They’ve been friends—and friendly antagonists—going back to their time as Cowtown’s most colorful ink-stained wretches. Half a century later, Dan Jenkins (whose new novel, Slim and None, arrives in stores this month) and our own Gary Cartwright duke it out over Bill Parcells, Ann Coulter, and that wealthy divorcée in the bar at the Colonial.
March 20, 11:32 a.m.
I have it on solid authority that the hero of your new novel, due to be published in May, is a foul-mouthed, whiskey-soaked, homophobic, right-wing crazy who makes his living as a touring golf pro—apparently a character playing to type. Naturally, I look forward to reading it. You are one of only two writers I know (our mutual pal Bud Shrake is the other) who can make golf sound more interesting than collecting porcelain teacups. I’ve always considered golf a game for idlers, morons, and scoundrels like Ken Lay: Hit a ball, try to find it, hit it again, while lugging a bag of instruments left over from the Star Chamber.
I have bad dreams from my days at the Fort Worth Press, when you used to order me out to the Colonial Country Club to capture the “color” of its annual golf tournament. This usually entailed me interviewing some blowhard who had just shot his weight and blamed the high score on a caddie who couldn’t speak good English. Admittedly, I do occasionally miss the open bar in the pressroom and milling about the balcony above the eighteenth green, trying to spot that wealthy divorcée from River Crest—what was her name?—who shaved her pubic hair into a heart and dyed it pink any time Tommy Bolt was headed to town. I guess you’ll be holding court in a few weeks at your usual table at Colonial? Then, no doubt, you’ll be heading to Augusta for, what is it, your seventy-eighth consecutive trip to the Masters? Does Cliff Roberts, or whatever his name is, still lord over the tournament like Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna? Does he still ban women from club memberships and require caddies to wear leg irons? As the song goes, old times there are not forgotten.
Speaking of which, what do you think about TCU naming our old journalism school for Bob Schieffer? I wrote Schieffer, congratulating him for upholding the honor of C students everywhere and wondering what his colleagues in the Eastern elite media thought about it. He responded that Roxanne Roberts, of the Washington Post, said, “Now let me get this straight. It will be called the Schieffer School of Horned Frogs?”
I hardly ever miss spending my weekends in the press box at College Station. How about you?
Your friend, Jap
March 21, 10:51 a.m.
I see nothing has changed since our newspaper days: You still need a fact-checker. The Colonial is in May, after the Masters. Clifford Roberts has been dead since 1977. Augusta has had four chairmen since Cliff. The lady dyed it pink for everyone, not just golfers, and I like to think God put her here to help us write novels.
As for my new one, which is titled Slim and None—and I’d appreciate it if you’d always mention the title when referring to it in public—the hero is not a right-wing crazy; he’s just intelligent. Like me, he’s a great American and a wonderful human being, which means he couldn’t have taken any courses from that liberal pinko commie hate-America idiot you’ve got down there teaching journalism at that big old public school called the University of Texas. What’s his name? Billy Jerker? Bob Jackyjen? They must be awfully proud of him around Austin. Up here in Fort Worth, where we have Bob Schieffer to be proud of, we like to think of the UT guy sitting around the old campfire somewhere in the Arabian Desert, roasting his camel dung for dinner. Obviously he’d be happier there.
Actually, I do miss those weekends in the press box at College Station. Need I remind you that the Aggie band has never lost a halftime?
March 22, 7:36 a.m.
Good to see that the years haven’t dulled your grumpy edge. Grumpiness was always part of your charm, the way you used to stagger into our second-floor office at the Press before dawn, the day’s first cigarette yellowing your fingers, bitching about how your hair hurt, ready and able to turn out a column that crackled with wit and glowed with malice. I don’t think sportswriters today have as much fun as we did. I wonder if they ever invent college basketball teams with silly names like Metcalf R. or make up fake sportswriters with names like Crew Slammer. In 1959, you will recall, Slammer would have been voted sportswriter of the year in Texas if that Dallas Morning News twit Bill Reeves hadn’t blown the whistle on us.
