The Bishops, Fred and Inez, of Pineville, Kentucky possess all the best American graces—faith and diligence, loyalty, sacrifice and hard work. For most of their lives the Bishops were dirt poor, but there was bounty in what they bred, seven magnificent children, all of whom earned honors, scholarships and college degrees. The Bishop children were bright and popular and so healthy that, in the aggregate, they didn't miss so much as a month of school days. This was a family blessed.
The three sons were all extraordinary athletes, though Fred and Inez never cared much about sports and certainly never pushed the boys to participate. Indeed, when Fred Jr., the middle son, scored 54 points for Pineville High in a basketball game, Inez told the coach it was "ridiculous" that any boy should get so many points at the expense of his teammates. He may have been the best of the sons, excelling at both football and basketball. Athletics came the most naturally to him, but his baby brother, Eddie, was nearly as good—some folks in Pineville would even say better. The first time Eddie ever batted in a baseball game, he hit the longest home run anyone in the county had ever seen.
Indisputably, Eddie came across as the most natural person among the sons. He was always the happiest child, laughing, beloved, well-balanced—until one sweet green evening in April 1981 when, without warning, all the pressures of sport that we place upon our best boys suddenly swelled within his lithe young body and the dam burst, and Eddie Bishop went suddenly berserk, utterly mad. He tore away from his family and friends, and with that same facility he'd shown Pineville upon the playing fields, he dashed away as fast as he could, outdistancing them all, charging down the road, broken-field, gliding into the lingering twilight.
It was two years earlier that Eddie had decided to return to Pineville. He'd graduated from Morehead State the spring before and he was studying for his master's degree in health and physical education, but he had a wife and a son. If he took the job teaching at Pineville High, he could make some money. There were a lot of people who had misgivings. Lee, the oldest brother, was against it, and he best realized the special pressures because, when he'd started teaching and coaching, that's exactly what he'd done: gone back to Pineville High for a year. But then Lee had left quickly for Fort Knox, across the state. Still, he says, "How could I tell Eddie not to do what I'd done myself?"
Jerry Woolum, a doctor at Pineville Community Hospital, knew the Bishops well, and he knew football. Woolum had been a starting quarterback in 1962 at the University of Kentucky. He was a member of the Pineville school board that hired Eddie to become the football coach a few months after Eddie had joined the high school faculty. "It's obvious now we made a mistake," Woolum says. "But it was an honest mistake."
Even up at Morehead, Eddie had been warned before he left. The Morehead coaches came down to Pineville after what everybody in town still calls "the accident." They dropped by Flocoe Drugstore, and Mason Combs, the pharmacist, remembers that one of the assistants repeated what he'd told Eddie: that he shouldn't go back to his hometown.
Even at that time, some people probably quoted Thomas Wolfe. They certainly do now.
But Eddie wasn't just another guy named Joe going home again. He was a bona fide, certified hero going home again. "Pineville's Star of Stars" is what the local weekly. The Sun-Courier, called him. You see, in situations like this, folks think: If we can only bring the old hero back, it's going to be jake again: he'll get it back for us. Pineville isn't alone in such thinking. Just look over at Cincinnati, where a few months ago they brought Pete Rose back. Same thing. Remember when they gave Bart Starr the job in Green Bay? Or when they brought Willis Reed home to New York? New York or Green Bay, the Big Apple or Podunk: same thing. Of course, it almost never works, but people keep trying.
As D.C. Cloud, one of Eddie's best friends, says: "I was even awed myself. And Pineville...everyone was thinking: We're bringing one of the Bishop boys back, and so all our kids are going to be good, too. You've got to understand that for years, whenever the Pineville team came to a town, the people actually thought 'Bishop.' "
All over the state, whenever Retha, Eddie's wife, was introduced, someone would say: "You any kin to the Pineville Bishops?" Eddie after Fred, Fred after Lee. They all won athletic scholarships. They weren't just recruited; they were pursued. Lee went to Cumberland College, Fred to Kentucky, Eddie to More-head. Lee, at 6'6" the tallest, was primarily a basketball specialist, but Fred Jr. and Eddie starred in both basketball and football, winning various and sundry all-state and All-America honors—and. more important for a town the size of Pineville, pop. 2,599, winning what's commonly known as "immortality." Jimmy Roan, the father of Robert Roan, the quarterback when Eddie starred for Pineville. jabs a plug of snuff into his left cheek and says it best: "Every small town has a great athlete everybody remembers. Every town has somebody. And sometime around here, 30, 40 years from now, some kid will come along, and he'll be real good. And people will start to say he must be the best ever, and somebody will say, 'Yeah, he's good all right—he's almost as good as Fred or Eddie Bishop was.' "
At 6'3", Fred knew he would have to make a transition from frontcourt to back if he chose to play basketball in college, so he very coolly chose football for his scholarship. But he thinks Eddie should have opted to play basketball in college. At 6'1", he was the shortest of the three brothers, a natural guard, but he chose football and went up to Morehead as a wide receiver, catching spirals from a quarterback named Phil Simms, who was good enough to go on and make a name for himself with the Giants.
