Love's Lone Ranger
Ben Korgen has had a highly varied career. He served in the US Navy, earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth, earned a master's degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, then coached high school football, earned a PhD in Oceanography at Oregon State University and had a long and rewarding career in Oceanography at the US Naval Oceanographic Office, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Tulane University in New Orleans.
Love's Lone Ranger
O n a cool, 1939 autumn evening in Westlake, Wisconsin, eleven year old Rudy Tripp was riveted to his battered seat in the Old Harbor Theater being emotionally swept away by movie newsreel accounts of American-style college football games. The impact of these accounts was so strong, it swamped Rudy's mind with an unswerving conviction that he would become the greatest football coach in history. In his final season of small college football, Rudy was a second team halfback spending most of his time on the Westlake College bench. For three and a half seasons, Rudy had been annoying his coaches by constantly offering them ideas for improving the team's performance. In the Westlake locker room after the fourth loss of his senior season, Rudy threw a frantic, shouting tantrum that alarmed all the coaches and other players present.
Westlake head football coach John Holstrom ushered Rudy into an unoccupied locker room office and agreed to start listening to his ideas. While struggling to formulate what he should say, Holstrom suddenly accepts that he is so close to retirement, he has lost all interest in coaching football. Among his closest friends, he is starting to make statements about recruiting such as "If you want a circus, you have to get the animals" and about playing such as "You have to be crazy to play this game."
Impulsively, Holstrom tells Rudy he has always been impressed by his ideas but could not bear to use them because they would change everything in their playbook and he was just too old and tired to face being demoted to a beginner trying to learn everything from scratch. He added that he planned to stop coaching football immediately, did not think his assistant coaches were competent enough to take over his position and vowed to convince the Westlake College administration that they must provide a special-case dispensation allowing Rudy to take over the team as player-coach for the upcoming big rivalry game with Splitcrag College.
Going into the Splitcrag game, football experts give Westlake no chance of winning. Splitcrag head coach Dorcon Kelbram would be fielding an undefeated team that won its first four games by big scores. In private, Kelbram expresses love and admiration for his own players and for opposing players who play hard to beat his teams. During all Splitcrag practice sessions and games, Kelbram is a strict disciplinarian who provides specific rules for his players to follow when they face every conceivable offensive formation, individual play, defensive alignment, non-typical stunt, kicking game possibility, overall strategy and tactic. Kelbram calls these rules his "keys" and believes they are largely responsible for his many coaching successes.
Media coverage feasts on any unusual, strange, freaky or unbelievable incidents that occur during American-style football games at the big university and professional levels. This is ironic because football player and coach numbers form a pyramid, with a tiny fraction of people located at the highest levels. If players and coaches at all levels were equally likely to cause unusual events, most accounts of these events would be found at the lowest levels of the pyramid. This effect should be magnified by increases in coach and player mistakes moving downward into the lower levels of the pyramid.
One does not need to go far downward from the top of this pyramid to find more abnormal events than could be found among the closer to perfection players and coaches at the top. The next level down is found at the small colleges. One of the best examples that avoided national and international media coverage occurred during the 1950 Splitcrag verses Westlake small colleg