Behind the lines…The Last Bastion

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    If you’re sensitive, overly “woke” or a believer in “toxic masculinity” you should stop reading now and go elsewhere.

    The last bastion of masculinity in America was on the construction site, in the oilfield, in the Armed forces, and on the football field. Those venues are vanishing in the battle to eradicate the XY chromosome from existence.


    But once, the lines used by coaches were classic. Some were said to me and my buddies, and we remembered them for half a century, others were told to our kids by fellow and even opposing coaches. I remember the classic lines, and so do the guys who received the butt of these comments.

    One hot, muggy, morning in Lusk we were practicing on the grass east of Gibson Field. It was during two-a-day sessions, and even at 6:45 am the conditions were miserable.

    A construction crew from Casper was replacing the roof on the nearby gymnasium and had a big scissor lift next to the gym. On the side, it read, “Universal Erection System.”

    Coaches with twisted senses of humor, 35 teenage boys, and a sign like that right next to the field.


    Our head coach Jerry Fullmer picked out a victim, it was our center Randy Reed.

    “Reed, you see that sign?” Jerry asked.

    “Yes coach,” Randy replied.


    “You ever need one of those Reed?” Jerry said with a grin.

    The younger guys either didn’t understand the joke or were asleep in the back of the line. The seniors almost fell down laughing and picked away at Randy for the rest of the practice.

    Oh, the horror, the insensitivity, the outrage, no none of that it was still America 40 years ago.


    Randy is an attorney today.

    Jump ahead a few years and the Wranglers weren’t getting a play my late friend Harold Bailey had designed. He ran it and ran it, but they still screwed it up. In a classic “Baileyism” as the boys called Harold’s comments he said, “You guys are so dumb, your class isn’t going to have a valedictorian.”

    A few seconds later, one of our running backs, Kurt Elder, leaned over to me and asked, “Coach, is that even possible?”

    “You just proved it Kurt,” I said.

    What the sensitive types don’t and will never understand is how idiotic teenage boys can be. They can be clueless, unaware, and totally oblivious to their surroundings.

    It goes away with age. Kurt is successful and just picked up a master’s degree.

    Another outstanding Baileyism came as he was setting up a passing play. A bright young man who went on to a stellar career working for the late Senator Mike Enzi in Washington, D.C., Coy Knoble, ran the wrong route a couple of times on Harold’s bread and butter play, the slot right, 816. The tight end ran a fly, the slot ran an out and the wide receiver ran a slant. Coy ran an in instead of an out a couple of times.

    Harold stopped the practice, walked up to Coy, and said, “You’ve got a 4.0 don’t you Knobel? I hear you’ll probably be valedictorian.”

    “Yes, coach,” Coy said as he waited for what was to come.

    “Well, that’s great, but you’ll be the stupidest valedictorian that ever graduated from here or anywhere, run the out,” Harold said.

    Not one of the boys said a word. They knew how smart Coy was, and how Harold could break down a play to the minutest level to get things right.

    A final comment from Harold came at every halftime that his team was ahead. Instead of a little rah, rah, and hollow praise, he always had this little gem.

    “You really think you’re doing something don’t you?” Then he would go down the line pointing out improvements each player needed to make in the second half.

    The woke crowd would call it abuse. We called it coaching.

    Another legendary coach, my late friend Dick Cotton once answered me this way when I asked him how his team speed would be this year.

    “We’ll be like two porcupines making love,” Dick said. “Slow, deliberate and we’ll try not to hurt anyone.”

    My favorite saying wasn’t to the boys, but to an interview team in Windsor, Colorado when they were trying to recruit me to coach their boys’ basketball team.

    One of the questions in the interview was to name my greatest attribute as a coach.

    I said, “Occasionally, just occasionally, I can make chicken salad out of chicken crap (only I didn’t say crap)”

    I got the job offer.

    My friend Tim Ervin who is a great track and football coach, but a better English teacher had a group of misguided youngsters one year in a remedial English class. I had the same boys for math and knew the challenge of keeping them focused.

    I watched him take these wild men down the hall to the library one afternoon and they were cordial, well-behaved, and polite. It wasn’t how they started the year.

    Tim grinned at me and said, “I used to have to whip em’ now I just show ‘em the chain.”

    A little discipline from a respected older man goes a long way with troubled teenage boys.

    From Lusk, we moved to Riverton where I taught math and science at the middle school and coached 7th grade football. In my second season, we had 77 boys out for the team.

    It spoiled me since I was able to move kids up and down out of the starting lineup. The competition for playing time was awesome at practice.

    The following year I took the job in Shoshoni as assistant varsity basketball, and assistant junior high football under my late friend Chuck Wells.

    Chuck was a legend, and while he was the head basketball coach, there weren’t many football coaches in America who knew the game better.

    We started Shoshoni Junior High football in the fall of 1985. With just 17 boys we played six games. These guys were good athletes but had no clue when it came to football.

    One game early in the season we were getting thumped. I kept looking down the bench at the six kids on the sideline. It must have annoyed Chuck because he finally said. “Quit looking down there coach, the best we have is on the field.”

    He was right, it was a learning moment for me.

    Perhaps Chuck’s greatest interaction with the community came when a staff member was passing around a petition to get him fired during a game in the 1986-87 basketball season.

    Chuck leaned over to me in the first period and said, “Follow that petition, when it’s right behind us let me know.”

    It was easy to watch as the guy handed it to various people in the stands on a clipboard.

    “It’s behind us Chuck,” I said.

    He called time out. “Put the boys in a 22 trap and tell them to get the ball to the high post,” Chuck instructed me.

    He walked up to the top row of the lower section of bleachers, grabbed the petition out of the guy’s hands, and said, “Give me that, I’ll sign the SOB.”

    He signed the petition to fire himself. It was a stroke of genius.

    It’s not all sunshine and roses in life. It’s definitely not when you’re trying to get young men focused on a group task.

    It used to be easier than it is today.


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