When Winning is not Necessarily Everything (So What Else is New?)

There were offers galore from colleges all over the United States from Texas U, Oklahoma and even Notre Dame.  Coaches from all over America came to your home to take you and your parents out for steak.  They wanted you to play football for them.  Plane tickets to visit colleges from all the biggies rained into your mailbox.

On campuses you were shown around by famous athletes.  Dandy Don Meredith was a star quarterback for SMU.  He picked me up at the airport and took me on a West Texas bullfrog .22 shoot at night with headlights on a farm pond somewhere just outside of Dallas.  We talked of our mutual love for the outdoors from duck hunting to frog-gigging.  There would be time to talk about SMU and the law school up there later.

At Texas A&M, Heisman Trophy winner, John David Crow, escorted me around the whole campus.  He was a gentle and friendly soul whose eyes bespoke great purpose when it came to the gridiron and the opportunities ahead from playing for the Texas Aggies. 

Under the concrete Kyle Field Stadium, Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant showed me and 2 other recruits some great films of the 1956 Texas Aggie Southwest Conference win at 9-0-1.  When Jack Pardee, a gaunt middle linebacker would hit the ball carrier to Bryant’s liking, the coach would shout “Boomba!” I, and many other players, had all but decided to sign with A & M and play for the Bear.  But without warning Coach Bryant left the Aggies for his alma mater, Alabama where he continued his career as the best college coach with the best college winning record ever.  Many of us decided to go to Texas A & M on a football scholarship anyway, and that was a big mistake.  Things just did not work out what with the Bear gone.  You see, Coach Bryant was tough, but he was fair.  No head games, just suck ‘em up and kill your opponent, simple football.  I truly believe Bryant would have suited up a girl in pads if she could hit better than the rest of the male players on his team.

I and over 100 of us freshman recruits at Texas A & M bailed and transferred to other colleges.  Bud Adams, former owner of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans recruited me and 3 other friends of mine to go to his alma mater, Kansas University at Lawrence.  Adams and his original partners in the “foolish club” were forming the American Football League, and he asked me to go to a professional exhibition game in Dallas between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants.  Reluctantly, I agreed. 

So Adams flew over to my home town to pick me up for Dallas weekend.  He got off the plane to greet me with black tie, black trousers, a blazing hot orange sports coat and suede orange penny loafers with white centers where the pennies were supposed to go.  He must have been about 30 then.  On the flight to Dallas he told about him and his associates who were forming the AFL, and showed me a color sample for his new team the Houston Oilers.  “What do you think about robin’s egg blue?” he asked me.  I said, fine, but remember thinking it was quite different from team colors I was accustomed to seeing. In Dallas, I got to sit in the sky box of the Cotton Bowl Stadium with the likes of Bud Adams and Lamar Hunt.  It felt kinda lofty up there.

 From there Adams flew me and a great Texas running back to the University of Kansas, via Bartlesville, Oklahoma to visit the headquarters of Phillips 66 Oil.  There, Adams’ father, Boots Adams, was chairman of the board and showed us around.  There was a framed, black-and-white picture on his desk of President Eisenhower, signed, “From Dwight D. Eisenhower for his friend, Boots Adams.”  It looked like we had really arrived.  The officers of Phillips 66 were very kind and answered all our questions and told us that when we graduated from the University of Kansas to please contact them to discuss job opportunities.

Everything was looking good.  But this was to be my first significant disillusionment in life.  In football, I had always been taught by my high school Coach Clarence Underwood, that if you played your hardest and tried to tear the head off your opponent…………..you got to play.  The position was yours if none could defeat you.  My own Coach Underwood was an assistant to Coach Bryant at Kentucky, and they both exemplified the principle that if you were the best you played.

In Kansas we were Texas players with a Texas fan club.  But no matter if Coach Bryant principles prevailed.  They did not.  Those of us who were not spectacularly better players were misfits.  Suffice it to say that other players were already in place and being groomed for gridiron greatness. Their alumni supporters were from Wichita and Kansas City, not Dallas and Houston, you see.  I saw one of the finest linemen from the state of Texas relegated to 3rd team green shirt status on the KU practice field.  It was undeniable that he was the absolute best player by the simple fact that he could whip anybody else’s ass on the field.  And this great lineman left Kansas before the end of the school year.

