Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"Give 'em the axe where? Right in the neck, the neck, the neck. Right in the neck. Right in the neck, Who?"

We all kno w who. The Stanford Indians--that's who! This famous college football yell is not politically correct, today. No doubt it's a bit too violent for today's tender-eared youth.

We know the name Indians is frowned upon by the PC crowd--which makes us want to use it even more—but that’s another column.

Saturday is the Big Game. And each year a column with this title appears. Like the Game, itself, it's tradition.

Outsiders think we are so arrogant. No one in the country understands how two unranked schools can refer to their contest as “The Big Game.”
Folks assume that for a game to be “Big” something has to be on the line-- the Conference Championship; the Rose Bowl; or the holiest of holies--The BCS (whatever that means) Championship.

That, of course, is to miss20the essence of college football. Despite the bad press, scandals and under the table activities we read about, first and foremost, college football is about student-athletes competing against one another.

Sure, there are some thugs. And, yes some kids are just passing through on the way to the pros. But for the vast majority of seniors, this is the last football game they will ever play.

So the combination of adrenaline, coupled with the "Ya ain't got nothing to lose" mentality inherent in one's final game, make for some extraordinary moments in sport.

We're not talking about a rivalry where each year Heisman Trophy Candidates rise up to accomplish Herculean feats.

No, from Hart and Patton stopping Skip Face short of the goal line on the last play, and sending the Bears to the Rose Bowl fifty years ago, to Kevin Moen knocking over the Stanford trombone player to win the '82 Big Game with no time left on the clock--the rivalry is rife with "Ordinary Joes" accomplishing extraordinary feats.

It's what makes it great. Is there any finer expression of athleticism than what was once referred to as "The Old College Try?” The Big Game is nothing, if not a show case for "TOCT."

The Beauty of "The Old College Try" is that it is not dependent upon physical prowess alone. Heart, determination, courage, guts and grit are the ingredients of "TOCT.” It does not rely upon superior genes or talent. It is a state of mind--dependent solely upon the depth of one's character and the size of one's heart.
"The Old College Try" is not delivered in a vacuum. It is witnessed by family. One of the finest "families" one could ever be associated with--Old Blues.

As you read these words, I will have disappeared from the earth as you know it. Thursday, I leave the Valley to join the "family" and will not re-surface until Sunday. My days and nights will be filled with other rummies like myself.

There are dozens of reunions throughout the City. Wherever one gathers, it is the best one of the week. For us, The Mother of them all is the Friday Men's lunch. It was started over 30 years ago at the now defunct New Pizza. It was mostly ruggers, and former footballers--boys, Coach Joe Marvin once called "The fellows who fought the Battle of Berkeley back in the 60's". We know what he meant.

That's when our school yell went from "Roll on you Bears" to "Ashes to ashes/Dust to dust/We hate to go on strike/But we must, we must!"

No parents wanted their kids to come to Cal back then. We were considered a bunch of Commie, Pinko, Weirdoes. It’s a wonder football survived.

My friend defined the lunch with this classic line: "No invitations. That means no jerks. Just good=2 0guys inviting good guys".
We gather to re-tell the same old, stories--laugh way too loud--and return to the halcyon days of yore when everything was possible, and no one could best us--neither footballer nor female.

(In truth, we lost way more times than we won--in both areas--but who's counting). At least we gave it "The Old College Try."

Ours is a friendship held together over the years--not through our triumphs, but through our failures. For that's where the laughs are. In the screw ups. In the errors in judgment. In the vain attempts to be more than we were.

Had we been suave. Had we been cool. Had we succeeded each time--in class--on the field--with the co-eds-- we'd have little to talk about. And nothing to laugh about.

When the sentence begins with "How 'bout the time......." you can be assured it has nothing to do with a triumph.

Mostly it has to do with some humiliating failure which the PCer's would consider a lowering of self-esteem--and which we consider too funny for words.

It is good that we are off by ourselves. The world would never approve of our past shenanigans. It certainly wouldn't approve of the way we laugh about them now. We’d never pass Obama’s background checks.

We were not nice boys. On the other hand, we were just that--boys. Doing things that boys do, and grown men can look back upon and laugh at. Maybe it's a guy thing. My kids don't believe me, but no truer words were ever spoken than when we tell them at their moments of failure, "Don't worry. We'll laugh about this later." If only they knew that it's not succeeding that matters. Giving it the "Old College Try" does. GO BEARS. GIVE' EM THE AXE1

Much sadness during this week of joy. For a great article on Pete Newell and his passing on Monday read Bruce Jenkins, A Man Who Was A Legend Even to Other Legends


Alas, we lost another Giant with the passing of John Erby. Here's a note "Jeans" sent me on Coach Erby. He was a true American hero and a great man.

John Erby, veterans advocate, dies
He won honors in Vietnam War
By Rebecca Goodman • rgoodman@enquirer.com • November 14, 2008

WEST CHESTER TWP - John W. Erby lost part of his right leg in Vietnam. He came home with a prosthesis and a new outlook on life.

"I realized then that no matter how bad you think you have it, there's someone not far away who has it so much worse," Mr. Erby told The Enquirer in 2005. "So I figured, 'Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Get up and go help someone. That'll make you feel better.' That's been my philosophy."

Mr. Erby spent the rest of his life advocating for veterans and teaching schoolchildren to be good citizens.

He was adjutant of Chapter 156 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and president of Chapter 10 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He served on the governor's Office of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee and was active with JROTC and ROTC programs. In 2005 he was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

Mr. Erby, 68, died unexpectedly in his sleep Sunday at his home in West Chester Township.

He was a 27-year-old first lieutenant and a platoon leader with the 25th Army Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1968 when he came under mortar fire in the Battle for Fire Support Base Burt. He received two Purple Hearts and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm, awarded by the South Vietnamese government for heroic deeds while fighting the enemy.

After the war, Mr. Erby was hired to be the assistant line coach at the University of California, Berkeley, where he had played football and received a bachelor's degree in criminology. He became the first African-American football coach in the PAC-8 conference. He left the job in 1972 and went to work for Levi Strauss, retiring in 1997.

Mr. Erby enjoyed taking students to see the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. He also wrote a program called "Veterans in the Classroom" that told the story of sacrifices made by veterans of the Vietnam War. He presented it at schools in Greater Cincinnati. He also taught flag folding and etiquette.

A native of Rosston, Ark., he was born on May 7, 1940, to Mary T. Harvey and John Erby. He was raised in Fresno, Calif., by his grandparents Willie and Ida Harvey.

Mr. Erby enjoyed listening to jazz, reading mystery novels, rooting for the Chicago Bears, golfing and cooking.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Delores Erby; two daughters, Kimberly G. and Shannon N. Erby, both of California; five brothers, Terrell and Bruce Thomas, Bill Self and Dolphus Trotter and Bill Gray; and four sisters, Wilma Francis, Gwen Williams, Bennie Lee and Chrystal Headlam.

Visitation is 10 a.m. today followed by the funeral at noon at Hodapp Funeral Home, 8815 Cincinnati-Columbus Road (U.S. 42) in West Chester Township. Mr. Erby's remains were cremated.

Memorial gifts are suggested to Joseph House Home for Homeless Vets, 1522 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 10, 8418 Reading Road, Cincinnati, OH 45215; or the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Ohio, 35 E. Chestnut St., Suite 408, Columbus, OH 43215.

And don't forget to Vote for Alex Mack. You can do it once a day at this link:


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