Then, too, Pineville is just plain a football town. You say Kentucky, you think basketball, but that has never been the case in Pineville, The Gem City of the Cumberlands. Pineville High has long been the smallest school in the state to play football, and through the years it has raised up some hellacious teams.
Bobby Madon, the mayor, recalled that in glory times—like coach Bill Adams's heyday in the '50s and '60s—when the Mountain Lions played a big road game, there'd be bonfires on the courthouse lawn, all the stores would close, and the people in Pineville would nudge each other and say, "Last one to leave, please, you turn out the lights." At the Friday night home games, the stands would be packed, and the fans would ring the rest of the field four and five deep.
The '67 team was touted as being as good as any in the state. Adams had the team make trips in gray slacks and maroon jackets, with team bags, before a lot of college teams were doing that sort of Eddie Bishop thing. And the Pineville Athletic Boosters Club—"the finest boosters club in the state of Kentucky," many people said—even presented Adams with a brand-new automobile one year. "This is just a football-crazy town," says Wayne Knuckles, the editor of The Sun-Courier.
The best football of all was played by Fred, No. 81 in the maroon and gold, and Eddie, No. 14, holding on to the glory for Pineville, even as the coal played out and the number of good athletes dwindled. Then, after his older brother had gone to college, Eddie kept things going by himself, a one-man team, darting about in that pigeon-toed manner so many great athletes have, slashing down the field, bouncing back to the huddle. His greatest game may have been when he led Pineville past Twigg County High, state champion and 28-point favorite. Even better was beating Middlesboro. That's the town down the road, Route 25E—five times larger than Pineville, the one everybody in Pineville wants most to beat. "The man who did that magic is now the head coach. Maybe Coach Eddie Bishop can come up with another magic trick," The Sun-Courier wrote, years later, still savoring the 6-2 victory over Middlesboro in 1973.
Retha was there that night. She'd been the girl down the street all Eddie's life, but it was only when he was the football hero in town and she was one of the cheerleaders that they fell in love, she in her maroon-and-gold sweater and her pleated skirt, he in his maroon-and-gold uniform and his gladiator's helmet. All the folks in Pineville cheered off her cues, as she cheered for him, both of them in love, and neither of them knowing that it never gets any better than in high school, in the autumn, when it's the cheerleader and the one-man team.
Robert Roan was the quarterback that night, handing the ball to Eddie, or tossing it to him. "I'm happily married now, and we're having a baby, and I've been successful in business," Robert said one night recently, sitting over at Eddie's parents' house, out on the porch with the bugs and the memories. "But I'll tell you, still, the greatest thrill of my life was when we beat Middlesboro. That game. Isn't it funny the way a high school football game can stay with you?" He sighed. "But then, every memory of high school, and a lot of college, too, is of Eddie."
Now, Pineville happens to rest in the hills, where the Cumberland River cuts toward the Gap below, but it wouldn't matter if Pineville were in the hollows of Kentucky or on the plains of Texas, or in the mountains of Colorado or in the suburbs somewhere. It's all the same where Friday nights matter only for football, and the boys are made heroes before they are men.
On July 19, 1956 Edward Anthony Bishop was born at home in Pineville, the fifth of seven children. Inez (pronounced EYE-nez), the remarkable woman giving birth, remembers how curiously the father reacted this one time. "Why, Fred started chilling," she says. "And pretty soon he had that heater cherry red. The middle of the summer! And me burning up just from the hurting."
Fred Jr. had been born barely a year before, and the last two children, Jennifer and Jan, would follow in such quick succession that Inez would bear four children, all single births, in a 42-month period.
There were no more pregnancies after Jan was born. Life was very difficult. Years before, Fred had come up from Alabama, a railroad man with a grade school education, and now the L & N had laid him off for the last time, with seven children to support. Inez is as garrulous and irrepressible as Fred is quiet and reserved. She's a Dyer, has always lived in Pineville. Her father, a colossus of a man, reputed to have gone 450 pounds, had been killed in a mine accident when she was an infant, and she'd grown up a resourceful woman.
