I was sore afraid that bad news was brewing in the thicket when Aunt Maude called. Thankfully, there was not, and Maude—unlike her impetuous hubby—assured me that it would be a quick call. She was on a pay phone at the crossroads while my 90-year-old uncle milled about in the general store.
"I flat out don't know what to do with Mort," she said, "Since the kids gave him the cell phone and told him they'd pay the bill, he's making calls day and night."
I winced, understanding the situation as well as one can from a distance. This was the first time my old aunt ever called, so I knew it was a serious matterŠ.
"He's acting crazier than he did 50 years ago when he claimed invention of the hula hoop," Maude said. Oh, I remember it well. When he found out that more than 100 million hoops were sold during the first two years, he argued that it was "his idea first."
Never mind that his concept called for triangular configuration.
"If my hoop had caught on, the kids could have been gyrating like Elvis before there was an Elvis," Mort snortedŠ.
Maude has stood by Mort for 65 years; she knows his quirks. The rest of us know that he'd have to slide several rungs back down the normalcy ladder just to be labeled "eccentric."
Oh, she needled him for trading in his pick-up for a golf cart when gas prices soared. Wondering if marbles had loosened, I asked her point blank if his mental state might be shaky.
"Let's put it this way," she answered. "As long as he's out, I don't think they'll lock him up, but if they ever lock him up, I doubt if they'll ever let him out."
She asked me to call Mort. I did, learning that he's trying to "get into the bobble-head doll business." Specifically, he wants to round up Dennis Franchione bobble-heads for re-sale.
"I've been on the phone trying to find ‘em," Mort said. "Crimson Tide faithful had thousands left when the coach bolted from Alabama to Texas A&M."
He rambled on about possible caches of Franchione bobble-heads at previous stops—New Mexico and TCU. "In a few more weeks, there'll be a glut of ‘em in College Station," he predictedŠ.
Mort was primed to provide minute details of Franchione's secret e-mails about Aggie football sent weekly to a dozen or so super donors. I interrupted, mentioning that the e-mails were halted when the athletic director got wind of it. I told Mort that football fans may be tired of this well-worn sports story.
"That's just the point," Mort injected. "Loyal fans may be even more loyal now, and his critics may like him even less. Either way, I think I can peddle the dolls. Worst case scenario, there's always Big Lots and eBay."
My eyes rolledŠ.
He was awash in speculation, wondering if each super donor may have been referred to as "our 13th man," or perhaps "promised first dibs on Reveille's pups."
"And what about hundreds of other donors who THOUGHT they were super donors?" Mort questioned
"On top of that, sportswriters don't expect coaches to ‘tell all,' but they expect to have as much information as favored fans do."
Then, he switched to marketing plans. "For Franchione faithful, I'll offer the autographed dolls," Mort said. "And for his critics, I'll send sandpaper along."
He claimed that fans into voodoo will snatch up the dolls, offered with extra needles painted in school colors.
I cautioned him about lead paint and suggested heavy-duty needlesŠ.
"I'll guarantee lead-free paint, applied right here in the thicket," Mort countered.
I heard thundering in the thicket, and the phone went dead. My head whirled with dismay about this crazy world.
I felt sorry for coaches (and other highly visible figures) who too often make bad decisions in a vacuum. Surely they have sense enough to trot their far-out plans by their confidants before implementation. But no. There will always be those for whom plenty is never enough, and believe that it's easier to apologize than to get permissionŠ.
Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 817-447-3872. His website: www.speakerdoc.com