So much has changed, hasn’t it? TV has bled out the simple earthiness of the games so that they taste like Astroturf instead of mud. Thanks to the miracles of chemistry, the lads who play the games are bigger, faster, and better conditioned, but they suck at life like heroin addicts, never pausing to enjoy the chase. And, of course, the sportswriters are too busy with their radio talk shows to notice.
Sports today seem so … litigious. The old Southwest Conference had its cast of pranksters and miscreants. Bob Lilly, or so I remember, once picked up another TCU student’s VW Beetle and deposited it on the third floor of Tom Brown Hall. And the SWC had some memorable recruiting scandals: Remember Bill Clements grinning like God’s own fool when the NCAA caught him red-handed with the SMU slush bag? But that was tame stuff compared with today’s Big 12, which resembles an episode of Oz. You don’t need a media guide to ID Aggie football players. You need a rap sheet. Those thugs at the University of Colorado make the Watergate conspirators look like Harry Potter. And when you write that the boys at Baylor murdered an opponent, it’s no longer a metaphor. The Southeastern Conference is just as bad. Covering a Miami–Florida State game, you once observed that the refs needed burglar alarms rather than whistles.
But you make a good point. Maybe God downgraded the product so you’d never run out of sports freaks to sate your legion of book fans. Slim and None—I like it. But then I liked it years ago when you and Shrake used it as the title of a screenplay that never got produced.
I hear that you and June can look out your kitchen window and see the TCU press box. We can almost see the UT Tower from the end of our alley, or we could before they built all those damn condos.
March 22, 11:07 a.m.
You’re right about sportswriters. It was a better world before they went on radio and TV with new hairstyles and started screaming like liberals in a protest march. Otherwise, sportswriters today seem to drink a lot of diet things and exercise and wear short pants like children.
It was certainly a better world before the BCS, which is an open invitation to all state universities to lie, cheat, and steal. They see the TV money as too great to turn down, which means that most athletic directors are criminals at heart. The last time I looked, the graduation rate for your beloved University of Texas football players was minus 0.3 percent or something like that—perfect for the place that we private-school elites refer to as Welfare U. So if I were you, I wouldn’t make too much fun of other campuses, even Baylor, although one of my favorite bumper stickers is still “I would rather be on probation than lose to Baylor.”
But I have to confess I’m still a college-sports junkie, even if Darrell Royal and John McKay and Barry Switzer and Bear Bryant and some of my other heroes are no longer around. I cherish college football, hoops—both men’s and ladies’—and what we used to call “spring sports.” I much prefer colleges over the dreaded pros. The NFL has become more boring than eggplant. And I mean, like, do sensible people really care if a Dallas Maverick gets traded?
March 23, 8:48 a.m.
Don’t you love it that Congress finally discovered steroids, only thirty years after every linebacker and first baseman in North, Central, and South America? With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat of Al Qaeda, and budget deficits that stretch to China, you’d suppose that politicians have more urgent matters to debate. “Performance enhancers” have been around for years. They just weren’t a sexy political issue until Jose Canseco’s book hit the best-seller list.
You’ll remember that amphetamines were as common as salt tablets when we started covering the NFL back in 1960. Just outside the Cowboys’ training room hung three half-gallon tins of pills—one filled with calcium, one with vitamin C, one with Dexedrine. Who can forget that wild-eyed linebacker from West Texas who used to gobble a fistful of Dexies on his way to practice. Practice! What did he do for a real game—mainline wolverine urine? Eventually, the league ordered teams to stop passing out speed—or at least put the pills where reporters couldn’t get to them—at which time several promising careers cratered.
The purpose of the hearings in Washington was mostly to give congressmen an opportunity to pose with former big-league ballplayers, but surely our elected clowns hoped that tales of steroid abuse might get the attention of young athletes. Naturally, they botched the message. Did you get a look at Canseco and those other guys? Teenage boys would kill to get a head of hair like Canseco’s, not to mention his biceps. Canseco said all the right things about the dangers of juicing up, but in his book he predicts that “intelligent, informed use of steroids, combined with human growth hormone, will one day be so accepted that everybody will be doing it.” If Congress really wants to contribute to the commonweal, it should pass a law forbidding the baseball season to last longer than ten days and requiring the NCAA to determine the best team in college football by establishing a sixteen-team playoff that would extend the season through Easter.
