Kentucky Wildcats football. What do we as fans do when we are dissatisfied with the game we see on the field? We play armchair quarterbacks, we tweak ever play, after the fact, all the while knowing that hindsight is 20/20. We are pros at doing that. Fans of every sport second guess games. It happens all the time. The other day I happened upon the ultimate ritual of second-guessing and armchair quarterbacking my eyes had ever seen. The football gods were having an armchair party and on that very day they were discussing what they could do to help "that blue team in the SEC" that was really struggling. I know it's not polite to eavesdrop, but I was all ears.
I looked around the gathering of chairs, and first I noticed Bear Bryant seated in the biggest chair, the very same Bear that, years ago, left my beloved team, supposedly, because of four tires. Seated next to him was John McKay in the flesh, well sort of. On the other side of 'The Bear' was none other than Vince Lombardi. As I looked around I saw Woody Hayes, Shug Jordan, Paul Dietzel, Frank Leahy, John Heisman, and many others. I also noticed a 'young' lad sitting on the floor wearing a football helmet that said "rookie". Every time he tried to speak up, Bear said "It's not your turn, Joe." Then I realized Joe Pa had found his football place in the hereafter.
As the conversation continued about the Wildcats, I became enthralled with the conversation. I just knew if anyone had true words of pure insight, it would be this group.
First thing I heard was John McKay scream out, "We didn't tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking." I knew right then and there they had watched the very same game I had watched on Sunday. This was the point I knew I had to continue to listen.
Just like anyone with a strong opinion, they each felt the need to chime in with their opinions. Bear then said "Losing doesn't make me want to quit. It makes me want to fight that much harder."
I mumbled, "That's the spirit!" and they began to look around as if they had heard me. Oops, I thought.
Then I heard a knock at the door. Bear looked really aggravated and waved his hand for it to be ignored. I'm sure he thought whoever was outside the door made the noise and I was in the clear. Knock, knock again came from the other side of the door. Bear frowned and scowled out, "Who is it?"
A squeaky little voice chimed out, "It's me."
Bear's face grimaced even more as he asked, "What do you want?"
"I have something to say, Bear. Please let me in."
"It's definitely not your time, Lou. Go away."
I could see Joe's eyes light up from behind the face mask. I'm sure he was thinking he would no longer be the rookie if someone 'new' joined the group. "Who is at the door, Bear?" someone asked. "Oh, it's that bumble-head that was at South Carolina. He is always bugging me with wanting in." They all broke out in laughter from Bear's comment.
Then the squeaky voice behind the door screamed, "I think everyone should experience defeat at least once during their career. You learn a lot from it."
Bear shook his head and said "Holtz, you are too close to my last nerve. Go away, and I mean it."
The members continued their conversation. John Heisman shared his words of wisdom. "I have to hand it to that coach down there in Kentucky because he follows one of my favorite rules ... When in doubt, punt!" Laughter once again filled the room.
Woody Hayes said, "Three things can happen when you pass the ball, and two of them are bad." They all nodded in agreement.
Shrug Jordan remembered his underdog rules, "Always remember..... Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David." and the fist-bumps circled the group.
I was watching Vince Lombardi, almost starring as if he was in deep thought. He said, "You know ... Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence." And he believed "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing." It was clear to me that. Vince definitely didn't like the game he had watched at all. The others began to feel the tension when he shared his words of wisdom.
Paul Dietzel spoke up with an encouraging, "You learn more character on the two-yard line than anywhere else in life" , expressing his emphasis on the learning factor as a positive to look forward.
Frank Leahy spoke up, " All I know to say at this point, boys, When the going gets tough, let the tough get going." No one could disagree with that. Then I heard someone at the door again. This time it was a faint little knock. This could be interesting, I told myself.
"Who is it?" Bear asked once again. In almost a whisper I heard "It's me, Coach." Bear's eyes rolled in disbelief. "Not you again, Lou!" he growled.
"But I have something else to say today" Lou murmured.
"Of course you do, Lou. What is so important?"
"You know, You're never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you're never as bad as they say when you lose."
"Fair enough, Lou. Are you done now? We are tired."
"Well, I have just one more thing to say, please?" in a rather bold voice. "The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it", he yells before Bear could say no.
At that moment Bear picked up the football that was laying on the floor and tossed it at the door screaming at the top of his lungs, "Lou! You've been out there this entire time. That's it. Go. Away." The gathering erupted in belly laughs.
Vince, not amused by Lou's antics ended the evening with a welcomed "See you guys next week. I think I'll sleep on this a little more." They all agreed as they bid each other adieu. I could tell as they parted ways, these men would continue this conversation again, and I planned on being there again.