“An Outhouse in a Fog”

One of the great coaching comments in all of Tennessee football history came in spring practice 1927, and that’s understatement. Fullback Dave McArthur apparently grew weary running the same play, the famed No. 10 off-tackle play, over and over.

McArthur finally took a deep breath and raised the following question to Bob Neyland, probably not the smartest thing he could have done, but he did it anyway.

“Major,” he said, “haven’t we had that play before?”

Neyland, who was known not to tolerate fools lightly, had a ready and quick response.

“My goodness, McArthur.” Neyland responded, veins perhaps bulging in his neck, “you sound like someone looking for an outhouse in a fog.”

That’s what is alleged to have been said. Tom Siler of the KN-S said so in a 1961 book.

Whatever happened after that must have worked. Tennessee earned an 8-0-1 record, winning the Southern Conference title. Neyland was 16-1-1 in his first two seasons, a record that must have looked like manna from heaven to victory-starved Vol fans.

There are those who say this and other wonderful conversations never took place. It’s much the way folks say Yogi Berra never said all the things he has been accused of saying over the years and are only embellished by the telling.

What do we make of this?

The legend of sport is richer for these little vignettes. Maybe Knute Rockne, or Pat O’Brien, even, never actually said, “Win one for the Gipper.” Who knows? What would that have done to the acting and/or political career of Ronald Reagan?

There’s a simple answer to all this:

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013