By Monte Lazarus
When my beloved daughter was seven years old she wanted to be a football player. As a dutiful dad I bought her a football, but carefully explained that small, not particularly-fleet-footed female persons would have problems playing against very large apes. She listened carefully to my shreds of wisdom (an uncommon experience both as to listening and wisdom) but continued to toss the ball and indulge her fantasies.
After some years she realized that, at five feet five and a hundred or so pounds, she just wasn’t going to make it. She hadn’t even been running any faster. At that point she faced reality and proudly announced that she was going to be a football coach. What could I say? She knew the X’s and O’s, man-to-man and zone coverages, blitzes, 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, split ends, wide receivers, slot receivers, the Tampa two-deep pass defense, and even the Bears’ 46 defense. She thrived on John Madden’s color commentary, and held herself personally responsible for John Riggins breaking free against the Dolphins to cement her beloved Redskins’ Super Bowl Championship. I had taken her to Canton, Ohio, to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She clearly knew more football than some ex-jocks who make outrageous claims about their careers.
As she pursued her high school studies, and did very well, the time came for her to apply to various colleges. We consulted – only to the extent that she told me where she would be sending applications – and I did not say much. Then came the request from Stanford University, known for its wonderful academics, slightly quirky student body, fair football teams, and superb reputation as a university. The request? Please send us an essay about yourself. Stanford was high on her list, so the matter of the essay was important.
Her: “Dad, Stanford wants an essay from me; I don’t know what to write and they didn’t give me any guidelines.”
Me: “What I know about Stanford is that it’s a great school, but not rigidly conventional. They apparently enjoy having students who are a bit unusual. How about writing why you want to be a football coach?”
Her: “Oh, c’mon Dad, you must be kidding me! They’ll never want someone who writes that.”
Me: “Is Stanford your number one choice? Are you willing to take a chance on what I believe about their policy?”
Her: “It’s my first or second choice, so I want to be sure to have a chance of getting in.”
Me: “Try my suggestion. They’ll love it. You can’t lose.” I regretted the final suggestion just as the words reached her.
She did it. She wrote the essay and explained about her passion for football, among other things. With trepidation she mailed it. About ten days later she received her acceptance at Stanford.
Well, she decided to go to one of them there Ivy League schools on the East Coast, and then to law school. To this day I believe that – notwithstanding her great success as a lawyer – she would have rather been a coach.
In the past few years I have decided that she was right after all. Before he was let go, Bobby Bowden was the highest paid state employee in the State of Florida. Nick Saban is a mega-millionaire in Alabama, after sojourns in other football venues; Les Miles enjoys a rich life in Louisiana; and Urban Meyer has just received the deed to half of Ohio for agreeing to coach at Ohio State. True, very few coaches do that well financially, and their careers may be short. But, they are out in the fresh air with a bunch of unruly kids, and they don’t have to listen to questionable clients or, especially, lawyer jokes.