For a long time only the most illustrious athletes were called upon to write books—and then upon the conclusion of their careers. These gee-whiz memoirs were predictably bland and revealed nothing but a penchant for cliché. A new vogue, however, was created by Jim Brosnan, Jerry Kramer and, most recently, Jim Bouton, whereby athletes not only wrote a book while they were still active but even kept notes every day as their seasons went along.
These days everybody is writing accounts of their seasons—O. J. Simpson, Bill Freehan, Tom Seaver, Dave DeBusschere, Frank Beard, Len Dawson and Walt Frazier. A lot of the players have been so busy preparing their books they don't have enough time to play. It is such a serious problem, in fact, that it has now leaked out Coach Boots Zorro had to get tough about the whole business during the recent Lynchburg Memories training camp.
The Memories, favorite in the South-by-Southwest Division, had been working out at their Seaford, Del. summer training-camp site. "All right, men," the wily grid mentor told his stalwarts, "I want everybody in bed early tonight, because tomorrow is going to be a real tough day. In the morning, for you veterans, we're going to begin with keeping complete diary notes, and then advanced tape-recorder technique. Now, for you rookies, you'll be meeting as a group to learn how to sign with a literary agent, and then a session on methods for reading galley proofs on airplanes. And I don't want to hear nothing about how you learned to do it on your college team. You're with the Memories now, and you'll do it our way. All right, Greenleaf, what is it? Speak up."
The second-string free safety, John Greenleaf, rose. "It's nothing, Coach," he said. "I'm just dictating notes of this meeting into my tape recorder."
September 27, 1970
"Yeah, well knock it off," Coach Zorro barked back. "Stick to writing notes in longhand when I'm talking. You know that's a club rule. That'll cost you $100 or one-half of one percent of the paperback royalties, whatever is greater. We've got to have discipline around here. We've got a lot to work on to get you guys in shape. Madden, when I told you I wanted you to slim down to 280, I meant pounds, not pages. And by the way, Madden, if you must cut your book, not the chapter on inspiration. I thought that was beautiful. Did I really say all those things? Yes, Peletta, what is it?"
Brawny offensive tackle, Tiny Peletta stood up. "Coach, have you made a decision yet on that matter I asked you about?"
"Yes, I have, Harold," Coach Zorro replied. "I'm afraid that I just won't be able to let you take your editor with you to the line of scrimmage. I appreciate, as you put it so well, that the little fellow isn't much bigger than a comma, and he would be unlikely to get in the way. I have to be fair, and I think it's enough that everybody gets to sit next to their editor on the bench.
"Men, let me tell you, I think if we work together, we're the kind of team that has a chance to go all the way—and you know what that can mean. And if we can win the conference title, I don't see why every man here can't swing magazine rights for his stuff. If we can go all the way, in January we—"
"You really believe—" an excited Boom-Boom Starkle broke in.
"You bet I do. With the kind of talent we've got, I truly believe that we've got a Book-of-the-Month Club choice somewhere on this squad!" The Memories, fired up, rushed out with whoops and cheers.
"You really know how to talk their language, Boots," said Senior Assistant Coach Hi-Ho Hennessy as they walked down to Zorro's room to watch some films.
"Well, you've got to know what motivates these guys nowadays," Boots explained. "It's a tough job. Already I've read that I could be replaced. The management is considering Pop Ivy, Joe Kuharich and Dick Schaap. I'll tell you, Hi-Ho, you're only as good as your last chapter."
They came to Boots' room and went inside. Hardly had they settled in front of the projector, though, when reserve Cornerback Lloyd Radebaugh knocked and entered.
"What is it, Radebaugh?"
"Well, Coach, I just don't think it's fair," the wiry speed merchant began. "Why am I the only player that doesn't get to room with his editor?"
"Radebaugh, I am not singling you out," Zorro replied. "I appreciate that your publishers, Peep Press, are trying to get you to provide more of the woman's angle—so-called—but sending along Miss Appleby as your editor for the season is just too much."
Boots frowned as Radebaugh left. There was another knock on the door; it was Dean Repass, everybody's All-Pro quarterback whose fancy six-figure book deal was the shop talk of the whole NFL. "You wanted to see me, Coach?"
"Yeah, Dean," Zorro said. "I'll come right to the point. Look, I know you've got a great deal and, like all of us, you want to keep the best stuff for your own book but, really, look—I think you have just got to call the plays out loud so that all the players can hear them."
"Coach, that's not fair. That's just giving some of my best quotes away to the other guys' books—"
"Dean, please, they're not 'quotes.' They're signals. The team just can't win if you don't let everybody else in on what plays you're calling. C'mon, whadya say?"
Nodding, but annoyed, Repass left. There was another knock at the door, and Sid Farlow, the former All-Pro tight end, appeared. "Sit down, Sid," Boots said kindly.
"What is it, Coach?" Farlow asked. "Why did you call me here?"
"This isn't an easy job for me, but I'm going to have to let you go," Boots said. "There's just too much competition, and I have to cut somebody."
"Are you sure, Coach?"
"Look, Sid, there are eight guys besides you on this team all doing a book with the same title: Story of a Season. I got five guys all doing Team of Destiny, and I got to let one of those go, too. You see, the way I see it, I'll carry five or six Story of a Season, I'll keep four Team of Destiny, another four Countdown to Victory, three Fourteen Violent Sundays, two or three On the Long Road to the Super Bowl and a couple On the Road to Glory. Then I'll flesh it out from there with some specialty stuff—a couple Story of a Rookie, one or two how-to books and a religious thing.
"So you got to cut me, Coach?"
"Look, Sid," Zorro replied. "If I let you go now, early in training camp, I know you can catch on somewhere else. On a lot of teams a guy like you with hard-cover experience can win a spot easy. I hear on Atlanta they're stuck with a couple of stiffs on the suicide squad who—get this—got no more than Sunday supplement deals.
"Sid, I'm leveling with you. You know what they say about this game—your publisher goes first. Well, you're still hanging in there with yours. Sure, you can't move for those ancillary rights the way you used to. You can't reach the slicks the way you could in your prime, and I wouldn't use you in a spot where TV was looking for a special. So, O.K., you're not the talent you used to be, but Sid, you got a lot left."
"I guess you're right, Coach," a downcast Farlow said. "I just hate to leave the Memories. Is there no spot at all left?"
"Well, there's only one opening I can see," Coach Zorro said, "and you'll have to fight a couple of rookies for the job. The title is The Coach—a Man of Destiny."
"I thought you were handling that job yourself."
"No, Sid. I can't do that myself. My book is entitled Leading the Countdown for Victory on the Glory Road to the Super Bowl."
"O.K., Coach, you're on," Farlow said. He left, and the two coaches turned out the lights and started watching the films. Coach Hennessy began narrating the action. "See Jones run," he said. "Run, Jones, run. Run, run, run. See Markowski clip. Clip, clip. Bad, Markowski, bad. Bad, bad, bad—"
"What the hell is this, Hi-Ho?"
"Well, you know, Boots," Hennessy explained. "There's not much of a market left over for assistant coaches. I just signed to do Coaches' Helper for Kiddy Press."