Page 7


comment: “I’ve always felt real good, and comfortable, when I’ve been around a policeman.” Banks apportions a good bit of his space to correcting the “false image” that Royal hates blacks and advocates savagery. The apologies are so heavy-handed that they conceal the fact that the years and the events have changed Royal, have caused him to be more cheerful, more pliable, more concerned. I’ve known Darrell, known him pretty well, for a long time; and I’ll tell you, he’s a man of good will. He’s a man of fundamental decency, but when you start apologizing for him or making it convenient for him to apologize for himself you are in the field of hackery, not journalism. Football, as Royal explains, is not a natural game. “What’s natural about two guys backing off and running at each other?” he asks. And then he explains something that his critics never seem to understand: 4 4 . there wasn’t anything natural about those Japs flying down those smokestacks, either. That’s all mental. You’ve got to have people ‘psyched up’ to do that.” A player whose adrenalin is flowing doesn’t feel contact you only feel contact when “you play around the edges.” Royal says it right in front, football is business, the entertainment business. “You’ll hear a guy say, ‘I just love to hit.’ No, he doesn’t just love to hit. He hits because it gains him recognition. . . . A guy would have to be a stone idiot to love going out there and just running into someone else.” Someone should ask Gary Shaw: who made you do it? It sure as hell wasn’t Darrell Royal. True, Royal \(or any other get your head knocked off. Royal says, “I don’t think it’s bad to fight for a cause, or to fight for a reason to be a winner, and to make sacrifices to be a winner.” Each man has his own cause, his own reason, and the pitfalls were well publicized long before Gary Shaw’ turned to literature. A man plays for the’ glory . . . also for money and sex. This is why, more and more, sports are dominated by blacks. It’s a quick way up . .. or out . . . or in. AS FOR THE CHARGE that Darrell Royal is a racist, who of us ain’t? Who among us doesn’t think that our race, or our fraternity, or our group, or our profession, or our neighborhood, or our church, or our team, or our philosophy is the center of the universe? If there is someone out there who ain’t a cannibal, kindly stand over there with the potatoes, squash and red peppers. It is painfully clear that the University of Texas is a racist institution. For this we can blame men like Frank Erwin, John Connally, Alan Shivers and, well, Jimmy Banks. We can blame all those rich morons in orange coats whose fingers are permanently afflicted by greed. They are the reason Darrell Royal waited so long to recruit black athletes. Anyone who knows DKR knows that he would welcome a three-eyed commie leper queer dope fiend if that particular individual could run the forty in 4.4. In the “false image” section of the book, Royal tells a story about Julius Whittier, one of the blacks on the current Longhorn team. “Back at the start of the ’72 season, he got offsides a couple of times and I . jumped him about it in a squad meeting. I told him, ‘It’s a lack of poise you’re not delivering in a pressure situation.’ Well, he came to see me later and takes it that I’m saying blacks can’t deliver under pressure. I said, ‘Julius, are you trying to put a black connotation on this, me correcting you?’ “He said, ‘Well, I’ve wondered about it.’ And I told him, ‘You give me another word all day in his uniform? Promotional endorsements adorn the back of the book. Two writers from Sports Illustrated weigh in with heavy comments about its literary merits. Then Dick Schaap, the fastest man with. a tape recorder this side of Watergate, tries to outstrip them with his praise. So carried away was Mr. Schaap that, after puffing North Dallas Forty, he went on to review it perfervidly in The New York Times, which strikes one as to put it politely a bit unethical. But there’s no need to protest too loudly. By the time one comes to Pearl Bailey’s critical pronouncement, the jig is up, and the novel is revealed for what it really is, a slick inside job, an orchestrated non-event. Instead of fronting for a real estate agency or a fried chicken franchise, Gent has used his name to break into the Quality Lit Biz. If he hadn’t been a football player, it’s doubtful the book would have been published and absolutely certain it wouldn’t have become a best-seller. Of course Gent could claim quite rightly that he isn’t responsible for the book’s billboard of a cover. It’s what’s inside that counts. Unfortunately, it’s pretty dank and dreary inside. An occasional spark of wit or boyish energy brightens the otherwise lusterless prose, but generally North Dallas Forty reads as if written by Harold Robbins in shoulder pads. It’s the kind of novel where characters deliver the dialogue like refugees from a high school drama society, and because the lines are often wooden and weak, the author instructs the reader that they have been “barked,” “growled,” “screamed,” “hollered,” “retorted,” and “interjected.” Part of the problem is that Gent can never be sure when his style has conveyed the correct impression, and he is wise to worry, for subtle distinctions of language inevitably escape him. To cite a few examples among many, he writes “specter” when he means just the opposite, a fleshy monster. He speaks of “the physical body,” leaving one to wonder what other kind there is. He uses “hyperbole” when one assumes he means “anomaly.” And descriptions of basic bodily functions send him fumbling for a medical journal from which he must have culled these clinical clunkers: “I felt the sexual stirrings of constricting blood vessels.” “My stomach began to churn as the endocrine glands redistributed vital juices for the coming contest.” OH WELL, who cares about style anyway? There’s always the story, which concerns Phil Elliott’s attempt to regain his starting position on the Dallas team. Debilitated by, injuries and tagged as a trouble-maker, Elliott has been demoted by an automaton of a head coach, who understands winning, but hasn’t yet gotten the hang of interpersonal relationships. The coach must, also, be deaf, dumb, and blind not to notice that Elliott, as well as Seth Maxwell, the star quarterback, subscribes to a customized conditioning program which consists of equal portions of booze, broads, grass, amphetamines, and all-night parties. As they struggle through the week, preparing for the New York game, they chatter at each other endlessly and have more sexual encounters than the Boston Strangler, but although they are thoroughly self-absorbed, they seldom display any ability to evaluate their experiences or emotions. On Sunday Phil sees a lot of action, catches two touchdown passes, and believes he has fought his way back onto the first string. But Monday morning brings a November 30, 1973 17 .c . TA,