Granted, such a system would create a dilemma for TCU and other schools in the WAC, the Big 3, and the Chitlin’ Circuit, or whatever you people call your little leagues. Then, instead of foaming at the mouth about the University of Texas, you’d have to step up and face the big boys.
March 23, 4:05 p.m.
Is that what those pills were? The trainer for the Cowboys assured me they’d prevent a bad cold. Then, of course, I found out the orange ones would keep my hair from hurting and the green ones would help me cope with the fact that I couldn’t afford to live in Highland Park.
I’m not concerned about athletes taking steroids. We’ll have the last laugh when they reach their mid-forties. That’s when their joints will drop off and the acne on their shoulders will spread to their gums.
As for foaming at the mouth, only the zebras can make me do that. My position has been clear for years. All zebras should have their throats ripped out and die screaming on the twenty-yard line, where they’ve called back another touchdown with a phony holding penalty.
Anyway, speaking of foaming at the mouth, I thought Blackie came close a couple of times at the Times Herald, when you wrote one of your memorable leads about the moon being a half-slice of lemon and some halfback wearing a pound of liver strapped on his chest.
Tempt me all you wish about politics, Jappy. You can even tie me down and make me read a Molly Ivins column. But I’m living quite cheerfully now by only two mottoes: “My country, right or wrong” and “Take Auburn, give the six.”
March 24, 10:51 a.m.
Okay, I confess: I love the dog-ass Cowboys, year after miserable year, win or lose. That’s why I’m damn tired of waiting for Galloway or Cowlishaw or one of the other big-shot Metroplex sports columnists to bitch-slap Bill Parcells. There was a time when I thought Parcells might turn this franchise around. Now I realize that the NFL has passed him by and everyone except Jerry Jones knows it.
Parcells is old, tired, and stubborn as a dead snake. You know why he stuck with his 41-year-old retread quarterback Vinny Testaverde last year? Because he thought it might add one or two more victories to his precious career. Instead, they lost three games in December, when it really counted. This clown is supposed to have a genius for inspiring players, but by season’s end the Cowboys resembled a prisoner-of-war camp. His forte is discipline, yet the Cowboys were among the most penalized teams in the league; Flozell Adams probably set a personal record for screwups. As for developing young talent, Parcells forced himself to go into the 2005 draft without a clue if either of his young quarterbacks could cut it. He surrounds himself with has-beens like Richie Anderson and Keyshawn Johnson because they remind him of the man he used to be. I’ll tell you who he used to be: a coach who won championships because he had at his side a top assistant named Bill Belichick, who, as coach of the New England Patriots, has won three of the past four Super Bowls. So who do you think was the brains behind Parcells’s previous winners?
The Taciturn Tuna (I love coining catchy nicknames) plays the Metroplex media for the saps they are. They ask him a question about the three-four defense, and he says something like, “In this league you’ve got to watch things, because things do other things, but that doesn’t mean necessarily what you think things are about in the long run, see?” Which is another way of telling sportswriters that they’re even dumber than he thought. He starts this season with a new batch of old faces, including Drew Bledsoe, who hasn’t been a good quarterback since Parcells was a good coach. Sure, the Cowboys have a shot at the playoffs—and another quick and horrible exit to oblivion. What is truly pathetic and unforgivable about Parcells is that he has mortgaged the Cowboys’ future in one final attempt to pad his own glorious and ultimately futile legend.
I assume that your motto means to say: “Bush, right or wrong.” That’s not an unreasonable assertion, given your record. So keep the faith, my friend. Watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and always put your money on whoever the Cowboys are playing on a given Sunday.
March 24, 5:22 p.m.
