Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Biggest Challenge: Staying Sober

Congratulations to my friend Larry Eustachy.

Not only does he have a new job, he’s also stayed on the wagon for more than a year.

Frankly, I’m happier that he says he hasn’t had an alcoholic beverage since April 23, 2003 than I am about his new job as Southern Mississippi’s basketball coach.

Heck, I always knew he’d get another job. He’s too good a basketball coach not to have one.

Staying sober will be his biggest challenge. It always is for any recovering alcoholic.

In my earlier writing life, I covered Eustachy and his Iowa State basketball team during the 1998-1999 season. His break-in year with the Cyclones wasn’t particularly impressive. His overall record was 15-15, his Big 12 Conference record was 6-10. Iowa State finished ninth in the standings.

I’ve always felt it’s better that coaches and the sportswriters who cover them keep their distance during the season. And that was the way it pretty much was when I covered Eustachy.

I visited with him a lot when I was lucky enough to catch him in his office at Hilton Coliseum at Ames, and I saw him in interview rooms before and after games at home and on the road.

I’ll admit I had heard that Eustachy liked to have something of an alcoholic nature in his orange juice after games.

The subject came up early that season when I was visiting with Adam Thompson, a pleasant young sportswriter who then was working in Ames and now works in Denver.
Thompson had gone to Utah to do a profile on Eustachy just after he’d been hired by Iowa State away from Utah State.

Thompson had talked with someone—I think it was another sportswriter—who told him that people out there suspected Eustachy was spiking his post-game orange juice with something alcoholic—probably vodka.

Eustachy didn’t realize they had those suspicions, but often the drinker is the last to find out.

I’ll admit it. Whenever Eustachy would show up in an interview room in that first season at Iowa State, I looked for the ever-present bottle of orange juice in his hand and wondered what else was in it.

Some people also began wondering what Eustachy had in the soft drink can that he kept drinking from during games. As far as I know, no one found out.

But I never saw Eustachy drunk in that season I covered him. I went to lunch with him a number of times, and when the waitress would say, “What can I get you drink?” he never ordered anything alcoholic.

Maybe it was because I was there. But I’d rather think it was because he was in a working situation.

I’ve written in this column in the past about how Eustachy showed up at our mid-week sportswriter lunch gatherings in West Des Moines, and paid for everybody’s food.

Alcohol was available in that restaurant, but Eustachy never had any.

During one visit, he was on his way to the airport for a recruiting trip. That would have given him a reason to have a snort of something or other because he disliked flying. But he drank hot tea. Straight hot tea.

When Eustachy was hired for the Southern Mississippi coaching job recently, he talked about how he had “bottomed out” and that he would always be a recovering alcoholic.

I wish him the very best as both a recovering alcoholic and a basketball coach.

Is the Wrong Alford Leaving Iowa’s Staff?

Some people have mixed emotions about Sam Alford’s Aug. 1 retirement as director of basketball operations at the University of Iowa.

“I’m glad he won’t be sitting on the bench next to Steve (his son, who is Iowa’s head coach),” one guy explained. “It always made me nervous when Steve turned to his dad—looking like he was searching for coaching advice—during Iowa games.

“On the other hand, I think the wrong Alford is leaving the Iowa staff.”

Excitement in a Phone Booth

A suburban man – Donald Leslie O’Malley, not his real name, who sells life insurance, not his real occupation, and is from Johnston, not his real hometown – claims this is a true story.

He was in a phone booth in downtown Des Moines the other day, trying to talk to a friend.

Suddenly, a woman pulled the door open, barged into the booth and tried to take the telephone book out.

“I don’t know how many phone booths you’ve been in lately,” O’Malley told me. “But there’s really not enough room for two people—especially a full-grown adult male and a hefty woman.

“I also don’t know what others who were watching thought when they saw that scene.”
Well, Donald, they maybe thought something was going on in there that couldn’t be described on a family website.

O’Malley said the woman couldn’t get the phone book out of the booth because it was attached to the wall by a chain. So she stayed inside the booth, leafing through the book.

O’Malley said he asked the woman if she was trying to contact the police or something. He said he’d get off the phone if it was an emergency.

“No, but I’m trying to get the Department of Corrections,” she woman said.
O’Malley added that the woman said, “Son-of-a-bitch this and son-of-a-bitch-that” while failing to find the number she wanted.

