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Ah Rhoads! Ah Humanity!

The minor school of Iowa, having been unexpectedly forsaken, needed a head footballsman. An ill-fated advertisement turns up a claimant of a most unremarkable history, who is regrettably appointed only to become intractably rooted. The story of Rhoads.


I am not an elderly man.

The nature of my avocations for the last so many years has brought me into limited but occasional contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been impartially written: by this I mean footballsmen. I have observed many of them professionally, of whom, if I pleased, I could share many stories of, at which good-natured people might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other footballsmen for a few passages in the life of one oddly showy soul, a man I will call Rhoads, who is a footballsman of the strangest kind I have ever seen or heard of.

While of other footballsmen I might attempt to note the full existence of, upon which can be found in media guides or in other repositories of information, of Rhoads nothing of that sort can be done too well. I believe that no materials exist for a full and honest biography of this man. Rhoads is one of those beings of whom nothing worth knowing about is truthfully ascertainable, except that feathery fluff one might find in a man's curriculum vitae or his own biography or the like, and in the case of Rhoads such information offers droll accounts about suspicious achievements the kind of which, even so, almost any other man might attempt to conceal out of discomfiture, but in his case was the only presentation of record he could boast. Thus what my own astonished eyes ever saw of Rhoads, that is all I reliably know of him. Well, that and what Pollard told me.


Footballsmen at Minor School Field via

Some time back ago, the man Rhoads was able to secure a position as head footballsman for the minor school of Iowa. The minor school was well known within it's parts to focus its attention toward the education of young ladies and gentlemen in the trade of agricultural and domicile economics. This man Rhoads was a curious choice for the school as head footballsman as he was deemed unfit for employment by most conventional standards and by most conventional schools in this land, and was, indeed, out of work at the time of his procurement of employment at the minor school of Iowa. He looked much better the part of a scrivener than a man of tackles and blocks.

There was a great need for a head footballsman at the minor school at the time as the previous man had left in profound hurry to ply trade at another establishment of much greater acclaims and, naturally, for more recompense. The minor school felt unfairly forsaken, and like a loyal maid set aside for a fickle beauty, was quite exasperated and dismayed at their misfortune. The minor school posted an advertisement and in answer to it, a frantic man one morning stood upon the office threshold of one Jaime Pollard -- head man of the head men--, the door being open, for it was warmer than usual outside. One can imagine that figure now -- pallidly disheveled, pitiably acceptable, and incurably desperate!

It was Rhoads.

After a few words touching upon his qualifications, Pollard engaged him with little more than a handshake, glad to have among his company of coaches a man of such animation, which he thought might operate beneficially among the mores of agriculturalists and homebodies, well known to be miserly of wit.

At first Rhoads did dexterously employ the capable footballsmen left behind by his antecedent. Rhoads won a game here and there with flair but, alas, lost them likewise. Despite only finding profit half of the time, the community of the minor school was overjoyed with his modest and irregular outcomes, for the sting of abandonment remained as cutting as cow dung on a night slipper. In one game, early in his residence, he delighted them with dramatic pretense after one particularly unlikely contest. The fable of an uncommon soliloquy in which Rhoads expressed his infinite self-respect enraptured the unfussy hearts of the community of the minor school. Rhoads was understandably struck by the effect. He understood in the Lord's time that as such an indispensable part of a footballsman's business was to be thespian in nature. His occupancy, he'd surmised, was as much delicately staged melodrama as grind on the stone -- which made him smile. There is little qualm, with good grace, that to the men of a more sanguine temperament, coaching at the minor school would be altogether intolerable, if not gauche. One cannot credit that a mettlesome dramatist of the likes of Les Miles or any lesser version thereof would have contentedly sat down with the minor school players to edify them on blocks and tackles. Yet, Rhoads was exultant in his opportunity.


Minor School Cheer Leaders via

As days passed on, the minor school became considerably reconciled to Rhoads. His relentlessness, his freedom from all reflection, his interminably histrionic ways, his odd utterances to the pressmen, his unalterableness of demeanor despite the mounting losses, made him difficult to terminate. One prime thing was this--he was always there--first in the morning, continually through the day, and the last at night. The people of the minor school had a singular confidence in his regularity, which they mistook for ability. They felt their most precious footballsmen perfectly safe in his hands. Sometimes they could not, for their very soul, avoid falling into sudden spasmodic passions with him. For it was exceedingly difficult to bear in mind all the time those strange peculiarities, privileges, and unheard of dramatic soliloquies following inexplicable defeats (and the occasional unlikely victory), could not carry on. Yet the tacit conditions under which Rhoads remained had the feeling of evenhandedness, fairness even. After all, thought the minor school, who else, in God's land of plenty would earnestly take this position, at this school, with these footballsmen? Consideration of the alternatives made Pollard shutter at such thought, and so he surmised he must thrust his support fully behind Rhoads.

One day though Pollard noticed, almost as if thunderstruck, that Rhoads had done nothing to enhance the profile of the minor school's status. Pollard had an assistant put forth an array of formulas in hopes of finding just one that singled out success for Rhoads, but they each put forth the same pale missive of dread, every time.

"Why, have we not won more?" inquired Pollard one particularly sunny day on the pitch. "What is the reason?"

Looking out over his footballsmen Rhoads indifferently replied, "Do you not see the reason for yourself?"

