I’ve said and written many times that life as a college football beat writer could be a lot worse than covering Maryland. And, like most places, the man in charge is responsible for that.
Sure, Ralph Friedgen can have his grumpy moments. Usually, they’re easy to see coming, which helps. He isn’t constantly on-point, not forever businesslike and single-minded in pursuit of a fleeting peak that would be savored for all of three seconds before the chase begins anew yet again.
At his core, I really believe Friedgen is a raconteur, a man who loves telling stories over and over again. Who cares if they get repeated from time to time? After all, people still stop to watch a rerun of The Simpsons or Seinfeld or Sanford and Son if they see it on (personally, I’m guilty on that count for all three shows).
When Friedgen gets going, it can be really funny. But like some storytellers, he sometimes veers off in directions you couldn’t possibly anticipate, then heads back another way that was equally unpredictable.
Such was the case yesterday, when Friedgen touched on nearly everything under the sun after the Washington Post’s Eric Prisbell asked “You told us you were so upset after the Virginia Tech game, you almost thought about scheduling practice for 5 a.m. and decided not to. You seem to have been able to hit the right buttons at the right time with this team. How do you know when to go hard on them and when to lay off them?”
“Probably from 40 years,” Friedgen began before laughing. It wouldn’t be the last one-liner in the reply, which is as follows:
“Sometimes I battle myself and my immediate raection to things. I’ve kind of learned to take a step back and evaluate the whole situation, kind of rely on the experience that we have on our team and the type of kids we have on our team. Sometimes I see kids after the game, and they get over things maybe faster than coaches do. I think that’s to be expected.
Maybe at one time in my life, I didn’t expect that. when I was a young coach – and I was probably raised this way. My father was a coach, and when we didn’t win a game, we didn’t eat dinner. the lights would shut off and you went to bed. when I got married, I thought it was the same thing. We went to The Citadel and went 2-9 the first year, [shoot], I almost got divorced because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. When we had our first child, I realized she didn’t care if we won or lost. so I kind of got a little better after that.
I don’t know, maybe it was ingrained in me as a kid. I know I had a date one time, I came home, she was a year older than me and invited me to this dance. I don’t know, I got hooked up with the older crowd, and I had an 11 o’clock curfew and I came in at 1. We had lost a rival game that day, and my father was waiting for me when I walked through the door, and I remember him saying ‘You will never date an older woman again in your life.’ And I didn’t, either. He was tough.
It’s taken me a while to adjust to that. It’s even interesting now. We have home games. My house is like a hotel for home games. You call know my wife. She loves to entertain. Like this weekend, we don’t have any girls in the house, but every room will be filled with people. You don’t know what it’s like to come home after a hard week and I’m watching the night game with 20 people in my [house]. I’m just sitting there wanting to thinking about next week.
That’s kind of how life is. I’ve kind of learned to keep things within me and not let other people be affected by it. I think that kind of has turned over to our players, too.”
This three-minute sililoquy came out of nowhere, though somehow Ralph did wind up answering the question in his final two sentences. I’m not sure which of those things – the length of his spiel or the fact he actually provided an answer after talking for so long – is a greater surprise.
Of course, there’s a whole lot of craziness in between, notably Ralph’s scant history of dating older women. But if there’s a choice of listening to odd moments like that or a drumbeat of talk about the importance of linebackers fully wrapping up on tackles and filling their gaps, I’ll take the randomness of Rambling Ralph at any time.