Thursday, October 23, 2008

Win One For the Locker | by Brian

The scene opens in the Washington locker room, moments before the Notre Dame game. The players are forlorn. From the doorway, COACH TYRONE WILLINGHAM is driven in on a golf cart. The players, now even more dejected, look away so as to avoid his eyes. In hushed, stoic tones, Willingham begins to speak.

Tyrone Willingham is going to give you a pep talk now. A pep talk is 'a rallying speech of exhortation meant to instill confidence in a team or individual,' according to Webster's Dictionary. In this case, the pep talk is meant to inspire this team to score more points than the Notre Dame team, as that will greatly improve the team's opportunity for victory. The team has had its share of losses, or, as I like to call them, 'failures to execute wins', and all too often this has coincided with the team scoring fewer points than its opponents.

Coach Willingham is now going to tell you something that he has kept to himself for weeks. All of you know Jake Locker. Jake is a fine young man. As fine a young man as he is on the football field, he is just as fine a young man in the classroom. And as fine a young man as he is in the classroom, he is just as fine a young man in the community. And as fine a young man as he is in the community, he is just as fine a young man as a citizen of planet Earth.

You know what a tradition he is here at the University of Washington.

Jake got a tough break a few weeks ago. And the last thing he said to me---'Coach,' he said---'if there's one thing I want you to do for me, it is to take a 48-degree lofted wedge out of your bag, aim for the flag stick, give it your best swing, and hole out from 109 yards.'

'Failing that,' he said, 'there's one other thing I want you to do for me. Sometime, when the team is up against it, and everything is not microwave popcorn, and the breaks are beating the boys---tell them to go out there with all they've got, and execute well enough that, had they executed just four or five plays better, they might have won just one for the Locker.'"

(Willingham's eyes do not become misty, and his voice betrays no emotion, maintaining its usual stoicism, best described as either "cool under fire" or "dead from the chest cavity up" depending on one's point of view.)

'I don't know where I'll be then, Coach,' he said, 'but I'll know that you'll be out of a job soon, and I'll be happy.'