathy called, she sounded like she was in a near- panic. "Wehave to find Shake Tiller," she said. "Richard Marks wantsyou to do an exclusive insert with him. We'll use it at the top ofthe show Sunday. Richard says we'll fly Shake to Dallas, pay all hisexpenses. We'll send a company plane for him! Do you know where I canreach him? I've tried everywhere. Billy Clyde, this is reallyimportant. Richard's going crazy. He can't get you on the phone. He'scalling me every fifteen minutes to see if I've found you or Shake.If I don't set this up, he may fire me. If I do set it up, hemay promote me! Where's Shake? Can you talk him into coming toDallas?"

Holding the receiver where Kathy could hear my voice, I said, "Shake,you want to go on TV with me Sunday?"

He said, "I thought you'd never ask."

"Oh, my God!" said Kathy. "He's there? Shake'sin the room with you?"

Yes, I said, but don't tell Richard Marks.

Career-wise, I said, it would be better if Richard Marks thought itwas going to take her three days of intense cloak- and-dagger work toarrange the interview.

I said, "Tell Richard you have reason to believe Shake's on asampan in Hong Kong harbor, but he'll come to Dallas as a personalfavor to you because you're a friend of mine."

She said, "I love you, Billy Clyde! I do!"

"See you Friday."

"I've never been to Texas. I'm excited."

After I'd spoken to Kathy, I said to Shake, "Part of the joy ofbeing a grownup is seeing young people get ahead in life."

Shake was mixing us a cocktail as he said, "B.C., if you don'tfuck her now, I'm going to."

Shake's Playboy article was illustrated on the two openingpages by a wide-angle photo of a zebra reaching for his flag as anL.A. Ram carried a football into an end zone.

I re-read parts of the story in bed that night.


by Marvin (Shake) Tiller

Once upon a time there was a great sport in America that broughtpleasure and excitement to millions every week of every autumn. Itwas called pro football. I played the game in those days. Now I nolonger play and it's just as well. The sport has turned to shit.

Today you can't find anybody around the power structure of the NFLwho doesn't look like they suck blood.

The owners ought to walk with a goose step. The general managersshould wear black cloaks. The coaches need to be locked up in rubberrooms. And the zebras—the game officials—belong in correctionalinstitutions.

Don't worry about the players. They've all gone Dixie, anyhow—whichis where the fans are headed.

It's about time for the playoffs to start this season, and I can'twait to see how the zebras are going to make a bundle on those games.

Offensive holding is their old reliable. They can always lean onthat. You can be sure they'll rely on it if a team looks like it'sgoing to turn the game into a runaway.

That's because the zebras who aren't crooks have been instructed bythe league to keep the contests close for the TV audience.

My favorite crook in the league is Charlie Teasdale, a referee whosebimbo is pictured on this page.

For the past three or four years I've suspected Charlie of doingbusiness in the games he worked because he could toss flags like afrycook tossed eggs.

Charlie picked his spots, although he had a tendency to likeunderdogs. Not to win, just to "cover."

I ran a check. Three years ago, 10 out of 12 dogs covered in thegames he worked. Two years ago, 11 out of 14 dogs covered in thegames he worked. Last year, 14 out of 16 dogs covered in the games heworked.

To the sharp guys who could get a bet down before the kickoff in agame Charlie officiated, he was more fun than stock dividends.

This season, back in late September, Charlie made a mistake. He gavea game to somebody I know, the lady whose homegrowns are dressing upthis article. Her name is Kim Cooze. She's an exotic dancer at TheBlessed Virgin, a strip joint in Fort Worth, Texas.

I found out what Charlie was up to by accident. Kim told me. I haveto confess that she told me after we had been intimate.

Kim didn't know I was a writer at the time. She only told me aboutthe fix because she thought I might want to get in on a good thing.

She bet the game and won a new Camaro. As this was written, she wasexpecting to get other tips from Charlie. I'm sure she did. This isthe only one I can prove, but one's enough. Or too many.

Remember the Miami-Jets game on Sept. 28? Miami was favored by 6V2points. The Dolphins only won by 6, so if you bet the Jets you wonyour money.

That day, the Dolphins should have beaten the Jets by 30. But CharlieTeasdale called back three Miami touchdowns because of offensiveholding—and he made that controversial call on the Miami fumble inthe last minute. That fumble cost the Dolphins a field goal, 3 pointsthat would have covered the 6-1/2.

Kim had bet the Jets. Lucky girl. Good old Charlie had told her howmuch he liked the Jets with the points.

I have Kim Cooze's sworn affidavit to this fact. I also have hervoice on tape.

Why would Kim go public with this information? Well, let's be honest.It wasn't out of love for the game.

She wants the national publicity. She hopes it will help her career.She bills herself as a "mystical theologian who strips for God."

Here's a tip from me. If you're ever in Fort Worth, Kim's act beatsgoing to the Pancake House.

Why would Charlie Teasdale, an established referee in the NationalFootball League, a family man, give a game to a woman like Kim Cooze?

Jesus Christ, man, have you looked at those tits?

Shake went on to say in the article that he could predict how CharlieTeasdale would respond to his charge. Charlie would see no need todefend his holding calls in the Miami- Jets game. You can always callholding, he would say. He had only penalized the Dolphins in thoseinstances where they had been guilty of "flagrant" holding.

The Miami fumble, he would say, was strictly a judgment thing. It'spossible he had blown it. If so, he was sorry. But he had seen theball "come out" before Dwayne Arrick, the Miami runner, wasdown. And from his angle, it had looked like Lewis Shoop, the Jetlinebacker, had gained "possession" of the ball before itwound up under a mound of Dolphins. Charlie would insist his whistlehad stopped the action when the Jet had been on the ball.

In the article, Shake said he had looked at films of the gamecarefully and you couldn't see the fumble. Charlie would say thatShake had seen the play from poor camera angles. The league wouldsupport Charlie rather than stoke the fire of a controversy.

Charlie—and the league—would also wonder who would take the wordof a publicity-seeking stripper for anything? And the league wouldlet it get around that Shake Tiller, the ex-player who wrote thestory, had experimented with "drugs."

The Commissioner, Bob Cameron, would issue a statement remindingAmerica that NFL officials, like the CIA, are "fair game"for writers. Writers know they can say whatever they please about thezebras because, like the CIA, zebras never dignify "maliciousrumor" by commenting on it.

The article had made Playboy's editors very nervous. Themagazine's lawyers had nibbled on it like chipmunks, gnawed at itlike wolves, hopped around on it like Siamese cats.

In the days leading up to publication, Shake had been forced to signa paper taking full responsibility for the content of the expose. Inexchange for this, Silvia Mercer, his agent, had managed to have hisfee doubled. Shake was getting a record $47,500 for the piece.

"Milan Kundera wouldn't get that kind of money," SilviaMercer had bragged to Shake.

"He would if he worked without a net," Shake had said.

Playboy's editors finally decided to run the story over theprotest of their lawyers because Shake convinced them hisdocumentation was unassailable.

"Your documentation is a stripper," one of the lawyers hadargued with Shake.

"That's right," Shake had said. "Who wouldn't believea stripper before they'd believe a fucking lawyer?"

The NFL fan was further captivated by these excerpts:

The players are my friends. For this reason I'm not going to use anynames or quotes to verify the fact that the players have had a planin effect this season that's designed to bring the owners to thebargaining table over the wage-scale and free-agent issues. You'llhave to take my word for it.

You, the fan, have known it simply as boring, sloppy, emotionlessfootball, which is what the National Football League has come tostand for.

Boredom began with overexposure on television. It reached its zenithwith parity—

and it looks like the only thing that will cure all of it is anotherGreat Depression. That would bring everything back to reality.

This season, the players are in a rebellion, quietly, underground.They may as well be on strike for all of the effort they're puttinginto the games.

They know they could never win a strike against the wealthy owners,so they're trying to win their demands their way. They're giving theleague total parity. No team is worth a damn.

If you say you've watched the games and you don't believe me, that'syour problem. Keep watching. You must like sick humor.

As bad as things seem in the NFL, we aren't without remedies. Hereare some ways to pump life back in the game:

  • Award bonus points for teams that recover their own spikes in endzones.

  • Award bonus points for all white guys who score touchdowns.

  • Eliminate the extra-point kick. It's a yawn. Make teams run or throwfor their conversions.

  • Allow only one field-goal try per game—and if the kicker misses,he has to go back to Rumania.

  • No more holding calls. Let the weight- lifters fight it out in theline.

  • Outlaw the quarterback sneak, the draw play, the prevent defense,and the kill-the-clock incompletion.

  • Do away with the fair catch.

  • Take up the artificial turf. Tear the roofs off stadiums.

  • Find out what "encroachment" is and get rid of it.

  • Move the two-minute warning to the start of the game.

  • Shorten the regular season to 12 games.

  • Cut back to 16 teams in the league. When did Buffalo, San Diego,Denver, Atlanta, Tampa, Kansas City, Seattle, New Orleans, Foxboro,Indianapolis, Houston, and Minneapolis ever get the idea they weremajor-league in the first place?

  • Take periodic urine samples from the league's investigators.

  • Make all owners live in the cities where they own teams.

  • Shoot down the Goodyear blimp. Show more closeups of cheerleaders ontelevision.

  • A team forfeits one game for every Hollywood celebrity who turns upin an owner's luxury box.

A last word about Charlie Teasdale and his family.

Not that it would have stood in the way of journalism, but one factmade this expose easier for me to write. Mrs. Teasdale is legallyblind.

I am told that Mrs. Teasdale will think the picture of Kim Cooze isan architectural illustration of the twin domes on a new stadiumcomplex.

I hope Mrs. Teasdale's friends, out of sympathy for her feelings,will use good judgment in what they tell her about the contents ofthis article.

Finally, the reader is entitled to have the following questionanswered: why would a former NFL player like myself write thesethings about his sport?

Because I used to love pro football and I want my game back.


It was front-page news in most of the league cities. The FortWorth Light & Shopper even gave it banner play over theprominent state legislator who had confessed to operating achild-pornography ring in Austin.

The story in Jim Tom's paper was compiled from wire reports. Itpretty much covered all of the repercussions to Shake's piece.

Charlie Teasdale was quoted as saying, "We don't allow magazineslike Playboy in our home, therefore I can't comment on thestory. I can tell you that the name 'Kim Cooze' means nothing to me."

To which Kim Cooze said, "He never heard of me, huh? Ask him howOld George is. That's the name of his whatyoucallit. The story isabsolutely true."

Tom Buckner of the 49ers, the president of the Players' Association,said, "In a free society, Shake Tiller is entitled to his views,and the First Amendment guarantees a magazine the right to publishthose views. The leadership of the Players Association has noknowledge of a specific plan to destroy the game, but we can't speakfor every individual member."

Dreamer Tatum said, "There are so many intangibles in football,it's impossible to say whether Shake Tiller is right or wrong in histheories. If I were a fan, I can only say I would be intrigued."

Commissioner Bob Cameron said, "Pro football has never beenhealthier. Commercials for the Super Bowl are selling for ninehundred thousand dollars a minute. I rest my case."

Pete Rozelle, the ex-Commissioner, now a U.S. senator, released astatement through his office. It said:

"There are forces at work in this country that would like tochange our way of life. We must oppose these forces with all of ourvigor."

The reaction of all of the NFL owners was the same. In a matter ofwords, they said: "Consider the source."

Burt Danby said it more colorfully.

"Mondo whacko," said Burt. "I've known Shake Tiller along time. The guy's a complainer. He'd turn down Ali MacGraw if heknew she had a cavity."

When I came out of my bedroom the next morning at the Hyatt Regency,Shake was hanging up the phone in the living room of our suite. Hewas laughing.

"That was Bob Cameron," he said.

"You took the Commissioner's call?"

"He liked it."

"He liked your story?"

The Commissioner had told Shake he naturally wouldn't be able to sayso publicly, but everything in the article was accurate. TheCommissioner said he had guessed the players were up to something. Hewas going to urge the owners to give in on the wage-scale andfree-agent issues.

Bob Cameron wasn't a bad guy. We had known him well, even hung outwith him, when he had been an assistant under Rozelle. He had onceworked in Network Sales for CBS, and in the days when we chased whupwith him around New York, he was the liaison between the Commissionerand TV. It was because of his expertise in knowing how to heist thenetworks on television packages that he became the logical successorto Rozelle. The owners elected him

Commissioner by a unanimous vote after Rozelle resigned to run forpublic office.

Shake was still grinning with amazement from the phone call as hesaid, "Charlie Teasdale's through after this season. So areeight other zebras. Bob says they'll be allowed to retire for'personal reasons.' That way, it'll save the league embarrassment. Hesays he's been trying to think of a way to get rid of those guyswithout a scandal. Now he has the ammunition. My story. If they don'tgo quietly, he'll put 'em in the joint."

"You kicked ass," I said.

Shake said, "The Commissioner said me and him ought to get drunktogether some night—like the old days. He said if I'd keep it offthe record, he'd tell me some real horror stories about the zebras."

"What else did he say about the players and owners?"

"He says his sympathy is with the players, but the ownersapprove his expense accounts."

"Life its ownself," I said, somewhat relieved, somewhatbewildered. "You never know what that old boy will think upnext."

"No, you don't," said Shake. "He's got a bag oftricks, doesn't he?"

We took the farm roads to Boakum. It turned the journey into athree-hour drive in my rented Lincoln, but Shake and I agreed itwould be fun to look at the knobby hills and pastures and live oaksand Herefords and goats of Central Texas. We weren't in as big ahurry as the heavy haulers that stormed past you on the freeways andtried to beat you to the next place to stop for a Lone Star and a hotlink.

We drove slowly and sometimes lingered for a minute or two in a lotof little towns that brought back memories of Friday-night highschool football games, of car chases in which we all should have beenkilled, of punchouts and cussfights, of brassieres and panties thathad been left in the back seats of Buicks and Dodges, of terminatedpregnancies, of good greasy cheeseburgers you couldn't find anywhereanymore.

We wondered if our old high school coach, E. A. (Honk) Wooten, washappy in retirement, now that he couldn't greet all the pretty girlsas "Gizzard Lip," beat everybody's ass with his paddle, andlift his leg to make a clever noise like T.J. Lambert and blame it on"them damn cafeteria beans."

We talked about all of the girls we had known, about the ones we'dliked to have known better, the ones who had undoubtedly gained toomuch weight by now, the ones who had kept their looks, and the oneswho were raising hell because the dentists they'd married hadn'tfilled enough teeth to buy them a house in River Crest.

Shake might have married Barbara Jane at one time, though he saysnot. Since then, he had not even been close to marrying anyone,although he spent more time under the covers than a chronic invalid.

Now he guessed he might never marry—not until he was fifty, or sohe was saying in the car.

He said, "I'm pretty selfish of my time, B.C."

"No shit."

"I don't know how you do it. I couldn't deal with the crap thatmarried guys have to take. If I was married to Barb and she put oneminute of rage on me, I'd drive a stake through her heart."

"Barb doesn't do rage," I said. "She does lip."

"You know what I mean."

What he meant was the heat his mother, Matilda, had strapped on hisfather, Marvin senior, when he was growing up.

