Super Lou and SuperBowl

Furman Bisher

Furman Bisher

Ah yes, this is the way you cover the Super Bowl. It’s a circus built into a string of tables as long as a football field — a field of microphones popping up like a field of corn. Guys from New Hampshire to Oregon, all living the luxury of an expense account, making sounds like a gabble of gobblers. And yes, that is Lou Holtz over there, working the gang from table to table.

Lou has gone commercial, you know. Analysts, they call them, but Lou comes on glib as ever. Which reminds me of a day at the Atlanta Falcons camp, when the Birds pre-season was at Furman University. Lou was standing above a practice field, two sons at his side, watching the Falcons cool down after a long workout. At first, I thought Lou was an insurance salesman entertaining the boys, but then he sort of sidled over to me and said, "Would you introduce me to Norm Van Brocklin, Furman?

The Dutchman was a national figure and Lou was still working on his future. So I introduced them and they had a standing conversation; it was easy for both. I'd read that Lou had played fullback on his high school team in Ohio, but if so, he was the first 157-pound fullback I'd ever seen.

Time marched on and so did Lou's career, from William and Mary to N.C. State -- where first I'd come to know him -- Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and finally South Carolina, after which he turned to a career of entertaining. Public speaker, magician, funny man (one of his acts was tearing up a newspaper, then putting it back together again. I never did get it).

Then another time the phone rang and it was Lou. N.C. State hadn't had a good run and Lou was on his way home from a coaches convention in New Orleans. Lou wondered if I might introduce him to Rankin Smith, who had fired another coach, and the Falcons job was open. I got them together for lunch, did the introducing and we had a couple of martinis, after which I left the two to take it from there.

About a week later, the phone rang, and it was Lou again. "Have you heard anything Rankin Smith lately?"

"You mean you haven't?" I said.

He hadn't. Lou wasn't the man. Rankin would hire Marion Campbell again and Lou left jobless -- until the Jets called. Lou then made the mistake of his life. He took the one job in the world he wasn't built for and lasted one season. Funny strange, but New York was the one place Lou's personality didn't sell.

Well, this has gone on too long. Lou recovered with professional resilience and he even turned South Carolina football into a winner before Spurrier came on. He left his trademark wherever he trod -- post-Jets -- and he has managed to find a place for his sense of humor into television football, he and Mark May as a team -- still at a weight of 157 pounds, more or less. They don't weigh you in for television, unless you're Dom Deluise or Rush Limbaugh.