Thursday, January 29, 2004
Vengeance was mine
By Jason Whitlock Page 2 columnist
HOUSTON -- I wimped out.
For more than 15 years, I'd fantasized about confronting Dave Magazu again. To be honest, I'd dreamed of pimp-slapping him and unleashing a verbal assault riddled with so many four-letter words that even Dice Clay would blush.
I didn't anticipate feeling sorry for Mags. How could I feel sympathy for a man who spent two years trying to ruin my life? How could I take pity on the despicable football coach who single-handedly destroyed my deep love of the game?
Dave Magazu, the target of Jason Whitlock's ire.
How could I wimp out? Hell, I'd replayed this moment in my mind at least once a week ever since the day Magazu left Ball State University in 1986 to take a job at the Naval Academy.
But here it was, Media Day at Super Bowl XXXVIII, and Magazu was bald, bloated, barely relevant and pushing 50 -- a tight ends coach for the Carolina Panthers. In my dreams, I'd always envisioned Magazu being a head coach somewhere, at the pinnacle of his career, and I'd ride in with a laptop and horror stories to tell about a celebrated coach and the atrocities he committed on his way to the top.
I dreamed of revenge.
Magazu spent two years trying to run me off the Ball State football team. He was my offensive line coach, and he hated my smart mouth and Nate Newton figure. He'd cuss me out in front of my teammates. In my freshman and sophomore seasons, he kept me off the two-deep and had me sitting the bench behind a few guys who apparently thought football was a non-contact sport. (Sorry, Vinny "The Human Pylon.") Magazu would wake me up most Saturday mornings during the offseason and put me through a "help session," physical torture that was supposed to "help" me remember to keep my mouth shut ... no food in and no words out.
You ever see "Full Metal Jacket"? Mags was the drill sargeant. I was a combination of Private Joker and the fat kid who couldn't do anything right.
So why did I wimp out on Media Day? Why didn't I pull the trigger when, for the first time in 17 years, I had my chance to even the score with Mags?
Because he just looked and sounded too pathetic.
"You hate me so much you ain't even gonna speak to me, Jason?" Magazu asked as I stood on the Reliant Stadium turf catching up with Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac, another one of my former Ball State coaches.
"Yeah, that's right," I replied, figuring there were too many witnesses to risk sucker-punching Magazu at that moment.
Plus, he caught me off guard. He'd been standing in front of me for 15 minutes. I had no idea the bald fat guy in front of me was Mags. I had him pegged as an equipment manager. So I continued my conversation with Trgovac. He'd been a defensive line coach at Ball State during my career there. Back then, Trgo was a young, emotional coach with a deep passion for learning every aspect of the game. Trgo and our defensive coordinator, Rick Minter, were two guys most of the players felt were headed for coaching greatness. Minter had a successful 10-year run as head coach at Cincinnati. Trgovac has all the ingredients to be a top-flight NFL or college head coach. He's been groomed by Bo Schembechler, Lou Holtz, Ray Rhodes, John Fox, Marty Schottenheimer, Norv Turner and a few others.
While devising a defensive attack against the Pats, Mike Trgovac played peacemaker, too.
It was on Wednesday that I blew my opportunity to put Magazu in his place and started to feel sorry for him. We were at the Panthers' team hotel waiting to conduct interviews when Trgovac stopped me.
"Jason, I talked to Mags and I told him that you and him need to sit down and talk and put all of this stuff behind you," Trgo said.
"I ain't puttin' nothin' behind me," I responded. "Magazu was a [expletive], a [expletive expletive]. I've been waiting a long time to get at him."
Minutes later, Rhonda, a reporter on my radio show, stopped me.
"I just talked to your old coach," she said. "He said you had a lot of potential and he was just trying to motivate you. He said you were lazy."
"I'm not denying I was lazy. I'm not denying I was a locker-room lawyer," I said. "This ain't about me. This is about him being a [expletive]. This is about Magazu trying to embarrass me and run me off the team. I was a victim."
I finished my interviews and began to walk back to the media shuttle. That's when I heard his voice one more time.
"Jason, can we talk?" he said.
"What?" I said.
"Maybe my methods weren't right, but all I was doing was trying to help," Magazu said. "You had a lot of potential, and we were a new coaching staff and we needed to establish right off that everything was going to be done by the book."
"Man," I said, "you took away my love of the game. I loved to play that game. And you stole that from me."
"Hey, for whatever I did that was wrong, I'm sorry," Magazu said. "But you turned out all right. When I left, you got to play and start. And you seem to be enjoying some success in your career. It all worked out. Can we just leave it in the past and move on?"
"Congratulations on the Super Bowl," I said. "Good luck on Sunday."
I wimped out.
Nearly two decades of dreaming, and all I could muster is congratulations. I sure hope Carolina's tight ends play poorly and John Fox fires Mags. That would even the score.
Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at email@example.com.