Marvin senior owned an electrical-supply store. Marvin senior andMatilda both worked there. So had Shake when he wasn't at footballpractice. Tiller Electric made them a nice living, but that didn'tmean they were country-club rich. Shake had suspected this was onereason why his mother was mad all the time.

Barbara Jane and I had never thought of Matilda as an angry person.We knew her as demanding, a perfectionist, but she had never beenanything but charming around us.

Shake said we didn't know the real Matilda. Nobody did but him andhis dad, an easygoing guy with a fixed smile on his face. If Shakewas right about Matilda, you had to wonder why Marvin senior eversmiled. In the privacy of their spotless, ranchstyle home, Matildawould turn into Magda Goebbels.

Matilda had a penchant for telling Shake and his dad how to dress,what to eat, what to say, where to sit, what to watch on TV, how muchmoney to spend on anything, where to keep the thermostat, how manylogs to put on the fire, why they couldn't have a pet, where theyshould go on vacation, which movies to avoid, what vitamins to take,who their friends should be, how to balance a checkbook, why acertain posture was bad for you, when it was going to rain, and whycrisp vegetables were healthy.

If Shake and Marvin senior ever disagreed with any of this, they hadthe Third Reich to deal with.

We were seniors in high school when Shake's mother died. She neverrecovered from an operation after an automobile accident. Shake hadlived at All Saints Hospital while the doctors struggled withMatilda's internal complications. He had watched her fail slowly.

Matilda had still enjoyed periods of consciousness in which she wouldtell everybody where to sit, what not to eat, and why smoking anddrinking was bad for you. Knowing the hour was near, she even foundthe strength to dictate her own funeral arrangements. She wanted tobe buried in her light blue summer dress by Geoffrey Beene. Felipefrom Neiman's should do her hair. She requested mood music from aGordon Jenkins album, no organ, please. Matilda's funeral demandsweren't unreasonable if you measured them against those of Lucy Wood,a Pi Phi we had known in college. Lucy was the daughter of a wealthyrancher in the Panhandle. She was also a diabetic who did herself inon Dr Peppers. She had left a note asking that her father see to itshe was buried in an evening gown sitting up behind the wheel of herred Ferrari with a carton of Dr Peppers beside her.

Matilda had been partly to blame for her own demise. She had insistedthat Marvin senior turn the wrong way up a one-way street. Ratherthan argue about it, Marvin senior had taken the turn, and their carhad collided head on with a drunken priest in a Chevrolet. Marvinsenior had only suffered a broken arm.

Four months after Matilda died, Marvin senior had married HollyMcFaddin, a woman who kept books for him at Tiller Electric. Twoyears later, after all of us were in TCU, Shake's dad sold thebusiness and made enough on the sale to retire in modest comfort.

Marvin senior and Holly, a woman Shake had always liked, bought ahome in Ponte Vedra, Florida, and they were living there today. Shakewould visit them on occasion and stay until he was overgolfed bytheir conversation.

Shake could now look back on his youth, at the home in which he wasraised, with humor. His most vivid memory of Matilda was the time shehad unleashed a weeklong reign of terror followed by another week ofsmoldering silence because of a careless remark his dad had made.

One evening at the dinner table, Marvin senior had said, "Mymomma used to cook with lard. That's why everything tasted so good."

On our way to Boakum, we were passing through anotherpeaceful-looking, tree-lined town when Shake said, "Lookspretty, doesn't it? You know what's going on behind these closeddoors?"


"Fucking right. I guess I'll never understand why it'snecessary."

"It's a people deal," I explained.

Shake confessed that for the first time in his life he had beenfeeling a little lonely, even when he was being held hostage by ashapely adorable, but it hadn't made him want to get married.

The only thing it had done was make him want to start on a novelagain. He might hire a thirty-year-old Swedish housekeeper who coulddouble as a masseuse.

"To live in?"

"If she looks like Kathy Montgomery and doesn't speak English,"he said.

I wondered how the language barrier was going to solve the lonelinessproblem.

"I don't want her for a friend," he said. "My friendswill be the characters in my book."

By appointment, we met Tonsillitis Johnson and Mutt Turnbull, hiscoach, at K's Restaurant in downtown Boakum.

Downtown Boakum was a courthouse surrounded by four blocks ofdeserted storefronts with head-in parking for the only other vehicleswe could see, which were four pickup trucks and a Datsun 280Z.Tonsillitis' car, courtesy of Big Ed.

K's Restaurant looked like a place I had spent half my life in. Itwas a rural Herb's Cafe.

Leatherette stools along a serving counter. Linoleum-top tables. Tilefloor. A black-and-white TV on a shelf playing a Gunsmokere-run. A blue-and-orange Boakum Bobcats pennant on the wall above asquad picture of last year's Class AA state champions, the BoakumBobcats. Antique brass cash register. George Jones on the jukebox.Meatloaf special on the menu. Tired K cooking in the kitchen andtired Marvene behind the counter. And two fence-menders trying tobeat the pinball machine.

"Finesse that fucker, Dace!" said one of the fence-mendersas the machine clanged and flickered.

Tonsillitis and Mutt were seated at a table in the rear of the place.We sat down with them as Marvene brought us coffee we hadn't askedfor and put another cup of tea in front of Tonsillitis.

Tonsillitis was wearing a Levi jacket over a T-shirt and his yellowreflective glasses.

Mutt Turnbull was exactly what I had expected to find. He was a squatlittle guy in his forties who was getting bald, the kind of man ofwhom his friends would say: "Mutt, you ain't gettin' anysmarter, you're just gettin' wider."

"I reckon you boys is the biggest names what's ever been inhere," Mutt said. "You don't care if Marvene takes somePolaroids, do you?"

Marvene came to the table with the Polaroid camera.

"We're flattered," I said. "Will we be on K's wall?"

"Honey, y'all are the Red Cross!" Marvene said. She snappedthe pictures and brought us a slice of homemade chocolate pie.

"Sorry about the Eula game," Shake said to Mutt.

"Broke my heart is all it did," the Boakum coach said."We'd have gone all the way again, but I hadn't ought tocomplain. Tonsillitis has give me more to brag about than anythingelse I'll have in this life."

I asked Tonsillitis if he felt the same about football— was hestill confused?

"Haba say to probe for the inner truth," he said.

"You can probe in college and still play football," Shakesaid.

"College be havin' material value. Haba say material value isthe road to evil."

Mutt Turnbull said, "You ain't gonna get nowhere with him. Theswami's got him up to his ass in clean air, clean water, pure food,and pure spirit."

"Is that all you want?" I said to Tonsillitis.

"Haba say it's the way to inner peace."

Shake said, "Tonsillitis, would you play football again if Habasaid it was all right?"

"Haba don't like football."

"Haba might change his mind."

"Who gonna change Haba?"


"Grover who?"

"Grover's the boss swami."

"I never heard of Grover."

"Haba has."

Tonsillitis said he would follow Haba's teachings, even if they ledto playing football again.

That was all we needed to know.

"Where can we find Haba?" I asked.

Tonsillitis said Swami Muktamananda was waiting for us across thestreet in the square. The swami refused to patronize K's because therestaurant served carbonated sodas.

We left Tonsillitis and Mutt in K's and walked over to the square,where we found Swami Muktamananda sitting cross-legged under ahackberry tree.

The swami was a black man in a beard and dark glasses. He was wrappedin a bedsheet, wore a baseball cap that said "BLUE SOX" anda pair of high-top tennis shoes. There was no other swami in thesquare. It had to be him.

Shake and I plopped down on the grass with him, introduced ourselves.

"You are men of sweetness, I have a way of knowing," saidHaba.

I came right to the point.

"Haba," I said, "we've got a gentleman in Fort Worthwho's reached his E.O.R."

"I do not understand," said the swami.

"End of rope," I said. "The gentleman wantsTonsillitis to play football for TCU so bad, he's willing to increasehis contribution to your cause."

"I have no cause, I only have my teachings."

"My man thinks your lectures would be greatly improved if youhad five hundred thousand dollars in the bank."

"Oh, my," said Haba.

I said, "The man's name is Ed Bookman. He's extremely wealthyand a man of God. Although he's a Christian, he respects yourbeliefs. He says he's convinced you will have many more visions cometo you out of the pitch blackness if a half a million is deposited inyour account at the United Bank of Austin."

Shake said, "I've lived a cloistered life myself, Haba, and I'velearned something about bucolic. He don't pay the lights, gas, andwater."

"You have spoken a truth," Haba said.

I said, "Mr. Bookman says he will make half of the contributionnow and the other half when your disciple signs his letter of intenton Feb. 8. This is assuming we have a deal."

Swami Muktamananda saw the need to meditate for a moment, to ask hisdivinity for guidance in the matter. He tilted his head back, put hispalms together.

Coming out of it, he said, "These funds would be tax- free?"

We drove back to Fort Worth on the interstate. I put the Lincoln oncruise control, stuck an Elroy Blunt tape in the cassette deck.

We were a few miles outside of Boakum before I asked Shake thequestion of the hour:

"Do you think Big Ed knows Darnell is the swami?"

Shake said, "I don't think Big Ed cares as long as he getsTonsillitis wearin' that purple."

Kathy looked prettier than I had ever seen her. She sat across fromme at dinner on Friday night of that week. I was introducing her togood Tex-Mex food at Casa Dominguez, a restaurant and sports salonnear downtown Dallas where my picture hung on the wall in a galleryof other desperadoes.

"It's interesting," Kathy said of the corn tortillas thatwere stuffed with orange cheese and chopped onion and covered with adelicate brown chili gravy.

"You can't get this in New York," I said. "In NewYork, you get swill—cottage cheese inside pita bread with tomatosauce on top, or something worse. There's a place in Midtown thatclaims to serve chicken-fried steak. I asked a waiter one night ifthe gravy was any good. 'It's wonderful' he said. 'We make it withmushrooms and sherry.' He should have had his tongue cut out. Thechef should have had his hands cut off."

"Is this chicken-fried steak?"

"No, it's enchiladas. Tex-Mex. Chicken-fried steak is somethingelse. Chicken-fried steak is just...food."

"I like steak and I like chicken," Kathy said. "I'mnot sure I'd like them together."

She misunderstood, I said. A chicken-fried steak was a cheap piece ofbeef that had been tenderized—had the shit beat out of it. Then itwas cooked in a batter like fried chicken. "You pour cream gravyover it."

"Gravy made with cream?"

"If it's done right, it looks like scrapbook paste, but ittastes better. The chicken-fried steak was invented in 1911 inLamesa, Texas, by a man named Jimmy Don Perkins. He was cooking in acafe and got his orders mixed up. They can talk about Davy Crockettall they want to. Jimmy Don Perkins is my hero."

"Is that what they teach in school down here?"

"They should," I said. "I wish a guy from Fort Worthhad invented the chicken-fried steak, but all we can claim are theice cream drumstick and the washateria."

Kathy looked at me with concern.

"Historical facts," I said. "God bless I. C. Parkerand J. F. Cantrell. In 1931,1. C. Parker was working for Pangburn'sIce Cream Company. He accidentally dropped an ice cream cone coveredwith peanuts into a pot of liquid chocolate. The world took it fromthere. The saga of the washateria goes back to 1934. All J. F.Cantrell was trying to do was survive the Depression. His cleaningbusiness was going broke. He put in four washing machines, let peopledo their own, and called it a washateria. The place is near where Igrew up. It's a landmark."

"I could have gone my whole life without knowing these things,"Kathy said.

"I come from a pretty famous high school," I said. "Youknow who went to Paschal? Ginger Rogers. Ben Hogan, the golfer. AlanBean. We had the third man on the moon. Who went to your highschool?"

"Ona Schulenberg."

"Who's that?"

"She was the first woman to walk three thousand miles backwards.I had her for English grammar."

Kathy had arrived from New York that afternoon. She had checked intoa room on the same hall as Shake and I at the Adolphus in Dallas. Wehad moved to another suite that was 35 miles east.

Years ago, the Adolphus had been one of the swell hotels in Texas,like the Menger in San Antonio and the Driskill in Austin. It had anightclub with an ice rink and a restaurant where Bonnie and Clydeused to go to dinner. It was in the heart of downtown Dallas, only ablock or so from the original Neiman-Marcus. The Adolphus had falleninto a period of despair but it had been remodeled and furnished withfine antiques and it was a swell place again. Its elegance recalled abetter time in our lives than the modern glitter of America'ssuburban hotels.

Before going to dinner that night, I had spoken to Barbara Jane inCalifornia. I had filled her in on the Tonsillitis- Darnell-T.J.-BigEd drama. She had screamed with laughter at her daddy buying a fakeswami.

"That's half a million out of your inheritance," I hadreminded her.

"The joke's worth it," she had said.

Considering all the millions Big Ed had left, she may have beenright.

Barbara Jane had confirmed the fact that she was going to have theweekend free. She had been tempted to fly down to Dallas.

I had talked her out of it. She wasn't going to miss anything but alousy football game and dinner with Teddy, Mike, and Ken, I'd said.


"My stage manager."

"That's right. You still like him?"

"He's okay," I'd said.

Kathy and I had invited Shake to come to dinner with us at CasaDominguez, but he had other plans. His plans had included a tour ofthe bars out by SMU and the hope of finding a Tri-Delt of loosemorals who had been stood up by a Kappa Sig.

Kathy was into her third frozen Margarita at dinner when I said, "Didyou know the Margarita was invented in El Paso, Texas, in 1942?"

"Stop it," she said.

"It's true. The bartender's name was Pancho Morales. He waslooking for a way to tame the tequila one night... to keep hiscustomers from breaking so much furniture. That's when he came upwith the idea of adding Triple Sec and lime juice."

I was impressed with how adultly Kathy handled the Margaritas Iordered for her so quickly.

All they did was give her a friendly glow.

I had learned through experience that there was a fertile hour withMargarita drinkers. Smart money had to be alert.

If you missed that hour, you were no longer with the lasciviousharlot of a porno film, you were with an unidentified body that hadbeen dredged up from the Hudson River.

Kathy drank her Margaritas without salt around the rim of the glass,which was how salt crept into the conversation.

She never ate salt, she said.

I didn't accept that.

"Everybody eats salt on something," I said.

"Not me," Kathy said, tossing her golden hair and sippingher unsalted Margarita. "If food is cooked properly, you don'tneed salt."

"Eggs," I said. "You can't eat eggs without salt."

"I can."

"I don't believe you."

"Why not?"

"How often do you eat eggs?"

"I don't eat eggs every morning, but I eat them sometimes."

"Fried or scrambled?"


"Soft-boiled, too?"


"Without salt?"

"Why do you find it so peculiar?"

"Don't get me wrong," I said. "I love eggs. I'm an eggguy. But if I had to eat an egg without salt and pepper, you'd haveto rush me to a hospital."

"It must be how you were raised."

"Yeah, I'm normal. I was raised on salt and pepper."

She smiled at me.

I said, "I'm gonna think of something you can't eat withoutsalt."

"You can't."

"Give me a minute," I said, taking the challenge seriously.

I inhaled a young Scotch and did the same thing to a Winston.

"Honestly," she said, "You can't name anything I wouldput salt on."

"I've got it," I said, believing I had it. "Popcorn."