But when Fred was laid off for the final time, he and Inez faced a more desperate kind of nothing. They were bereft of all save "the milk in my breasts," Inez says. But the Bishops would not even consider going on welfare. Instead, they had bus tickets mailed to them and shipped out to Kingsport, Tenn., 70 miles away, where they served as live-in domestics for three years. Inez's mother, Alice Dyer, tended the brood in Pineville. It would break Fred's and Inez's hearts when they returned home for a weekend every now and then, and their babies wouldn't even recognize them.
The family center held. Lee, the eldest, set the pattern for the others, and Fred and Inez were able to put aside a few dollars. Finally, Fred got a job back in Pineville as a maintenance worker with what everybody calls "The K.U."—the slate electric utility, the largest employer in Pineville. He still works there; Inez runs a day-care center in their house.
It's their house, too. The banks would go an extra mile for the Bishops; people would cosign for Fred and Inez. Still, it was always a struggle, and Inez remembers one spring night when there was absolutely no money or food in the house when they went to sleep. Inez prayed to Jesus for help.
It snowed that night, and when the Bishops awoke, Pineville lay still under a freak wet spring storm. Fred and the boys were able to shovel driveways. There was breakfast, after all. "The Lord had answered us," Inez says.
And then, one by one, the Bishop children graduated from Pineville High and began to follow Lee to college. Eventually, they all got bachelor's degrees. Some went beyond that. Lee is a teacher and coach; Marie is a policewoman in Memphis; Elaine is a hospital social worker in Lexington; Fred runs an urban-renewal agency in Frankfort; Jennifer, an attorney, works for Legal Aid in Cincinnati; and Jan is a social worker. Even if Lee and Fred Jr. and Eddie had never picked up a ball, the Bishops would have been an admired family.
The fact that the Bishop children have left Pineville isn't surprising, though. There are very few opportunities for educated blacks in the area. Possibly because there aren't many blacks around, the whites don't seem to feel threatened, and race relations appear remarkably placid in Pineville. Indeed, Eddie's predecessor, Teddy Taylor, was a black man, and as The Sun-Courier wrote glowingly when Taylor left: "For many years to come residents of Pineville will be talking of the man with the bald head and that great team he had in 1978."
Of course, it didn't damage race relations that Taylor went 9-3 and took his team to the district finals. For years, the few black families in Pineville lived by themselves in the most vulnerable part of town, along Cumberland Avenue, where floodwaters periodically swept up from the river below.
Normally the Cumberland is an agreeable stream. However, when the rains come and the mountain creeks fill and rush into the Cumberland, it can become a wrathful weapon in God's hand, even though there's a floodwall along the bank in Pineville. At its worst, as back in April of '77, the river crests above its banks, above the floodwall, and inundates the little town, the water 18 or 20 feet deep around the courthouse where on warm, dry mornings old men whittle and nod at small lies.
The Noah-like flood of '77 even undermined the foundation of the old elementary school, which led to talk that the town would be well advised to give up the ghost and consolidate its few students into the Bell County system. But if Pineville was to lose its schools, then Pineville would lose its football team, too. So the townspeople approved a bond issue and had their taxes raised to build a new elementary school.
The mountain folk around the Gap aren't profligate people, and they've always been a cussedly independent lot, either living off the land or of it, cutting timber, or digging coal. Football is Pineville's game. Let those bluegrass panty-waists have their hoops.
Like a lot of small-town kids, Eddie did some of everything there was to do. Because Fred was barely a year older and they were both outstanding athletes, they had a lot in common and shared a lot of friends. Still, everybody who knew the Bishop boys recognized the differences between them. Fred was more contained, less demonstrative, while Eddie, unlike most top athletes, was full of fun, never self-conscious, both a leader and a comic. The word "clown" is regularly summoned up to describe him, but always in a complimentary way.
Beaver Combs, who played center for the Mountain Lions, was one of Eddie's best friends, and he retains two visions of his old pal. The second one is of Eddie dashing about the field, the one-man team. But first, there was a Christmastime when a bunch of the guys went up to Lexington to go shopping, and Eddie decked himself out in black-and-orange shoes, green pants and a red shirt. When he got separated from his friends, all the others went about laughing and asking strangers, "Have you seen a Christmas tree walking around?"
