Sept. 1, 2008
(10:27 a.m.): With apologies to Huey Lewis. And his news organization.
I've focused much of my attention lately on UC's football history, and I don't think it's a coincidence.
Recently, I've been thinking about all four of my deceased grandparents - I've dreamed about my maternal grandfather twice in the past month, which is weird because I don't recall ever dreaming about him before. I'm using a new shaving cream (an old school brand that just smells ancient and is imported from Italy. Julie, my wife, loves telling people that.) and a double-edged razor. My paternal grandfather was a barber, and I can imagine him shaving a customer's face with his straight edge (which I keep on a bookcase shelf in my basement and which I probably won't ever use on myself) and using something that smells similar to my Proraso. I went into the Shriners Syrian Hall the other day, and it reminded me of a building in which maybe my parents would have gone to high school (it's hard to describe, but the lettering of the sign leading into the bathroom and the way the stairs were built made me think of the 1960s - or how I imagine the 1960s).
I've been reading old newspaper clippings lately, and I've wondered if maybe it would have been better to be a sports writer in the 1930s and `40s (typewriters, Western Union telegrams, cigar smoke, train rides, wool suits and porkpie hats, martinis and broads, Extra! Extra! and "Stop the Presses", the grit) than today (wireless laptops, jeans and flip-flops, the 24-hour news cycle, 6 a.m. airplane flights out of Cleveland, "E-mail me your copy by the 8 p.m. deadline," the polish).
Anyway, I'm fascinated by history, so this part of The Odyssey research has been much more enjoyable for me. Originally, I was going to start talking about UC's football history by writing about Sid Gillman - which means, 1949 onward. But then, when I was at the library downtown about ready to delve into a world of microfilm and 15 cent copies, I figured, what the hell, let's go all the way back. To 1885 when UC played its first football game. And you know what I found? Coverage of polo (not the kind played in the pool, but the one with the horses), brutally un-PC (and mildly offensive) advertisements, and news about how some country named Servia (cq*) declared war against Bulgaria.
*Cq, of course, tells your copy editor that, `Yeah, I know this spelling looks screwed up, but it's actually correct.' I have no idea where it originated, and Google was no help to me. It's kind of like -30- at the end of your story.
I didn't find anything about UC, so I moved on to the late 1940s and the beginning of the Gillman era - the most successful era ever for the Bearcats. It talked about a coach in Ray Nolting who was being forced out by a member of the board (The board of what? I'm not sure. I'll have to figure that out), and a coach in Gillman who turned down the job before accepting it the next day. Deceptions and no comments and meetings in other cities. See, everything you see today was in place more than 55 years ago. Later, I found my way into the UC archives storage unit inside the decaying Armory on campus, and it was ... uh ... rather dusty down there. I was looking for more newspaper clippings, but all I found were mustiness, asbestos, some old-timey pictures and lots of expense reports from the last few decades. So, kind of a fruitless search.
But I got some good news. I attended the Bearcats Faithful luncheon for the first time at the Shriners Hall (I'd never even thought of ever showing up at that thing, probably because it sounds vaguely religious to me), and I got to meet Jim Kelly Sr. from the late `40s and early 50s squads. A sheer delight. Gave me some really interesting insight into Gillman and what he was like as a coach. He also invited me to attend the weekly Wednesday morning breakfast that consists of Kelly, Glenn Sample and a couple of other Bearcats old-timers. I'll certainly have to do that, especially if they regale me with stories of "how it used to be." Actually, I'll have to insist they do that.
Then, a colleague sent me an e-mail saying he had a copy of the alumni magazine from the 1960s in which a player from the 1900 team gave a first-person account of a game that, in my colleague's words, occurred "at Centre College that turned into a riot, a forced train ride out of town for the team at the hands of the local sheriff and the student manager being held hostage until the university president wired money down for his release." That to me is ... well, it's freaking awesome. I still don't know what I'm supposed to do about sourcing my material and bibliography stuff, but I have to get that in the book. Which, after reading that story, you should mentally be pre-ordering (buy six, and I'll throw in the seventh for free*).
*This offer is subject to change and/or could be a total lie.
Sigh, if only the 1990s research was as interesting.