Let it be a rainy day when brave men cry
When you hear a familiar voice in the middle of nowhere, it takes you by surprise before it puts your heart at ease. It was dark and there were only stop lights and high beams, and Lloyd Carr was calling to apologize for taking so long to call me back. I’d like to tell you that this was a fairly insignificant moment in my life, that I’m a journalist and objective and immune to brazen sentimentality. But that wouldn’t be right. That would be a lie. Last night I rented My Best Friend’s Wedding and ate reheated empanadas and cherry Sprite, and fell asleep on the couch listening to Curtis Mayfield. This was a very significant moment in my life.
I think about it while I’m covering a high school baseball game in some
I think about it when Rich Rodriguez is forthcoming and speaking loudly and I remember how Lloyd’s sentences wandered in three different directions and sometimes in no place at all. His voice sounds like a man’s conscience, in both tone and content, and in private, away from the podium, he sounded as defiant as ever, if a little more comfortable being philosophical.
I wrote a profile on Lloyd for this year’s edition of Hail to the Victors, and by the grace of God and the help a certain beat writer I was able to interview him over the phone. Of course, these instances are inherently dangerous: If Lloyd turned out to be a bad or even mediocre person, the last 13 years of my life would mostly be a lie. But none of that came even remotely close to happening.
On a Sunday night two months ago, he called me and he said the next Wednesday at 7:30 would work for an interview. I called him then and there was no answer, and at 9:30 I still hadn’t heard from him. Then the phone rings; it’s him. “So John, I’m watching this debate…Clinton and Obama.” Those were the first words out of his mouth; he sounded pensive and was entirely serious. I hesitated, and before I could respond he said, “You mean you’re not watching it?!” I told him I’d been sitting around for two hours waiting for our interview. I tried to sound sarcastic and jokingly make him feel irresponsible, but in the end I think I just came across as needy and politically uninformed. He chuckled and told me to call him back when it was over.
When we spoke again, I asked him what he thought of the debate. “I thought it was the best of the debates that I’ve watched,” he said. “I haven’t watched them all but I’ve watched a lot of them. I thought Hillary put Obama on the defensive. But I thought he handled himself well. But I thought she, you know, she was aggressive. You know I think they’ve both improved dramatically over the course of this campaign. And it’s been, ha, as tough a campaign as I remember.”
This all sounded so familiar. The players were different, but this was very much still a coach doing what he did best. Lloyd didn’t comment on how each of the two candidates vowed to handle threat of a recession, oil prices, or
“Well I think he’s a great story in terms of his birth and his adolescence and where he’s come from,” he said. “And he is…he has an ability I think to inspire people. And you know, I don’t think there’s been an American politician since JFK where young people have really been this big part of the campaign. All over the country there’s more interest by the young people, and percentage wise a great majority of them are for Obama. And I think that speaks to his ability to inspire. And the question will be, what kind of leader he is, and how tough he is. I think those are the questions that he’s going to have to deal with in this campaign if he gets nominated.”
Here are the parts of our interview which weren’t published in the Hail to the Victors piece:
On how closely he has been following the progress of the team:
LC: I been busy, I spent a lot of my time with my staff, I’m really delighted with the jobs that they’ve come up with. That took a while, and then primarily I’ve been trying to get organized…I’ve given a few speeches, had some discussions about teaching a class next year. And I’m going to go to China here at the end of may with a group that president
On developing the kids as players vs. developing them as human beings:
LC: Well john this is my concept of our job: as the head coach at
On his players’ availability to the media, and how some critics felt they weren’t available enough:
LC: Yeah I didn’t care about that. There’s no body that got more exposure than
Why he didn’t campaign for the title game in ‘06 after the loss to
Another part of the interview, which was absolutely vintage Carr: I asked him about this comment that he made during his retirement press conference: “What it takes is an all-consuming enthusiasm, energy and passion. I had all those things, but, by the same token, I knew there were things I didn't want to do anymore.” Specifically, I asked him if he had gradually lost that enthusiasm, or if the ’07 season did most of the damage. He said, and did not elaborate, “I think it’s exactly what I said that day, John.”
When it was over, when
But on dark nights, when you’re in the middle of nowhere and the only familiar voice is the one in your head, you’ll tell yourself that those moments are all you need. You’ll tell yourself that you met a few good men and loved them enough to cry when you had to see them go. And maybe the voice will sound a little bit like Lloyd’s.