Columbia, S.C. 2017
I asked him where it had all gone wrong, some five years ago, what had happened that had caused America to change so profoundly.
"Well," he said, shifting his visor a little. "I don't know. I was just drawin' up some ball-plays, lookin' forward to a year of Connor Shaw and not havin' to worry about what Stephen was going to do, so on, so forth, when these police officers of some type come in, said college football had been banned. Made me walk out with 'em, said I couldn't say 'click clack' or nothing no more.
"Did hear a few years ago that they turned the stadium into the world's largest grit bowl or something."
But how had we gotten to that point? I pressed him for an answer.
"I guess it was all 'cause we ignored that Canadian with the Chia pet hair for too long. Thought nobody would take a guy seriously who came from the same country as Martin Short, this and that."
And what about Malcolm Gladwell's accomplice on that infamous night?
"Buzz Bissinger? Whatever happened to him anyway? I don't know, never read his book, so on so forth. Only guy I'd ever seen could make Will Muschamp look balanced.
"Anyway, I got more time to play golf now, so it's not all bad. And I found out that I can beat Ray Goff at Words With Friends every time. So that's fun or what have you."
- - -
He was a kindly looking old man when I found him on the streets of New York City, but I couldn't tell exactly what he was saying to the construction worker until I got closer.
"It'th like my wife alwayth told me. She thaid, 'Lou, you can't ride a horthe until you put the thaddle on. Tho juth follow that advithe, and you'll go far."
The construction worker looked puzzled at this, then turned again to his work with the jackhammer, as the man attempt to yell over the sound of the jackhammer, spit flying from his mouth.
I caught up to the old man a few blocks later and asked him how he was doing, given what had happened.
"Well, Lee Cortho and I tharted a bridge club with Fowler and Craig Jameth. It'th not that bad, exthept that Lee hath to thart every bid with that 'Not tho fath my friend' nonthenthe.
"We enjoy watching Erin on Danthing with the Thars. You know she'th now won it for five yearth in a row, thince she'th not dithtracted by football anymore."
Had he heard what had happened to the man who helped Malcolm Gladwell kill football.
"One thing I've alwayth known: You don't talk to the shark after the tuna'th been eaten," he said.
I walked away, more confused than ever.
- - -
Eventually, I made my way to Philadelphia, where I ran into a haggard homeless man who was yelling at everything. It was a while before I finally recognized his visage.
"Buzz," I said. "What's the matter?"
"I didn't know what would happen," Bissinger muttered. "I just didn't know.
"When college football was banned, then people started losing interest in high school football. Now I can't sell any more books. It's not like anyone actually read the La Russa book -- me and Tony just bought a few million copies and burned them in a field somewhere.
"And now, look at me -- I'm poor. I have nothing but my Twitter account and a dog-eared copy of Friday Night Lights. You want to buy it?"