"I don't eat popcorn," she said with a look of apology.

Back at the hotel, I steered Kathy to the lobby bar for a nightcap.

We took stools at the service bar rather than sit in the cushionysofas and chairs. A serious drinker never sits in cushiony sofas andchairs. If they don't put you to sleep, they make it impossible tostand up without tearing your coat.

Except for the bartender and a waitress who were discussing autorepairs, we were the only people in the lobby bar.

Our stools were close. We were almost touching shoulders. Kathyswitched to Scotch when we ordered a drink.

I said, "I tried to get you drunk on Margaritas, but I think Igot myself drunk on Scotch. Seeing as how I'm drunk, I have an excusefor letting you kiss me right now."

"You're lonely," she said—and startled me with a wet


My response led to a longer kiss—and some clutching. In the historyof moist kisses, these didn't deserve to be enshrined in a movielibrary, but they were interesting enough to make me motion to thebartender for the check.

"Shall we go meet our destiny?" I said.

In a whisper, she said, "Billy Clyde, I'm not going to bed withyou. It's not like I haven't thought about it. I have. But...we can'tdo it."

I suggested we talk about it upstairs.

She said, "Your friendship means too much to me, it really does.I want to be friends with Barbara Jane, too. You guys are special."

Where were the Jim Tom lines?

I said, "What's a friend for if you can't count on 'em? You doknow we're going to wind up in bed someday, don't you?"

"Not if we don't let it happen."

She initiated another kiss, but this one fell into the sistercategory.

"There's something else," she said, softly. "I've beenwanting to talk to you about it, but I could see you were gettinginterested in me—and I couldn't help but like that. You're BillyClyde Puckett. I'm nobody."

"We owe it to sports," I said. "We're not talkingabout a lifetime commitment here."

"I'm in love with somebody," Kathy said. "I want thetwo of you to meet. I want all of us to be friends."

"Tomorrow," I said. "Tomorrow, he'll be the bestfucking friend I ever had."

She laughed as I signed the bar tab.

Kathy was aloof in the elevator. It was obvious that she had nointention of raping me.

In the hall outside the door to her room, she gave me a long hug butonly a kiss on the cheek, and she said:

"You mean so much to me, Billy Clyde. You have no idea. See youin the morning, huh?"

"I learned something tonight," I said.

"That I have a lover?"

"No, that doesn't surprise me. How the hell can a girl who lookslike you not have somebody? I learned something about Barbara Jane."


"She does mental telepathy."

Feeling an indescribable sense of relief, even an odd pinge of prideat not having made a complete fool of myself, I walked to the door ofthe suite. I looked back down the hall. Kathy had waited to enter herroom until she could wave goodnight to me.

I smiled at her like a sophisticate, went into the suite, turned onthe movie channel, and watched an idiotic romance I'd already seenthree times on airplanes.

At mid-morning on Saturday, we set up the Shake Tiller interview inthe Adolphus suite. Lights, two cameras, lapel mikes, Kathydirecting.

Kathy had to caution Priscilla not to walk in front of the cameras ormake any noise at the bar once the cameras started to purr.

Priscilla Handler, an SMU co-ed, was Shake's holdover houseguest fromthe previous evening. She was a willowy, olive-skinned, sleepy-eyedbeauty of about twenty. She was wearing one of Shake's dress shirtsas a bathrobe, and nothing more that I could tell. She had made aface when told to turn off the TV so that we might conduct theinterview, but generally speaking, Priscilla seemed to approve of oursuite. She also approved of Shake Tiller's stash. Priscilla lookedlike someone who intended to practice hedonism for the nextthirty-five or forty years.

"When will this be on TV?" Priscilla asked anyone who caredto answer.

"Tomorrow before the game," I said.

"Here in the room?"

"Yes," said Kathy. "We aren't blacked out."

"Dilly!" Priscilla said. She opened a can of beer, lit ajoint, and made herself comfortable in an easy chair where she couldwatch us do the interview.

Priscilla's shirttail scrooched up as she wriggled in the chair. Herbare legs and hips were exposed. There was even a glimpse of the whupthrown in. This didn't bother Priscilla, but one of the hand-heldcameramen was distracted.

"You want to go to the game?" the cameraman said toPriscilla. "I have an extra ticket."

"I hate the Cowboys," Priscilla said. "Talk aboutstuck- up people!"

She drew on the joint.

"Y'all go ahead and do your deal," she said. "I'llkeep still."

Kathy had been staring at Priscilla. I couldn't have guessed whetherKathy thought she was looking at a reptile or just your averageTri-Delt.

On camera, I introduced Shake Tiller by saying I had known him sincethe third grade when he had driven Old Lady Hedderman half-crazy withventriloquism. I had known then he was destined for fame.

I said he had the mementos to prove he had been a great footballplayer—a Super Bowl ring, a wall full of plaques, an assortment ofgame balls. He had since become a successful writer—a noted author,I said—but the NFL wasn't too happy about this fact right now.

Grinning as I faced him, I said, "I guess the first thinganybody wants to know is why you wrote that story and embarrassedeverybody in pro football."

"Had to," he said. "It got to where I couldn't sleepat night. I'd close my eyes and see zebras jumping oversafety-deposit vaults."

"One in particular," I said. "Charlie Teasdale, thereferee."

"No, I'd always see Charlie in Switzerland," Shake said."He'd be opening numbered accounts."

"Your story says Charlie Teasdale tried to manipulate the scoresof games."

"He didn't try, he did it," said Shake.

"Your main source is an exotic dancer."

"I have other sources I can't name."

"What about the rest of the zebras? Any crooks?"

"I don't have proof, but if you want an opinion, I'd vote guiltyon some others. Too many games have looked like science fiction."

"Aren't you relying on the word of gamblers and bookmakers?"

"In part," Shake said. "Who's a better judge ofreality?"

"Your story says the players have been having a little fun oftheir own this season, like not putting forth their best effort. Whyare they doing this, if it's true?"

"It's true. Look at the records of the teams. Nobody's going toget to the Super Bowl with better than a 10-8 record. The winner ofthe Super Bowl will have an 11-8 record and call itself the 'worldchampion of pro football.' Are you kidding me? Contrast this to the17-0 record that Don Shula's Dolphins had back in '72...to Lombardi'sgreat Packer teams...to our 15-2 the year the Giants did it all. Thepros have become the biggest boost to college football since Grant-land Rice named the Four Horsemen. In college, it takes a 12-0 or an11-1 to be a national champion. What's happened is this. The playerswant a say in determining their wage scale and they want the right tobecome free agents. The owners won't give 'em these things, andmeanwhile, the owners want parity. They're getting it, man. Theplayers have gone Dixie."

"What you're saying is, the players are intentionally givingAmerica an inferior brand of football, and they're going to keepdoing it until the owners realize what's going on and come to thebargaining table?"

"Right," said Shake. "The players have the ability toturn every game into a comedy. I say they're already doing it. Theowners ought to be worried."

"I fail to see what good it will do to kill the sport," Isaid.

"They won't kill the sport. They'll just kill the NFL. Some richguys will start a new league and the players will be back at work."

"There are thousands of fans who must not agree with you …They're excited about the season."

"That's their problem," Shake said. "But I don't thinkthere are enough fools out there to keep the league alive."

"With all this in mind, what do you look for in the playoffs?"

"I'd like to buy some pharmaceutical stock," Shake said."There's no telling how much speed it'll take to keep Americaawake."

"Who do you think's going to the Super Bowl, and who'll win?"

"I like boredom over tedium by a fumble."

Shake thought it better not to go to the Cowboys-Giants game Sunday.Too many people in Texas Stadium would want to ask him about thePlayboy article—or assassinate him.

He stayed in the Adolphus suite with Priscilla, a girl he liked in acurious way. Priscilla might be what he had been searching for hiswhole life, he said. She was certainly good- looking and had no shamewhatsoever about the fact that she was only interested in eating,sleeping, fucking and doing dope.

They had discussed the possibility of Priscilla going back to NewYork with him. She could keep him company while he worked on thenovel. There would be no unreasonable demands on her. All she wouldhave to do was eat, sleep, fuck, and do dope.

Leaving SMU would be no problem for Priscilla. She would deal withthe spring term the way most of her friends did.

"Drop City" was the academic phrase she had used.

"You know what's great about Priscilla?" Shake had said."Nothing's complicated."

Kathy Montgomery had never seen Texas Stadium, so I gave her a guidedtour Sunday morning.

We started in the big private club above the west end zone that wasfor drinking, dining, socializing, dancing to live country music, oreven watching the game for those who were still sober when it cametime for the kickoff. In many ways, the Cowboy Club was like beingback at Mommie's Trust Fund.

I led Kathy on a tour of the private suites in the stadium. Most ofthe doors to the suites were standing open, enabling us to glanceinside at the decor and the revelers. An owner of one of these suitescould decorate it as he or his wife saw fit.

Kathy was fascinated with everything she saw, which included cocktailparties in progress in a French Provincial living room, an Art Decopatio, an Early American library, a harem, an aquarium, an exercisegym, an oyster bar, a bird sanctuary, and an unfurnished room inwhich we found six airline stewardesses drinking champagne.

We stopped by the visiting owner's box for a drink with Burt Danbyand Veronica. I no longer felt any guilt about having Kathy with me.She belonged to somebody else. She was my trusty sidekick and stagemanager, that's all.

Needless to say, Burt was taken with Kathy.

"Jesus," he said, gaping at her from hair to ankle, "Iknew broadcasting was a grimy, thankless business, but I didn't knowit was fucking gutter work!"

Kathy accepted Burt's unique flattery with a smile.

"You're Billy Clyde's 'assistant'?" Veronica said to Kathy.

"I'm the stage manager," Kathy said.

"Hmmm," Veronica said, not believing it for a second.

The Danbys were with two couples who had flown to Texas with them onthe team plane. Their names weren't worth remembering. They looked asif they could tell you nothing more than where to shop for floraltrousers or hand- knitted sweaters in the vicinity of Greenwich,Connecticut.

Burt said to me, "You're good on TV, ace. You don't drill a holein me like that fucking Larry Hoage. Jesus, can he talk? He can sayless in more words than six guys running for governor!"

"I've been thinking about football," I said. "Thedoctors say I'd be crazy to try to play again. I like television. Youwere right, it's a souffle. Maybe my playing days are over, is whatI'm getting at."

"You want the truth, Billy Clyde? Once a knee, always a knee.You'd never be the same again."

"What about the Gucci knee you promised?"

"I'm an owner," he said. "I lie!"

I asked Burt what he thought about Shake's expose.

"Loved the broad," he said.

"That's it?"

"What else is there? It's print journalism, Billy Clyde. A weekfrom now, it's history. And you know what? Our TV ratings will go up.Who's not going to watch pro football now? Jesus, it's like we've gotour own game show. Joe Bob and Martha sit there with their MillerLites and their Velveeta sandwiches and try to guess who the crooksare. 'There's one!' 'No, it's not!' 'Yes, it is, he dropped a flag!'It's dynamite. When you see Shake, tell him kiss on the lips from thebig guy."

"Do the other owners agree with you?"

"We've got some assholes who worry about integrity," Burtsaid. "I was on a conference call with the CompetitionCommittee. I said relax, guys, how many times have you seen integritygoing to the bank?"

"The quality of football doesn't bother you?"

"With my team?" said Burt. "If we'd tried thisyear, we'd still be oh-for-fifteen!"

"So you think the players are laying down—like Shake says?"

"A few pinkos, big deal. It's nothing we can't cure with acheckbook."

Kathy astutely asked Burt who was going to replace Billy ClydePuckett on the Giants. They surely weren't going to stay with AmosHixon, the rookie from Prairie View who had been filling in for me.

"He's gone," Burt said. "I'll take any white guy I canget. We'll have the first draft choice. I'd like to get the kid fromIllinois, but he's got Count Dracula for an agent. I may trade forthe guy at Tampa Bay."

"Ron Tooler?" I said. "He's slow."

"Yeah, but he's white. You want to know the real trouble withpro football, Billy Clyde? Forget the zebras. Too many spookolas,that's our problem."

"Too many what?" said Kathy.

"Mola gomba," Burt said. "We're getting too many. Palof mine at Y-and-R's been a season-ticket holder for twenty years. Hedoesn't go to the games anymore. He says, 'Fuck it, I already takeNational Geographic.' I argue with the networks about it. Itold 'em one of these days if we aren't careful, we'll be right inthe shitter. They say I'm wrong, look at ice hockey. They say icehockey's an all-white sport but nobody watches ice hockey on TV. Youcan't give it away. Jesus, I know why nobody watches ice hockey. It'sgot nothing to do with color. They don't watch ice hockey becauseit's played on fucking ice! We're gonna be in trouble if we don't cutback on the mogambo, I'm serious. That'll be some great Super Bowlone of these days—Swaziland and Mozambique in the fucking RoseBowl!"

Before the game started, Kathy went to the broadcast booth to prepareher picnic, and I wandered down on the field to visit with ShoatCooper and some of the Giants.

The old coacher said, "I sure wish I had you with us today,Billy Clyde."

"Looks like you need more than me," I said.

Shoat said, "This season ain't exactly been my idea of hightimes. I'm gonna have to get me some lumber and nails and start over,is all I can do."

Where did he intend to start?

"Not a bad place right there," said Shoat. He looked atDump McKinney, who was flipping passes to receivers. "Thatwithered-arm sumbitch can't spiral it from me to you."

"You need help in the offensive line," I said.

"Tell me about it," the coach said. "Powell therecan't spit over his chin. Brooks ain't been off his belly sinceOctober. Jackson's so slow, he has to make two trips to haul ass.Burris swapped his brain for a tree stump. I ain't been around somany jewels since the last time I was in Woolworth's."

I spent a moment with Dump McKinney.

I asked the quarterback what the Giants might try to do against theCowboys today.

"Get out of their way," Dump said.

Larry Hoage welcomed our TV audience to a "bronco- bustin',calf-ropin', steer-wrestlin' wingding of a ro-day-o" that wascoming from "deep in the heart of Dallas, Texas, where the deerand the antelope roam."

Larry glanced at me for a comment on the game before the kickoff. Isaid it had been a while since I had seen an antelope in Dallas, butI'd bet Neiman-Marcus had one in stock.

The Cowboys secured a spot in the playoffs by rolling to a 24-to-Qlead over the Giants in the first quarter. They scored on twointercepted passes for touchdowns, two field goals by theirplacekicker from Kuwait, and two safeties, which were the result ofDump McKinney slipping down in his own end zone while looking for areceiver.

Larry Hoage gave full credit to Dallas' "Doomsday Defense,"which hadn't existed for years.

There was a moment during the first half when we watched a cut-infrom the New York studio on our monitor. That day Charlie Teasdalewas refereeing a game in San Francisco, and when he had taken thefield at Candlestick Park, he had received a standing ovation.

Larry Hoage hadn't read Shake's story, I gathered, or read anythingabout the expose in the newspapers, or even listened to BrentMusburger on the cut-in, because when New York came back to us, Larrysaid over the air:

"What a great tribute to a great guy! We don't give theofficials enough credit, by golly! Kind of thing you like to see!"

