It might be the best day of the summer, wherever this is.
A short distance from what appears to be the main compound, maybe a hotel, on a small, remote island, is a small cabana functioning as a bar. A few sordid looking characters are seated at a table playing dominoes.
Nearby, at the corner of the bar, sits Squinky, planted comfortably in a tall stool with a fruity, umbrella-ladened drink in front of him. The full sombrero and sunglasses hide most of his face, but the dangling tentacles are a dead giveaway. He seems focused on a periodical of some kind laying on the edge of the bar.
It’s not abundantly clear how long he has been here, but it seems obvious from the darker complexion of his normally pinkish-purple skin tone that he has spent more than a few days in the tropical sun.
He is suddenly startled out of deep thought by a hand on his shoulder.
Bill Snyder has appeared out of nowhere, and Squinky looks none too happy.
"Jesus, Mr Snyder! Why do you have to do that?"
"Can’t help myself son, you’re just too serious. Need to snap you out of that now and again. Pull yourself together and come over to this table so we can catch up."
Squinky reluctantly gathers his drink and magazine and heads to a table near the game of dominoes, where Snyder has made himself comfortable.
"So, Eugene, your mother is worried about you. You haven’t called her, and she says you’ve been gone longer than normal."
"What is she talking about??? I write her a short note every other day! Believe me when I tell you she knows exactly where I am, and I mentioned that I would be returning in a couple of weeks!"
"But you haven’t CALLED her. I call your mother once a month. You haven’t called her in two months."
"I promise you, Mr Snyder, if she was your mother you wouldn’t need to call her once a month."
"EUGENE…call your mother."
"FINE. I’ll give her a ring later."
After the temporary tension subsides, Coach Snyder continues…
"Eugene, I have to say I’m with your mother on this. I’m a little concerned about this extended vacation. Not like you at all."
"You think I’m lying around out here doing nothing? See this?"
Squinky holds up the magazine he has been intently studying.
Phil Steele’s 2015 College Football Preview
Snyder spits out his drink and laughs out loud.
"Son, have you lost your mind?"
"Look, Mr Snyder, I don’t know if you’re aware, but things are afoot in Stillwater. There’s optimism, but not everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Lots of folks picking 7.5 wins, maybe OSU will challenge TCU and Baylor, but they’re still flying a bit under the radar. That’s when they’re the most dangerous. That freshman QB looks dangerous. Gundy sounds dangerous."
"You know, let’s talk about that optimism, Eugene. That would have been a brilliant plan…build them up for a big letdown this season. But that wasn’t your plan, was it? Discipline is key, Eugene, in everything you do. Even when Gundy basically threw in the towel on last season to save that kid’s redshirt, you should’ve been paying attention the same way you did in 2011. You never know when opportunity will knock."
"I WAS paying attention! After the Texas game, when that poor QB got demolished, I knew the freshman would get the nod. Perfect opportunity to test him, see if he might be susceptible to a little flick, and he was. OSU thought they might have an upset on their hands, but that late interception took care of that. The fans had already checked out on the season, and the Cowboys played admirably as big underdogs, so it really didn’t do any damage, not to mention they were still hopeful going in to Bedlam, which is exactly what I wanted."
"I don’t understand. You have so much more at your fingertips, and all you’re thinking about is Bedlam?"
"What’s wrong with that?? I mean, that’s all they’re thinking about most of the time. They’ve had some success in the last few years, but when it’s all said and done, no matter how the season goes, if they beat OU it makes or breaks the season."
"Eugene, you need to broaden your scope. I’m surprised you haven’t imagined bigger prizes. You handled 2011 so well, I thought you made the step from rivalry crushing losses to championship heartbreak. I really thought last year’s Bedlam would have you poised for your best season yet. At least that’s what I had hoped."
"Ummmm, Mr Snyder, I presume you noticed that a penalty and a coaching decision short-circuited my plan?"
"Yes, Eugene, I noticed your lame ‘2nd game in a row with a late interception’ move. I was very disappointed. The tipped and juggled drop prior to that was cute, but when I saw the turnover, I knew you were headed the wrong direction. Of course the penalty was unfortunate, but it did allow for some improvisation."
"Say what? Coaches are like refs. They’re totally unpredictable."
"Yes, they are very unpredictable if they are making their own decisions."
Squinky meets Snyder’s eyes with the same intense stare, and a look of realization begins to appear.
