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Suit him up coach
He’s a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate
By: Malamute, 20 February 2003

Can you make an atomic bomb out of a match stick or turn a dust devil into a tornado? How about turning a white lie into a lie as long as Pinocchio’s nose? Or can a neophyte sportswriter morph himself into a Joseph Pulitzer overnight?

Anything is possible.

First you need to set the scene if you’re into becoming a Pulitzer.

So, what if a rival newspaper, the Seattle Times, sets the scene for you with its “Coach Rick Hamlet” editorial concerning the UCLA coaching job vacated by the firing of Bob Toledo?

In that paper, an anonymous editorialist says that it’s okay for Mike Price, who runs a clean program, to walk away from the Cougs, while the shifty-eyed (Rick) Neuheisel, who is always scanning the crowd for someone to schmooze next, is looking for another stepping stone. He tells the Huskies to bid Rick Neuheisel farewell and find a coach who wants to say around.

Now, you need to find a smoking-gun to cast Mr. Schmoozer as Mr. Opportunity. Every one knows Neuheisel doesn't run a "clean" program. If that sounds too harsh, let's say he's bent a few minor rules with the NCAA during his coaching career at Colorado and Washington. The Slick Rick stuff is legendary. That's a given.

The firing of Steve Mariucci as coach of the San Francisco 49ers is dogging the Huskies' coach, and could be the prelude to the smoking gun you need, considering the head-coaching vacancy.

Enter incredible, inexplicable serendipity. Call it a miracle.

It’s Sunday and you’re lollygagging about, reading a newspaper inside the Alaska Airline departure area at the San Francisco Airport. You’re returning from vacation and need to write a column for Monday’s newspaper. Although you have a deadline to meet, the “idea bank is several quarts lower than” your (401)K. Your new boss is all set to hammer you into Mini Me.

Enter Coach Rick Hamlet, a.k.a., Dr. Evil. (“False face must hide what the false heart doth know.” Macbeth)

He plunks “himself down in a chair about 6 feet" from you. You never liked Art Thiel’s mug anyway and are glad for anonymity. Then, with cochlea turned up a notch, you are able to eavesdrop on a cell-phone conversation between Neuheisel and his mother concerning the vacant coaching job with the 49ers, picking up bits and pieces of the conversation, though Neuheisel has turned his back to you and lowered his voice considerably.

Later, you ask Neuheisel whether he interviewed with the 49ers, knowing that he did. Loading your smoking gun with more ammo, he tells you that he had cut short a vacation in Sun Valley to play golf with some frat buddies in the Bay Area and was not seeking the 49ers job.

With gun fully loaded, Neuheisel fires off another shot.

Upon returning to Seattle, Neuheisel issues this statement the next day, “We talk (Donahue, 49ers’ GM) occasionally about a number of subjects. I consider him both a mentor and a friend, but we have never discussed the opening with the 49ers.”

On Tuesday, your column appears with a mention about the chance encounter with Neuheisel in the airport and about the golf game with the frat buddies--but you don’t mention that you have a smoking gun.

The smoking gun is vitalized by rumors that surface, saying Neuheisel interviewed with 49ers officials, so anonymous sources within the 49ers organization say.

The next day, Wednesday, John Levesque, our hypothetical sportswriter now unmasked, in a column for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, reveals that he has a smoking gun, saying, “In a phone call to his mother Sunday night, Neuheisel discussed his meeting with the 49ers and said: ‘It went well.’"

Two days later, on Thursday, Nuehseisel admits he interviewed for the job and lied about it to honor a confidentiality agreement with the 49ers.

Everyone in the media is aghast. How could Rick Hamlet lie to us, they fume? (“Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying.” Henry IV)

A journeyman sportswriter wins the Pulitzer on his first outing, the late Jim Murray might have written. He wins the Oscar without opening his mouth. Up from the minors, he breaks Bond’s home run record. Fresh from tour school, he has Tiger dormie with nine to play.

Can Cody Pickett win the Heisman Trophy next season? With his kind of luck, John Levesque can. Suit him up, Coach, but be sure to stay off your cell phone when he’s around.  

 

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