I was standing up, my broadcast habit now—and looking down on thefield in the third quarter, when I heard Kathy's voice on my headset.

"Wow—Barbara Jane Bookman, it's you!"

My wife was in the broadcast booth.

I took off my headset and started over to give Barb a kiss.

"Nice surprise," I said.

"So is she," said Barb, retreating coldly, telling me witha look that Kathy Montgomery was never going to be her best friend.

I knew there was something I didn't like about Learjets. If yourfather-in-law owned one, and it happened to be sitting around in LosAngeles on business, and his daughter happened to get on it, shecould be in Dallas in two hours, and surprise you in a broadcastbooth, and get the wrong impression about your stage manager. Becauseof the Learjet, a guy could get separated, even divorced, and bemiserable the rest of his life. The Learjet had its drawbacks.

Now in the broadcast booth, Barb turned to Kathy, and said:

"Hi, Ken. How's it going?"

"Ken?" Kathy frowned.

I said, "Her name's Kathy, Barb. Kathy Montgomery. She's a goodgirl and a good friend."

Barbara Jane said, "I see why you leave on Thursdays for aSunday game. Good luck with your life, asshole!"

With that, Barb whirled out of the booth.

I went after her. Not in a panic, but hurriedly.

Out in the stadium corridor, as Barb was getting on the presselevator, I said, "Come on, honey, it's not what you think—andI'm on the air, damn it!"

"Wrong," she said. "You're on the street."

Leukemia was a butterscotch pie compared to marital discord. My dadhad been right all those years ago. Marital discord drove a toothpickup your ass with a sledgehammer and dragged you backwards through asewer drain. Marital discord could turn you into a knee-crawling,dog-puking drunk, a dope-sick, no-count, sorrier-than-white-trash,store- bought son-of-a-bitch whose ass wasn't worth wiping withnotebook paper. Marital discord made you so God-damn tired, youcouldn't eat spaghetti.

Marital discord didn't necessarily make you a bad broadcaster,though. I was nominated for an Emmy in December, as the playoffs gotunderway.

I would have been prouder of it if almost every broadcaster in sportstelevision hadn't been nominated, either as the Outstanding SportsPersonality—Host or Outstanding Sports Personality—Analyst.

It wasn't until after the news of the nomination had come in the mailat the New York apartment that I found out the three networks hadnominated their own people. The imbecile Larry Hoage was evennominated by Richard Marks, so it wasn't as if we'd been selected bya panel of Walter Cronkites.

I only felt like I deserved an Emmy if you compared me to LarryHoage, but being separated from Barbara Jane, I kind of wanted to winthe thing out of some feeling of vengeance.

None of our friends could believe Barb and I were separated, andneither could I. And none of our friends could do anything about it.Everybody made a plea to Barb in my behalf—Shake, T.J., herparents, Burt Danby, Dreamer, even Kathy, which must have been thebriefest conversation of them all, knowing Barb. Shake was as good afriend of Barb's as he was mine, except that when it came to domesticmatters, men stuck together. He went out to the Coast, a mercy trip,to try to patch us up. Came back with a bruise.

I had tried once. Pride wouldn't let me go any further.

In a conflict between men and women, pride becomes the adversary ofboth.

The day after Barbara Jane had turned up in the broadcast booth inDallas, I had returned to the Westwood Marquis and we'd had one ofthose debates that never get you anywhere and only infect you with ananger that's hard to get rid of because it burns the lining of yoursoul.

I began by saying, "Barb, this is the first real problem we'veever had. We've got a chance to show what we're made of here."

"You've done that," she said.

"You're wrong about me and Kathy Montgomery," I said. "Iknow why you think what you do. I should have told you about her fromthe start. I was an idiot. I can't really explain it, except thatgood-looking women don't like to hear about other good-lookingwomen... do they?"

"Good-looking?" said Barb. "She's fucking immortal!You do have good taste."

"Kathy's a kid," I said. "She's a young girl out ofBerkeley ... a television junkie. She's ambitious. She thinks I'm abig deal. Girls her age are always into hero-worship, I can't helpit."

"Is this going to be the tenor of our conversation?" Barbsaid, lighting a second cigarette to go with the one in the ashtray."Are you going to remind me every two minutes that she's youngerthan I am?"

"Nothing happened between us, that's the point," I said.


"It didn't."


"You're wrong," I said. "Why do you think it did?"

"Because I've seen her and I know you. Two months with Ken! Howdare you?"

"What the fuck have I done?"

"You lied to me...took advantage of me. How many Kathys havethere been? I know you, Billy C.! I've known you all your life!You've got about as much willpower with women as you do with barbecueribs!"

"Why'd you marry me?"

"I loved you. I thought you had become a grownup."

"Did I hear a past tense?"


"You don't mean it."

"The hell I don't!"

"You're just hot, Barb. I admit you have a right to be. I misledyou—it wasn't really a lie—for some dumb reason I can't explain,but you don't stop loving somebody because of that."

I tried to go near her. She stopped me with a look of "territorialferocity," as Shake described it in a book. Women were better atit than leopards.

"You'd like Kathy if you knew her," I said.


Somehow, I had known that was the wrong thing to say, even as thewords came out of my mouth.

"She looks up to you," I said, making it worse.

"Good!" said Barbara Jane. "I'll send her an eight-by-ten!"

"While we're on the subject of friends," I said, "whatabout the suave Jack Sullivan?"

"What about him?"

"What's going on there?"

"Oh, no," said Barb. "Uh-uh, you're not going to turnthis around. You're the asshole here, not me. And I want you out ofhere—now!"

"Jack Sullivan's just a good friend... a director, right?"

"That's right."

"Well, that's all Kathy is—a good friend and a stage manager."

"Did you hear what I said? I want you out of here."

"What the hell will it take to convince you, damn it?"

Barb said, "A couple of snaggled teeth and a case of acne wouldhelp."

I smoked one of Barbara Jane's cigarettes.

"Marriage is a full-time job, Barb. Happiness is a state ofmind. I'm ready to work on it if you are."

Barbara Jane looked around the hotel suite, mystified.

"Who am I talking to? When did Joyce Brothers come in thefucking room?"

"What do you expect me to do?" I said.


"Just walk out? Walk out that door?"

"Yeah. You put one foot here, the other foot there, and prettysoon..."

"I think I will."


"I think I won't be back."


"You don't have a good enough reason to give me all this shit,Barb."

"Oh, really? I've got five years to look back and wonder howmany chicks you made it with and I don't have a good reason?"

"None," I said. "Starting with Kathy."

I didn't think it would serve any useful purpose in our discussion ifI confessed that making it with Kathy had crossed my mind. Deep down,I felt I would never have gone the distance with Kathy that night inDallas. I would have pulled up lame somewhere. With Kathy, it hadbeen a question of trying to get to the bottom of a puzzle. Once thepuzzle was solved, the game was over. I didn't know how many peoplewould ever believe this, but I knew it was true. Christ, it wasn't asthough I'd never scored a pretty girl before.

"Goodbye, Twenty-three. I know how lonely it is on the road, butyou'll manage," Barb said.

"You're gonna be God-damn sorry if I walk out that door."

"Life is full of gambles."

I went to the door.

"You don't want any of your clothes?" she said.

"Fuck clothes," I said. "I got clothes and broadsstashed all over the country!"

I doubt if T.J. Lambert could have slammed the door any harder than Idid. As an old inanimate object kicker, I gave it my best effort.

Shake Tiller's pro football expose had created some havoc in thetelevision industry, of course. Because of the cloud that hoveredover the quality of the competition one might expect in the playoffs,CBS's leading announcers, Pat Summerall and John Madden, were advisedby their agents and business managers to withdraw from broadcastingany of the playoff games or the Super Bowl.

Their advisers felt that their reputations would be damaged if theylent credibility to what might well be a noncompetition. Only theplayers knew how seriously the playoff games were going to becontested.

Richard Marks tried to quadruple their fees, but Summerall and Maddenrejected the offer, which was how Larry Hoage and I wound up doingthose games. I didn't have a broadcast reputation to worry about. Itdidn't matter. And Larry Hoage would have thrown a side-body block onMother Teresa to get at a microphone.

The pro football scandal had finally overtaken Larry, although he andhis friend Hoyt didn't discuss it as often as they discussed topsoil,garden tools, and Orange County zoning quirks.

I had become good friends with Teddy Cole, the producer, and MikeRash, the director, partly because we had a common dislike for LarryHoage.

Teddy and Mike were in their late twenties. They had come out of theUniversity of Miami. They were quicker than laser beams at theirjobs. They saw life through the monitors in their control unit, nevermissed the right picture, knew when to go close, when to pull back.They were young pros, the type of electronic journalists who couldwitness a live assassination and instinctively know to alert the tapeoperator, bring up the audio, point cameras at everything that moved.They had given me some good tips. Things like keep your sentencesshort, you can't mention the score of a game too often, and alwaystry to think of the one characteristic that will describe aballplayer—Dreamer Tatum has the suede market cornered, DumpMcKinney's got a 6.2 voice on the Richter scale, Point Spread Powelltapes his ankles up to his neck.

Teddy and Mike both did fine imitations of Larry Hoage behind hisback. At a dinner table or around a hotel bar, their routines keptall of us loose.

Teddy might say:

"This is Larry Hoage comin' at you today with a wingding of abell-ringer from Hiroshima, Japan, friends! Here comes the Enola Gaynow. She's up there in the sky looking like a fat old hen that'sready for roastin', but I've got an idea she's cooking up a soo-priseof her own. Yep! It's bombs away, as I like to say. The old egg'sheading for the heart of the city! We'll be here to bring you all ofthe action, but right now, let's go back to Brent for an update onthe race at Daytona!"

And Mike might say:

"This is Larry Hoage comin' at you from Auschwitz, Poland,friends, and have we got a barn-burner for you today! Theserough-and-tumble Nazis are rarin' to go. They've got the coaching,the desire, and like they've said all season, this is the one theywant! Be that as it may, Billy Clyde Puckett, I've got a hunch aboutthese pesky Jews. I think they just might take it!"

Christmas deal.

It hadn't meant much to me since the Christmas morning I had awakenedto discover I'd made that mysterious transition from cap pistols tosleeveless sweaters.

Now it had even less meaning because Barbara Jane and I wereestranged. It was just as well that the holiday fell between twoplayoff games.

Christmas Day found me in a motel on the outskirts of Detroit. Iendured a turkey dinner in the company of Kathy, Mike, Teddy, Larry,and Hoyt Nester, who kept us entertained with zany tales of hisfun-filled years as a CPA.

Teddy, Mike, Larry, and Hoyt all exchanged funny gifts that came fromadult bookstores. Kathy gave me an engraved cigarette lighter to gowith the other three I had. I gave her a tricky sweater that asaleslady at Henri Bendel's had picked out for me.

I tried to call Barbara Jane on Christmas Day. She was unfindable.Ying, the houseboy at Jack Sullivan's, informed me that Barb and Jackwere spending the weekend in Del Mar with friends of the director.Ying wouldn't give me the Del Mar number even though I threatened tocrawl through the phone and dust his chop suey ass.

I wouldn't have minded knowing if Barb had liked the emerald ring. Itwasn't a ring her mother would have been dazzled by, but I thought itwas a decent present to give someone who no longer spoke to me.

Barb had sent my present to the apartment in New York. It was aPorsche wristwatch, one of those multi-gadgeted things that nobodycan tell time on but an extraterrestrial visitor.

Coincidentally, we both quoted lines from Elroy Blunt songs in ourcards to each other.

My card to Barb had said:

I can't taste the gravy

When there's heartache on my plate.

And her line to me was:

He leased a high-price body

For his low-rent mind.

Okay, she topped me. There was nothing to do but fall back on my oldphilosophy and remember that laughter is the only thing that'll cuttrouble down to a size where you can talk to it.

The playoff games thrilled Dreamer Tatum and the Players' Associationmore than they thrilled the fans.

Larry Hoage and I worked the wild card game between the Cardinals andVikings on Dec. 19 before we went to Detroit. That game set an NFLrecord of twenty-two turnovers before the Vikings came away with anine-to-six victory.

In the game between Minnesota and the Lions on Dec. 26 in theSilverdome, the Christmas spirit carried over an extra day. TheVikings gave away six fumbles. The Lions gave up the ball five timeson interceptions. Half the time, I thought I was watching volleyballor soccer.

When I said as much over the air, Larry Hoage only caught the word"soccer."

"There's an interesting game," he said to our audience."From what I hear, soccer's really starting to take off inEurope."

The Lions defeated the Vikings in Detroit by the score of 10 to 3.They broke the 3-3 tie in the third quarter with an 80-yard drivethat featured three pass-interference penalties. Detroit'squarterback, Kelvin Thorpe, sneaked across for the winning touchdownon his fourth try from the 1-foot line.

The fourth quarter offered little more in the way of excitement thanincomplete passes and offsides penalties.

We were in Dallas, back at Texas Stadium, for the NFC championshipgame on Jan. 2, a memorable contest between the Cowboys and Lions.Kelvin Thorpe of the Lions scored two quick touchdowns for Dallas inthe game's first five minutes by throwing interceptions to Len Ikard,a Cowboy linebacker. Dallas held on to the 14-to-0 lead for the restof the game.

In the last three quarters in Dallas, neither team advanced the ballpast mid-field. There was so little action on the field that TeddyCole and Mike Rash threw every insert into the telecast they couldmuster up, most of them having to do with the off-season hobbies ofNFL players.

Those viewers who stayed with us saw film clips of Hudson Stone, adefensive tackle for Dallas, building model trains; of Dallasquarterback Alvar Nunez cooking beef fajitas; of the Lions'Oran Rippy, a strong safety, boarding a plane with his pet goldfish;and of Gregg Glasscock, a Dallas running back, being handcuffed byfederal narcotics agents.

Brent Musburger did the voiceover on all of the inserts. He explainedthat Gregg Glasscock had been cleared of trafficking in drugs. The5-pound sack of Gold Medal flour he had been seen to purchase from afishing-boat operator in Key West had later tested out to be a5-pound sack of Gold Medal flour.

Earlier that same day, the AFC championship game was played in Miami.The Seattle Seahawks had beaten the Dolphins 2 to 0 on the last playof the game. What happened was, Jackie Barnett, the Miami punter,inadvertently stepped out of his own end zone for the safety thatgave the victory to Seattle.

It was a humiliating way for Miami to lose the game. A near-riot haderupted in the Orange Bowl. Barnett had been placed in the protectivecustody of police.

Jim Tom Pinch defended Barnett in print. He wrote that Barnett'sblunder—if that's what it was—had prevented the most boring gamein the history of football from going into an overtime period, anovertime that would have caused turmoil with every sportswriter'sairline reservation. It was a mercy killing, Jim Tom said, and JackieBarnett was a hero.

Dallas and Seattle were thus going to the Super Bowl on Jan. 16. AndLarry Hoage said on the air that he, personally, had never lookedforward to a Super Bowl with such nerve-tingling anticipation. Hesaid it was clear to him from the playoffs that the NFL had brought"rip-snortin", rock- ribbed defense" back to football.

The TV ratings for the playoffs were drastically off from previousseasons, and at the same time, the college game dealt its own blow tothe sagging image of the NFL.