So what did O’Malley do while all of that was going on?

“I continued talking to my friend,” he said.

Just another day in the phone booth, I’d say.

News Like This Always Leaks Out

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up to date with Moises Alou’s recent adventures in the National League or not.

News has leaked that Alou, the Chicago Cubs’ 37-year-old left-fielder, has a strange way of preparing his hands for the long, 162-game regular season.
He urinates on them. Apparently often.

Alou is one of few major leaguers who don’t use batting gloves, so it’s easy for calluses to form on his hands. But Alou told that urinating on them avoids the calluses.

Ever since Alou’s comments were printed, he’s been the butt of all sorts of jokes both in and out of baseball.

Dusty Baker, the Cubs’ manager, said fewer guys are shaking hands with Alou these days. I’m not sure how many players are high-fiving him either.

Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post had another comment.

“The last thing you want to hear when you’re sitting in a restaurant is this: “Good evening, my name is Moises and I’ll be your waiter tonight.”

Remember Jon Lazar?

The Internet is, indeed, a marvelous thing. I’m reminded of that every day.
I received this e-mail from Jon Lazar:


“I came across your e-mail address, and I wanted to say hello to you. I always enjoyed speaking with you when I played at Iowa, and I never hesitate to say hi whenever I come across an old name or face.

“I see you are still writing and doing well. I am well. I live in North Carolina. I miss the Big Ten and Iowa City, as that place has so many memories for me. My football days gave me a lot of joy. Now my work days do….and children.
“Take care and let me know how you are doing.

“Jon K. Lazar”

[Iowa and Iowa State coaches got into a hot battle to recruit Lazar in the 1970s, and the Hawkeyes’ Bob Commings won over Iowa State’s Earle Bruce. Lazar lettered in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978, and was Iowa’s leading rusher in his final three seasons. He ran for 392 yards in 1976, 411 in 1977 and 423 in 1978. The ’78 season was Bob Commings’ final year with the Hawkeyes. Hayden Fry became the coach prior to the 1979 season, and Dennis Mosley became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher that year. Mosley’s total was 1,267 yards. Iowa’s records in Lazar’s seasons were 3-8, 5-6, 5-6 and 2-9. Iowa State’s records under Bruce in those years were 4-7, 8-3, 8-4 and 8-4. The Cyclones went to bowl games in 1977 and 1978].

Is There a Ford in His Future?

What I know about a tulip can be put into a thimble.

But a few of us went to the Tulip Festival in Pella last weekend, and saw a show that was about as wholesome as anything I’ve ever seen.

Once I had my fill of Dutch Letters, I particularly liked the antique car display, where I noticed that a guy was showing a 1937 Ford coupe. The sight of that car went directly to my heart. A ’37 Ford coupe was the first car I ever owned.

In the summer of 1952, I paid $75 for it at a gas station near McKinley High School in Cedar Rapids. It was a V-8 with mechanical brakes. It could go over 100 miles per hour easily. I proved it many times on Sixth Street SW past Cherry Burrell.
Don’t forget, I was only 16. Kids my age did stuff like that then.

I was heading into my final semester at Wilson High School, and always parked the ’37 Ford on J Street to the west of the school. I pointed it downhill so I could let it coast and start the engine if the battery was low, which seemed to be often.
I pretty much went to school only in the mornings in that last semester.

In the afternoons, I’d drive the ’37 Ford to Martin’s department store in downtown Cedar Rapids, where I did everything from run the elevator to take the postage meter to the Post Office to try to listen to Iowa’s football games on the radio while working in the mail room. I was trying to make enough money to get through my first year at Iowa.

The fall of 1952 was, after all, Forest Evashevski’s first season as the Hawkeyes’ coach. I managed to hide out long enough in the mail room to hear most of the unbelievable 8-0 victory over Woody Hayes’ Ohio State team on Oct. 25 that fall.
I sure miss that ’37 Ford coupe now.

Vol. 4, No. May 12, 2004

[This is Ron Maly’s editor. He said I should insert a message in this column, saying he thinks the American male is always on the lookout for a version of the first car he owned. So I’m guessing that Ron is scouting around for a ’37 Ford coupe. If anyone has seen such a car that might be for sale, e-mail Ron at There’s just one hitch. Ron says he’d like to get the car for $75 like he did in 1952. “Only in your dreams, Ronnie boy,” I told him].