Dear Larry: football is football, war is war

Here we tiresomely go again: a millionaire football coach equating his sport, somehow, with military and war.


Stop it.

North Carolina Coach Larry Fedora made news Wednesday at his ACC media day presser when he complained football was “under attack” in our country because of our noodle-legged concerns for player safety.

“I fear that the game will be pushed so far from what we know that we won’t recognize it 10 years from now," Fedora told reporters. "And if it does, our country will go down, too.”

Wait…our country will go down if we continue to ask serious questions about brain injuries to players WHO DON’T EVEN GET PAID?

Fedora, apparently on his way to a Flat Earth Society convention, also said he doesn’t believe the science is in on CTE injuries caused by football.

Fedora also asked a general once what made the U.S. military so great. The general told Fedora it was because we were the only football-playing nation in the world. Wait, isn't Canada a football-playing nation that, according to some, once burned down the White House?

Frankly, I thought we had matured as a God-fearing country on this football-as-war metaphor.

Apparently not.

So, if Fedora insists, allow me to repeat a little army “ditty” I heard at the Berkeley barracks last year after Labor Day.


“In 2017 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Wilcox past the mighty Mississip. We took a little bacon, we took a couple tees, and we beat the bloody Tar Heels in the basketball town of Dean.”

In other words, if you’re going to get all “military” with football the first rule of war is to not get invaded at home by Grenada.

And boy, last year, did Fedora’s boys get sneak attacked. A rag-tag force known as the University of California, a bunch of lily-liver softies from the land of Timothy Leary, came guns blazing into North Carolina and scored a stunning, 35-30, win.

This is the same Cal team that lost to General Washington and General Washington State, in consecutive weeks, by the combined scores of 75-10.

If football was war, Fedora would have handed his sword over and surrendered all his contract perks.

Of course, football is never war and today’s coaches need to be called out every time they pull their heads out of the sand to speak.

I understand and respect why coaches like football and war analogies, in fact, there’s an entire George Carlin comedy routine about the linguistic differences between football and baseball.

I appreciate coaches who appreciate military history. The book shelf in former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden’s office was filled with biographies on his favorite generals.

Bowden, sick as a child in Birmingham, grew up listening to World War II reports on his radio.

Years ago I visited Tallahassee to preview to preview Florida State’s upcoming bowl game against UCLA. I sat across from Bowden and at one point asked him to name his favorite general.

After some consideration he answered “Napoleon.”

Bowden, then in his late 70s, was under considerable heat after leading his team through a mediocre season. Many thought it was time to hang up his fedora.

I mentioned “Waterloo” to Bowden and noted Napoleon’s career didn’t end well, either.

“Yeah,” Bowden said without missing a beat. “He played in the Emerald Bowl too.”

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Bowden, though, best I can recall, never compared veteran quarterback Chris Weinke to Stonewall Jackson.

Fedora’s comments speak to a general tone-deaf myopia that still afflicts a few modern-day coaches who apparently don’t keep up on science, or current events.

Fedora has the right to say what he wants and we have the right to put his tunnel vision in context.

Football is not war.

Maybe I’ll send Fedora a copy of the book my dad, for the benefit of his kin, is writing on his experiences in the Korean War as a grunt in the Army’s 160th regiment.

Dad never talked much about war when we were young but I knew he was in one by the long scar that ran up his stomach.

Dad is writing the book in sections (I'm editing) and right now it’s 1951 and he’s fighting for his life in Tokyo General. My dad, who manned a light machine gun called a BAR, had his guts split open somewhere near Hill 747.

“They were chopping us up,” dad, who just turned 85, writes. “I looked up and saw a China man coming at me with a hand grenade and I squeezed off a few rounds and he hit the snow. The grenade landed near me and exploded, blowing my weapon out of my hands and me under a bush.”

Dad was only saved because he rolled into cover down a snow bank and was later rescued by his sergeant. Dad, for good measure, on the way out, was also shot through the wrist.

My dad never played football.

Look, I’ll cut Fedora some slack because it’s still July and his brain might still be water skiing. Maybe he’ll hold a press conference tomorrow and say he left out a word.

What may not blow over, though, is North Carolina losing the return battle at Cal this year.

Until then, Mr. Fedora, when it comes to football and war, here's another ditty: "Put a feather in your cap and call it macaroni."