"Eddie just had a way of laughing everything off," Knuckles says. And he was carrying a lot: the fifth child in a proud family of achievers, the smallest brother after two distinguished athletes, a black in a predominantly white society. But he kept passing every test. He could charm anyone. Jennifer, his younger sister, even straight-out asked her mother once, "Why do you favor Eddie so?"
Only Fred Jr., looking back, sees him differently. "Eddie had a more serious attitude toward his relationship with people," he says. "I learned at an early age not to take people seriously. But, you see, most people didn't realize this because when they saw Eddie play, he was the one who always had a smile on his face. And I didn't. But, in reality, Eddie was the serious one."
It was in April of '79, after he'd been back at Pineville High for three months, teaching health and physical education, serving as an assistant coach for the basketball team, that Eddie was named head football coach in his hometown. He was just short of his 23rd birthday.
Eddie had been reluctant at first to apply for the job, but once he was appointed, he threw himself into it. He went over to the school by himself and painted the lockers and lined the field. Nobody expected much from this edition of the Mountain Lions. There were only four seniors on the slim 22-man squad. Even The Sun-Courier, which would become Eddie's most conspicuous critic, acknowledged that "the team is small and thin in numbers."
And so, everybody was perfectly delighted when Pineville beat Evarts 6-2 in Coach Bishop's inaugural on Aug. 18, 1979. He won his second game, too.
And if Pineville then got whipped 27-0 by Corbin, Corbin is a Class AA school—Pineville is a Class A. And although hated Middlesboro also beat the Mountain Lions, the score was only 9-8, the closest that Pineville had come since the classic victory of '73, when Eddie had run wild in the maroon and gold. The team finished 5-6, which seemed, on paper, to be as much as anyone could have expected.
But behind Eddie's back, in certain precincts, there was criticism. The code word was "discipline." Had Eddie had control of the team? The issue was of particular concern because drugs had finally reached Pineville. Adams, the former football coach and the Pineville High principal since 1977, agrees that the problem had begun to surface about the time Eddie took over. "It takes about 10 years for something to get here...even a fad," he says.
During Adams's tenure as the coach, he could lay down the law. He wouldn't let players ride in cars during the season, except on weekends, and parents would call him up in the summer to ask him when the car rule would start. But now there was gossip that some Mountain Lions were messing around with dope. And while everybody would acknowledge that the times had changed, a lot of folks in Pineville, like a lot of folks everywhere, somehow wanted to believe that football coaches, and football coaches' authority, were exempt from the tides of change. They're supposed to be able to hand out backbones and gumption with the shoulder pads.
Inez can see it now: "There were some parents who couldn't control their children the way it used to be. So they wanted Eddie—they wanted the football coach—to do what they couldn't."
The 1980 squad was larger, with 31 players, but only half a dozen were seniors, and privately Eddie told friends that there were only two or three real athletes on the squad. Still, for whatever reasons, much more was expected of this team, especially by The Sun-Courier.
The general manager of the newspaper was the same Bobby Madon who was, and is, the mayor of Pineville. Madon is a one-man town. At the time, he wrote not only the weekly editorial column (entitled LIKE IT is) but also the opinion column on the sports page (SPORTS SLANTS), and he broadcast the Pineville games on the local radio station. Moreover, his son was co-captain of the 1980 Mountain Lions, and the father expected a great deal of the lad. Very soon, Madon was describing the previous so-so season as "disastrous," and he declared, "A losing football season is probably the most difficult thing to swallow in Pineville." And "I remind you, when football dies at Pineville, so does the school."
In retrospect, Eddie's fate was all but sealed in the first game of the season, when Pineville was shut out 28-0 by Fleming-Neon High in the Laurel Bowl. Madon wrote, "This Laurel Bowl has been discussed over every cup of coffee in town...and no one can figure what's wrong with the 'Lions.' ...This is certainly no criticism of anyone...but never have I seen a group with so much give so little.... We let a disciplined ball club control the ball all night."
Pineville fell to 1-4 and then 2-6. Worse, Middlesboro creamed Pineville 30-0, so that the final 34-22 victory over Bell County was bitter consolation, and the season ended 4-7, 9-13 for Eddie's two years. Disgraced and disgruntled, Pineville cried for a new coach, one who could discipline its youth, the way it used to be. Cloud says, "I honestly think everybody knew how mediocre the material was that Eddie had. And they knew about the drugs when he came in. But people around here expect miracles in football."
