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Excerpt from Chapter Twelve: "Magic Carpet Ride"  

SetupOn one of the nation's cauldron campuses during the 1968 Nixon-Humphrey presidential campaign, Cascade University President Neal Hassler is caught between militant students and an irate citizenry. Under statewide criticism, he is defiant in public as he unravels behind the scenes. His primary student antagonists are SDS leader Annie Laughlin and Jake Powell, chairman of the Campus Coalition Against the War. They're close to student journalist Kit Dunleavy, who struggles to balance her relationships with the radicals and her theoretical objectivity. 

 
Complicating matters and infuriating fans, Jake also is a starting linebacker for the Cascade Fishermen football team, expected to challenge O.J. Simpson and the USC Trojans for the Pacific 8 Conference title. Coach Larry Benson, a World War II P-38 pilot criticized -- including by boosters and the athletic director -- for allowing his players to participate in campus politics, faces pressure to both tighten the reins, especially with Powell and star tailback Ricky Hilton, and win at all costs. 
 
 

 

Note: This passage from the novel, especially the party scene, is censored for online. Think of it as an attempt to get a PG rating from the Motion Picture Association of America ... at least here. The game here and even a student journalist researching campus drug use for an ultimately notorious story involving contempt-of-court ramifications for not revealing sources, might sound familiar to Oregon Ducks fans, as would most of the book. The roman a clef novel's timeline involves compression of about four years of events on and off-campus into a single football season.   

 

 

 
 

As the party and pairing off picked up steam at the off-campus house, Kit leaned against the mushroom cloud “Ban the Bomb” poster in the corner of the living room nearest the door. The radio blared out the play-by-play from the Cascade-UCLA game, and Kit and two guys listened to the unfolding rout in Los Angeles.
 
The Cascade radio network’s play-by-play announcer sounded as if he were trying to remain solemn, so he wouldn’t offend the relatives of the dearly departed. His sidekick had all but given up game details and instead kept reminding listeners that the charter flight would return to Cascade in the morning and that next week’s game against Idaho would be a chance for recovery.
 
Somebody hollered from across the room. “What’s the score now?”
 
Kit said, “UCLA 40-21.”

“How much time?”

“Four minutes.”

Kit took her reporter’s notebook out from the back pocket of her jeans and walked away from the radio console. The party’s host, a senior business student, Scott Probst, was leaning against the refrigerator, holding court, when Kit interrupted. “Can we talk now?”

 
“Sure. Step into my office.”

 
Scott led her down the stairs, into the dim and damp basement, reached up, tugged on a little chain and threw light on the subject. The basement was a jungle of marijuana plants.

 
Kit and Scott already had agreed she wouldn’t use his name or say anything about the location of the house in her Campus Daily story. She was going to use his campus nickname, “Weed.” Kit thought he was an idiot for not trying to be more discreet. Kit heard about it before she even joined the newspaper staff, and she knew that some of the pot that passed through the sorority came from this basement.

 
Scott gave Kit the tour, which didn’t take long. There were yells from upstairs, and Weed paused just long enough to decide it wasn’t a raid. “Probably just Cathy Whatshername showing off again,” he said, laughing.

 
“How much do you sell?”

 
“Mucho.”

 
“How much is that.”

 
“That’s all I’ll say.”

 
“To anybody?”

 
“Hell, no, have to keep it under control so idiots aren’t knocking at the door at four in the morning.”

 
“Feel guilty?”

 
“Give me a break.”

 
“Ever scared?”

 
“Do I look scared?”

 
He offered her the joint.

 
“No, thanks,” she said without looking up, scribbling to catch up.

 
“On the job, huh?”

 
She shrugged.

 
When Scott led Kit upstairs, Cathy Whatsername indeed was showing off in the middle of the kitchen. Rushing through to the living room, Kit spotted her coat on top of the television cabinet and momentarily angered the solitary guy watching Mannix by getting in his way for about eight-tenths of a second, apparently long enough for the private detective to dodge another bullet. She threw on her coat and poured herself a beer for the road from the keg.
 
“How bad did the game end up?” she asked the guy.

 
“Didn’t you hear us screaming? We won 41-40!” By now, he didn’t seem to care about Mannix. 

 
She headed to the door, assuming he’d go back to smoking or taking whatever had been passed around to make him hallucinate about a comeback.
 

*   *   *
 
Jake Powell had a hard time believing it. Not long ago, the Fishermen were getting blown away 40-21. UCLA even put in a few scrubs. Jake had lost one contact lens in the second quarter and didn’t have a replacement, so he couldn’t read the time on the Coliseum scoreboard. But he knew there wasn’t enough left. Get in the locker room, get on the damn plane, and get home. Finally, he asked the trainer. Four minutes, thirty-eight seconds left.
 
