You're Joe Gibbs and you're looking for answers, knowing there aren't any.
You won a Super Bowl your second year out. You shook hands with the president and you told a great city it owned a piece of the championship. It was love, for real, with the Hogs and Smurfs and Riggo and Joe T. You never had so much fun working so hard.
But now, a summer later, you have the cops at your front door saying your Pro Bowl safety sold cocaine for pocket change.
You're Joe Gibbs and you sit in the bright morning sun the day after the cops took away Tony Peters. You talk about seminars the coaches go to. They teach you about drugs. They tell you airline pilots and dentists and journalists have drinking problems. They tell you alcohol is the deadliest killer we throw into our bodies thinking it's fun.
They tell you Americans kill themselves with alcohol a lot more than they do with cocaine. But you're a football coach and you've heard the stories. You've heard about Bobby Layne getting waxed every night. People die from the stuff but we laugh at the macho stories and say wasn't Bobby a helluva man? You're Joe Gibbs, talking about drunks, and you don't laugh.
You don't laugh because you want to cry about Tony Peters. You don't say he's guilty, because you're hoping he isn't. People are trying to figure out why anyone would sell his life for $3,000. Did he need money to get through the strike? Did it begin then? But the $3,000 deals were allegedly in the last month, the first barely two months after he picked up a big signing bonus, maybe $50,000.
You like Tony Peters. You know his wife and children. "I know what kind of guy Tony Peters is," you say. "I have a great feeling for him." An hour after you heard he was arrested, your face was a pale mask of melancholy. In the bright sun this morning, you say, "If you knew what kind of guy Tony is, you're dumbfounded, shocked."
What you like about Tony Peters is that he fit in so well with your Redskins family. That's the idea you like--that your football team is a family. It's a tough business, pro football, and you have to fire guys you like. You've traded some men, but you didn't like it. You want the players to trust you, to know you treat them the way you'd want to be treated.
You won't forget the Super Bowl season because it was beautiful. You never saw a team play so near its potential every week. The chemistry, whatever that is, some indefinable good feeling that comes with winning, carried your team over some tough spots. "The strike, Art Monk's foot, Joe Washington's knee, Perry Brooks' leg--whenever things looked the worst, we played our best," you say in today's bright sun.
You're Joe Gibbs and because you're a football coach you're hoping, thinking, believing that one more piece of adversity won't leave your team in pieces. But you don't know now. You don't know about this cocaine thing. You're 42, you're the Sunday School-teaching son of a sheriff and you'd like to know why a Pro Bowl safety with a $1 million contract would get arrested on a charge of taking $3,000 on two cocaine sales.
"We can't ignore the cocaine crisis anymore," you say today. "We have to come up with a way to understand it." But you don't know how to understand it because you're no drinker, no cocaine user, and you know there's hell to pay if you use the stuff. "The league now will help a player if he has a problem, but they have to know that if they break the law, there's a price to pay."
You're Joe Gibbs and you want to understand. Coke is epidemic around the league. "Nobody has the answer, no group is immune," you say. And when someone asks you how you feel about Tony Peters' arrest--hurt? sad? betrayed?--you don't say any of those things. You talk about family.
You say, "We have to look at it as a family matter. If one of the members of your family has a problem, you try to help him. We won't turn our back on Tony. We'll be supportive, help him in any way we can. But at the same time, if a member of your family breaks the law, he has to realize there is a price to pay."
You were 16 when you learned what it meant to do wrong. You wrecked the car late at night and they had you at a juvenile detention center. Your dad, J.C. Gibbs, the sheriff, came by to take you home. The detention man began a lecture to your dad about a father's responsibility. It wasn't 30 seconds into the lecture when you saw your dad, the sheriff, grit his teeth and lunge at you.
"He grabbed me around the throat and was choking me," you say today, the morning after federal agents took away Tony Peters. "My dad screamed at me, 'Raised under the arm of the law! A cop 20 years and my son is here!' The detention center manager started out lecturing my dad and wound up pulling him off my throat."
And you never did that again.