We'll get to Woody Hayes' latest tantrum in a minute, but first let's talk about chickens, frogs, an old firehorse and the time Bear Bryant put his All-America quarterback in a plaster-of-paris jock.
Chickens. Everyone knows football coaches are imaginative. Otherwise, they'd be working for a living. Still, it was a surprise to read that a high school coach in Dubuque, Iowa, painted a chicken gold and had it kicked around in the locker room. The idea was to inspire his boys for a game against a school whose nickname was - ready? - the Golden Eagles.
So inspired, the coach's players separated the chicken's head from its neck. Eventually, the case made it all the way to the Iowa attorney general, who ruled that no laws had been violated because in Iowa a chicken is not technically an animal. To be an animal in Iowa, you have to have four feet.
Which brings us to frogs. At Eau Gallie, Fla., the imaginative coach moved his players to inspiration by biting off a frog's head. "Our kids love it," the coach said. "They say, 'Look at how wild the coach is; let's get wild, too.'"
So inspired, Eau Gallie won nine of 10 games two seasons ago. But the charm might have worn off. This year, when the coach's inspirational efforts were revealed to a public that never suspected such imagination in a molder of young men, his team had won only one of four games.
"Last year we were winning and people would have loved it," he said. "But now we're losing and certain intellects will use this as an excuse to pick on football."
Speaking of certain intellects, how about that old firehorse in Norfolk, Va.? His name is Jim Johnson, he's 65 years old, a former professional football player and coach at East Carolina University. He works for an advertising agency now, but three or four weeks ago he was on the sidelines for an East Carolina Game against William & Mary.
And what should happen? Well, East Carolina is threatening to score the winning touchdown. So Johnson, who probably was an imaginative coach, is thinking.
"I was wondering what I would do if the play came my way," he said.
The William & Mary quarterback came running toward Johnson. He was headed for a touchdown. What to do?
"I had to make a quick decision," Johnson said.
"I hit him low. I hit him a good one."
Johnson tried to tackle the kid. And the kid ran over him.
"It was a good hit," the quarterback said. "He read the play perfectly." But he scored the winning touchdown, anyway, and Johnson, helped to his feet, later said, "I'm getting too old for this."
Coaches are imaginative. It was 1948 when Bryant wanted to protect his quarterback, Babe Parilli, who would play a big game against LSU with a groin injury. So the University of Kentucky trainer slapped plaster of paris around Parilli's waist. The concoction came to be known in Kentucky legend as "Babe's concrete jock."
Bryant called his offensive linemen together. "Anybody touches Parilli, you gus don't eat," the coach said. Kentucky won the game and Parilli lived happily ever after.
Coaches are full of ideas that never occur to real-life people. Real-life people don't think a silly game is so important that you paint a chicken gold or decapitate a frog with your two front teeth and hurl your 65-year-old body in front of a train and send a kid out to play in concrete underwear.
Which brings us to Woody Hayes.
You talk about imagination.
Woody thinks it's good to bust up cameras.
At the Rose Bowl once, he threw a good right hand that drove a camera into a photographer's face.
And that was before the game.
Saturday, Hayes again threw a good right, this time aiming at a television cameraman who reported only a slight bruise. At 64, Hayes ain't Ali.
The television cameraman had made the grievous mistake of doing his job.
He was following Hayes.
Television pays the colleges big money for the right to televise their games. That big money allows them to have cameras on the slidelines. Coaches love it.
Unless they're losing.
And that's what Woody was doing in the last minutes against his hated rival, Michigan. Ohio State had fumbled away the ball inside the Michigan 10-yard-line. Hayes, as seen on television, seemed near tears.
Then he spotted the camera and rushed toward it, taking a swing at the cameraman.
"I'm not at all justifying what he did," another Big 10 coach said, "but I know what he felt like. At that moment, with the Rose Bowl riding on it, a kid fumbles it away. And Woody's 64. He's not going to get many more chances. So he looks up and sees the camera staring at him. It's like an invasion of privacy, like a TV camera at a funeral.
So Hayes slugged the cameraman.
It was, of course, no invasion of privacy. Had Woody won, he'd have smiled really nice for all the prospects watching the game. He knew the camera was there and his school was being made richer because it. Under the pressure of disappointment, he struck out in anger. At least he didn't bite the cameraman's head off.