"Are you trying to tell me that Stoops was under someone’s influence? I mean, who? Claude and Cooper, neither of them is capable. Is there somebody new floating around?"
"Who said anything about anyone new? Besides, Stoops is a veteran with a national championship and tons of conference titles on his resume. It would take someone with a lot of knowledge about him to pull off something like that. We don’t ‘possess’ people, but we can cloud their judgement. You just have to know their weaknesses, and that means years of experience with them."
"Then who could it be? You have to have some idea. Nobody knows him better than…you…so…wait…."
"Took you long enough."
"YOU TALKED STOOPS INTO PUNTING AGAIN AFTER THE PENALTY?!?!"
"I don't know if I would say I 'talked' him into it, but I definitely helped him open his mind to the possibility. It was risky, I'll say that. You know I only deal in 'believable' events, but this was a stretch. One of the greatest coaches in OU history, and he makes one of the most idiotic decisions ever made by a head coach in the history of college football? I mean, what LOGICAL, RATIONAL, INTELLIGENT person would give the fastest guy in college football a second chance to touch the ball in that moment? I had to do it, though, because I promised your dad a long time ago that I would look after you, and, well, frankly, you needed a little looking after. OSU is on the edge of higher expectations EVERY season, which brings with it opportunity for greater heartbreak. You had the chance to foster that with the highly touted freshman coming in. Hell, the late interception against Baylor was fine. Set things up nicely for Bedlam. But a Bedlam loss, especially with another late turnover, along with no bowl game, could have been more than the fan base could handle. Could’ve been the end of Gundy. Could’ve been the end of you. I can’t remember the last time I did that, but it had to be done. I had to step in for your own good."
"I’m…I…this is just…you helped them win Bedlam when nothing was on the line?"
"Eugene, an entire season WAS on the line. NEXT season. A season where they believe they can challenge for the conference title. All it took was a reindeer and a return, and the dumpster fire that was the middle of last season is forgotten. Now they are primed, anticipating something special. The schedule sets up almost perfectly for them to reach the middle of the season with expectations out of control. If you play your cards right, you could get TWO seasons out of this, and 2016 could be epic. But no, all you could think about was Bedlam. It had to be done. I couldn’t watch you flush all you had accomplished down the drain for one lousy rivalry loss. Remember that conversation you had with Claude after 2013?"
"Couldn’t forget. He stinks to high heaven from living under the tarp for too long."
"Remember how astonished he was that you helped OSU blow out Baylor in order to build up to that nasty last minute loss to OU, in Stillwater, with a Big 12 title on the line?"
"So, you’re saying I need to think about upcoming seasons instead of the current one?"
"No, I’m saying that you have to be constantly vigilant, because sometimes the greatest opportunity is not the one right in front of you. It takes patience to do what I do. You can’t always grab at the low hanging fruit. You have to watch, always watch, whether winning or losing. Too many losses and you might have the ‘90’s on your plate again. NOBODY knew who you were back then because nobody cared. Too many wins and they become like Alabama or Ohio State. They won’t need you. You don’t want that. I’ve seen your lifestyle. You’ve gotten comfortable with fame, and I want you to be able to continue enjoying it. I’ve always wanted that for you."
"Really? Didn’t realize you cared so much, Mr Snyder."
"Eugene, there’s something I’ve been meaning to share with you about your father, and now seems as good a time as any."
The conversation is interrupted by the loud ringing of the phone at the bar. The bartender waddles over slowly, almost as if he doesn’t want to pick up the phone in time. He answers, mutters a couple of things under his breath, then looks at Squinky, nods, and says "It’s your mother." You could tell this was not the first time for that call.
"Sorry Mr Snyder, I better take this."
"No worries son, we’ll speak again before the season is over. I’ll make sure we do. Just remember to always keep watching. Say hi to your mother for me. Let her know I’ll stop by next week. I have business nearby."
"Will do Mr Snyder. Thanks again for the advice, and for the assist last season. I’ll do my best to take advantage of what looks to be a really good opportunity this season…and maybe next."
"That’s my boy, Eugene. Who knows, maybe I’ll even call you ‘Squinky.’"
"Wow, you really mean that?"
"I said maybe."
With that, Bill Snyder vanishes in a cloud of purple smoke.
Squinky slinks up to the bar to pick up the phone. His mother was right…he never calls her. This, however, was the third time she’d called this week. As he said hello, he thought to himself…
"Oklahoma State Football can’t get here soon enough."