The Doctor Is In
The dilemma of an SEC coach
By Randy Horick
AUGUST 16, 1999: You wouldn't believe what I heard on the radio the other day on my way to Atlanta. I scarcely believed it myself.
"Hello, Dr. Laura?"
"Yes, you're on the air."
"OK, Mike, why are you calling today?"
"Well, see, I've got what you might call a knotty problem."
"You said 'knotty' or 'naughty'?" [girlish giggles]
"Both, I guess."
"Well, spit it out."
"Um, I got caught up in this sexual harassment business."
"Whoa, whoa--whaddya mean business? Did you sexually harass someone?"
"I wouldn't say harass. It sure seemed like fun at the time."
"You had a fling with an employee."
"I can't really say."
"Part of the settlement agreement."
"That's some pretty serious harassment, Mike."
"Yea BA-bee, it's serious. They're docking it from my pay."
"You must be regally compensated."
"Well, I do have the most powerful job in the state."
"And that is?"
"Football coach for the University of Alabama."
"So you think that being powerful entitles you to harass your female staff? I am assuming we're talking about a female."
"What state did I tell you I'm from?"
"Anyhow, the sexual harassment part isn't really my problem."
"So why are you calling me?"
"My problem is honesty."
"You're telling me you lied about all this."
"Well, I'd prefer to say misled."
"Why would you call it something other than what it really is?"
"Cause that's the word my lawyer said to use."
"Also, I was just following the example set by our president."
"It worked for him."
"What exactly did you do?"
"Well, when the rumors about my, er, inappropriate conduct came out, I just flat-out denied them. I pointed out that my wife and I have been happily married for 24 years, and whoever made up these lies is lower than the lowest scumdog Auburn fan."
"And then people found out it was you who was lying."
"I'll say I wasn't entirely truthful."
"Wow, Mike, you're a beaut. How do you face your wife after you lied to her and everybody else?"
"Fortunately, I don't have to. Since I'm a football coach and work 130 hours a week, she never sees me anyway. That's our secret of staying together for 24 years."
"You're a lucky man for a liar."
"Don't you think people are being a lee-tle bit judgmental here?"
"Well, lying and cheating are pretty serious, Mike."
"Yeah, but haven't you ever made a mistake, Dr. Laura?"
"Maybe one or two."
"Like those pictures of you on the Internet?"
"Very tasty too, by the way."
"I'm hanging up, Mike."
"Anyway, right now I have to face up to my responsibilities."
"And I don't mind telling you, I have a real problem with honesty."
"That's the first straight-sounding thing I've heard you say."
"This is what I've been trying to tell you. I'm in a dilemma here. My lawyer says I'm caught between the Scylla of truthfulness and the Charybdis, whatever the hell that means, of gainful employment."
"I don't follow."
"My bosses put me on double-secret probation and told me I have to be as honest as Mother Theresa from now on if I want to keep my job."
"My, what a burden they've laid on you, Mike."
"Yeah, well, here's the kicker, sister. You can't do this job if everybody's looking over your shoulder to make sure you always tell the truth. Mother Theresa's honest butt wouldn't last half a season down here."
"I have to go into a recruit's home, look his mama and daddy in the eye, and tell them their son is the greatest gift to college football since Joe Namath. Now, how'm I supposed to do that if I have to turn into Mr. Pillar of Honesty all of a sudden?"
"Well, they can't all be the next Joe Namath."
"Yeah? Try telling them that! Besides, if I don't tell 'em they're Joe Namath Jr., Phil Fulmer's in there suckin' up tellin' 'em they're the next Peyton Manning."
"I appreciate your dilemma."
"How many times have people heard me say that we're committed as a football team to academics first and athletics second?"
"I don't know, Mike."
"Well, you sure as snakespit won't hear me say it again if I'm not allowed to lie. There's a tiny but vocal minority down here that thinks football players ought to get a college education while they're in college. Can you imagine what a field day they and them media hypocrites would have if I had to tell them that academics are about as useful as teats on a boar hog when it comes to football?"
"So you're saying--"
"Or how 'bout this: What am I supposed to tell our alums and fans after we lose a big one? Our game plan sucked giant eggs? We were too harelip-ignorant to make adjustments at halftime? Our free safety with the double-digit IQ didn't know what coverage he was supposed to be in on third-and-goal?"
"Auburn's players are just better than our players; they recruit better than us, cheat like it's a religion, and have smarter coaches than we do? You can hear me saying that, can't you? I'd be lucky if our alums didn't firebomb my house."
"What am I supposed to say when some NCAA shoo-fly wants to know how Bubba the right tackle got that brand-new Ford Expedition that's detailed out the yingyang? Huh? He saved up his money from his summer job moving water sprinklers? His parents gave it to him for making A's in calculus and molecular biology?"
"Calm down, Mike."
"Dr. Laura, nobody in college football wants the truth. It's like Jack Nicholson in that army movie: 'You can't handle the truth!' "
"You're telling me you have to be dishonest to do your job, but now have to be honest to keep your job."
"Yeah--only for about the past 10 minutes now."
"It's a Catch-22."
"Never mind. So what are you gonna do?"
"I don't know. That's why I called."
"Well, for starters, why don't you choose another profession?"
"Dr. Laura, have you ever seen a catfish after it's been on the bank about 10 minutes? It ain't pretty."
"OK, how about telling the truth and letting the chips fall where they may, even if you lose your job?"
"What's Plan C?"
"Keep lying and make sure you don't get caught."
"There you go, Doc. That's the first right-sounding thing I've heard all day."
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