Greetings, dear Winstonians! I trust you are enjoying this season of football to its utmost–biting your nails at the close finishes, cursing the ineptitude of your teams’ coaches, and reveling in the glory that comes from a decisive win! Your dear old Bud has been following the ins and outs of every game closely–so closely, in fact, I can’t bear to part with the amazing insider knowledge that resides in my cranium!
To make up for this failure in reporting, I will share with you other secrets–even more valuable secrets! You see, it is during this time of year that the birthdays of my two favorite people coincide. One is my own Bubbling Bouncy Blonde Bombshell, and the other should be wholly evident in a moment.
When it comes to ‘special days’, a one Mister Bud Winston does not skimp on the spoiling of those he loves. So on my lover’s birthday, after the candlelight dinner, after the armagnac and the foot rub, I unlock my treasured book safe and extract the only tome of pure poetry I need to get her in the mood, open it to any page, and begin the more sure-thing foreplay the world has ever known. I speak, of course, of Paul Zimmerman’s “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football.”
Take, for instance, page 104: “They’re the pampered athletes of football. You see them every year, coach-breakers, guys who stay around long after more talented players are cut, guys who get that extra-long look, and then another, great for anchoring the NFL’s 400-meter relay but duds as football players. And God forbid if one of them should actually catch a bomb or two in a game. Then he’ll last for years, shuffled off from one team to another. Speed, always the search for speed.”
My apologies for unleashing that so suddenly; I’m quite positive your pants have suddenly become slightly more crowded than they were before. Such heavenly prose is irresistible, dripping with so much excitement, anticipation for the stories to go with such analysis, that it’s hard to keep the heavy breathing from spontaneously occurring.
Flip to Chapter 11 on page 206, and if you need to take a break between paragraphs to make sure you don’t finish too early, I’ll understand:
“It sounds innocent enough. It even has a scientific ring. “Special teams.” Run down the field on kickoffs. Help block for the man returning those kicks. Punt and be punted to. Block for the placekicker, or try to block the other team’s kicks. Not bad, right? But when I see those special-team specialists earning about a third of the paycheck of an average NFL starter, I think about Henry Schmidt.
Schmidt was a reserve tackle on the 1966 Jets for a few weeks. His eight-year pro career had taken him in and out of four camps, and by the time he hit New York he was just about playing out the string. His salary was $15,000. I used to get a kick out of studying Henry Schmidt. His face was craggy and lined, and when he would get out of the team bus after a 15-minute airport trip, with his battered knees cramping and aching, he would hobble like a 60-year-old man.
When the Jets finally cut him, I was surprised to see that he was only 28. He looked like 40. And then I remembered who Henry Schmidt was. Schmidt was the greatest “hot man” I’d ever seen in my life.
The hot man is the wedge-buster on the kickoff teams, also called special teams… or specialty teams… or “money” teams (to be kind)… or simply “teams.” The players call it the suicide squad, because the injury rate is so high. And hot man is the most suicidal of suicide squad positions, because the only requirements for the job are speed, size, and an absolute willingness to hurl oneself at the four big men that form the wedge in front of the kick returner.”
About this time, things are getting hotter than hot–reading aloud a long, beefy, throbbing passage like that tends to accelerate things to the point where even the slightest movements are heightened and intense. Take it from your friend Bud, though–don’t stop there. Go for just a little more. Push it over the edge. Find that one perfect passage, and read it slowly, languidly, passionately…
…Like page 350: “Once when the Cowboys played the Giants in Yankee Stadium, there was a bomb scare in the press box. Reporters asked Tom Landry how he’d feel if all the writers had disappeared in a puff of smoke and flying typewriter parts. ‘I suppose we’d have observed 30 seconds of silent prayer,’ Landry said. ‘Then we’d have continued to play–with enthusiasm.”
Wait, that just sort of killed the mood for me a little. Let me find another one. Chapter 8 intro, Page 156:
“The man who invented football never figured there would be a position like linebacker. You couldn’t just walk up to Walter Camp and say, ‘Walter, old boy, someday there’s going to be a chap who weighs 230 pounds, and he won’t be just a big boy like Fat Tom over there; he’s going to have to run downfield with the halfbacks, and then the next play he’s going to have to charge through the guards and tackles to get to the ballcarrier. He’s going to have to be vicious, you see, because when the interference forms, he’ll have to wade through it and knock it to pieces; but he can’t just be a killer. He’s going to have to be a genius, too, because we’re going to give him a choice of, oh, maybe 50 different plays to call, so we want him to be able to figure out what the other team’s going to do before they do it.”
Ohhhh yeah, that’s the stuff, right there. Was that good for you? Need a nap? I know I do, and I intend to take it. Until next time, my loyal readers, keep Dr. Z in your heart, and in all other areas your blood may flow!