Dirty Dozen Diary: Reflections From A Holiday I Won’t Ever Forget
A writer’s existence is largely a solitary one, reliant upon impenetrable silence and deep, clear thought. When pen in hand, a writer has no friend but facts, wit, and a watchful, whispering God to help make sense of it all.
Were someone to ask me, “What chapter of ‘The Dirty Dozen’ do you remember the most,” I would unequivocally point to Chapter 1. It’s depth and far-reaching arm challenged me like no other throughout the book. It caused me to work overtime, even into the holiday season.
Yes, while the world was wrapping presents and feeling jolly this past Christmas Eve, I sat alone in a darkened room with my laptop, trying to frame the first chapter within the boundaries of coherency. It wasn’t sports or football I pondered on that day so much as it was money, the lack thereof, and a uniquely Americanized version of the age-old problem that confronts a society when its money is being devalued. I pondered chance, circumstance, and the unexplainable door of opportunity.
Agatha Christie once noted, “Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody.” America in the mid-1970s was a nation that unintentionally followed Christie’s advice to perfection. Men had transformed into mice, grasping at any and every crumb on the floor, helpless to supply the need and want so prevalent, hopelessly reliant upon the functions of a political machine they could not fathom.
Widespread inflation had provoked international distrust of the dollar, and even deeper distrust of the politicians and the bankers who helped to weaken it. A nation that once prided itself on being the world leader in industry had somehow devolved, by and large, into one of a paranoid people bent on social unrest. A war in Vietnam that tested the faith and manpower of its military was accompanied by an oil glut that taxed wallets on the home front, leading to numerous pithy demonstrations and long unemployment lines. Then, as if anybody needed another reason to point an accusatory finger at the government, Watergate hit the headlines, burying Richard Nixon and the nation in a grave of infamy and embarrassment.
A similar cloud of skepticism hung over the skies of the National Football League in 1974. Players demanded their rights to free agency, not necessarily for freedom’s sake, but as an access to negotiate higher salaries. Yes, even football players were feeling the strain of America’s lifeless economy.
It was in this arena of national distress that I discovered the unmistakable imprint of Gary Davidson upon the game of professional football. Davidson stormed onto the football scene in 1974 as the founding father of the original World Football League, a second-class football operation that still managed to distinguish itself for its array of cutting-edge ideas.
There have been many harsh words directed toward Davidson and the World Football League over the years, some of them justified, some not. But Davidson should be complimented for one thing in this space. The man came along at an opportune moment, and by doing so helped to change the National Football League forever.
Were it not for such social unrest, Davidson may never have gotten his foot in the door of professional football. And without Davidson and the World Football League offering employment and big money when they did, the Dallas Cowboys’ Dirty Dozen rookie class of 1975 would never have been. And, as the ultimate ironic conclusion to this post, it should also be observed that, without Davidson on the scene, I would never have spent that Christmas Eve alone writing the opening chapter of “The Dirty Dozen” some forty years later.
In my next installment, the focus will shift from social unrest on a national scale back to Dallas, Texas, where Tom Landry was watching the once-mighty Cowboys fall apart before his very eyes.
Thanks for reading.
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