The winter was long for Coach Bishop. The handwriting was on the wall. He wasn't allowed to return as basketball assistant. There were public meetings at the school about the drug problem, and that only generated more talk about how Eddie's team had been infected by drugs. In fact, there was never any proof of drug use among the Mountain Lion players.
As was his nature, Eddie maintained a happy hero's face. When alone with his friends and family, he did complain sometimes that the Boosters and old supporters—like Adams and Woolum—hadn't given him the backing he'd expected, but he never dwelt on the subject. He kept almost everything to himself.
Woolum went out of his way to try to counsel Eddie. As a member of the school board he was aware that Eddie was in trouble. "But as far as I know, right up to the accident, no one ever actually asked Eddie to resign," Woolum says. "I felt as responsible as anyone about what was happening, and the gist of what I said was: 'Eddie, I'm not sure your future is at Pineville.' What I thought he should do—and I told him—was to get a fresh start somewhere out of this town where he was only remembered as a little boy. He agreed with me in some ways, too. But he didn't want to admit that he had been a failure in something he wanted to do."
Still, nobody had any idea how deeply that failure was wounding Eddie. "If I had to pick someone who did what Eddie did," Lee says, "Eddie would be the last one I'd pick."
After all, Eddie knew the American way, that coaches aren't hired to coach, they're hired to win. "Eddie understood his position," Woolum says. "That's the nature of the business, be it pro, college or high school. If you don't win...."
Yet no one appreciated the depths of his agony, even when he went out and bought a punching bag and began to flail away at it, bang, bang, rat-a-tat-tat, or the day when he went over to his parents' house, which was just down from where he and Retha and Toby, as Eddie Jr. is known, lived, and went into their bedroom, where his mother found him.
"Momma, I just wanted to lie down on your bed," he told her.
"Do you want to pray with me?" Inez asked.
"Yes ma'am," he said, and he got down beside her, on his knees, and when she prayed, Eddie cried, and he said, "Oh, Momma, the problems I've got. God's either going to take care of them or take me out of them."
His career record, 9-13.
It was Wednesday morning, April 22, when, without consulting anyone, Eddie burst into the office of school superintendent Ronald Jones. "I've got something that will make it easier for you," he said, and with that, he tossed his resignation onto the superintendent's desk.
Jones saw Eddie that afternoon, sat with him at the high school baseball game, and Eddie seemed perfectly composed. But when he went over to his mother's, Inez could sense his distress. "Momma," he told her, "they gave me the hatchet today. But I've told Toby all about it." The boy was six then. "He knows his father won't be a teacher here anymore."
The next morning, Thursday, Eddie cleaned his locker out and left school without teaching his classes. He went home and brooded, punching the bag, fretting, his mind unraveling—although not enough for anyone to see for sure. He went over to his parents' and Inez gave him some lunch, "but it was just like foaming in his mouth, so at last he just raked it out for the dogs."
After returning home, around quarter to five, he called up Cloud, who, by chance, had come home early from work. His conversation rambled. "Don't worry about it, Deke," Eddie reassured him at one point. "I've talked to the Lord, and I've got it all worked out."
When Eddie rang off, Cloud could only shake his head. "That was the weirdest conversation," he said to a friend. But Cloud soon forgot about it. It was just Eddie, Eddie Bishop, Pineville's Star of Stars, the easiest-going hero this side of Gary Cooper. Besides, even if Cloud had gone over to Eddie's, he would have just found his old friend casually watching TV, which he did for a while until he told Retha he was going over to see his parents for a few minutes.
His mother and father had endured, even thrived in the face of ongoing adversities others can only imagine. Maybe that crossed his mind. Maybe they could help. His mother wasn't in, though; she was "second door" down the street at a birthday party. But Elaine was there, and so was Fred Sr. He went into the bedroom with his father.
Soon, at last, it began to tumble out. "Those people did me wrong, Dad," Eddie said. "I know I can do the job—if only they'll give me the chance." His voice rose. "That's all I want, Dad—just give me another chance."
His father consoled him, commiserated, and suddenly Eddie was himself again. And soon the two men were happily chatting about events reported on the sports pages, like fathers and sons all over this shining land. The insanity was stilled again, and there was another of those soft, misleading lulls when Eddie was perfectly normal and happy and lucid, when he was himself. Only, the madness had the upper hand now. It had pursued him, and now it had momentum, and only for shorter and shorter intervals could he hold it off.
Again! Now: "These people did me wrong!" he screamed. "I know I can do the job! That's all I want, Daddy, another chance...another chance."
