In the early 1940’s a man emerged from the collegiate depths to coach a newly formed professional football team. His name was Coach Grey Ramblin, a pugnacious man with a stern dedication for winning, talking, and talking about winning. Among some of the traits he possessed was a deep knowledge of football, a fondness for cliches, and perhaps his greatest attribute-the ability to motivate.
Coach Ramblin was born in a small town outside of Chicago called Chatsville. He was an only child with two cats. Grey was a fast learner. By the age of two, he was able to go to the bathroom all by himself even though it was in a litter box. Early in his child hood, young Grey was given a football by his father which he would neatly tucked under his pillow every night before drifting off to sleep. It was not unusual for Grey to dream about scoring the winning touchdown in the big game.
Nor was it unusual for Grey to wake up with a kink in his neck. Grey began playing football at the ripe age of eight where he excelled enough to compete in the Junior Pee Wee Division that hosted the eleven to twelve-year-old boys. Although he was out of his league he was in a league of his own. He played outside linebacker where he learned to break the bones of kids twice his size. Needless to say, this made his mother and father very proud. In high school, Grey Ramblin made a name for himself, which he put on the back of his jersey. Within six years he was a four year All-American who helped bring the school four metro-regional titles. With a zest for winning and a flavor for hitting, Grey was recruited to a top college. second only to an ex-con, “Ten Year” Turner, who had a zest for winning and a flavor for murder. During his third freshmen year, Grey was moved to tailback where he easily trounced over his opponents and his English professor-twice. Young Ramblin had the agility and intelligence of a baby ox. Throughout his seven year duration at Fluncan U., he shattered the records of great alumni like Sherman “Tank” Grabinski, Bobby “Tiger” Lily, and the immortal Scampy Davis Jr. After college, Grey was a first-round draft pick for the Erie Groundhogs. He started in the backfield with a 220 lb. fullback named “Tire Stud” McGuiness, who had recently come off of a good year. As the year progressed so did Grey’s amazing feats. He led the league in rushing, most touchdowns scored, and hospitalized opponents. This made his now senile parents somewhat conscious. During the last game of Grey’s first season, he got the call for a thirty-eight trap late in the third quarter. The play had worked well all day but on this particular instance Grey would soon discover that it wasn’t his day. As the hole opened there appeared to be nothing but daylight. When Grey reached the daylight he was met by a huge middle linebacker named “Tiny Feet” Jones who quickly brought about nightfall. After the brief eclipse, Grey lay motionless on the field next to his helmet and left shoe. The crowd held their breath and did not order an alcoholic beverage until young Ramblin was swept off the field on a stretch er. As he lay in the ambulance unconscious Grey would later state that he had a near coaching experience. “I saw a bright light about the size of a tackle dummy. As I got nearer to it I notice that it was a glowing figure dressed in a Bears helmet and shoulder pads holding a football and a bottle of lemon lime Gatorade. It said to me, ‘Grey, you’re playing days are over but your life has just begun. You were not meant to be a player. You were meant to be something much greater. Now go, go and teach others the gifts that you were blessed with.” And with that, the football spirit kicked the ball high into the air where it was transformed from a pigskin into a dove. I watched the dove gracefully circle until it finally crapped in my hair and flew away.”
Grey Ramblin suffered a severe concussion and a torn Achilles heel which rendered him useless to ever play football again. At first, he could only mumble a few incoherent words but soon he was able to mumble a full incoherent sentence. In no time he found himself slowly walking about the hospital corridors knocking unsuspecting patients down. The doctors weren’t so amazed at his recovery as they were at his impeccable tackling technique. The nurses found that Grey loved to talk except during a sponge bath in which he would just hum his college fight song. After his release from the hospital Grey knew his playing days were over. He used to say, My playing days are over but I can still shine a tomato. People were amazed at his acceptance. but baffled by the statement. For years, Grey became a student of the game of football. He could often be found in the corner of the library reading old play books and counting his toes. He read about infamous players, extraordinary teams, and the people who coached them. One of Grey’s all time favorites was a coach by the name of Stubb Peterson-a head coach of the Dubuque Snow Bunnies from 1923 1936. Stubb had the uncanny ability to transform an average individual into a superb team player while repeatedly coaxing them to eat all of their vegetables. Through his thirteen year reign, his team came close to winning nine championships but failed as a result of losing each of the nine games.
Stubb world always state, “It’s not whether you win or lose it’s covering the point spread and collecting from the bookie,” In 1942, at the height of World War II. Grey received a phone call to coach a newly formed team called the Laming Burros. (Grey also received a call from M.C.L. but the friends and family plan confused him.) Without hesitation, he took the job for peanuts with an option to have them roasted in the next season. The team had come off a poor season only because they lacked the ability to win and would run every time they saw their opponents shadow. The Burros were notorious for making jack-asses of themselves. Grey would soon change this. Right away. Coach Ramblin started drilling his new recruits for the upcoming sea son. His techniques were much different than anyone had ever seen before. It was not unusual for Grey to scold a player and put him over his knee to administer a good old fashion spanking. Grey was very strict and would often cut a player if he requested another spanking Although Grey would holler and scream a lot be had a gentleness about him. This side was often seen during the traditional “shower lecture” he gave as the recruits washed up. Grey was a firm believer that warm water opened pores in the young impressionable minds, not to mention the wonders it did for a player’s complexion. The coach never spoke on the same subject twice. If he did, the players never remembered, they were usually busy scrubbing each other’s backs.
“Gentlemen,” Grey would always begin, “We have a big year ahead of us. If you can’t handle the soy sauce then you can take that to the bank ’cause we don’t need you around. We’re here to win, or maybe tie, but not lose. Loser’s are nickel a dozen so don’t think you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket. This is the big leagues, gentlemen. If the shoe doesn’t fit you go see the equipment manager. Remember, I can only do so much. I can lead a donkey to water but I can’t make him dance. The Waltz begins now, so learn the music. Get a partner if you have to but we’re going to top of the ice cream.” Although Ramblin seemed to ramble, the players found it inspiring. Often times, they would charge on to the field only to realize that they were naked with lather in their hair. The coach molded the immature boys into bigger immature boys. He not only prepared them for football, he also prepared them for bed every night. After he felt all their toothbrushes to make sure they were wet, he would tuck in each of his players then read them “The Little Train That Could.” If a player had trouble sleeping the coach would sit on the end of the bed and sing in his rasp voice, “Someone To Watch Over Me.” However, Gerswin would have been baffled by the lyrics the coach made up.
Year after year, the coach began the season with a team of misfits who had one thing in common: they were all misfits. At the end of every season, the same question would be asked. “How did Ramblin’s team ever make it to the championship?” There were no Heisman Trophy winners. There were no stand outs. No one ever held any records. No one pierced their nose. They were just an average team that won. Every year Grey would simply respond, “Have you seen my pants?” Grey certainly had football in his blood (along with a fifth of bourbon). Towards the end of his illustrious career, fatigue and Alzheimer’s had set in. During a play off game, the coach led the team to victory unfortunately the wrong team. Nobody bothered to tell him he had been coaching from the opponent’s sidelines. (His players thought he was still in the showers giving a pre-game pep talk.) In 1954, Coach Grey Ramblin retired. Two years later, the coach was elected Senator of Pennsylvania where he went on to become Speaker of the House. In 1966, Grey Ramblin retired from politics-right after he was seen on live television debating himself.
Jeff Charlebois is a wheel chair comedian billed as “a sit-down comic who’s always on a roll.” Author of “Medical Secrets Revealed.” See Marketplace.