- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Sen. George Allen’s political opponents have cited his sister’s memoir to portray him as a bully, but an attentive read of her recollections of growing up with football-minded men provides deep insight into the Virginia Republican’s past now at issue in his re-election campaign. “Fifth Quarter: The Scrimmage of a Football Coach’s Daughter” by Jennifer Allen includes some eyebrow-raising passages such as a young George Allen dragging his sister by her hair or hitting her boyfriend with a pool cue, incidents that are often noted by Mr. Allen’s Democratic foes. But his critics don’t use excerpts noting that the senator was a star student or how he set out a chair in honor of his late father, famed NFL coach George H. Allen, at his 1994 gubernatorial inauguration. “He got straight A’s, even when he acted like a hick,” Miss Allen writes in the book, published in 2000 just before George, the oldest of her three brothers, was elected to the Senate. Mr. Allen’s youth, particularly his stint as a second-string quarterback for the University of Virginia, has become a campaign issue since some former teammates have accused him of racism and uttering racial slurs while there. If young George had any racist tendencies, Miss Allen kept them out of “Fifth Quarter,” which casts the family with an international understanding and Coach Allen as a man who was colorblind on the field. In reading the book, it is easy to understand why the senator equates almost everything with football — his family lived, breathed and died by the game. The coach’s career with the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins (during which he never had a losing season) taught the children about loyalty, the power of the press and appreciation of physical strength. “George never cried; I didn’t think he even knew how,” is one revealing passage from the book, which opens with 8-year-old Jennifer’s observations of the 1968 football season. “I saw George get blindsided by a car, roll over its hood and land shoulder-first onto the pavement to make a diving catch without shedding a tear,” she remembers of her brother, nine years her senior. Mr. Allen often invokes his father’s favorite phrase, “The future is now,” especially when asked about his 2008 presidential ambitions. The phrase is pertinent today, as he is nearly tied with Democratic challenger James H. Webb Jr., a Vietnam veteran and Navy secretary under President Reagan. “Fifth Quarter” also provides an understanding of Henrietta “Etty” Allen, the family’s brash matriarch. Raised in French Tunisia, Mrs. Allen frequently cursed at reporters, fans of opposing football teams and her children. “Fifth Quarter” depicts a dysfunctional family obsessed with football. One night soon after a Rams loss, Coach Allen and middle son Gregory argued after the boy failed to pour him a glass of milk. “Dad lifted Gregory up by the shirt collar. … Dad picked up a plate and George stood up. It was the first time I had seen anyone take a stand against Dad. George said, ‘If you’re going to hit him, you’ll have to hit me first.’ ” Jennifer, who ran from the room and hid in her closet, didn’t spell out what happened next between her father and George, but Gregory ended up with a broken nose. The book sometimes portrays young George as a violent teen who called his sister “ugly,” but Miss Allen also says she wanted her brothers to “turn me upside down, rough me up, because I thought I was in training to be the NFL’s first girl quarterback.” Some choice quotes include “George hoped someday to become a dentist …a perfect profession — getting paid to make people suffer,” and “Ever since my brother George held me over the railing at Niagara Falls, I’ve had a fear of heights.” Attempts by The Washington Times to reach the author, now Jennifer Richard, were unsuccessful, but she told the Associated Press in May that the pool cue incident wasn’t violent — her brother was testing her boyfriend’s reflexes. Calling “Fifth Quarter” a “novelization of the past,” Mrs. Richard told the AP that when George walked her down her wedding aisle in the absence of their late father, “He was crying more than anybody.” The author notes in the acknowledgments that she consulted with her family while writing the memoir: “My brother George sat with me for hours by the pool one day, measuring out parcels of his past, all the while reminding me to remain faithful to the facts.”


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