In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any coach," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had." In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious offenses to me.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Offense may be founded on the power sweep or the spread option, but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on. When I came back from the West sideline last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform execution forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the exotics section. Only Flatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Flatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. It was a matter of chance that I married into one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous sideline which extends itself due west of the Kinnick Stadium field where I was in the consoling proximity of millionaires-all for an administrative assistant’s wages. The history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Kirk Ferentzes.
The conversation quickly turned, leaving the question unanswered and ultimately forgotten as the evening drew to a close. When I reached my estate at West Sideline I sat out for a while under a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone — fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion and was standing with his arms outstretched, as if drawing a horizontal line on an invisible chalkboard. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Flatsby himself. But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone — he stretched out his arms toward the dark endzone in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced fieldward — and distinguished nothing except a single first down marker, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a drive. When I looked once more for Flatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
There were scrimmages in my neighbor’s yard through the summer nights. In the green and black field turf, men and boys came and went like moths in between awkward whisperings of no huddle offense. Stretch left, stretch right, quick slants, 1 yard outs, 3 yard outs, and the elaborate bubble screens were rehearsed and re-rehearsed. Lineman and position players alike toiled all day, running for 30 yards for a gain of 2, getting up, and running again.
I believe that on the first night I went to Flatsby’s house, I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. It mattered little--invited and uninvited guests alike were quickly thrown into the mix. Anyone with "fresh legs" was sent in to run an out, or a slant, as Flatsby searched for that elusive speed that is all but non-existent on West Sideline.
I was on the bench now, enjoying myself with a Gatorade in each hand when a man about my age approached me and smiled.
Why, yes. And I was recently in the news for a bit. You see, I’m marrying one of the Ferentz daughters. Barnes is the name. You want to hear something weird? I live literally next door, and this weirdo Flatsby sends his chauffeur with an invitation to this scrimmage, which doesn’t seem to actually require invitations. I mean, what’s up with this guy, huh?
I almost recruited him to Texas. He had a way of playing just this side of dirty. And sometimes the other side too. He’d have fit right in with us. We had Chris Simms at the time and passed downfield quite a bit, and Brian stayed at home and played for daddy and Drew Tate. Well, I vowed then and there I would do anything it took to get his and his daddy’s attention. I thought, what better way than to throw the most horizontal scrimmages ever witnessed on West Sideline. And by gum, it worked after just 11 years!
Quite right, old boy. Trouble is, he’s still a Ferentz at heart. It’s all about tight ends for them. "Ooh, look at me, I coached Rob Gronkowski." Gronk is dumber than a…well, he’s dumber than any Texan metaphor ever written, and I’ve got scads of them. All his plays are called RUN THERE, CATCH THIS.
Later, back at the Ferentz House...
And so, the party proceeds to the Plaza Hotel Manhattan. Barnes and Flatsby take Flatsby’s yellow roadster…
...while the Ferentzes take Kirk’s coupé.
The parallel parking contest raged on for 7 years until, on October 29, 1929, thousands of newly unemployed traders poured into the streets. The contest was called on account of severe depression, and no winner declared.
Flatsby believed in the first down, the orgiastic speed that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning--
So we punt on, pro sets against 9 man fronts, borne back ceaselessly into the backfield.