Let's Show a Little Enthusiasm
The next voice, Rockne's, cried, "Slide, damn you, slide!"
When Vince Lombardi, one of history's great disciplinarians, was coaching the Green Bay Packers some players lived in constant fear of his wrath. His leading running back was Paul Hornung, a Notre Dame grad and somewhat of a jokester. To amuse his teammates he concocted a story in which Lombardi came home late one night and crawled into bed beside his wife. She yelled, "God, your feet are cold!"
Lombardi - in Hornung's tale - replied, "In bed, my dear, you may call me Vinnie."
During my brief stay in high school the football coach was Earl Loucks, a rough man from the hard-bitten country around Wheeling and Martins Ferry. At that time a substitute couldn't speak until he had been in the game for one play. Before a game Loucks told the players in the locker room that to get around this rule he would write the number of the play he wanted called on adhesive tape on a leg of the sub's pants. To see if he had gotten the point across, Loucks put on his glasses and looked around. Only then did he see the referee listening intently while changing into his uniform at the rear of the room.
Louck's good friend from college, Jimmie Aiken, coached the Akron U team. His system of breaking the rule was to number the plays to coincide with the numbers on substitutes' uniforms. If he wanted play 14 called he would yell, "Joe, warm up!" Joe, number 14, would leap from the bench and run back and forth along the sidelines, occasionally dropping down to a three-point stance.
Aiken's son, Jimmie Jr., played on the Oak Park softball team while I, 11 at the time, was on another. The day we were to play Oak Park I had barely started the twelve-block walk to the park when a black coupe pulled to the curb and in his raspy voice Aiken called, "Hey, kid, want a ride to the game?"
Not a word was said during the trip but Aiken sang In a Little Red Barn on a Farm Down in Indiana. After arriving at the field he was outraged to find only eight players on his son's team had showed up and they had to forfeit the game. Aiken, the only adult there, had all of us from both teams sit in a semi-circle on the ground while he delivered a twenty-minute speech on responsibility. We hung on every word, spellbound by the fiery pep talk. Only later did it occur to me that his listeners were the ones who had shown responsibility by showing up.
During the thirteen years I coached baseball teams for boys I was irritated at a practice session. It seemed to me our play had been listless during the previous game so I had the players sit while I lectured them on enthusiasm. I must have used the word enthusiasm thirty times during the lengthy harangue. Satisfied I had made them aware of its importance, I finally shut up and looked from one to another of them. A 10-year-old raised his hand so I said, "Yes, Mike?"
"Dick, what's enthusiasm?"