ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
It’s not every day that my 4-year-old son provides the inspiration for my column, but he did this time. If he finds out I get paid for this gig, he’ll probably want a percentage of my income for his piggybank.
While watching a football game on television, Ryan asked me, “What are the coaches listening to in those phoneheads? Are they listening to music?”
OK, to you and me they are known as headphones or headsets, but I like my son’s terminology better.
Being a wise father and educated sports columnist, I tried to give a polite answer. I didn’t want to harm his self-identity and fragile ego or damage his self-esteem by giving a sarcastic answer. Besides, I’ve heard teachers say every question is a good question because it provides an opportunity for learning.
So I assured Ryan he asked good questions. Then I told him I didn’t know for sure what the football coaches were listening to in those phoneheads, but it probably wasn’t music.
Those questions, though, caused me to think, what do coaches really say over those phoneheads during games?
I’m sure they would like us to think that they’re talking strategy with fellow coaches in the booth and analyzing the move of their opponents. They’d like us to think they’re trying to spot weaknesses in the opposing team’s defense or offense. But I believe if the truth were told, we’d find out there’s more to the conversations than strictly football.
If the FBI tapped into these private conversations, I think we’d hear some very revealing discussions-nothing illegal, just interesting.
For example, here are some phonehead conversations that may have taken place this year between head coaches on the sideline and their higher authorities in the booth.
During a Hillsboro High School football game this fall, we might have heard a conversation similar to this.
Assistant coach: “Coach McEwen, I know we’re having trouble converting extra points. So if we score a touchdown on the next play, do you want to kick the extra point or go for two?”
Coach McEwen: “I’d love to kick the extra point, but I’m not eligible.”
* * *
With less than two minutes left in Tabor’s homecoming win over Sterling, we probably would have heard the following discussion.
Assistant coach: “Coach McCarty, do we have any extra smelling salts?
Coach McCarty: “What in the world for?”
Assistant coach: “It’s been so long since we’ve won a homecoming football game, some of our fans are passing out.”
* * *
Here’s a phonehead discussion that might have been heard during a Kansas City Chiefs game.
Assistant coach: “Coach Vermeil, are you OK?”
Coach Vermeil: “I’m sorry. For a moment there I thought I was having a nightmare. I dreamt I was coaching the Kansas City Chiefs and we were one of the worst football teams in the NFL.”
Assistant coach: “Uh, coach. I hate to tell you this, but you are the coach of the Chiefs and our team is awful.”
Coach Vermeil: “That’s just swell. You mean I left St. Louis for this mess?”
* * *
The following conversation likely occurred as K-State was losing its fourth game in a row.
Coach Snyder: “This losing streak is unbelievable.”
Assistant coach: “Cheer up coach. I guarantee you that we’ll win next week when we play KU.”
* * *
This phonehead talk probably occurred during KU’s loss to Missouri.
Coach Allen: “I’m just dreading my call-in coach’s radio show this week.”
Assistant coach: “Those fans can be brutal, can’t they, sir?”
Coach Allen: “No kidding. You know it’s looking bleak when Coach Roy Williams calls to say it was nice working with you.”
* * *
What if some wires got crossed and the head coach got a message from someone other than his assistant coach. It might sound something like this.
Voice: “I’d like to get a pizza delivered to 1215 N. Broadway. When can you have that here?
Head coach: “Well, judging by the way this game and season are going, I might be looking at a career change. I could probably have it there for you in about three hours.”