We should have heeded the advice a Kansas coach gave us, “If I were your parents I would kick your asses and tell you to stay in Texas (where you are already enrolled in Texas colleges).”  He said it with a grin and much laughter.  We thought he was kidding.  We were only 19 at the time.  We soon discovered that if we were to play up there we first had to do some serious internship.  We had to prove ourselves, regardless of ability.   This was to be my first lesson in this harsh reality of life. So I stayed and did my internship and managed to eventually win a starting position on merit alone and to do quite well.  But it took longer than planned or what I thought to be necessary. 

Coach Taylor called me in one day.  I had another year of eligibility to play for the Kansas Jayhawks, he told me.  All I had to do was to lay out of school the coming spring semester and come back in the fall of 1963, play and then graduate at mid-term.  But I chose to graduate on time in spring of 1963 instead.  My peers were aghast at my decision.  They would have given anything to play another year on the college gridiron, but I had had enough.  After 10 years of football, I was ready to move on.  I am thankful for the opportunity to play for and attend KU and have no regrets about anything at all.  Call it my feelings and an expressed personal opinion.  No argument on that will come from me. They are nothing more than that.  I got to play my fair share of football at Kansas, and I am glad and thankful to have been a part of the Jayhawks football varsity.  I appreciate the scholarship and the college baccalaureate degree I obtained there as well.

Fast forwarding to the 2004 General Election where George W. Bush ran against John Kerry, I was reminded of my earlier experience that best often does not win.  In my view, Kerry was splendidly better qualified and tried his best to debate the issues of how he would help government work for we the people.  Debating Bush was not that big of a deal if Bush would have stuck to the issues and had not played more to the camera as a president you would “want to have a beer with.”

Bush’s backers during the election were ruthless.  They proved that truth did not matter and that the best man for the office had no business winning the White House.  They demonized Kerry as a coward because of Purple Hearts he was duly awarded by his superiors for his Swift Boat duty in Viet Nam.  At the Republican Convention delegates wore Band Aids with painted-on Purple Hearts facing the camera.  What a mockery of a young Naval Officer who volunteered for river boat combat duty in Viet Nam, and to put himself in harm’s way when his opponent, George W. Bush went AWOL obviously and did not attend Air Guard drills he had signed up for to get out of combat duty when the Viet Nam War raged.  Bush had checked the “Do Not Volunteer” for overseas duty slot on his application for military service.  Kerry got shot at and wounded.

 All the GOP had to do was to discredit Kerry’s brave service and to overlook Bush’s going AWOL from the Texas Air Guard.  The Boston Globe and the LA Times had been dogging Bush for years with ironclad records and affidavits from generals and servicemen who never saw Bush show up for duty.  Even General Turnipseed, Commandant of the Alabama Air Guard said, “I never saw Bush in my command, and I would have known if a Texas pilot had been assigned to me because I did my flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas.”  General Bobby Hodges, Bush’s old commander at Ellington AFB, Houston, said he didn’t see Bush at his command either, that if he had, “I would have had had him flying the 102’s.

Those old familiar feelings returned during the 2004 Election.  I had created a 30-second spot ad for television in still photographs of the horrors of our attacking Iraq.  In short, I tried to give it away to the John Kerry campaign to use.  A then prominent political consultant said it was better than half the professional productions he had seen coming out of Washington DC.  But Schrum and the Kerry Campaign were unreachable.  Incommunicado.  Only campaign donations could get through to them, and they got plenty of mine, you’re so welcome.

Bob Schrum, Kerry’s campaign manager, had been approached by several Hollywood notable producers and directors like Spielberg and Penn, to donate their talents to help Kerry get elected.  They would make film commercials free of charge for Kerry.  Schrum turned them down, according to many in the consulting field.  The campaign stingy consultants wanted to do all the Kerry commercials and receive all the money, not free of charge, but for millions of dollars.  A DC political consultant told me, “Winning was secondary to the money, I’m afraid.”

As long as this meistic realism exists, that money is number one, even compared to winning, we Americans will continue to lose.  We need to become aware that doing the right thing is not cheap.