[Spindly sophomore quarterback] Rick Winslow threw a down and out to [standout wide receiver] Keith Oldham and then a little flare to [star tailback] Timmy Hilton, who did two pirouettes and made it into the end zone. Even the UCLA fans gave him a hand, and Timmy coolly handed the ball to the zebra. After the extra point, UCLA led 40-28, and the trainer told Jake that 4:05 remained in the game.

 
Jake trotted back on with the onside kick team. A UCLA player jumped, got his hands on the bouncing kick and managed to hold on in the collision. In the pile, Jake clutched and grabbed and tried to steal the ball, but the guy wouldn’t let go. UCLA could kill the clock or, even if it had to punt, probably hold on. As the third-and-eight play unfolded a minute later, Jake thought, even as he tried to fight off a blocker: What idiot called this play? The quarterback cruised down the line, [All-Coast middle linebacker and team leader] Alex Tolliver hit him as he was making the pitchout, and the ball bounced far short of the tailback. The Fishermen recovered.

 
On the next play, Rick tossed to Timmy along the far sideline. Timmy had a step on a linebacker, cut back and turned it into a forty-yard touchdown. After the extra point, it was 40-35, with 2:24 remaining. The Fishermen had only one timeout left, so again there was no debate about kicking it deep and trusting the defense. It had to be another bouncing onside kick. Don’t go for the ball, Jake decided as he saw the UCLA guy’s eyes widen and his hands start to reach. Hit him so damn hard the ball will pop off his hands. Yeah, just like that. As he ended up beneath a pile, he listened as his teammates’ celebratory hollers let him know they had the ball.

 
Some UCLA fans were returning to the stands. The Fishermen had plenty of time. Timmy gained five yards on two carries. On third down, Rick threw down the near sideline. Keith Oldham and a UCLA defender came down together, fighting for it, and when the official ruled it dual possession, the Fishermen had a first down on the UCLA 11.

 
Timmy ran for six. Rick was sacked, but on the next play threw to Oldham in the back of the end zone for the touchdown that put the Fishermen ahead 41-40, with thirty seconds left. They failed on the two-point conversion, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem because UCLA couldn’t get into field-goal range. On the last play, Jake watched the last pass sail over his head and fall incomplete. He heard the gun and leaned over, spent.
 
In the locker room, [Fishermen coach] Larry Benson told them they’d remember this one for years, and Jake knew he was probably right. Rick’s locker was near Jake, so Jake could hear the young quarterback talk with the reporters.

 
“What’d you say in the huddle when it was 40-21?”

 
Rick responded, “I said, ‘We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.’ And Timmy told us to pick it up because he could score from anywhere on the field in ten seconds.”

 
[Young defensive coach] Carl Steele appeared at Jake’s locker and shook his hand. “Good game,” he said.

 
“Thanks, anyway,” Jake said. “Any chance we could burn the defensive films?”

 
[Athletic director] Bill Wyden squeezed through the tiny visiting locker room, congratulating the players. By now, Jake wore only a jock and his sweat-soaked T-shirt. As Wyden neared him, Jake turned and bent over, pretending to be searching for something in his equipment bag.

 
It was an effective full mooning.

 
*   *   *

[Beleaguered Cascade University president] Neal Hassler listened to the football game with his wife for a while, until UCLA seemed to have it locked up. He told Eleanor he was going to putter in the garage. As he stacked the old newspapers, he suddenly felt the need to get away, on his own, for no good reason he could think of, just because, so he poked his head back in the door and said he was going for a walk.

 
“Now?”

 
“El, this is the first night in a week it hasn’t been raining and I feel like taking a walk!”

 
Eleanor said the kids might be calling long distance at some point, as they often did on Saturday nights. “And have you taken your pills?”

 
“El, yes, I’ve taken the darned pills, and yes, I can walk alone.” He didn’t add what he was thinking: Get away for a while. Screw the governor. Screw ‘em all. And: Maybe I should get a dog.

 
After two circuitous tours of the neighborhood, the second because he realized he didn’t remember many of the details of the first, he ended up at the always-open Payless and bought razor blades. A little later – how much later he wasn’t even certain, but his watch said 12:45 – he was startled to realize he was sitting on a bus bench several blocks up Wadsworth Boulevard and hadn’t remembered walking there.

 
Back at home, Eleanor greeted him at the door, and for a second, he thought it was because she was worried he had thrown himself into the Astor River.

 
“You missed the end of the football game!”

 
“How much did we lose by?”

 
“We won!”