In the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day, twenty-four hours before thoseso-called championship games in the NFC and AFC, the Auburn Tigers(10-0-1) and Texas A&M Aggies (11-0) played for the shoutingrights to who's No. 1.

Pat Summerall and John Madden did a first-rate job of broadcastingthe game for CBS. Richard Marks had shown good judgment in assigninghis best announce team to an event of such magnitude, even though itseemed likely the network would be sued for having breached thecontracts of Terry Culver and Roxanne Lark, the popular boy and girlwho were CBS's regular college football announcers.

"I'd like to see 'em try to bounce Larry off a broadcast,"Hoyt Nester said.

We all watched the Cotton Bowl game on TV in Teddy Cole's suite atthe Adolphus—Kathy, Teddy, Mike, Larry, Hoyt, and me. Kathy and Irooted for the Aggies, me because of the Southwest Conference, Kathybecause of the Aggie fight song. Teddy and Mike rooted for Auburn.Larry rooted for Summerall and Madden to make mistakes. Hoyt keptstats from force of habit.

The lead changed hands eight times in the game. Three touchdowns werescored in the last seven minutes before Auburn made a goal-line standand slipped by with a 38-to- 35 victory in one of the greatest pollbowls anyone had ever seen.

Only seconds after the game ended, I got a call from T. J. Lambert.He wanted to tell me that Auburn would have every starter coming backand remind me that, sadly enough, Auburn was the first opponent onTCU's schedule next season.

He said, "Here I am tryin' to bring us back from the dead and Igot to play me a national champion the first pop out of the box. Thegame was signed up five years ago when Auburn wasn't worth a shit;now they'll be comin' in here with their dicks hard."

"You'll have Tonsillitis and Artis," I said.

"They won't have played no college game."

"Maybe it'll rain. Hold the score down."

"It could rain fish fuckin' rooftops and it wouldn't help menone against them sumbitches. How's Barbara Jane?"

In very good health, I said, as far as I knew. Her show was going topremiere in two weeks—the night of Super Bowl Sunday, in fact.

"You ought to have your head examined," T. J. said.

"Why? ABC made the decision. They think it'll get a big ratingthat night."

"I ain't talkin' about TV, asshole."

"What are you talking about... ?"

T.J. said, "You're married to the greatest woman in the worldand you can't keep Leroy's helmet on."

"I haven't done anything, T.J."

"No need to lie to me, son."

"I'm not lying. Barbara Jane's overreacting."

"You got that blonde with you right now, don't you?"

"We work together."

"You're in big trouble, son. You better straighten yourselfout."

"You want to meet Kathy? I'll bring her over."

"I don't allow no whore lady in my home."

"She's not a hooker, for Christ's sake. She's a good girl. She'sa pal."

"She must be somethin' else for you to shit on Barbara Jane."

I tried to convince T. J. that I wasn't having an affair with anybodybut J&B at the moment, that Kathy was a decent human being, avictim of circumstances who felt awful because of Barbara Jane'sopinion of her and even worse about what had happened to my marriage.Kathy would like nothing better than to think of a way to undo thedamage if it were within her power, I said. But the problem was inBarbara Jane's mind.

"The problem's got nothing to do with whup," I said.

"It don't, huh?" said T.J., who then whistled into thephone—a long, low, rippling noise.

"What's that?" "Face mask," he said.

There had been no way to reason with Coach Lambert that day.


I guess going to a Super Bowl would be fun if you were a person who'sjust escaped from a mental ward or a maximum-security prison. TheNational Football League likes to promote Super Bowl Week as one ofthe grand experiences on the sporting landscape, but anybody who'sever been to one will tell you it's basically a six-day cocktailparty followed by a frivolous, over-hyped football game that everypoor, hungover bastard in town has come to loathe before it's evenbeen played.

I thought this after I went to the game as a player, and I thought iteven more after I went as a broadcaster. You can't get over thesuspicion that you're there for reasons other than to let two teamsdecide a championship. It's as if your primary purposes are tocelebrate the mere existence of the NFL, to rejoice in theCommissioner's good health, and to drink a thousand toasts to the$900,000 commercial minutes that have been sold for television.

When the Super Bowl goes to New Orleans every so often, as it did forthe Dallas-Seattle game, you can multiply the dementia by 10. That'sbecause the French Quarter, which never closes anyhow, becomes acombination of spring break and Tet offensive.

Going to the Super Bowl as a broadcaster made it a little morebearable, but not much.

CBS took over an entire hotel in the French Quarter that week, theSaint Louis. We had our own courtyard, our own bars, our own diningfacilities. We could hide. We could avoid the insanity.

The insanity was out there on Bourbon Street if you wanted to wadeinto it, but you could escape quickly. Nobody could get at you butthe invited guests of the network, and since there were only 5,000 ofthose, we were protected better than most visitors to the city.

I got two extra rooms in the hotel for Shake Tiller and Jim Tom Pinchand their guests. Shake brought Priscilla and Jim Tom brought KellyAnn. Unnecessary baggage, as I saw it. One look inside The OldAbsinthe House in the French Quarter was proof enough that the citywas jammed with Priscillas and Kelly Anns of every size and accent.As Uncle Kenneth would say, you always bet the Under on wives at aSuper Bowl.

Shake had come to New Orleans reluctantly. As he had said, "Itry to avoid eighty thousand people whenever possible."

But having a room in the CBS stockade appealed to him. He would beclose enough to life its ownself to stand on his balcony and hollerat it, but it couldn't climb up and get to him.

The days of Super Bowl Week were filled with organized interviews atwhich the press swarmed around a Dallas Cowboy or a Seattle Seahawkand tried to get him to talk at length about the case of chicken poxhe had suffered as a three- year-old.

Kathy Montgomery arranged for me to do inserts with every starter onthe two teams and both head coaches, John Smith of the Cowboys andTurk Kreck of the Seahawks. Richard Marks wanted coverage oneverything.

"We don't want to miss an angle," he had said.

The angles we got from the player interviews ranked right up therewith most player interviews at most Super Bowls.

Alvar Nunez, the Dallas quarterback, said, "I have a lot ofrespect for our opponent."

Gary (Gun Mount) Gittings, the Seattle quarterback, said, "It'sgoing to be one of the great games."

Marshall Hammond, the Cowboys' top pass receiver, said, "I seeit as a collision between two brilliant coaches and two brilliantsystems."

Borden (Swinging) Vine, the Seahawks' fleet pass receiver, said, "Ijust hope it's not decided by an injury and nobody gets seriouslyhurt."

In private and off-camera, none of the players admitted to me thatthey had ever heard of Operation Dixie or a Script Committee.

John Smith, the coach who had taken over from Tom Landry at Dallas,was a tall, handsome man who dressed like a banker. In the middle ofour interview, he reached inside his breast pocket and handed me asmall, leather- bound copy of the New Testament.

"What's this?" I said.

"Well," he smiled, "you might say it's our secretweapon."

"There you have it," I said to the camera. "JohnSmith's gonna isolate on Leviticus and hit 'em in the Proverbs."

The interview with Turk Kreck, Seattle's coach, was enhanced by hiscandy-striped leisure suit. I hadn't seen a leisure suit in years.

Turk was a barrel-chested former guard with the Browns who couldn'thelp spitting on you when he talked. Jim Tom once wrote that TurkKreck was the only man who could spit inside your glasses.

"Some people think this is a party," said Turk, "butthe Seahawks are here to play football."

I asked Turk what he thought was going to decide the outcome of thegame.

"It better not be a zebra," he said, splashing me with thez.

"We're in luck," I said. "Charlie Teasdale won't beworking the game."

"He could be the halftime entertainment," Turk said. "Letthe cocksucker run out on the field naked and everybody who catcheshim gets to stick a flag up his ass! Are we live?"

We went to all of the parties. Kathy and I, Shake and Priscilla, JimTom and Kelly Ann.

All three network parties, those of CBS, NBC, and ABC, were on thesame riverboat. They had the same seafood buffet, the same jazz band,and the same guests. The riverboat was overcrowded with ad-agencypeople, team owners, movie stars, and select members of the press.

Jim Tom looked around the first night and said, "I have a newmotto. Life is hard—then you die."

Shake was grilled by some of the owners at the parties. They wantedto know if he actually believed what he had written in Playboy,if the players had been trying to sabotage the game.

Shake never mentioned Operation Dixie or the Script Committee, but hesaid the playoff games had made it clear to him that the players hadnot packaged their best product, as it would have been clear toanyone but a lamebrain owner.

Acacia Kirby, the rich widow from Tyler and Cuernavaca who now ownedthe Dallas Cowboys, suggested that Shake move to Russia.

"You've done our nation a terrible disservice," saidAcacia. She was a bony woman in her fifties, a third-generation oilheiress. Her face looked as if it had been drained of blood and gluedonto a neck and shoulders that were excavated from parched land.Acacia's late husband, Polk, had talked her into buying the Cowboysfrom Clint Murchison for $100 million, after which he, Polk, hadchoked to death on a bite of cabrito.

"I know about your husband," Shake said to Acacia. "Whatyear did you die?"

The owner of the Seattle Seahawks, Karl Lutcher, a man from La Jolla,California, who had amassed a fortune selling arms to Arabs, was moreconcerned about the motives of the players than Acacia Kirby.

"There may be some truth to what you wrote," Karl Lutchersaid to Shake. "I haven't liked the way some of our fumbles havelooked. But I expect both teams to give us their best in the SuperBowl, don't you?"

"No question," said Shake. "You're going to see anexhibition you'll never forget."

The Seattle owner could have taken that two ways. He chose the wrongone.

"It's a relief to hear that from you," he said. "Iknow you're close to some of the players."

Looking at Shake and me both, he said, "How 'bout a prediction?I think we've got 'em outcoached. You can't give Turk Kreck two weeksto get ready for somebody."

Shake said, "There are things you have to keep in mind whenyou're talking about a football game. Each team will have eleven menon the field."

Karl Lutcher nodded.

"And there's only one ball," I said.

He nodded again.

"Think about it," said Shake.

"I hear you," the owner said.

"The field's a hundred yards long," I said. "Notninety- nine."

"And there's sixty minutes on the clock," Shake said. "Notfifty-nine."

"Another thing," I said. "That one ball? It's got airinside."

"It's not round, either," said Shake.

"Good point," I said. "It's damn near shaped like afootball."

"Put it all together and what have you got?" Shake said tothe owner. "It's why we're all here."

Jim Tom and the girls had been listening to us. As we walked awayfrom the Seattle owner that night, Jim Tom said, "I've learnedhow to handle Super Bowl parties. Every time I yawn, I put a drink inmy mouth."

We saw Burt Danby at all of the functions. Most of the time, he wouldbe working his way through the crowd, trying to give Veronica theslip.

The first time we ran into Burt on the riverboat, he glanced at Shakeand said, "Holy shit, it's Sherlock Holmes!"

He then pumped Shake's hand in friendly fashion and got around tonoticing Priscilla and Kelly Ann.

"Hi, girls," said Burt. "Ever been on a Lear?"

Shake introduced Priscilla Handler and Kelly Ann Rob- bins by saying,"Burt, I'd like you to meet Sonny Jurgenson and Bill Kilmer."

"I'm exhausted," said Burt. "Fucking Super Bowls willkill you. Last night I kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, robbed a liquorstore, threw up on my wife at Moran's, caught syphilis from a hooker,stole a police car, and set fire to an orphanage."

"That'll win," said Kelly Ann.

Traditionally, the Commissioner tossed the biggest party of the week.This time, it was on Friday night at the River Gate, a conventionhall. Bars, buffet tables, and Dixieland bands seemed to beeverywhere, along with 10,000 people you had never seen before inyour life.

The Commissioner and the owners and their wives were segregated fromthe rest of the party. Their tables were behind velvet ropes and aring of uniformed guards.

We assigned Priscilla to talk her way past the guards and get BobCameron's attention, which she did with ease. The Commissioner cameoutside the ropes to visit with us. Priscilla came back with aheaping platter of barbecue shrimp and raw oysters.

"You worried about the game?" Shake asked the Commissioner.

"More than the owners," he said.

"What do you expect?"

"I'm afraid to think about it."

I said, "Bob, I know you've checked it out. How many guys in thegame are strong union men?"

"Too many," Bob Cameron laughed. "Food poisoning won'twork. That's off the record, Jim Tom."

"I wasn't even listening," said Jim Tom, wearily. He thentook out a spiral notebook and pretended to write something in it."Commissioner poisons Super Bowl," he said.

Back at our hotel that evening, Kathy and I sat in the courtyardafter Shake and Priscilla and Jim Tom and Kelly Ann went up to theirrooms. This was the night Kathy opened up about her lovelife. Shesaid she wouldn't dream of discussing it with anyone but me—herbest friend— but she needed to talk about it with somebody whowould be sympathetic and understanding. The relationship was gettingcomplicated. She could see it leading to a crisis, a choice,something that could affect her work, her career, her whole life.

It had all started three years ago when she had first moved to NewYork. She had met this older man in a restaurant on the East Side,Gino's, over by Bloomingdale's, and she had let herself get involvedwith him.

He had taken a liking to her, pursued her, practically adopted her.She had always been attracted to older men. They were moreinteresting than people her age. The man was in his early fifties andquite wealthy, but very married. That part had always bothered her,but every girl she knew at CBS was also "dating" a marriedman. Why was it so hard for a girl to meet a single guy in New Yorkwho was interested in something besides stock options and his mother?

"I won't tell you my friend's name," Kathy said. "Itwouldn't mean anything to you. He's a lawyer."

The thing that had further complicated the relationship was thatKathy had accidentally, through a chance meeting at a party, becomefriends with the man's daughter, Denise.

I was told I would like Denise. Denise wasn't a raving beauty, butshe was intelligent, artistic, "deep," a wonderful,unselfish person.

Denise's father didn't know about his daughter's friendship withKathy—and he could never know. It would cause too many familyproblems.

I said, "I can see where he wouldn't want his daughter to knowhe's fooling around, but how long can you go on like this, Kathy? Areyou in love with him? If he loves you, he'll get a divorce."

"That's what he wants to do," Kathy said, "but I haveto stop him. It'll be terrible."

"Why?" I said. "It solves everything. People your agemake things too God-damn complex. You love the guy, he loves you, youget married. He'll be happy you and Denise are friends, believe me."

Kathy took my hand. She looked at me soulfully.

"I'm not in love with him, Billy Clyde. It's.. .Denise."

I had never been on a jetliner that lost 10,000 feet in altitude, butin that instant, I thought I could appreciate the sensation.

"You're in love with Denise?"

I didn't awaken anybody in the hotel. No one came out on the balconyto look down at us in the courtyard.

Kathy was calm. She said, "Denise and I have something togetherthat's truly inexpressible."

I doubt that any man ever made a quicker decision. To prevent thepossibility of my becoming the butt of some longstanding gag, I knewthen and there that I'd never tell Shake Tiller or any other guyabout Kathy Montgomery's sexual preference.

Maybe someday when the statute of limitations was over, Shake and Iwould have a good laugh about the time I'd been mentally seduced by adyke.

