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The Miracles On 45th Street
Taylor Barton to star in movie
By: Malamute, 20 December 2002

One day, I found a script for a movie lying on the Seattle Walk of Shame. Curiously, the script has as its star Taylor Barton, a backup quarterback at the University of Washington.

Here’s a summary of that script.

Near the end of the football season, the Washington Huskies are in a 4-5 funk, with three games remaining. Fans and media turn on coaches Rick Neuheisel, Keith Gilbertson and Tim Hundley. The Huskies’ first losing season in 25 years is in the offing, and fans and the media are bashing the Dawgs, some calling for the coaches’ ouster. Loyal fans, all cowed by a din of discontent, remain silent, daring not to voice an opinion, lest they be shouted down. And then--for all fans concerned--two miracles occur.

Somehow the youthful Huskies manage to win their last three games against their northwest cousins—a quieting act. This, the first miracle in the storyline, is one reason the movie is entitled, “The Miracles On 45th Street.” It makes for a heck of a good title anyway, in spite of the congestion on that narrow street in Seattle’s University District.

As in all good screenplays, a dilemma emerges. How do you remarry the divorcees with the divorcers and make for one happy family again?

To wit, one prominent Husky player, in marmoreal coolness, tells the mutineers and media members that had jumped ship not to return, the wounds inflicted on the team running deep.

A few players extend an olive branch to the mutineers, offering them regress to the ship. They tell the media that Captain Neuheisel, formerly known as a players’ coach, suddenly has morphed into a young Bear Bryant. The guitar-strumming coach now runs a practice field right out of Junction City, having resurrected a Jim Owens’ Death March that is cast in a modern-day setting. Somehow Neuheisel, who has been a head coach for eight years, has evolved into quasi-tyrant, one who doesn’t tolerate lateness to meetings or the slacking off in practice. It is the perfect way to offer regress to the Good Ship Husky, for they, the dissenters, have been right all along about Neu’s loosely run ship.

In reality, inclement weather in Eugene, some inept play by opposing quarterbacks and an injury to Jason Gesser have more to do with the three-game miracle than a head coach’s evolution. For most of the season, the Dawgs have been the equal of most teams in a parity-stricken conference—but no better—and, finally, some luck, or miracle, has come their way.

This paves the way for a breathtaking conclusion. How will it end?

Recognizing the serendipity of the season’s end, a few dissenters, along with some in the local media, continue to carp away at the coaches and players--but mainly at Coach Neuheisel.

Another miracle is needed for rallying around the coach, and that is provided by a post-season, Seattle Times editorial. Written by an unsigned person, the editorialist tells the Huskies to bid Rick Neuheisel farewell. The writer assumes that the rumor mongering surrounding Neuheisel is true and that he “really wants” the UCLA head coaching job vacated by Bob Toledo, this in spite of his repeated denials.

The editorialist says that it’s okay for Mike Price, who runs a clean program, to walk away from the Cougs, while the shifty-eyed Neuheisel, who is always scanning the crowd for someone to schmooze next, is looking for another stepping stone.

That editorial, a cheap shot at their leader, enrages all Husky fans in Dawgdom, by coalescing them into one fighting unit, their broadsides now aimed at the Seattle Times, instead of the coach.

Rallying Husky fans around their martyred coach was not the writer’s intention, and the demagogue is booed from the stage. The bad guy always loses, doesn’t he?

Dawgdom is all one-big-happy family now, unified as one. That’s the way the screen play is written, and it has a happy ending.

Or does it?

According to Hollywood’s Hilda Hoopster, the producers of the movie are planning for one of two endings: either a Pollyannaish nirvana, (the G-rated version) or an in-effigy hanging (the R-rated version).

So, I’m feeling somewhat queasy about the movie’s ending, as I await the outcome of the Sun Bowl. Fans can be fickle--myself included, at least in my younger days.

To make it a happy ending, Neuheisel may need a third miracle, another miracle on 45th Street. Will the Seattle Times cooperate and write another jaundiced editorial concerning our head coach?  

For one player, the movie has a happy ending. Taylor Barton plays in Sun Bowl. Why? The long-suffering, senior quarterback has earned it.

 


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