It was one of those delicious moments in life when I opened the book that arrived in the mail, My Big Red Obsession (Winkler Publishing Co., $10.90, $12.50 by mail from Box 327, Grand Island, Neb. 68802) by Charlie Winkler, and read the author's inscription: "To Doug Looney: The greatest writer and the finest human being I have ever known."
I promptly shoved it in front of my wife's eyes. She read it coolly and returned silently to her washboard.
But I wasn't diminished. See, for the first time, somebody had recognized me for what I am—greatest writer, finest human. The truth feels so good. Why is it that nobody had ever seen me as perceptively as Winkler saw me?
"He just wants you to write something nice about his book," my wife said. That punctured my elation momentarily, until I reached out anew for truth, and explained to her, "Naw, Charlie [who was chronicled in SI Nov. 10, 1975 as college football's No. 1 fan] wouldn't do that. He just had this heartfelt urge to tell me what I am—greatest writer, finest human. The guy is honest. Nope, Charlie couldn't contain himself. He had to say it; he had to let it out."
And so I settled down to peruse this book on University of Nebraska football—this great, fine book. But then, on page 203, I was stunned to read: "The personable Looney has to be one of the finest individuals I've ever known...." Wait a minute. One of the finest? Am I the finest or am I not? I tend to believe the inscription, which is handwritten and therefore shows more care, but the text undeniably says I'm one of the finest, that I'm in a group. Damn, just when you think you got it made, you don't got it made.
Never mind. While I sat there anointed as The Greatest Writer, The Finest Human Being—and with the written proof—it was wonderful. And it was me. Then page 203 turned up and shattered me. Which is all I have to say about your stinking, rotten book, Charlie.