Once again, I didn't sleep well. The bereaved person seldom does.Kathy would continue to be my friend, my trusty sidekick, but as Ilay in bed that night, I couldn't help thinking about the tragicwaste of that Nordic combined.

Denise was a lucky girl.

Whitey Duhon, the famous Cajun comedian-singer, sang his own specialversion of our National Anthem in the Louisiana Superdome. Fourthousand school children dressed like Jean Lafite formed a circlearound Whitey Duhon, who stood on the 50-yard line with his fiddle.

Mike Rash went in tight on the entertainer, ignoring the balloons,doves, and giant mechanical crayfish, as the beloved Whitey sang:

Oh, say you gonna see, boy,

by dat old dawn's early light, what you think?

You gonna proudly hail dat thing, boy,

and the LSU Tigers,

they be gleaming, too, I tell you dat!

And those rockets red glare,

filet gumbo, hey?

The catfish swimmin' in air

give proof to you guys

in your Mardi Gras hats,

our flag is still there

in the French Quarter night,

you better believe it, A1 Hirt!

Oh, say does dat music wail, boy,

o'er dat land by the coonie's Bayou.

What you think of dat,

Kawliga me-oh?

The Super Bowl game itself was of less interest to me than the factthat the spectacle didn't start until six o'clock in the evening.This was by design of the NFL and CBS, a ploy to hog the prime-timeTV audience. And what this did was put the game up against thepremiere of Rita's Limo Stop—for thirty minutes, at least.

For those thirty minutes, my wife and I were on rival networks. Melive, her on tape.

Of course, by nine o'clock that night Barbara Jane's show on ABC wasgetting a bigger break from the Super Bowl than she and herco-workers could ever have imagined possible. I should say Barb'sshow was getting a bigger break from the Script Committee of thePlayers' Association.

When Rita came on the air, it was late in the third quarter atNew Orleans and the Seattle Seahawks were leading the Dallas Cowboysby 49 to 14. By then, nobody could have been watching CBS orlistening to Larry Hoage and me but those among the nation's infirmwho didn't have remote clickers.

On the first play of the game, Seattle's Gary (Gun Mount)

Gittings had thrown a bomb to Borden (Swinging) Vine, and theSeahawks had scored on a 75-yard touchdown pass.

Describing the re-play, I said, "You can see the Dallas defenseis confused here. Nobody's going with Vine, the man in motion. Idon't know why Dallas only has nine men on the field."

Dallas took the kickoff after that touchdown and made two firstdowns. But then Alvar Nunez, the Dallas quarterback, came under aheavy pass rush, retreated 30 yards, and threw the ball straight upthe air. The ball floated down and into the arms of D. H. Peeler, adefensive end for Seattle. D. H. Peeler never broke stride and scoredwith the interception.

Those two touchdowns had set a trend for the game. Gary (Gun Mount)Gittings kept throwing passes for touchdowns. Alvar Nunez keptthrowing interceptions, except when he was throwing away pitchouts.

We had Spivey Haws, a former defensive back with Buffalo, doinginterviews on the sideline for us. Teddy Cole and Mike Rash went tohim every chance they got as Seattle built its lead.

When the score was 35 to 0 in the first half, Spivey Haws was luckyenough to steal a moment with John Smith, the Dallas coach.

Spivey Haws said, "Coach, you're down by thirty-five points. Anychance you can get back in the game?"

"We'll be all right," said John Smith. "We just haveto turn up the volume a little."

In the middle of the third quarter, with Seattle leading by 42 to 7,Spivey Haws cornered Turk Kreck, the coach of the Seahawks.

"Coach, did you have any idea you'd get this kind of effort outof your team today?"

"Football!" shouted Turk Kreck, spraying the interviewer inthe eye with the f. "We came to play a game calledfootball!"

Spivey Haws had ducked the second f.

The zebras weren't a factor in the game. They would have beenhelpless against the Cowboys, anyhow. Dallas' ineffectiveness wascomplete.

But at Hoyt Nester's urging, by way of an index card on which he hadprinted "GAME OFFICALS NOW," Larry Hoage felt the time hadcome for him to comment on the zebra scandal.

"Chilluns," Larry said on the air as the last seconds ofthe third quarter ticked away, "I've been hesitant to sayanything before now, but I'd be remiss not to put in my two centsabout the officiating in the National Football League. It's too darnbad we have some striped-shirt brethren who let their flags ruin thewhole rhythm of a ball game! Look! By drat, they're doing it rightthis minute! They're stepping off another penalty against the haplessCowboys!"

"Uh, Larry?" I said, hoping to interrupt.

"They're taking it back to the thirty, the thirty-five... theforty! It's a long one. Looks like half the length of the field!"

"It's the end of the quarter, Larry."

"Downright disgraceful how these whistle-happy dictators tamperwith the flow of a game!"

"The quarter's over, Larry. They're changing ends."

"As if the Cowboys haven't been hog-tied enough today! We'll beback with more leather-poppin' Super Bowl action after this."

Larry turned to Hoyt. "How was it?"

"A-okay," said Hoyt.

"On the button?"


"Rrrr... oger," said Larry.

The idea to break new ground in broadcasting occurred to mespontaneously. First, Teddy Cole suggested I try to liven things upas the fourth quarter began. Teddy said he could hear clicks all overthe country because of Seattle's big lead. That's when I said to theaudience:

"If I were watching TV at home, I know what I'd be doing, folks.I'd switch over to that new comedy on ABC. I hear Rita's Limo Stopis semi-funny."

From the control truck, Mike Rash said, "That's a no-no, BillyClyde. Can't plug another network. Better disclaim it with a joke orsomething."

"Why?" said the voice of Teddy Cole.

"You don't pop the opposition, Teddy."

"Screw it, Mike. Let him go with it."

"Screw us, you mean."

"Nobody wants to watch this bag of shit, Mike. Go, Billy Clyde.It's your wife's show. That gives you license."

A noise came from the truck.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Mike did a headset," Teddy sighed. "So far, it's aone-headset show. We normally do a three-headset show."

Mike Rash had done that thing a director or a producer wouldsometimes do in the course of a live telecast. He had removed hisheadset and slung it against the control board, which was a way ofsaying, "Okay, fuck it, you do the show."

Seattle had scored another touchdown during all this. The Seahawkswere now ahead by 56 to 14.

On the air, then, I said, "Larry, I can only think of fifty-sixreasons why I'd like to be watching Rita's Limo Stop insteadof this game. Wonder if we can get it on our monitor?"

"Right you are, Billy Clyde Puckett," said Larry. "TheseCowboys have flown apart like a two-dollar suitcase!"

The phone rang in the broadcast booth. Kathy handed me the receiver.It was Richard Marks calling from the Hospitality Room back at theNew Orleans hotel. He was watching the game from there in the companyof clients, who were more interested in their commercials thananything.

"Fantastic!" said Richard Marks. "Keep it up."

"Keep what up?"

"Plug Rita."

"I was just trying to be funny," I said. "There wasn'tmuch going on here."

"Two of our sponsors bought time on Rita. They think it'sgreat."

"Mike Rash doesn't."

"Mike Rash works for me."

"He needs a new headset."

Richard Marks said the clients in the Hospitality Room were watchingRita's Limo Stop on a separate TV set.

"How is it?" I asked.

"Quite amusing," said Richard Marks. "Barbara Jane isappealing. I think it has a chance."

"Does it have a chance-chance, or just a chance?"

"It has a very good chance."

Teddy Cole demanded that Larry Hoage give me the mike. Larry Hoagedid so by saying:

"Well, Billy Clyde Puckett, what are your thoughts now on thatCowboy pick you made last night?"

"Larry, I have an update on Rita's Limo Stop. With tenminutes to go in the second half, Barbara Jane Bookman has atwo-touchdown lead on Kitty Feldman."

"Absolutely! Some days, you just can't drive a train up a dirtroad. But you gotta give these Seahawks all the credit in the world.They came in here loaded for bear!"

"Right you are, Larry Hoage. I want to congratulate our friendsat ABC for having the guts to put a comedy up against a serious eventlike this. Hi, Barb. If you're listening, good luck in the ratings."

The Script Committee drew heavily on cynicism to account forSeattle's last touchdown in the Super Bowl's final minute.

Sam Galey, Seattle's punter, booted a high one to Dallas' twinsafeties, Kyle Lease and Doboy Mims. Lease and Mims took turnsfumbling the ball until it wound up back in their end zone. Lease andMims then got into a shoving match with each other, and Seattle's D.H. Peeler had no recourse but to recover the ball for the touchdownthat made the final score 63 to 14 in favor of the Seahawks.

As Larry Hoage went into his wrap-up on the game, I got another phonecall in the booth.

An exultant Dreamer Tatum was on the line.

"Was it beautiful?" he said.

"It was beautiful, Dreamer."

"You can't say enough about the Cowboys," he said.

"They didn't miss a single opportunity. Nunez was incredible,but he had a lot of help. It's bound to be the lowest-rated SuperBowl ever. Hell of a day for the union, man."

"Never have so few done so much for so many," I said.

Dreamer said, "You couldn't tell on TV. How many people left inthe fourth quarter?"

"About sixty thousand."

"Great!" Dreamer was calling from Washington, D.C., fromthe Players Association headquarters in the Machinists & LatheWorkers Building.

"Clyde, I want to let you in on a scoop. I just talked to theCommissioner. Some of the owners had a meeting in the second halfdown there. The Commissioner says they're ready to give in on freeagents, the wage scale, everything we want. We beat 'em, baby."

"It's a done deal?"

"Pro football's alive and well again."

"Congratulations," I said.

"You, too."

"I didn't do anything."

"Moral support, man."

"Won't it be dull next year without a cause?"

"Oh, we'll have a cause," Dreamer said. "I've got somethoughts on revenue-sharing the owners aren't going to like."

"You can always go Dixie."

"I'm hip, but you didn't hear it from me, Clyde."

I handed the receiver back to Kathy and listened to Larry Hoage signoff for us. He was saying:

"So for all of us here at CBS Sports, this is the Old Professorsaying so long from Mardi Gras Land, where the Seattle Seahawks arethe champeens of pro football. The Cowboys stood tall in the saddle,fought their hearts out, but the Seahawks put the big lasso on 'em.That's the story of the best Super Bowl I've ever seen."

Kathy put a promo card in front of Larry.

"Now," said Larry, "coming up next over most of theseCBS stations... Scuzzo! More hijinks and hilarity as threepockmarked teenagers find their own way to deal with the outdatedvalue systems of their parents and teachers. In tonight's episode,Ross, Debbie, and Phillip set fire to their high school gymnasium,and..."

"We're off," said Teddy Cole from the truck. "Goodshow, everybody."

Rita's Limo Stop got a 26 share. In TV talk, that's a raginghit. Anything between a 26 and a 32 share of the viewing audience iscause for every bicoastal to claim as much personal credit as he orshe can. It put the show among the ten most-watched programs of theweek—which isn't as important as the share. Carving out a share ofthe night, the hour, the half-hour, is everything where televisionratings are concerned.

When the figures came in two days after the Super Bowl I was back inNew York, awaiting word on my own TV future. Richard Marks had at onetime mentioned that the network might use me on other sports duringthe winter and spring. The only other work I had planned was somebanquet appearances. If CBS wanted me to hang around some othersports events, I was willing. Another town, another cocktail.

While I was in New York waiting for Richard Marks to make up hismind, I trapped Barb on the phone at the Westwood Marquis.

"Nice going on the share," I said.


To say my wife's voice was cool would be like saying Alaska has polarbears.

"How are you?" I asked.


She didn't ask how I was, so I said:

"I'm fine, too."

She didn't respond to that either. I said, "I popped your showon the air. Pretty funny, huh?"

"I suppose."

"Did you hear it?"

"We were out."



I then said, "The apartment looks fine. A cleaning lady comesin."

"Is her name Ken?"

"Are you ever going to not be mad?"

"I have to go now."

"I miss you, Barb. I love you."


And she hung up.

A few days later I was summoned to Richard Marks's office in the CBSbuilding on 52nd and Sixth. There, I was informed that I would beused on a spot basis as a regular sports broadcaster. I still didn'thave an agent, but we agreed on a ridiculous, six-figure salary.

Richard Marks said, "I wish you would get an agent before wenegotiate your contract for football next season."

"I'm doing okay without one," I said.

My assignment for the spring and summer was to go to some golftournaments, sit on a tower behind the 15th green, and say thingslike "Let's go to Sixteen."

I thought I should be honest with my boss and tell him I didn't knowanything about professional golf.

"It doesn't matter," Richard Marks said. "You can'tsee golf on TV. The ball's too small. We don't expect ratings. It's aprestige buy."

Richard Marks shook my hand. "You're a full-time announcer now,Billy Clyde. How does it feel?"

"Words can't describe it," I said.

Three words could have described it. Guilty as shit.

The head of CBS Sports asked about my travel plans over the comingweeks. There were some speaking engagements, I said; otherwise, I'dbe on a New York barstool.

"I'll want my people with me at the Emmy Awards dinner inMarch," he said. "It's an industry night. Good occasion toshow your strength."

I said I would be more than happy to attend, thinking it would be anopportunity to see Barbara Jane. Her show had been on the air onlytwo weeks, but it had already nomimated itself—or ABC had—forseveral Emmys: Barb for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series,Carolyn Barnes for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series,Jack Sullivan for Outstanding Director of a Comedy Series, andSheldon Gurtz and Kitty Feldman for Outstanding Writers of a ComedySeries.

It had always seemed to me that they gave away Emmys as often as theygave away Grammys. Like once a month. Daytime Emmys, nighttime Emmys,local Emmys, News Emmys, Sports Emmys, technological Emmys. Like mostpeople, I never knew when a year started or ended for television,exactly how and why anybody got nominated for an Emmy, who voted, orwho won, except that every channel I ever watched in every city I wasever in had an "Emmy Award- winning Eyewitness News team."

But this was a year in which all of the Emmys were to be given out onone big, black-tie evening in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf, anawards telecast on which three comics would fight over the microphonewhile a parade of rock stars eagerly opened the envelopes, hopeful offinding dread inside.

"Do we have a chance to win anything?" I asked my boss.

"I hope not," said Richard Marks. "The industry tendsto vote mediocrity."

Shake Tiller tore himself away from Priscilla and his novel, whichwas tentatively titled The Past. He flew down to Fort Worthwith me for what T. J. Lambert called The Big Signing.

We arrived in Texas on Feb. 7, the day before Tonsillitis Johnson wassupposed to sign his letter of intent, the document that woulddeliver him to T. J. and the Horned Frogs for the next four years.

That evening, we went to dinner at Herb's Cafe with T. J. and hiswife, Donna. It became a night to celebrate because T.J. let us in onthe news that Tonsillitis had already signed his letter of intentwith TCU.

The ceremony the next day would only be for the media, for thepublicity splash.

"It's not legal, is it?" I said to T.J. "It doesn'tbind him to anything if he signs before Feb. 8."

"It binds him to Big Ed's ass," said the coach.

I found out about the alumni award that night. T.J. couldn't keep thesecret. His good friends Barbara Jane Bookman and Billy Clyde Pucketthad been named co-winners of the first annual Horny Toad trophy, anhonor to be cherished as the years go by.

"The what?"

