Now at age 83, Jenkins is no longer on the hottest authors list and to be honest, I didn’t know he was still pounding on the old Underwood and I certainly did not know he had penned another tome concerning the latest hijinx of his most endearing characters, football players Billy Clyde Puckett and Marvin Jenkins “Shake” Tiller.
These rascals were first introduced to the world in 1972 in Jenkins’ seminal sports novel “Semi-Tough” and then again in “Life It’s Ownself” in 1984.
Jenkins is every sportswriter’s Maharishi because he was able to get his novels published and they were so successful, that he was able to walk away from the day-to-day grind of cranking out copy and concentrate on the flow of his prose.
It also didn’t hurt that Hollywood came calling with bigtime script money in hand.
Jenkins—who many have called the best sportswriter of all time—is of course as Texan as they come and is a member of the Fort Worth sports writing mafia that included the late Bud Shrake, Gary Cartwright and the legendary Blackie Sherrod who all worked together at the Fort Worth Star telegram in the early 1960s.
I believe that every sports journalism college student— make that any journalism student—should be required to read Jenkins’ “You Gotta Play Hurt.” It should be a textbook.
The section in which Jenkins shows his disdain and hatred for copy editors is hilarious. It struck a note for me because like Jenkins, I myself had a problem with desk people.
It has been years since I have read any Jenkins because for one thing, I don’t like to read sequalized literature which is why I have not read any new Larry McMurtry in forever.
One of the few football rituals I have every year is watching football movies to commemorate the opening of the season.
“Semi-Tough” always tops that list. Burt Reynolds—at the height of his popularity—is perfectly cast in the role of Billy Clyde. He was born to play it.
The hedonistic Billy Clyde and wingman Shake would be close to retirement age now, long removed from the star football players and Super Bowl champions of the past.
As we find out in “Rude Behavior”, Billy Clyde is now a coach, trying to lead his team to a Super Bowl. He still smokes Marlboros and swills whiskey and is married to childhood sweetheart Barbara Jane. Best friend Shake is directing movies.
It was great to revisit these characters again, but I still like to remember them as they were originally semi-created.
Here are the five best football movies:
1. North Dallas Forty
(1979)—This thinly veiled look
by Peter Gent at the Dallas
Cowboys takes a look at the
serious side of football as well
as the absurd.
2. The Longest Yard (1974)—
A pigskin “Rocky” story before
Rocky came out.
3. Semi-Tough (1978)—This
movie has little to do with Dan
Jenkins’ novel of the same
name, but takes a look at the
fads and fashions of the 1970s.
4. The Male Animal (1942)—
Olivia DeHavilland must
choose between her bookish
professor husband (Henry
Fonda) or hunky former boyfriend and football player (Jack
5. Brian’s Song (1971)—When
I was in the eighth grade, I
took my Brian Piccolo football
card to school the day after
this TV movie aired and all the
girls in my class started crying. Powerful stuff.