Seventy-five yards more
By Richard Linde, Posted 24 May 2003
A flash of
lightning and a clap of thunder awakened him. Rain cascaded off the roof of
the mansion, flowing noisily in the gutter near the bedroom window. He'd
arrived, the apparition that appeared on the most tempestuous, stormy
nights. The smell of cigar--his calling card--permeated the bedroom.
As usual, he’d be down in the den, only this time he'd have a different
Next to him, his wife slept
soundly. Not wanting to wake her, he crawled easily out of bed, stepping
onto the soft, gold-colored carpeting. Then after wrapping himself in a
purple woolen robe, he shut the bedroom door, walked down the
long, circular stairway and headed for the den.
"God, help me," he muttered,
wondering why he'd ever taken the job at Washington. "The whole town is
Gilmour Dobie sat in Rick Neuheisel’s leather chair, his feet propped on the mahogany desk. His
half-smoked cigar, some of its ashes dirtying the surface of the desk--as well as his corduroy
pants--brought a frown to Neuheisel's face. Contrasting sharply with the
handsome coach, the craggy-faced veteran smiled at him, showing uneven,
yellowed teeth, and then took a swig from the bottle of Jack Daniels he’d
just opened. A small lamp on the desk provided most of the light in the large room.
"Top of the morning to you.
Next time, knock before you come in."
“Knock! You come into my home
uninvited, plop your wet clothing in my leather chair, drink my whiskey, put your feet on the desk, and ruin the
top of it with your cigar droppings, hot ashes…and…”
“Calm down, pretty boy.
Everything will be the same as it was before I got here. What are these?” The
former Washington coach had been perusing Neuheisel’s Washington Football Media
Neuheisel looked embarrassed,
almost blushing. “Media Guides. I go over them from time to time.”
“The pages are worn and thin,
especially the player sections. Instead of coveting your players by night,
you should be kicking butt on the field by day. The worst thing that ever
happened to this program was putting numbers and names on uniforms. Fancy,
candy-assed sissies are what they are, not football players. All of them are
“It’s…it’s…a different game
now. And I have to put a name to a face when it comes into my office.”
"I'll give you names to call
them, the ones I used," he puffed. "Imagine carrying these damned things around all
day." Suddenly, he hurled the media guide he’d been reading across the room.
It landed in the fireplace, and its hot embers, still remaining from an
evening’s roaring fire, slowly caught it fire.
"That'll put a name to them." Dobie’s voice was raspy and
gravelly sounding, as if he needed to clear his throat. Mostly likely, the
effect of smoking cigars, along with drinking whisky straight from the
bottle, had led to his demise, the young coach pondered.
As if reading Neuheisel’s mind,
the intemperate Dobie continued, “there isn’t a coach worth his salt who hasn’t drunk whiskey by
the gallons and smoked cigars by the bundle. The Bear and Whisky Jim for
starters, and now Price." He hesitated, as if measuring his words, "your grandfather ever cut
shingle bolts in the woods for a living?
“No, he was a lawyer, as are my
father and I.”
"Bryant, Phelan and
Price never passed a bar they didn't like, no pun intended. After cutting down a tree and gulping from a bottle, ‘tis the smell
of whisky on wool in the wetted wood that makes life better understood.”
“Enough of the repartee, what’s
on your mind, Dobie?”
“Don’t you ‘repartee’ me, sonny.
Save your fancy words for your mouth-piece-ambulance-chasing friends. Let’s get down to
business. You need a measly 75 yards more on the ground per game this season
to save your hide, doubling the number from last season, right?”
“Right, it’s double or nothing
as far as my job goes. Expectations run high this season. The Tyee members
are vultures, ready to tell Barbara to give me the heave ho.”
“First thing, damn it, is not to
take any more orders from that woman, hear?”
“Yes, sir,” Neuheisel replied,
setting sail to the set of Dobie's jib, for he was not one with whom to
skirmish. Neither was Admiral Hedges, he thought, thinking of his
clandestine meeting with Terry Donahue. Demanding forthrightness and honesty
from her swabs, she'd figuratively knotted his head with a belaying pin for
his act of deceit, resulting in a slight, unnoticeable twitch of the right
“Whoever heard of a woman
running a football program? Holy Jehoshaphat, she's from USC--a spy in your
midst. Hedges is as bad as that Sorenstam woman, maybe
worse. Both of them overstep their bounds.” Dobie gave a nervous, corrective
laugh, as if his wife could hear him spout off from the next room.
“Get on with it.” The young
coach was growing impatient with the old man's blarney, and he was stirring
up old memories hard to sleep by.
Suddenly, the fire in the fireplace
surrendered darkness to light, illuminating their shadows on the
wood-paneling behind Dobie.
“Here’s your 75 yards. When
Pickett’s inside the opponent’s 20 have him run the ball more often than he
did last season. And instead
of taking a sack, have him off and runnin'. That gives you 15 yards more per
game. He was losing that much last season.
“Yes, sir.” Neuheisel pawed his
thinning blonde hair, unconsciously moving long strands from the back to the balding front
of his head.
Suppressing a smirk, he turned it into a cough.
“Now, have him option the ball
off to Alexis, like Tuey...ah...zoo…like Marques did in 2000.”
“Don’t you correct me, you
“Yes, sir.” Neuheisel stood at
mock-attention, his shoulders thrust back.
“That’ll give you 30 yards more.
That’s 45 yards more per game. The other 30 come from Cozzetto and his
offensive line. They’ll open bigger and better holes for James, Sampson and
Singleton. Cozzetto has promised me that.”
“I told you to stay away from
Dan and the other coaches. I’m calling the police.”
“They’ll lock you up, not me.
They’ll think your nuts,” Dobie breathed in a fiery voice. “I’ll not be here
when they come; nor will any traces of my presence.”
Suddenly, the old man vanished,
along with the cigar smoke, the ashes, the Jack Daniels and the fire in the
fireplace. The media guides took their rightful place on a bookshelf.
Staring at the ceiling,
Neuheisel spoke softly, "Lambright told me this job carried baggage. Damned
smirk on his face, always smirking now when he sees me. Hedges has chained
me to the job, and I don't dare tell her about Dobie."
As if driven mad by Dobie's
visage, the Washington coach doubled his fists, raised them towards the
coffered ceiling, and danced around his desk while singing a verse to the
chorus of the fight song:
"So, Heaven help
the foes of Washington,
They'll tremble at the feet of our mighty runners.
Cozzetto, Alexis and Pickett,
I'd already thought of them;
Since I'm no sticky wicket,
Don't bother calling again.
So victory's the cry of Washington,"
Laughing hysterically, he headed for the stairway, but stopped short as the house lit up
brightly. A few seconds later, a thunderous explosion rocked the mansion, turning him about
abruptly to stare incredulously at the open door of his den.
Appearing from nowhere, a
photograph--spinning like the blades of a helicopter--floated down from the
ceiling and landed on the surface of the desk. Dumbstruck, his face turning
ashen, the young coach walked back into his den and picked up the photo. It was a
photograph of Annika Sorenstam.
There words were inscribed.
“WINNERS HAVE GUTS; SORENSTAM'S GOT GUTS”
He repeated those words softly
to himself and Dobie's message became clear: Pickett, Alexis, Cozzetto...and
Sorenstam. An epiphany from Gil Dobie about a courageous woman who had
captured the hearts of those who follow the world of sports.
Seventy-five yards are but half
of a nine iron for Annika. It's her bravery, dedication and heart that
The story is dedicated to Pfc.
Jessica Lynch, and to all of the men and women in our armed forces.