TCU's trustees had been wanting to find a way to honor old grads whohad distinguished themselves in life its ownself. They had come upwith the Horny Toad Award—toad being a frog, as in Horned Frog, andhorny being a toad with horns, as opposed to the other kind, a toadwith a hard-on.

T.J. said, "The committee voted you and Barbara Jane theco-recipients because they couldn't decide between the two."

"Who's on the committee?"

"The chancellor and the trustees. Big Ed and them."

"It's a classy name."

"You're the first Horny Toad, son."

"I'm deeply moved."

Donna Lambert said, "You should be proud, Billy Clyde. Theycould have given it to some poetry freak."

While the announcement of the award would be forthcoming in thespring, the presentation wouldn't be made until the fall. BarbaraJane and I would receive our plaques at halftime of the opening gameagainst Auburn in early September.

"Maybe we'll be speaking by then," I said.

T. J. apologized to Shake Tiller.

He said, "They wanted to honor you, too, hoss, but I guessthey's folks around here who think you hadn't ought to have put somany shits in your book."

"I still have my art," said Shake.

"How's art doing?" I smiled.

"He's been tired lately," Shake said.

"Still play the sax?"


Donna Lambert said, "What are y'all talkin' about?"

We were talking about Shake's new novel, I said. The Past.

"What's it about?" T. J. didn't really care. He was beingpolite. The only book T. J. Lambert had ever read was DarrellRoyal Talks Football.

Shake answered the question by saying, "It's about everythingthat's happened."

"To people?" Donna wondered.

"That's part of it."

"I like James Michener," she said.

Shake said, "Well, this is kind of what Michener would write ifhe'd gone to Paschal."

I put another youngster down my neck and made a suggestion. "I'dlike to go around the table and ask everybody how to get my God-damnwife back," I said.

"Stop fuckin' that blonde," said T.J.

"I haven't fucked her."

"Sad but true," Shake said.

Donna said, "Billy Clyde, if you were smart, you'd go to BarbaraJane on bended knees."

"She wouldn't respect me."

"She would, too. If you open up your heart to her, she'll takeyou back in a redhot minute."

"Not till he stops fuckin' that blonde," T.J. said.

"I'm not fucking her," I said, forcefully.

Shake said, "People ought to get married on water skis. Youwouldn't hear all the vows. You'd never know you fucked up."

This was a softer line on marriage. Shake had once said people shouldonly get married in burning buildings. With luck, a guy could catchon fire and never have to go to a school carnival.

I looked squarely at T.J. and said, "I haven't fucked KathyMontgomery, okay? Maybe I thought for one stupid night I wanted tofuck her, but I didn't, and now I don't, and I won't, and we're justfriends, and that's all the fuck there is to it—and it's not worthbreaking up my fucking home!"

Donna Lambert said, "Y'all feel free to say fuck any time youwant to. It don't make a shit there's a lady present."

Tonsillitis Johnson signed his letter of intent at noon on Feb. 8.

The ceremony was held in the Lettermen's Lounge at TCU. It wasattended by Jim Tom and two dozen writers and radio and TV reporters,who formed a half-circle around a table at which all of us wereseated: me, Shake, T. J., Big Ed.

At a given signal from Big Ed, Tonsillitis was led into the room byDarnell, and the two of them were accompanied by Artis Toothis.

As they entered, flash attachments popped on Nikons, and hand-held TVcameramen scurried about.

Darnell Johnson looked extremely prosperous and dignified in his graythree-piece suit and horn-rimmed glasses, almost as prosperous anddignified as Artis Toothis in his three-piece suit and horn-rimmedglasses.

Tonsillitis again wore his maroon satin warmups and yellow mirroredsunglasses, but he had added a white headband.

T.J. stood up at the table and introduced Darnell.

Addressing the media, Darnell said:

"This is a great day for TCU. As you know, Artis Toothis hasannounced his plans to be playin' football here. Today, we aredeliverin' to this university the other bes' football player inhumanity."

Big Ed handed Darnell a gold pen. Darnell handed the gold pen toTonsillitis.

"Sign your name, baby," Darnell said to his brother.

"Ratch ear?"

"Right there where it say."

I watched as Tonsillitis signed his name on the letter of intent,just on the odd chance that he might spell it "booley." No,he spelled it clearly and correctly. Tonsorrell Baines Johnson.

Everybody shook Tonsillitis' hand, Darnell's hand, T. J.'s hand, BigEd's hand, Artis Toothis' hand. Pictures were taken of Tonsillitiswith everyone, in twos, in threes, in groups.

T.J. then spoke to the press.

"Men, I don't need to tell you what this means to me. A coachwins football games with them horny old boys who want to eat thecrotch out of a end zone. I got me two of 'em now. TCU's on the wayback! Around this conference, they been sayin' you couldn't melt usdown and pour us into a fight, but were gonna show 'em next fall!With Tonsillitis and Artis wearin' that purple, were gonna bejacked-off like a housecat."

In the press conference that followed, Tonsillitis was asked what heplanned to study in college.

"Joggaphy," he said. "Joggaphy be tellin' you what'sEas' and Wes'. I like to look at pictures and maps and shit."

T.J. was asked if he would allow Tonsillitis to wear his headband atTCU. The reporter pointed out to T. J. that many black athletes wearheadbands. It gave them a sense of pride in their ancestry.

"I got no problem with that," said T.J. "He can wearhis headband... or his helmet."

When the proceedings were over, Big Ed took me aside.

"What are you going to do about my daughter?" he said.

The answer was that I would wait and hope she came to her senses,realize she was still in love with me, and make some overture aboutgetting back together.

"She says you're having an affair. You say you're not. Who do Ibelieve?"

"Ask Shake."

Big Ed chuckled. "Shake Tiller hasn't answered a questionseriously since he was ten!"

"I'm not having an affair, Ed. The girl's good-looking, that'sthe problem. That's why nobody believes me. We're just friends."

"Some friend. She broke up your home."

"Kathy didn't break up my home. Barbara Jane broke up my home.What about that director your daughter's always with: does he botheryou?"

"The faggot?"

"Jack Sullivan's not a fag. I wish he was."

"He could fool me at a costume party."

"Does Barb talk about him?"

"She says he's considerate."

"That's trouble."

"I know," said Big Ed. "Between you and me, BillyClyde, that's the worst God-damn word women ever learned the meaningof."

"I've got supportive up there."

Big Ed lit a Sherman. "The director's a faggot whether he knowsit or not. At least you been going around with a normal person."

"There is that," I said, looking away. "What do youhear from the swami, Ed?"

It was more than an effort to change the subject. I wondered if BigEd realized, or cared to admit, that Darnell and Tonsillitis hadworked a scam on him.

"Gone," he said. "If I had to guess, I'd say the Hinduson-of-a-bitch has moved on to the Big Eight or the Pac-10."

So Big Ed didn't know. Maybe I'd tell him someday after Tonsillitismade All-America, or won the conference for him, or scored so manytouchdowns he turned white.

"By the way, thanks for the Horny Toad," I said. "T.J.told me."

"It's a real fine award. The trustees wanted to give it to me. Isaid naw, they didn't. They wanted to trade it to me for somemore of my dinosaur wine. Go on and build your new library, I said.I'll pay for the damn thing."

"Tell your daughter I love her," I said.

On the way to the airport, Shake and I stopped off for a drink withJim Tom Pinch at Herb's. Jim Tom wanted us to stay over another nightso he could take us to Honey Bun's, Fort Worth's newest tit joint.

"Can't do it," Shake said. "Fun's about worn my assout."

On the flight back to New York, Shake made literary notes to himself.I listened to tapes on my Aiwa recorder and thought about crawling toLos Angeles on my elbows and knees. Happily for my wardrobe, I hadrejected the idea by the time the plane landed.

A simple smile from Barbara Jane and my whole life was a highlightfilm. For a moment, I was nine years old and we were back inelementary school together. Then I was joking with her in a hallwayat Paschal. In another instant, we were sitting under a tree outsidea dorm at TCU. Finally it was that night in New York when we hadkissed like sex-starved teenagers and fallen into love its ownself.

All this happened because our eyes met in the grand ballroom of theWaldorf before the Emmy Awards began.

Kathy and I had walked in and were looking for our CBS friends andsuddenly there was Barb. She was sitting at the Rita table with JackSullivan, Carolyn Barnes, Sheldon Gurtz, Kitty Feldman, and a handfulof bicoastals.

Because there had been a sweetness in Barbara Jane's smile, I usheredKathy over to my wife's table. Barb stood up and gave me a hug and afriendly kiss. Just the touch and smell of her would have shatteredme if I hadn't been an all- pro.

"You're handsome in a tux," Barb said.

"I had to go for the slick."

"You should wear it more often."

"Well," I said, "the band doesn't play that manyformal dances."

Barbara Jane and Kathy were both wearing plunging gowns. They lookedsensational. Standing between them, I felt like the emcee of the MissUniverse contest.

"Hello, Kathy," Barb said, nicely.

"Hi," Kathy replied. "God, you look neat!"

Kathy smiled at me and said, "There's our table. I'll go on."

Kathy walked away to the CBS table where Richard Marks was seatedwith Larry Hoage, Teddy Cole, Mike Rash, Brent Musburger, others.

Feeling the stares of the gang at the Rita table, I nodded ahello at everyone.

Jack Sullivan said, "Billy Clyde, you're excellent on the air.Don't let them change your style."

I thanked him.

"Are you going to win an Emmy?" I said to Barbara Jane.

"No," she said. "We hear Shirley Foster's a mortallock for best actress."

"Who's Shirley Foster?"

"The star of Cruds.'"

"Call me Biff," I said.

I lit a cigarette for Barbara Jane and said, "I'm not withKathy, Barb. I mean, we came together tonight, but... she's involvedwith someone."

"A lawyer," Barb said. "Shake told me."

"I would have told you but I never get to talk to anybody butYing."

"We'd better take our seats."

"I want you back, Barb. We can work it out. Can I see youtomorrow?"

"We're going back to L.A. in the morning. I'll be busy allsummer. I'm renting a house in Santa Monica. Our ratings are throughthe roof. They've ordered twenty-six shows for next year. And...there's some movie talk."

"My wife, the movie star. Who would have thought in the fifthgrade that—"


"We're still married."

"It's a state of mind, isn't it?"

I let that slide and said, "They want me to do golftournaments."

"That'll be fun for you."

"I don't know anything about golf."

"Your stage manager can research it for you."

"You don't know how to let up, do you?"

She said, "I've been hurt, Billy C. I don't know how long I'llfeel this way."

"Well, if you ever get over it, I'm findable," I said, andwent to the CBS table.

Which was where I got intolerably drunk.

The awards dinner lasted four hours. The middle two hours constitutedthe telecast when all of the important Emmys were presented.

I bribed a waiter to bring me youngsters by the threes and fourswhile everyone else at our table drank champagne or wine and pokedaround on their plates at the green peas and slivers of mystery meat.

During the two-hour telecast, I watched an endless procession ofactors and actresses and producers accept Emmys for an endless listof shows I had never heard of.

Barb had guessed right. She didn't win the Outstanding Actress in aComedy Series Emmy. But neither did Shirley Foster for Cruds!The award went to an actress named Diane Connors for a show calledGoose and Bomber.

Rita was honored in another category. Sheldon Gurtz and KittyFeldman won for best writing of a comedy series— for a script inwhich every line had been changed by Barb and Jack Sullivan.

When they made their acceptance speeches, Kitty spoke first, althoughshe had trouble reaching the mike.

"I accept this award on behalf of the entire cast and crew,"she said. "It's a great team."

"We're a family," said Sheldon. "It's the happiestshow I've ever been a part of."

The sports awards came after the telecast was off the air, very latein the evening.

My category, Outstanding Analyst, which should have gone to JohnMadden, was taken by Laird Rinker, the twenty-two-year-old ex-surfingchampion who did water sports for ABC.

At first, I wasn't sure why Larry Hoage had leaped up at our tableand hollered, "Yippy-ty-yi-yee," but then I realized he hadwon the Emmy as the Outstanding Sports Host.

As Larry Hoage walked up to the stage and the mike, I tried tocomfort Kathy Montgomery, who was in shock.

"This is the profession I've chosen," she said with sorrowin her voice.

"Only in America," I said to her. "It's a greatcountry."

Larry Hoage's acceptance speech ran to such length that itpractically cleared the grand ballroom. I only recall the beginningof it.

"Back in Orange County, California," he said, "theyear was 1937 and a baby boy was born to the humble, hardworkingcouple of Bertha and Fred Hoage. This country was slowly digging itsway out of a wingding of a financial depression. It was a hopefulyear. Nobody could have known we were on the brink of anothercalamity—a gut-bustin' sidewinder of a shootin' war. Well, sir,that little curly-haired boy..."

From April through August I went to so many golf tournaments I feltlike an alligator on a shirt pocket. CBS did tournaments in Augusta,Georgia; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Memphis; Columbus, Ohio;Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Chicago; Philadelphia; Hartford; andAkron.

They were all the same event to me. Our cameras would point at theclouds because somebody said a golf ball was up there, and then ourcameras would point at something rolling across the ground and goingoff the screen.

I learned to recognize a dramatic moment. That was when a golferpunched the air with his fist.

My job on the telecasts was relatively easy. I would sit up on atower behind a green and try to guess which sets of tits in thegallery were following which golfers.

Every so often, the producer, a guy named Frank, would talk to me onthe headset. He would say something like "Billy Clyde, hollerdown at the one in the green shorts. Tell her to turn around."

Occasionally, he would even tell me to say something on the air.

All I would have time to say was "Here's Ben Crenshaw. There aresome other guys with him. They're all gonna walk around on the greena while. Let's go to Sixteen."

Kathy Montgomery was promoted to associate producer at the first ofthe summer. She was assigned to golf, which pleased her because itwas live.

She worked in the main control truck with the producer and director.Her responsibility was to cuss out the graphics person for gettingscores wrong and to count everyone down to commercials.

At times by accident I would hear Kathy over my headset. She would bespun. "Thirty seconds till Ideal commercial!" she wouldsing out. "Twenty-five...twenty...fifteen!" That was beforeI heard Frank say to her, "Kathy, if you want to stay in thisbusiness, take a Demerol."

Kathy was just another one of the guys now. She was still a goodfriend, somebody to drink with, eat dinner with, loaf around with onthe road. She still looked great. But all I saw when I looked at herwas another eager electronic journalist in faded jeans and asweatshirt.

One evening in July we were in Chicago and Kathy asked if the two ofus could go out to dinner, somewhere quaint and expensive, and talkabout life its ownself the way we used to.

She took us to a restaurant where there was nothing on the menu forme to eat but the ice in my Scotch glass— Chicago's version ofEnjolie's. That was the night she confessed that it was all over withDenise.

She said Denise had verbally attacked her for not being committed totheir way of life. Denise had always been insanely jealous of me. AndDenise had broken it off and moved to Eugene, Oregon, with amiddle-distance runner named Janet.

"Denise was right," Kathy said. "I wasn't committed. Idon't know why I got into that life. I'm a girl, Billy Clyde.I really am! I can't tell you what a relief it is to know it, to havea good feeling about it. You know what? I've never stopped thinkingabout you. You're probably the reason I'm back to normal."

