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A Conversation with Dobie

Being a solid Husky fan, I've been spending some nights tossing and turning, unable to sleep, worried about what is going to happen in the upcoming Michigan game. Everybody knows Michigan is tough, and we lost almost our entire offensive line after last season. The papers have been printing gloom and doom, and even diehard Husky fans are doubtful about this year's team.

After some reflection, I decided to see the neighborhood gypsy lady to see if she could foretell the outcome of the Michigan game. Her establishment is run out of a rickety shack in Lake City. From the outside it is difficult to tell if at one point it was a business or a tiny household. Appearances matter little to me, so I made an appointment.

When I arrived for my appointment, as I closed the door I noted that it was quite dark inside. I could smell the incense burning in the air, and all sorts of brightly colored objects were scattered around. In the center of the room stood a small card table, in the center of which was a crystal ball, and behind it the gypsy lady, wearing all sorts of gold jewelry and bright multi-colored clothing.

"Hello," she said. She spoke perfect English, however from her accent I could tell that she was foreign-born. "I see you are interested in the outcome of the football game. Who do you want to win? Michigan or the Washington Husky? By the way, usually it is brighter in here, but the power bills are killing me, then there is the business license and..."

"I want the Huskies to win," I cut in a bit rudely, seating myself at the table. "But the only way to foretell the outcome is to talk with the legendary Washington coach, Gil Dobie. He never lost a game you see."

When I said the name Gil Dobie her eyes became a bit wider and look of doubt crossed her face. "I know the man of whom you speak, but he does not like to be disturbed. I cannot advise that I try to make contact with him. Perhaps there is someone else?"

"No," I replied. "It must be Dobie. Only he can tell us what to do."

"I cannot advise such a thing. I am certain that another coach could provide what you are looking for. The man of which you speak does not like to be disturbed. He also can be very rude and use profanity in excess."

"I'm sorry then," I said as I stood up, "only Dobie can help us." I started walking toward the door. Slowly I turned the handle of the door.

"Wait," she said softly. "Perhaps it can be done. I too am a fan of the Washington Husky. But I still advise against it."

I seated myself and the gypsy lady began to speak, waving her hand over the crystal ball. Her voice wavered, first low and then louder, and she spoke a language I did not understand. I stared into the crystal ball but nothing happened.

Several minutes went by, still nothing. I said "maybe if you---"

"BE SILENT!" she retorted.

I settled back in my chair and resumed staring into the crystal ball.

Vaguely at first, and very much to my astonishment, images slowly came into focus. I saw men in dark colored suits and hats walking around Pioneer Square. A horse-drawn carriage appeared, and a Model-T Ford drove by. A brightly lit sign announced "Rooms Available". Beautiful young women strolled, attired in dresses that touched the ground, sporting silk hats roughly the dimension of a pizza.

Then the image faded out. A new image came into focus -- a trolley car. Rough looking men drinking and gambling in a brick saloon. A fight had broken out.

Again the images faded out. I dared not speak. A few minutes passed. The gypsy lady continued her incantations, increasing in volume, her concentration intense.

Slowly an entirely different image came into view. The scene was a cramped room. The floor was littered with crumpled papers. Some of the papers, as I could just barely make out, had "Xs", "Os", and arrows written on them. Names were written here, scribbled out there, and occasionally an ordered stack of papers could be observed.

I could see a desk. The desk was also littered with crumpled papers bearing names, "Xs", and "Os". An ashtray held the remains of a dozen cigars.

Seated at the desk was Gil Dobie. I could observe him staring vacantly ahead. He took a puff of his cigar and mumbled... "yes, yes, that might work with that mug Smith... dammit, no! He can't drop-kick!" He crumpled up another sheet and threw it on the floor.

Now the gypsy woman spoke:

"I call on the spirit of Gil Dobie..."

Dobie continued to work. Finally he said, "What the hell do you want? I have tons of &^(* to do today and I'm way behind. Go away and leave me alone."

The gypsy lady, slumping back in her chair, held out her hands to me, palms up, and gave me an "I-told-you-so" look.

I spoke up anyway. "Coach Dobie, how can we beat Michigan?"

"How the hell should I know?" he complained. "You think I'm on salary anymore? Not since that S.O.B. Suzzallo had me run out of town. He gets a library named after himself. For what? Sitting on his ass all day? What do I get? Nothing! Now will you please leave me alone? Can't you see I'm busy?"

I could see we were getting nowhere. The gypsy lady started shaking her head. I had to try something different.

"Coach, you were the greatest Washington ever had. The charges that Suzzallo made against you were later proven to be false. There never has been another coach who racked up the kind of record you did. You remain the most astonishing coach we ever had! You coached 61 straight games at Washington and never left the field with a loss!"

Dobie settled back in his chair and dropped his pencil. He put out what was left of his cigar and lit a fresh one. He opened a drawer and took out a small flask and took a short drink, and replaced the flask in his desk. He propped his feet on his desk. A vague look of mixed sorrow and pride crossed his scowling face.

"We were OK, I guess. We had three ties you know."

"Still you were the greatest, coach," I replied.

"We had some fun times even though that's not how it's recorded. The night after we ran my fake helmet/football play some of us had a few and a lot of laughs. We beat Oregon with that one. By the way, why did your coach wait until the fourth quarter last season to put in your starters against Oregon?"

I could see I was making some headway, as he was shifting to the present.

"What is your prediction for the Michigan game coach?" I asked.

"I predict a Washington loss," he replied flatly.

"What can we do?" I asked.

"Well, the first thing is, quit acting like this is a rebuilding year. I know you got some greenhorns in there, but if I was the coach they'd get experience fast. Have that kid Carothers pop the new guys a few times. The next thing is, when Michigan walks out on the field on offense, let 'em know where they are. They aren't playing Whitworth or Whitman or one of them, they're at Washington! You fans let them know that they are dealing with champions. You guys won the Big-10/Pac-10 title last year don't forget! You probably could have won that so-called national championship too if they let you play for it."

"It might seem strange to you," he continued, "but I still get around a lot. I heard some Michigan players saying that all you guys got is fancy uniforms and a wimpy new logo. They were laughing! They think this is going to be a cakewalk! I heard one of them predict it was going to be 99-0 Michigan at halftime! They said Washington was just lucky last year, should have lost half their games, and anyway the players that were any good graduated or left. The guys that are there now will want to forfeit by halftime one of the players said! I hear a lot of stuff. I won't even go into the stuff Michigan was saying about people's mothers and such! They don't even think it's going to be a game. Are you going to stand for that? Well are you? Maybe your team is a bunch of chumps! Maybe your team can't play at this level?! This the kind of thing that makes me sore, see? If I were you guys I'd start thinking mean! Fans and players! You play to win! Dammit, we don't play for appearances! You get out there and you win the damn game, OK?! Lose -- there will be hell to pay in practice the following week. As for you, give me fifty pushups and ten laps, and get the hell out of here!"

The crystal ball suddenly went black.

I thanked and paid the gypsy lady -- including a fat tip -- and walked outside into the bright sunshine, somewhat relieved.


Copyright 2001 Michael Archbold

Note: All references to persons living or dead above are entirely fictitious.




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