I know you’re smarter than anybody in Atlanta law enforcement—we all are—but when you go on at length about pro football, it makes me wonder. Surely you realize that it’s become about as vital as figure skating, which is not a sport; it’s dinner theater. I too used to think there were all these smart guys in the NFL, but then I started watching them take these All-American wide receivers and in no time teach them to drop passes. But thanks for straightening me out about Parcells and Testaverde. All along I’d thought Parcells traded him so he could keep Tortellini Parmigiana.
I do watch Fox News. The “mainstream” networks drove me to it, and because I watch it nightly, and read Ann Coulter religiously, I am happy to be constantly entertained and better informed than your normal, ordinary, everyday Austin socialist who’s busily trying to overthrow our government. As you may recall, my foreign policy hasn’t changed much from our days at the Press and the Herald. It’s pretty simple and the same as a character in Slim and None says: “If they talk back, nuke their sorry ass.”
March 25, 9:05 a.m.
Ann Coulter? Whoa! If Jenke read anyone religiously, I would have guessed it was George Will. At least Will is intelligent, articulate, and honest. Coulter is just mean. Meanness and self-righteousness are two of the least attractive traits of hard-core conservatives. Tom DeLay told a group of Christian conservatives a few weeks ago: “One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America.” And what was going on in America that required God delivering up Terri Schiavo? Attacks against DeLay and against the conservative movement, which in his mind are the same thing. With people like Coulter and DeLay, it’s all about ideology; screw what’s right or fair or sensible. I’ve always wondered who writes the ideological orders of the day. They don’t have God’s style.
I also watch Fox News, along with CNN and many of the “mainstream” networks. I read the New York Times and at least two other newspapers. While this overload of information keeps me informed, I can’t say it makes me comfortable, much less entertained. As for Austin socialists trying to overthrow your government, I wouldn’t worry. There’s only five of them, and they mainly hate one another. I’ve always thought of myself and most of my friends as moderates. We love our country but don’t feel like we’ve got to keep shouting about it. We also love our Bill of Rights and get a little radical when someone trashes it for political gain.
There is something to be said for the foreign policy espoused by your ownself and that character in Slim and None. But the problem with nuking the sorry asses of foreigners with bad attitudes is that they always surround themselves with women and children. Maybe Bush and his guys can come up with some sort of death ray that can distinguish between the a-holes and the innocent—in which case, I’d nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize, if Bill Parcells’s defense hasn’t already won it.
March 25, 12:04 p.m.
Ann Coulter is mean? You’re calling a writer mean? You, a guy who once wrote in a Dallas Cowboys game story that Granny Rice’s Four Horsemen were now Pestilence, Death, Famine, and Meredith. That guy is calling Ann Coulter mean just because she’s smarter than he is?
Listen, if there are only five socialist liberal retards in Austin now, who are those 100,000 burned-out, hippie-scum dropouts in outmoded, unwashed ponytails that were ringing the university campus the last time I was down there? I suppose their major mission is rooting for the sixties to come back, and I guess they’re too tired to do anything else. Like bathe, maybe. Actually, I’m not sure the sixties have ever left Austin, except on the golf courses.
Since you brought up the Terri Schiavo debate, which was otherwise known as a slow news day in my neighborhood, I have this theory that the reason her husband wanted to pull the plug on her was because he was afraid she’d wake up and rat him out for one thing or another.
Yeah, I guess we of the conservative ilk will always be puzzled by you libs, especially those who like to think they’re “moderates.” We believe in free speech for everybody, not just those who supported Howard Dean. Let me see if I understand this one position of you people correctly. You “moderates” support abortion but are against the death penalty. Swell. So tell me this. Did God send us Ashley Smith or was it a truck stop?
March 25, 4:48 p.m.
Your humble moderate here does not support abortion; he supports choice. Nor is he against the death penalty, except when it is used on retards, children, and the innocent, which puts him squarely on the side of the godless hippie scum on the Supreme Court—most of them Republicans, I hasten to add.
I can only speculate on the identity of that mob of ponytailed dropouts who terrorized you on your last visit to Austin, which probably was the sixties, but one likely candidate is the Young Conservatives of Texas. They seem desperate to reverse history. Or they could be Tom Craddick and his scurvy band from the Texas legislative budget committee. Have you gotten a whiff of that bunch lately? I have no information as to their bathing habits, but I can tell you that they regularly hose the elderly, the young, and the poor.