"What are you saying, Kathy?" I couldn't avoid a grin."Does this mean you want to have an affair with me now? I'mtherapy?"

She said, "I just want to tell you how much I love you. You'reabout the most important person in the world to me."

"Kathy, I love Barbara Jane," I said. "One of thesedays I intend to get her back."

"You will. You two belong together. I can't imagine you andBarbara Jane with anyone but each other. All I want to be is yourfriend."

"You are."

"You mean it?"

"Of course."

"Can we be close like this after you and Barbara Jane are backtogether?"

"We'll be friends."

"Could we be sitting here like this?"

"Similar, I suppose."

"Promise we'll stay good friends, Billy Clyde."

"I promise."

"That's why I think it would be okay."

"What would?"

"If we made love tonight. Want to?"

I dare say most men in my position that evening would have had Kathyin bed as quickly as they could have hurled their bodies in front ofa taxi. Even if they hadn't been aroused, they would have done it forresearch: to study all the tricks Kathy would surely have learnedfrom Denise.

I, however, could only sit there and drink for another hour andgiggle at the irony—and miss Barbara Jane more than ever.

On an August evening in New York, between a Hartford and an Akron, Idropped by Shake Tiller's apartment to see if I could tempt him toleave his clacker and go look for the perfect jukebox.

Priscilla answered the door with a joint in her hand. She was wearinga sleeveless blouse tucked inside a pair of old jeans that had beencut off at the pubes.

"There's a great horror movie on," she said. "Want towatch?"

"No thanks," I said. "Where's Tolstoy?"

"In his office. I gotta go. Something really weird's gettingready to climb out of a black hole."

Priscilla hurried back to her pile of pillows on the carpet in frontof the 26-inch color Sony.

Shake's office was the spare bedroom in his apartment. It was a roomwith three walls of books, a manual clacker, a desk, a leather swivelchair, a coffeepot, eight cartons of cigarettes, six ashtrays, twelvebottles of correction fluid, a three-hole punch, a stack of whitepaper, and a big three- ring notebook in which there were 200 pagesof The Past.

He didn't care to go out drinking. "I can't make any money onThird Avenue," he said. "I can make some here."

Our trip to Fort Worth for TCU's opening football game against Auburnwas coming up. Tonsillitis Johnson and Artis Toothis were going to beunveiled to the world on the night of Sept. 5.

The word from T. J. was that Tonsillitis and Artis were looking goodin two-a-days. Darnell Johnson had brought in four 280-pound juniorcollege transfers to block for them. He had brought in a juniorcollege quarterback, Jimmy Sibley, whose only job was to hand theball off to them.

Tonsillitis and Artis appeared to be happy at TCU, principallybecause classes hadn't started yet and they had traded in theirDatsun and Jaguar for turbo Porsches.

"I've done some math," Shake said in his office. "BigEd's paying twenty-three thousand dollars apiece for Tonsillitis'fumbles. Every time Artis fumbles, Big Ed'll pay seventeen thousand.That's based on the current value of Artis' real estate holdings.Incidentally, Barbara Jane's coming down for the award."

That was more than I had known about it. I had spoken to Barb off andon during the summer. Her attitude about me hadn't changed that Icould tell. She had seemed to be living a contented life in her SantaMonica beach house, playing tennis, going out with Jack Sullivan, andgetting ready to appear on the cover of People magazine whenthe much-improved Rita series exploded on the new televisionseason.

Shake divulged that Barbara Jane had been in New York for a weekwhile I was away at a golf tournament. Shake had seen her often.Dinners and stuff.

"She misses you," he said.

"She knows where she used to live."

Before I let Shake get back to his clacker, I looked at hismanuscript to give it the old first-paragraph test.

"Do you mind?" I said as I opened the notebook.

"Nope," he said. "It needs some lipstick and eyeshadow."

I turned to the first page of The Past, and what I read was:

Of all the things Karen could have told him about herself that night,the last thing he had expected to hear was that she had fallen inlove with Diana.

"You know!" I said.



"I kept wondering why Kathy never fucked you. It finally dawnedon me she had to be a lesbo princess."

"Who have you told?"


"I don't believe you. It's too good to keep."

"I haven't told anybody," Shake insisted.

Despite the denial, the odds were heavily in favor of Shake tellingBarb about Kathy.

There would have been two reasons. One, the joke on me wasirresistible. Since the three of us were kids, Shake and Barb and Ihad never let the other two get away with anything. This wasn'tmaking fun of somebody drinking a piñacolada, but it might as well have been to Shake. People foolishenough to get married ought to know there would be your basic rageproblems like Barb and I were having, and if you had anyintelligence, you laughed at it and went on with your mortgages andcasseroles.

And that reason tied in with the second. Shake would misread it as anopportunity to help me win back Barbara Jane—a woman, after all; awife. It would prove that I couldn't have been having anaffair. All I'd done was let myself get infatuated with a dyke, andthat was funny, man—the kind of thing your clacker enjoyed puttinginto a novel.

But Shake would have been mistaken if he thought that it would helpBarbara Jane overcome her disappointment in me. Sometimes, Shakewasn't the smartest guy he knew, especially when it came to marriage.

As much as anything, Barbara Jane's ego had been bruised. In a sense,it was immaterial whether I'd gone the distance with Kathy. Thedamage to my marriage had been done when I had been distracted byKathy in the first place.

Barb would never know for sure if Kathy and I had screwed, just as Iwould never know for sure if Barbara Jane and Jack Sullivan hadscrewed, but I was willing to call it a dead heat and blame thoseadventures on our lifestyle. What was important now was that we stoppunishing each other for those adventures.

Barb and I were both so strong-willed, so eaten up with pride, thatwe ran the risk of staying apart forever just to prove we could.

My hope was that Barbara Jane would come to understand, as I think Ihad, that those relationships we stumbled into with Kathy Montgomeryand Jack Sullivan could never have lasted.

I didn't see how Barb and I could ever outrun Paschal High, andthat's what I thought would bring us back together eventually.

Some people might call it an affliction. I called it love.

All this being the case, there was just enough macho bullshit in mycells for me to prefer that Barbara Jane not learn the truth aboutthe lesbo princess.

Which was why I asked Shake in his apartment that day to swear on astack of Russian novels that he hadn't told Barb about Kathy.

"Hey, come on, B.C.," he said. "I've done some shittythings in my life, but I couldn't do that to a guy."

It was a clear night, not indecently hot for Texas in earlySeptember, and the stars that swept across the sky above the stadiummade it look like the Skipper had called in a decorator.

TCU Stadium throbbed with an overflow crowd of 50,000 people, largelydue to the 20,000 fanatics who had followed the Auburn Tigers to FortWorth. A third of the stadium was a mosaic of Auburn blue-and-orange.

Shake and I were down on the field during the pre-game drills. Wewere taken with the fact that TCU's players weren't as nervous asTCU's coaches, but we didn't know what to make of it.

While T.J. and his assistants constantly slapped their handstogether, whistled, yelled, and raced about, the TCU players limpedaround, stretched, tampered with their equipment.

In particular, Tonsillitis Johnson and Artis Toothis blunderedthrough their warmups like men with sore muscles.

I kept looking at Big Ed's box on the 50-yard line in the West Sidestands, twenty rows up from the TCU bench. I was watching for BarbaraJane, who had yet to arrive.

She was flying in for the game—and her alumni award— on theBookman Lear. Uncle Kenneth had volunteered to meet her at theairport and bring her to the stadium.

Big Ed and Big Barb were visions of purple. Big Ed wore a purpleblazer, a purple tie with a white shirt, and a white Stetson. BigBarb was resplendent in a purple suit and white Garbo hat.

In the box with Big Ed and Big Barb was Darnell Johnson, theassistant to the president of Bookman Oil & Gas. Darnell hadneglected to wear anything purple, but he looked as prosperous asever in his suit, vest, and tie.

Now the TCU band and cheerleaders, led by Sandi, formed a corridorthrough which the Horned Frogs retreated to the dressing room forT.J. Lambert's final words of encouragement and advice.

Shake and I went into the dressing room behind the team.

T.J. faced the squad and hung his head, waiting for everyone to quietdown before he spoke. The moment came, and in a somber tone, he said:

"Men, I don't have to tell you what you're up against tonight.They're the national champions. They're as good a team as I ever saw.They're waitin' for you out there like pallbearers. TCU don't meandookie to Aubrin. But you know what I think's gonna happen? I thinkwe're goin' out there and strap so much quick on 'em, they'll have toget their ass sewed up with barbed wire! Now let's do it! FuckAubrin!"

There were no whoops from the players. They left the dressing roomlaughing and joking.

Standing at the dressing-room door, I felt a little rush of purple asI said to Artis Toothis:

"Go get 'em, Artis."

"I got the claim check, baby," he said. "We pickin' upbaggage tonight!"

To Tonsillitis Johnson, I said, "Have a good one, hoss."

"Ain't nothin' to it," he said. "We gonna hit 'em witha pocketful of flash."

Shake and I were back on the field behind the TCU bench as the twosquads knelt for a prayer before the opening kickoff. Auburn may havebeen praying, but there was little doubt in my mind that T.J. wasreminding his lads that it was more blessed to die at birth thanfumble a football.

The teams took the field for the kickoff. That was when I saw BarbaraJane and Uncle Kenneth come down the aisle to join Big Ed and BigBarb and Darnell in the box.

Barbara Jane waved at us. She also waved, smiled, shrugged, andgestured at people she knew in the stands— and signed a couple ofautographs before she reached the box.

"I know that girl from somewhere," Shake said.

Auburn kicked off to TCU and the ball sailed out of the end zone. Theoffensive unit of the Horned Frogs trotted out to their own 20-yardline in their dark purple jerseys and purple helmets, Tonsillitiswearing No. 1 and Artis wearing No. 99.

On TCU's first play from scrimmage, Tonsillitis took a pitchout fromJimmy Sibley, the transfer quarterback. All Tonsillitis did on hisfirst carry as a collegian was break five tackles and rumble 80 yardsfor a touchdown.

"God damn," said Shake, "he hit that cornerback sohard, the sumbitch'll be left-handed the rest of his life!"

I looked up at the box in time to see Big Ed and Darnell swaphigh-fives.

The Frogs kicked off to Auburn. The Tigers couldn't make a first downand punted out of bounds on TCU's 37- yard line. On the first playfrom there, Artis Toothis took a pitchout from Jimmy Sibley, spedaround a corner, and nobody touched him as he went 63 yards foranother touchdown.

Now, up in the box, Big Ed Bookman and Darnell Johnson, a white manand a black man—in public, in an old Texas cowtown—embraced andkissed each other on the cheek.

That was a sight I wish I could have shared with all the semi-holyreformers who want to fuck with college football.

The score was 42 to 3 at the half. Tonsillitis Johnson carried theball nine times for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Artis Toothiscarried the ball 12 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

Before the half ended, and just after Tonsillitis had plowed 16 yardsfor his third touchdown, I had worked my way over to T. J. on thesideline and said, "Like we've always known, coaching makes thedifference."

T.J. had looked like a man who was half-spellbound, half-brainsick.

He had said, "I ain't sure my heart can take it, son. Them twofuckers is gonna scatter everybody like monkey shit!"

Barbara Jane and Uncle Kenneth came down out of the stands and ontothe field as the TCU band performed at halftime. Chancellor Troy(Tex) Edgar and a gentleman from the alumni association appeared.They were waiting to escort Barb and me to the center of the field togive us our awards. Shake Tiller went to the dressing room to relievehimself— to "shake hands with the unemployed," anexpression he had picked up in England.

As Barb and I kissed politely, I said, "You've done a lot forthis university. I want you to know we appreciate it."

"How are you?" said Barb.

"Overwhelmed with gratitude. Filled with renewed devotion to thecampus that expanded my intellectual horizons."

"Other than that?"

"Not worth a shit." I said. "You?"

Uncle Kenneth said, "If I'd made a bet on marital discord, youkids would have brought me in crisp. How long you been separated,eight months? I'd have gone with the Under, sure as the world."

"Dumb guys have been robbing smart guys for years," I said."A crooked zebra told me that."

"I've been a dumb guy," said Barbara Jane. "I've beenrobbing myself."

Barbara Jane's look was the one I'd been waiting for.

I hate to put it like this, but her look made my poor heart swell up.

I said, "Would a guy assume from your demeanor that he's happilymarried again?"

"A guy could assume that."

I glanced at Uncle Kenneth. He had the confident smile of a man whohad shoved it all in on a mortal lock.

"Does your director approve of you being here?" I asked.

"He didn't get a vote."

"I've been thinking about the bicoastal life," I said. "Itmight not be so bad. I like Fatburger."

"I miss football," said Barb. "Can I go to some of thegames with you? Would there be room for me in the booth?"

"I love you, Barb," I said with as much persuasion as Iever had.

"I love you," she said. "I never stopped, you know."

Before I could grab her up in my arms, we were suddenly marched ontothe field by the chancellor and the gentleman from the alumniassociation.

The voice on the P.A. system said something about the awards. We werehanded plaques. There were handshakes. I don't know that either of usheard any of the words that were spoken. We just kept looking at eachother.

And now we walked away, slowly, over to the sideline, and then towardthe south end zone where we could see Shake Tiller in the distance.Shake was leaning against the goal post.

"So Biff," said Barb. "Did you make it with that timebandit from Berkeley?"

Time bandit.

Barbara Jane's review of Kathy Montgomery had finally come in.

I gave the question some serious thought.

"Barb, I know you don't want me to lie to you again," Isaid. "I...yes, I did."


Barbara Jane threw her head back and laughed raucously. It was honestlaughter, a sound that was so much a part of her—and our past.

"You macho bastard," she said, still smiling, "youwould say that, wouldn't you?"

"Do you like Shake's book? I hate it."

"He told me about Kathy, but that's not why I'm back, Biff."

"Who do you want to play in the movie? I'd like to play me.

"Kathy's a neat role."

I pulled Barbara Jane to me. We kissed as if we were all alone on thefield. And then we kept walking. And in the stadium where I'd heardso many cheers, where the scent of winning was in the air again, itoccurred to me that I'd scored the greatest victory of my life.Barbara Jane had come back.

We met Shake Tiller at the south end of the field. Nobody saidanything. We just looked around in the stadium, and back at eachother, and the three of us started to laugh.

I guess you could say we were laughing at life its ownself as westood there in an old familiar huddle under a spray of Texas stars.

Life Its Ownself is Dan Jenkins' fifth novel, his eighth book.His published fiction includes Semi-Tough (1972), DeadSolid Perfect (1974), Limo (1976), and Baja Oklahoma(1981). Mr. Jenkins is a native of Fort Worth, Texas, who has livedin New York City for the past 22 years. As a Senior Writer for SportsIllustrated, he has written more than 500 articles on thesubjects of football and golf.

Mr. Jenkins is married to the former June Burrage of Fort Worth, theco-owner of two highly acclaimed restaurants in Manhattan (Juanita'sand Summerhouse). Their daughter, Sally, is a sportswriter for theSan Francisco Chronicle, and their sons, Marty and Danny, areworking in television and photography in Texas and New York.

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