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Ask Old Man Football

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Friends, I know you love our weekly time together. I can tell by the way last week’s installment got almost exactly one percent as many comments as the October 29 links post. Still, you’ve got to help me out with questions. So, if you’re lovelorn, confused or curious, send your queries to and I’ll do my best to set you on the proper path.

Dear Old Man Football: When will we ever accept the spread offense? Will it be before or after Mike Leach leads the Pirates of the Palouse to the National Championship? -- Lost in the hills, looking for a leader. Or Trips. Ell for short.

Dear Trips: I may be the wrong person to ask because I have not yet accepted facemasks, let alone these newfangled touch-football offensive formations, but I’ll give it a shot. Do you know what a proxy is? A proxy is a thing that stands in for something else. In this case, the spread offense is a proxy for losing. It’s not that people can’t abide the spread – they found it pretty doggone pleasing when Chase Daniel was whipping the ball to Danario Alexander and Lo Williams was planting Todd Reesing’s head like a tulip bulb in the end zone – it’s that they can’t abide when the opposing team finishes the game with more points than the Tigers. No one likes to say that they hate losing (on account of that being bleeding obvious and prosaic and all), so they look for a proxy. And in this case, the proxy is the spread.

Conversely, people love to win, and that’s why the spread has found acceptance in places like Eugene, Oregon. Sorry to digress, but I can never think about Eugene, Oregon without remembering Eugene Orgeron, a pasty little concave-chested reserve on my high school football team. Sweet kid, excellent with the physics and the calculus, but hopeless with the ladies. Always had his face stuck in a comic book between classes. The whole inside of his locker was plastered with superhero pictures. Anyway, midway through our senior year, we had ourselves a little influenza pandemic at school (to this day, some of the townsfolk suspect it was a biological weapons test gone awry), and it left our team with just ten able-bodied boys (and Eugene) on the eve of the district playoffs. Mind you, Eugene had never seen one down’s-worth of action in four years on the squad. The other ten of us just looked at each other and said “what in the fiddlesticks are we gonna do with a 96-pound defensive tackle?” Feeling morally liberated by the notion that we had nothing to lose, we shook up a concoction of Wild Turkey, mescaline, Mountain Dew and peyote before the game, gave it to Eugene, and told him it was a potion that would give him super powers. He said “like Super-Soldier Serum?” and we all looked at each other and shrugged and said “sure, yeah, just like that.”

By some miracle, we only trailed by four points halfway through the fourth quarter when our defense had its back to the metaphorical wall (there was no literal wall, if you follow), first and goal at the two-yard line. At that moment, for reasons I’ll never understand, Eugene’s potion kicked in like a freight train full of alligators. Just as the quarterback stuck his hands into the center’s nether-parts, Eugene stood up arrow-straight out of his three-point stance. Eyes blazing a ruby red and with a booming voice straight from the great beyond, he said “I AM DOCTOR STRANGE!” And if I’m lying I’m dying, he stretched out his hands and conjured some sort of shockwave that sent the other team flying back ten yards. The ball shot up into the air and straight into my pal Duckie Metzenheimer’s hands. I think Duckie was a little traumatized by what he had seen, and so he just stood there for a moment until I yelled “run, Duckie, run!” and he returned the thing ninety-eight yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Eugene never lacked for female companionship again.

Dear Old Man Football: My wife is unhappy about problems we’re having with my little quarterback. If I wear him on the one side she says he looks bigger, but doesn’t run forward very well. But if I wear him on the other he has trouble hoisting it up over the middle, and tends to get sprained a lot. We have an important game this weekend, and we’re worried about his performance slowing the proceedings. I thought a man with your extensive experience in these areas might be able to help. – Yours Doubly in Entendreship.

Dear Yours Doubly: I don’t know what to tell you. My little quarterback won four Heismans.

Dear Old Man Football: What’s wrong with ELP? How about a little “Karn Evil 9”? One of the most impressive concerts I ever saw. Keith Emerson played one song from BEHIND the keyboard. As a former pianist; I was blown away. It was literally upside down and backwards. – Everyone Loves Prog.

Dear EL-Prog: Apparently I bruised some feelings last week when I warned against incorporating the musical stylings of Emerson, Lake & Palmer into your pregame ritual. Mr. Prog, I think you’re confusing what’s impressive with what’s enjoyable. If you can get Keith Emerson to come by your tailgate and play from behind a keyboard or fart “Ode to Joy” through a piccolo, by all means do it. Everyone loves a freak show. But if you’re making your guests listen to it without a compelling accompanying visual, you’re just being rude. As for “Karn Evil 9,” sadly, it’s the song, and not the show, that never ends.