I was wondering if Gary Green needs persmission from his parents to stay up late for games when I looked at the television set and there was George Allen trying to make a deal.
Every three minutes or so, the Capitals hire a new coach, whether they need one or not. No coach ever has been able to win much with the franchise and so coaches get fired a lot. The Caps now have had three coaches in little more than than a year and this newest one, Gary Green, is the youngest coach in National Hockey League history. He is 26.
Tommie McVie has scars older than Gary Green.
Maybe in the rough, tough, let's-rassle-on-the-ice world of hockey, a guy 26 can coach these calculating misanthropes if he, too, has a face of sin sewed on. You know, 119 stitches across his brow from Orr's stick, 76 stitches in the chin from Hull's slap shot, 87 stitches from the night in the Montreal bar, eh, guy?
Gary Green has the face of a kindergarten angel, and I was getting ready to look up Alexander the Great, who did all right as a young man, when George Allen came on the television screen in a show called "Celebrity Football Classic."
I can't swear to it, but I think Allen had on a T-shirt with a Redskin insignia on the pocket. This cotton candy of a show was for charity, with famous gridders such as Lola Falana, Adrienne Bareau and Ed McMahon playing flag football. Out of work, Allen put on his Redskin shirt and coached "Allen's Army" against "Maddern's Marauders," led by the retired John Madden, once coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Before the game, Allen met Madden on the sidelines.
"I'll give you Charo and my No. 1 in '80 for . . ." Allen said.
Allen lived for the Redskin-Cowboy game, which happens at RFK again today, and so even a scarred misanthrope felt a touch of sadness that it has come to this for Allen, coaching Ts and As instead of Xs and Os. But then, no wonder the guy is out of work. Anyone who would trade away Charo has lost his eye for swivel-hipped performers.
Allen's Army won the classic, 30-22 and Allen led his team in cheers on the sidelines, just as he once led the Redskins in cheers. And in the locker room, Charo poured champagne over the coach's head, just as the California Angels, in another instance of time warp, had poured champagne over Richard Nixon's head six weeks ago.
Anyway, I was looking up Alexander the Great with the idea that if he could conquer the world before he learned to shave, Gary Green maybe can beat Colorado Tuesday.
Lou Boudreau was 25, Joe Cronin 27 and Bucky Harris 28 when they became baseball managers. At 25, I, too, had achieved a lot, more than I dared imagine, never dreaming that so early in life I would break 100 at golf or slice steak without worrying that the force of my cut would toss the thing onto the floor, as happened prom night. At 20, Alexander was king of Macedonia.
He had an "in," of course, being the son of the assassinated king, but Alex quickly showed he could coach in the big leagues. At 22, he led 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalary across the Hellespont on opening day of his schedule against favored Asia.
At 23, Alexander united the Gordian knot, which is like beating the Canadiens in the Forum.
At 25, Epyptians made Alexander pharoah. When he died of malaria seven years later, Alexander ruled nearly all the known world. He was the Pittsburgh Steelers of his day.
All Gary Green has to do is beat Colorado once in a while.
Not that it will be easy. Six years old now, the Capitals have shrouded 101 men in their uniforms. Their creditors and loved ones remember these men well. It is an exercise most exhausting, though, to do the mental gymnastics necessary to answer a question head on a talk show the other night.
"What would be your all-time Caps' team?" someone asked on WTOP, and the hosts, Bernie Smilovitz and Phil Woods, who can talk for days about Hannibal's game plan for crossing the Alps, came down with a tremendous case of the gulps.
"Er, uh, that's a new one," Smilovitz finally said.
Lots of hemming and hawing later the dauntless duo conjured up a team of Ron Lowe (who?) in goal, Robert Picard and Yvon Labre (or Rick Green) on defense, and Guy Charron at center between wingers Tommy Rowe and Bengt Gustaffson.
Doesn't sound like any team you'd want to invade Asia with. From all accounts, Gary Green comes off as a young man uncommon for his poise and maturity. He has made a mark both as a businessman (president at 21 of a hockey school) and a coach (of a junior team that reached its league's finals for him).
It also is instructive to know that he took the coaching job at Hershey, the Cap's top minor league team, with the understanding he would get the big job if (when) it opened up. Napoleon didn't get to be emperor at 30 without planning ahead.
"The real question with the Caps, of course, goes beyond the coach, and that is how much longer will the owner, Abe Pollin, put up with no progress? Already the customers are angry, just as they would be angry at Safeway if the store promised fresh bread for six years and the stuff still was stale.
The Caps' smallest crow ever, 5,214 people, came to midweek game last week. They came to boo the coach, Danny Belisle. To be fair to a man whose career had been an upward spiral of success before he joined the Caps, Belisle was only the lightning rod for invective probably also intended for Pollin and General Manager Max McNab.
But Pollin consistently has stood up for McNab, whose duties include hiring players who could conquer Asia with the right coaching, and no owner in pro sports has ever fired himself.
Because Pollin also owns Capital Centre and needs a hockey team tenant to help pay the bills, his options are limited. He cannot sell the team out of town. If anyone wants to keep the Caps in Washington, one presumes Pollin would listen to offers (rather than watch hockey the night Belisle was booed, Pollin retired to an office to see his Bullet basektball team on TV). Either that, or Pollin can hope that Gary Green, at 26, is another Hannibal.
As Smilovitz and Wood could tell you, Hannibal was 26 when made commander-in-chief of the Carthaginian armies. With 38 elephants, 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, Hannibal crossed the Alps to play a road game against Rome. An underdog, Hannibal won big.