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