Pollard looked steadfastly at Rhoads, and perceived in his eyes the look of a Charlatan, focused for the fight. Instantly it occurred to him, that the unexplained ability he had previously perceived to be the quintessence of Rhoads had impaired his own vision.

"Have you given up on winning?" asked Pollard. But Rhoads did not answer for the answer was clear despite being unspoken.

Rhoads would continue to lose one perplexing battle after the next, with the odd impassive victory interspersed. The minor school community, however, was undaunted in thought. He remained as ever, a fixture at the minor school. Nay--if it were possible--he became still more of a fixture than before.

"What is to be done? He refuses to win more: why should he stay here?" asked Pollard under breath. In plain fact, he had now become an albatross to winning, not only useless as camphorated blister plaster, but afflictive to bear. Yet Pollard was sorry for him. Decently as he could, Pollard told Rhoads that in some days' time he must unconditionally leave the minor school. He warned him to take measures, in the interval, for procuring some other abode. He indeed offered to assist him in this endeavor, if he himself would but take the first step towards a removal.


Camphorated Blister Plaster via

"And when you finally quit me, Rhoads," added Pollard, "I shall see that you go not away entirely unprovided."

As he walked home in a pensive mood, Pollard's vanity got the better of his pity. He could not but highly plume himself on his masterly management in getting rid of Rhoads. Masterly he thought it, and such it must appear to any dispassionate thinker. The beauty of his procedure seemed to consist in its perfect quietness. There was no vulgar bullying, no bravado of any sort, no choleric hectoring, and striding to and fro across the pitch, jerking out vehement commands for Rhoads to bundle himself off with his beggarly traps. Nothing of the kind of drama for which Rhoads had spellbound the minor school community! Without loudly bidding Rhoads depart--as an inferior genius might have done--Pollard assumed his ground that depart he must; and upon this assumption built all he had to say. The more he thought over his procedure, the more he was charmed with it.

Nevertheless, one morning, upon awakening, Pollard had his doubts--he had somehow slept off the fumes of vanity. One of the coolest and wisest hours a man has, is just after he awakes in the morning. Pollard's procedure seemed as sagacious as ever--but only in theory now. How it would prove in practice--there was the rub. It was truly a beautiful thought to have assumed an immaculate Rhoads departure; but, after all, that assumption was simply his own, and certainly unshared by Rhoads. The great point was, not whether Pollard had assumed that he would quit, but whether he would prefer so to do. He was more a man of preferences than assumptions.

After breakfast, Pollard walked downtown, arguing the probabilities pro and con. One moment he thought it would prove a miserable failure, and Rhoads would be found animate and churning on the practice field as usual; the next moment it seemed certain that Pollard should see his field empty of Rhoads. And so Pollard kept veering about. At the corner of campus, Pollard saw quite an excited group of people standing in earnest conversation.

"I'll take odds he doesn't," said a voice as he passed.

"Doesn't go? It will be done!" said Pollard, "Put up your money."

Pollard was instinctively putting his hand in his pocket to produce his own coinage, when he remembered that this was an election day. The words he had overheard bore no reference to Rhoads, but to the success or non-success of some candidate for the mayoralty. In his intent frame of mind, he had, as it were, imagined that all of the campus shared in his excitement, and were debating the same question with him! He passed on, very thankful that the uproar of the street screened his momentary absent-mindedness.

As Pollard had intended, he was earlier than usual to the pitch. He stood looking about for a moment through the foggy morning air. All was still. Rhoads must be gone he thought. Yes, the procedure had worked to a charm; he indeed must be vanished. Yet a certain melancholy mixed with this for Pollard: He was almost sorry for his brilliant success. Pollard was fumbling in his pocket for his glasses, when accidentally he dropped them producing a summoning sound, and in response a voice came from within the murkiness, "I am so proud! I am so proud!"

It was Rhoads.

"Rhoads," said Pollard, entertaining the fog, with a quietly severe expression, "I am seriously displeased. I am pained, Rhoads. I had thought better of you. I had imagined you of such a gentlemanly organization, that in any delicate dilemma a slight hint would suffice--in short, an assumption. But it appears I am deceived. Why," added Pollard, unaffectedly starting, "have you not taken me seriously?"

Rhoads answered nothing.

"Will you, or will you not, quit me?" Pollard now demanded in a sudden passion, advancing close to him.

"I would prefer not to quit you," Rhoads replied, gently emphasizing the not.

"What earthly right have you to stay here? Do you win games with any regularity? Do you place footballsmen to the next level?"

Rhoads answered nothing.

"Are you ready to go on now? In a word, will you do any thing at all, to give a coloring to your refusal to depart the premises?"


There would seem little need for proceeding further in this history. Imagination will readily supply the meager narration of the rest of poor Rhoads and his endless pageantry of irregularity and averageness. But ere parting with the reader, let me say, if this little narrative has sufficiently interested you, to awaken curiosity as to who Rhoads is, and why he continues on to this day as the head footballsman of the minor school, I am prone to shock at the question myself. Because while in such curiosity I fully share, I am wholly unable to gratify it. But inasmuch as this man has done little, if anything, to elevate the standing of his footballsmen and the minor school's footballing community, he's done much to stoke incessant humour at his inscrutability. So, with that I say:

Ah Rhoads! Ah humanity!