As I sat in the audience at the Laurens County Touchdown Club on Thursday, munching a remarkable facsimile of the same yeast roll I ate after getting off a school bus 45 years ago, I thought about what I could possibly write about Keith Richardson that I haven’t ever written before.
As I watched my high school head coach extol some of the manly virtues he once impressed upon me, I realized that I have two principal influences … on my profession as a journalist.
Richardson didn’t intentionally hone my writing style, but it was useful because he couldn’t teach me how to be a great football player. He taught me guts. He taught me not to back down. He taught me to write what I see. After years on the practice field and beneath the lights of Friday nights, standing up to Dale Earnhardt or Bill France Jr. was easy. It time, they grew to respect me for it.
The other influence? Oh, Bugs Bunny, of course. Bugs used to cross his eyes and say, “Of course you know this means war.” May still do it, for all I know.
I was happy to hear Richardson tell the audience of players, fans, coaches, business persons, educators and three members of the media that there is no such thing as luck. He believes it and has always taught it. Other team fumbled? We made the play. We fumble? Didn’t protect the ball. Ball bounce funny? Get away from it.
He and I have quibbled on this subject. It is my view that luck exists but not in the long run. It is his view that luck does not, repeat, does not exist. Richardson’s teams were the masters of their souls; he was the captain of their fates.
What I gained from this Richardson doctrine was a career-long annoyance with coaches who make excuses. When a coach starts holding court about how if the ball had bounced differently just a half dozen times, the team could be 7-2 instead of 2-7, I start to nod off. If a team loses repeatedly because of luck, it’s something else.
The reconciliation from my coach’s position and my own is that, while I suspect, once in a very great while, there might be something akin to luck, it is functional not to believe luck or anything else can beat you.
Which leads to my favorite Richardson corollary, “If you won’t be beat, you can’t be beat.”
He didn’t get beat much.