Life is what you make it, and if a man believes football is the way to heaven, more power to him. An earnest young coach in the mountains of eastern Kentucky once said football was his way of preaching the Bible's good word.
Kneeling five minutes before a game, he led his players in the Lord's Prayer.
"... forever and ever, Amen," the coach said before raising his voice to the mountaintops to shout, "Now, give 'em hell, boys!" His boys were beaten, 36-0, which may or may not have been a judgment on the coach's pep talk.
Connoisseurs of pep talks leaped up in celebration this week at the revelations from Texas, where Baylor University's coach, Grant Teaff, opened new frontiers in pep-talkdom by introducing the first pep worm.
When they put out the book, "Great Pep Talks of the Western World," it will include Rockne's "Win One for the Gipper," a speech so effective Rockne used it whenever George Gipp died (the poor guy expired before every Army game).
Hurry Up Yost, who coached Michigan four decades ago, once stoked his Wolverines to inferno heat and ordered them through a locker-room door onto the field -- only he pointed to a door that sent the fevered zealots sprinting into a swimming pool.
Back when the world was young, Tad Jones, the Yale coach, told his players, "Gentlemen, you now will play for Yale against Harvard. Never in your lives will you do anything more important."
Herman Hickman coached at Yale, too, and he said he once told his players, "Y is for Youth, and that is what all of you have... A is for Alma Mater, which we are fighting for today ... L is for Loyalty to your team and school... E is for Effort to win the ball game. Put them all together and they spell YALE.... Now tear 'em apart this half."
And from the back of the room, a Yalie said, "It's a good thing we aren't playing at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or we'd never get this game started."
Bob Zuppke, the Illinois coach in 1925, made a train-ride speech to his team en route to the Iowa game.
"I walked up and down the aisle admonishing the players about the importance of the game," Zuppke said later. "I reminded them of the few adequate substitutes we had, and then proceeded to tell the boys that in this game only a dead man comes out.
During the game, Zuppke noticed one of his tackles flat on the ground during a huddle, not listening to the signals. The coach summoned a benchwarmer to take the fallen warrior's place.
Running onto the field, the substitute stopped over the prone tackle, then suddenly turned and ran back to the bench.
"What's wrong?" Zuppke said.
"Coach," the benchwarmer said, "he's still breathing."
Of late, pep talks have taken a biological turn.
In Iowa last season, a high school coach sought to inspire his players for a game against a team with the nickname Golden Hawks.
He painted a chicken gold.
Then, in the locker room before the game, he kicked the chicken around.
Which is a nicer thing by far than what the high school coach in Florida did.
He bit the heads off frogs.
"The team went wild," he said.
"The team went berserk," said Grant Teaff, the pep-worm man of last weekend.
By dropping a worm into his mouth, Teaff said he moved his Baylor players to a 34-14 upset of mighty Texas.
The worm's descent was the climax of a parable about two Eskimo fishermen, the coach said. One Eskimo caught fish with every cast while the other caught nothing. The successful fisherman, Teaff told his players, kept his bait warm by storing it under his tonguue. He was doing that little bit extra, Teaff said.
"Then Coach Teaff told us. 'If that's what it takes for you to beat Texas, I'll swallow this worm,'" said linebcker Mike Singletary. "And he put one in his mouth and sent us out of the dressing room."
As far as anyone knows, Rockne never swallowed a ground squirrel. On one of those rare occasions when Gipp was left to rest peacefully, Rockne conducted perhaps the least elaborate pep talk ever.
Notre Dame was playing poorly against a Big Ten team and at halftime the players feared the tongue-lashing certain to come. The dressing room was silent. No one spoke. They waited for Rockne. And waited.
Only 30 seconds of the 15-minute intermission were left when the locker-room door opened up.
"Okay," Rockne said. "Half a minute left. Let's go, GIRLS!"