I feel only sorrow for the Schiavos, both of them, and the Schindlers too. If the right-to-lifers weren’t so fanatical, Terri could have been put to sleep quickly and peacefully, rather than dying slowly from hunger and dehydration. Let me ask you something. If you were in Terri’s bed, who would you rather have calling the shots, your wife or Tom DeLay?
I may be mean, but at least I’m funny. When was the last time Ann Coulter wrote something funny? (Jokes about Clinton and the three blind nuns don’t count.)
And, yes, I believe God did send us Ashley Smith. What do you think?
March 25, 6:11 p.m.
Choice is the greatest dodge since Doak Walker carried the ball. “Choice” means “I love you, Paula Jean. Let’s kill it.” You don’t want the death penalty to kill children? What about when they get to be teenagers? Better still, what about when they get to be rappers?
I actually visited Austin a year ago. Momentarily, it brought back memories of when it was everybody’s favorite city in Texas. But then it took me two days to get from the west side over to I-35. Maybe you should devote more time to worrying about Austin’s god-awful traffic than the perfectly hilarious Legislature.
No, you really aren’t mean, Jappy, but you are no authority on Ann Coulter either. Obviously you’ve never read her, or you’d be laughing so hard you’d be unable to type.
I agree it was God who sent us Ashley Smith, the greatest person of the year. Well, it may have been HBO, but I’m quite sure it was God.
Anyhow, if this is a Nazi-Commie thing we’re doing, I am already declaring victory. We dress better. The crush of the cap. The fit of the tunic. That incredible logo. Those lips, those eyes …
March 26, 11:38 a.m.
Generally, I favor euthanizing teenagers, though many grow up to be reasonably acceptable adults. All rappers should be strangled with piano wire. By “choice” I mean that I’m eternally grateful I don’t have to make one, but I’m not willing to close that option to some teenager who gets knocked up by her beer-besotted uncle. The arguments of anti-abortion forces, by the way, would carry more weight if they concerned themselves more with children after they are born.
Okay, it doesn’t get much worse than Austin traffic, but the last time I tried to drive from Dallas to Fort Worth on what we used to call the Turnpike, I ended up in Keller. In Austin’s favor, if you get lost here you’re still somewhere interesting. If you get lost anywhere in Fort Worth, except maybe the lower part of downtown and the TCU area, there’s nothing to do but get a haircut, hock your watch, or go to church. And Austin wins the barbecue and Mexican food derby by a mile.
Stalin versus Hitler—not much wiggle room there. But think of caviar, think of Pushkin, think of evenings at the Bolshoi, think of … oh, never mind.
March 26, 1:42 p.m.
I’ll give you Tex-Mex, barely, but not in a hundred years does Austin win barbecue. Not when I’m sitting here with a platter of ribs at Railhead and on my way to Angelo’s for a brisket dessert. And I see I’ve just mentioned some of the reasons why I moved back to the old hometown.
This exchange has been fun, but through it all I can’t describe how stunned I’ve been to discover you’ve turned into such a caring humanitarian—so concerned about all those poor A-rab women and children our forces might accidentally kill in Iraq. I gather you don’t mean the ones who make bombs out of Coca-Cola bottles so they can lob them at our troops.
You probably were also shocked about the stuff that went on at Abu Ghraib, which the sap Ted Kennedy and your liberal media tried to turn into Auschwitz. I say the inmates weren’t in that prison for parking tickets and were lucky, all in all, that they never had to play basketball for Charlie Turner at Paschal.
I also see that your liberal playbook tells you to care deeply about all the luckless teenage girls who’ve allowed themselves to get knocked up by third-string halfbacks. Perhaps you can take some of them to the Bolshoi the next time it’s in Austin.
But you’re right about one thing: Conservatives should care more about the well-being of their children after they’re born. If they did, of course, they wouldn’t send them off to Ivy League schools.
Be well, Jappy, and keep typing. I’m just sorry we never got around to discussing Dostoyevsky and Mann.