Block Those Plays!

June 04, 2000

The breathless prose practically leaps from the page. "Our
cadence will be: Rhythmic: Down-Seeeeeeeeeeeet-Go!" wrote
author-coach Terry Bowden in the multiple offense chapter of the
1995 Auburn playbook.

Houston Nutt is a virtual pigskin Pynchon with his recondite
turns of phrase. "Our scheme will promote over-populating the
L.O.S. [line of scrimmage] (i.e., 8 on 7; 7 on 6, etc.), thus
creating advantages for us," Nutt wrote in the 1997 Boise State
playbook. Nutt's fans will notice the seeds of this abstruse
style in an earlier effort, the 1995 Murray State playbook. The
most peripatetic author since Mark Twain, Nutt is now the
coach-in-residence at Arkansas. If you enjoy his 135-page Boise
State tome, you'll also like former Penn State defensive
coordinator Jerry Sandusky's 4-4 package musings (a breezier read
at 65 pages) from the Nittany Lions' 1996 defensive playbook.

All the above works, and more than 100 others like them, were
available until two weeks ago from www.sportsplaybooks.com to
anyone with Internet access and a major credit card. Founded by
a trio of twentysomething high school coaches from Austin--Matt
Karnes, Henry de Keratry Jr. and Armando Ordonez--this gridiron
version of Amazon.com launched on March 15. The books retailed
from $10 for a work of fewer than 100 pages to $34.95 for
300-plus page volumes. The most popular were the option tales: a
young man's dilemma of whether to pitch the ball or tuck it and
run. "Nebraska [whose 1999 quarterback, Eric Crouch, is shown
optioning at left], Air Force and North Dakota State," says de
Kerarty. "They were all big sellers."

Then a few authors threw fits. "I don't think it's ethical or
appropriate," says Central Michigan coach Mike DeBord.

"There have only been a handful of [angry coaches]," de Keratry
says. "They think, Oh, no, our schemes can be sold to an
opponent, or they're going to steal our plays."

Exactly. On May 19, de Keratry and his publishing partners closed
down the on-line bookstore, at least temporarily, amid questions
as to whether the playbooks are in the public domain. "We're just
trying to help out high school coaches," says de Keratry, who
nevertheless is loath to reveal how he came to possess such a
plethora of rare, used books. "We never meant to piss anyone
off."

Perhaps de Keratry can gain solace from Steve Spurrier. "It
doesn't matter to me," says the Florida coach. "Tennessee has had
our playbook since 1991."

--John Walters

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL

MEMORY LANE
For David Letterman and other ABA buffs, a Web site recaptures
the league's oddball appeal

The Knicks-Pacers NBA Eastern Conference semifinal has Indiana
native David Letterman, who has worked in New York City for the
past 20 years, torn. Impassioned as well, as evidenced by Dave's
rave on the Late Show on May 24 concerning the Pacers of his
youth. "Mel Daniels, Freddie Lewis, coach Bob Leonard, big George
McGinnis, Kevin Joyce--who can forget Bob Netolicky?" Letterman
asked, running down the lineup of the most successful franchise
of the American Basketball Association, which operated from 1967
to '76. "That's when basketball was basketball."

We empathize with Dave's ache for a league defunct if never
de-funked. The antidote is remembertheaba.com. (Remember, Dave,
that's preceded by a "double-ya, double-ya, double-ya.") The site
has the requisite team histories, statistics, FAQs, etc., but
click first on "Only in the ABA," which captures the maverick
league's spirit. Anecdotes abound, such as the tale of "John
Brisker Intimidation Night." During the 1971-72 season Brisker, a
Pittsburgh Condors forward with the body of a heavyweight
champion, promised to lead the league in scoring and to knock out
anyone who dared hinder his pursuit of that goal. In response the
Utah Stars hired five professional boxers to stand guard when the
Condors came to Salt Lake City. "Nothing happened at this game,"
the site concludes, "but it was an interesting spectacle anyway."

Top that, Reggie. --J.W.

PICKS TO CLICK

ncaabaseball.com

Follow the college baseball postseason on this official site,
which will provide pitch-by-pitch coverage of the eight-city,
16-team super-regionals (June 2 through 4) and the College World
Series from Omaha (June 9 through 17). Of course, you can order
merchandise on the site (ROAD TO OMAHA T-shirt: $17.49). During
the tournament, players and coaches from participating teams
will write on-line diaries.

Among playbooks available on-line, Nebraska's, which details its
option formations, was a hot seller.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)