Dick Tracy: Watching college football: A guilty pleasure
Ah, the trees are turning color and fall is in the air.
It’s time for my guilty pleasure: College football. I love it much more than watching the pros.
Yet I know a lot of players who also love the game and who will never make the professional ranks are going to carry its scars for the rest of their lives. Broken bones, head injuries and possible painkiller addiction.
In my final year of college I was my school’s Sports Information Director. Football wasn’t nearly the draw there that it is now, and hundreds of spectators occupied the bleachers at home games, as opposed to thousands today.
Are you surprised the coach is now paid more than the school’s president?
It was a fun job, hanging out with “the jocks” and coaches and I enjoyed it.
Then one day I heard players joking about getting “bennies” for after the game. Benzadrine. A prescription stimulant.
I mentioned it in passing to the head coach, who was so straight-arrow about “drugs” when he taught at my high school he’d sometimes sniff player’s fingers to see if they’d been smoking.
He exploded. Not at the players or the potent amphetamine, but at me: “Well? What do you do when you have a headache?” he thundered. “Wouldn’t you take something for it?”
And, obviously, he shared my statement with the rest of the coaching staff and what camaraderie we shared turned to animosity.
I was “uninvited” to social events, as well as told there was “no room” for me in a coaches’ van on the way to an “away” game. And, was not told that the school was going to drop out of its athletic conference in favor of a stronger one.
That’s the sort of story Sports Information Directors are supposed to pass on to the media. I learned of it by reading the morning newspaper.
Even the once-friendly secretary for the athletic director — now memorialized with his name on the school’s gleaming athletic facility — would avert her eyes when I entered the office.
Rather than formally resign, I simply walked away from the job at the beginning of the basketball season. No one ever called to ask why.
And so I still watch the sport, but with pangs of guilt when the announcer says, “A timeout is being called for an injured player on the field.”
And you hear that far too often.
Should I have told this story to the university’s administrators? Or aired it in the school paper? Would it really have changed anything?
Highly unlikely. And what’s being used there now and other college locker rooms in place of “Bennies”? Opioids, perhaps?
Why not? Guys get headaches, see, when colliding with 250 pounds of muscle just across the scrimmage line. And they’ve gotta be in shape for the next game, right?
Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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