It was in March of 1971 that Giles Tippette, a reformed rodeo cowboy, found one more reason to go right on believing that Destiny is the guiding force in everyone's life. At the time Tippette had just put the finishing touches on The Brave Men, a book about rodeos and auto racing. The next thing he hoped to tackle, so to speak, was college football. Enter Destiny.
"I was sitting in the bar at the Royal Coach Inn in Houston one night," Tippette says, "wearing faded blue jeans and all, like everyone else on the rodeo circuit, and the guy seated next to me at the bar asked me what I did. I told him I was a writer and he asked me what did I ride? I told him I rode books."
The stranger turned out to be Bill Peterson, fired this week as coach of the Houston Oilers but then in his first year as head coach at Rice University. When Peterson finally understood that Tippette worked with syntax, not saddle broncs, he suggested that the rider devote his next book to college football, perhaps with Rice as its focal point. He made the proposition singularly attractive by offering Tippette carte blanche to observe the Rice gridiron scene. "I showed up in August when the athletes first reported," Tippette says, "and I was with the team all the rest of the season. Peterson was extremely cooperative. There wasn't anywhere I couldn't go or anything I couldn't see. I have a knack of falling into a pattern that doesn't disturb people. But at Rice I became so unobjectionable that occasionally I would suggest plays to Peterson on the sideline. And sometimes he'd send them in."
Out of the total immersion came Saturday's Children (Macmillan and Co., $6.95), excerpts from which begin on page 94 of this issue. As for what the experience taught him, Tippette says, "What I learned, I already knew—that college football is a little more hypocritical than the Baptist Church at its worst. Also, that people in athletics have a distorted view of themselves and their world. They don't remember that they're in the entertainment business and that it's a game they're playing. It's all dead serious." As a result of the imbalance he claims, Tippette makes a harsh judgment on coaches. "I can forgive a 19-year-old kid—he's performing down there in front of 60,000 people—but not a 50-year-old man."
Saturday's Children is Tippette's sixth book, though Destiny once appeared to be pointing him in other directions. His earlier years in Texas were spent riding and roping, with occasional spells in the oilfields. He graduated from Sam Houston State College with a degree in chemistry. As an athlete, Tippette admits, "I was a second-string, third-rate, junior-college football player. I once tried out at Baylor but couldn't make the squad. Then one night I started writing and I've never stopped."
One of his novels, The Bank Robber, has been made into a movie called Harry Spikes, soon to be released by United Artists. "The book has been used as a text in a course on Southwestern Literature at Sul Ross State College," Tippette says, "and that really tickles me because I don't think I ever made above a 'C' in English." We think you will find his story this week several grades better than that.
WRITER AND EX-RIDER GILES TIPPETTE