"No gentleman ever plays a game too well." --British upper classes motto.
Harvard University, America's oldest and most venerated institute of higher learning, suffered an acute embarrassment in the winter of 1974-75.
One of its underclassmen made All-American.
It was a terrible gaffe. Better he should shave his head and go banging a tambourine and selling flowers in airports. Harvard nearly died of humiliation. It could hardly hold its academic head up. It could hardly face its educational peers. The veritas trembled.
Harvard was terrified that it would come into focus as a football factory. After all, it was the second time in 35 years it had happened. As recently as 1941, it had had another All-American in Endicott Peabody III.
Harvard never expected anybody with a Roman numeral after his name to be any good at a game you didn't play with cards. But Peabody went on to become governor of the commonwealth, to consolidate the harm, and Harvard decided that was enough. The school tightened up the requirements so that it would never again have a football team that could, as Bugs Baer would say, see without glasses.
Pat McInally, All-American, Harvard '75, didn't go on to become governor. He did something infinitely worse. He became a Cincinnati Bengal.
Now, Harvard really needed smelling salts. One faculty member recommended abolishing football. Another recommended abolishing Harvard. "What are we--the Rambling Wrecks? The Boilermakers?" the purists screamed. "What is Harvard--Touchdown USA?!"
But Pat McInally did not slip through an admissions loophole. He belonged at Harvard as much as Henry Kissinger. For one thing, he paid his own way. Any number of institutions, including Notre Dame, would have been glad to pick up the tab, but Harvard is not in the business of buying touchdowns.
For another thing, the only time Pat McInally didn't behave like a Harvard man was when someone kicked or threw him a football. Also, when he stood up. Pat was 6 feet 6 inches and 215 pounds. His art classes didn't know whether to enroll him or study him.
He even made the academic All-American. But when he did, Harvard really put its foot down. It forbade him to accept. Harvard didn't want any of its student-athletes congratulated for passing freshman English.
McInally graduated \o7 cum laude \f7 but if he thought Harvard was embarrassed by him, he should have waited for the pro scouts. When he ran the 40 in 4.6, they sent their watches out to be repaired. They were so suspicious of an Ivy Leaguer who didn't come to tryout by chauffeur, they did everything short of asking him to run through a plate-glass window.
Most of them wondered, if he was really a Harvard man, why he didn't just go directly to the State Department? For a true Harvardian, the NFL wouldn't be a career, it would be a sentence.
The Ivy League doesn't raise its sons to be truck drivers, burlesque comedians--or Cincinnati Bengals. It wasn't too thrilled when Sonny Tufts became an actor. Then they realized he really hadn't.
But Pat McInally became an NFL player, a good one. Of the 20 guys drafted by the Bengals that year, Pat McInally, who was drafted fifth, is the only one still with them. He caught 17 passes for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns in 1977, and 18 passes for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns in 1980, and made the Pro Bowl game in 1981.
He became one of the premier punters of the game with a career average of 41.9, and he had an astronomical 48.7 going into the Raider game this season. Sammy Baugh's all-time season average is 51.4.
But, if Pat McInally blurred the image of a Harvard man at Cambridge, he has all but extinguished the focus of an NFL player at Cincinnati.
First of all, he writes songs. Now, if you get an image of Irving Berlin punting out of the end zone against the Green Bay Packers, you have one of an NFL man writing a love song called "Endlessly."
And Pat's songs don't run to "I love you, baby, but it's time for practice," or "I left my heart on the Chicago Bears' two-yard line." Pat's songs are as sentimental as "Easter Parade" and although Sinatra hasn't scheduled an album yet, they have hit the charts.
As if that weren't enough to blow the image, McInally is also a syndicated newspaper columnist. His feature, "Pat Answers for Kids," runs in more than 100 newspapers.
So, the man who came off like King Kong on the campus at Harvard comes off like Dear Abby in cleats for the punt blockers of the NFL, an unlikely double that may wind up revolutionizing both institutions.
Harvard may write into its admissions code that an applicant must promise that he will never become a) an All-American; b) a Cincinnati Bengal; c) a songwriter, or d) any combination thereof, and promise also never to score a touchdown over anybody more formidable than William & Mary.
The NFL, for its part, may resolve to check the Harvard senior class every 35 years for someone who may be all of the above and who may have somehow slipped through the admissions net and become a guy who can kick a football 48 yards at a crack and make it hang like a bubble even with 10 250-pound guys who never went to Harvard bearing down on him.