No man is calmer than Fred Bishop Sr. Nobody in discomfort could have ordered up a more reassuring presence. "Son," he said, "we know you did your job, and your mom and me and the rest of the family are proud of you."
Eddie spoke more softly this time. "I'll tell you, Dad, what I'm going to do tonight will cause embarrassment to you and Mom and the rest of the family. I'm sorry, but I have to do this."
Fred was again ready with support. "Son, there is nothing you can do to embarrass me or the family. You know that we'll always stand behind you."
"All I want is another chance. I know I can do the job. The people did me wrong!" Eddie said, his voice beginning to rise, louder, louder, as he brought himself out of his chair, screaming now: "Stand back, world, here I come! Stand back, world, here I come! Don't nobody try to stop me! I want the world to know how they mistreated me!"
Elaine was scared now. She heard her father's voice tremble a little when he said, "Son, don't let those people upset you like that. It ain't worth it." Quietly, she left to go fetch her mother. Eddie grew wilder. He began to lash out physically. He broke a mirror, he turned over the Bible stand, and then, in the living room, in one final, mad outburst, he struck out at the picture window, and it shattered, the shards gashing his wrist, slashing it horribly.
However, minutes later, by the time Elaine arrived back at the house, Jan had wrapped the bloody hand, and the bizarre tranquillity had returned to Eddie. It was like the studied violence of the scrimmage followed by the peacefully dispassionate huddle. Retha was called for and came over and remembers that everybody was talking mostly about going down to give blood. A squad car pulled up then, in answer to a call someone had made, and Eddie was not only rational, but also thoughtful. "I'm sorry, officer," he said politely, "but I just got a little upset and broke my mom's window. I'll talk to her about the window. I'm getting ready to go to the hospital now."
"Well, O.K.," the policeman said, and when he left, Elaine and Jan drove Eddie to the hospital.
When he got there, Eddie kept shifting back and forth between extremes. First he was very calm, but then he grew unsettled and began to run about, and then Elaine helped soothe him, and when the doctor found Eddie in the treatment room, he was sitting there, so peacefully. But that was the final lull. The strain to be Eddie any longer was now too great. He jumped off the table, hollering that he wouldn't accept any treatment. Elaine and the doctor pleaded with him, but Eddie backed away, until suddenly he stopped, and he said, "I saw the light, and I'm getting out of here."
And, with that, he broke past them, burst out the door and down the hall. Elaine chased after him, calling to him, but Eddie tore out the door and down the incline that leads to Route 25E.
It's funny how we use the football field as a way to measure things. We never say, "Oh, that's about as far from here as it is to first base." Or, "That's about four basketball courts long." But we count by football fields. So, it was about three football fields down the road to where 25E turned, and maybe two more to Eddie's church, the Bethel Baptist.
The road widens to three lanes in front of the hospital, and for some reason, Eddie cut across all three lanes to get to the other side, the far side. It would have made more sense for him just to stay on the hospital side, on the town side; there's even a sidewalk on that side. But, instead, he darted across the road and began to run back into town from the far side, on the shoulder, against traffic.
It was dusk, and it was hard to see him. Elaine didn't see him, and the truck driver only saw him at the last instant, as he brought his rig around the bend and glimpsed, before him, the form that veered from the side of the road, ducking right into the path of his truck. Eddie ran right into the truck, as you would a tackier, and they met head on in the twilight.
The funeral was the largest Pineville had ever seen. After all, as The Sun-Courier wrote, "Regardless of his record as a coach. Bishop was loved and well respected by the community." Regardless. Nine and 13. The mayor himself drove the lead police car in the funeral procession. The outpouring was extraordinary, and the tears rent the church.
Adams was prevailed upon to return as coach, but only 16 boys came out for the team that fall, and it was a real struggle. Just to scrimmage, Adams had to work one side of the line against the other. But, still, football survived in Pineville, and with it the school. This autumn, three years after "the accident," Adams stepped aside for a new coach, and the Mountain Lions had a 9-3 record. "At last," says Bobby Madon, "we have a whip snapper who demands respect."
And someday, too, there will be another great player in Pineville, a regular one-man team, and the recruiters will pour down 25E and pursue him, and the stands will be packed, and the roars for him will roll up to the mountains and down to the river, and someone will say, "Why, that kid must be the greatest ever to play for Pineville." And some oldtimer will say, "Yes, indeed, he's good all right. Why, he's almost as good as the last Bishop boy was."