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THE NORMAN NIGHTMARE : Oklahoma Linebacker Brian Bosworth Makes Opponents' Hair Stand on End

September 01, 1986|RICHARD HOFFER | Times Staff Writer

NORMAN, Okla. — As horrific as Brian Bosworth is on the field, baying at the midday sun like a crazed coyote with visions of decapitation and disembowelment in his feral mind, he is possibly even more frightening off it.

He is 248 pounds of upper-body strength, newly acquainted with karate, and as fierce a visage as anything this side of the Neanderthal age.

Look at him. Your primal fear finally forces you to acknowledge the awful possibility. If he is willing to do that to his own head, which he might have at least some affection for, what might he do to yours?

Because that's the first thing you notice, his head. Brian Bosworth, who is taking the lunacy of being linebacker into a new and strange territory, has a kind of Commando haircut that is not only an affront to high coiffure but is quite possibly a signal the end of Western civilization is at hand. The sides are trimmed tight, the top trimmed flat with a sort of tail trailing down to his neck. Sometimes, depending on what post-season game Oklahoma is invited to, he dyes the whole mess.

Now you know why they root for the Orange Bowl every year.

It's your worst nightmare, this hairy spike of spite. It's not even a mug a mother could love. Seeing this blond bristle of burry blight, Kathy Bosworth said, "Well, at least he wasn't wearing an earring."

Of course she's hundreds of miles away in Irving, Tex., somewhat unmindful of the terrible fact that the Boz had long since punched a gold 44 through his left lobe. "We got kinda crazy one night," he said, but that's another story. Break a mother's heart, what he's done.

Still, it's the hair they talk most about. Even on a loosey-goosey team like Oklahoma, where the free spirits sport outrageous enough hair styles to make picture day seem like a cross between "Night of the Living Dead" and "Mad Max Beyond the Orange Bowl," the Boz buzz stands out.

Worse yet, for some reason, chalk it up to being 18 and away from home for the first time, the loony look has caught on with the student civilians. "Gimme the Boz," is what Norman's barbers, sadly, are hearing more and more.

What can you do? As far as shear lunacy goes, there is nothing like it. The coonskin cap had a nice run in the '50s but it was nowhere near as offensive as this. It's like, what if Mr. T were suddenly the nation's taste maker?

In these parts, you have to understand, there is a lot of pompadour and circumstance about the Boz, leader of the nation's top defense, not to mention top-ranked team. He's so visible, tooling around town in either his Corvette or Jeep.

Mothers, hide your children and all that.

Likely, though, the rest of the nation will be spared the vision of this hirsute holocaust. Not that he's any walk on the beach with his helmet on, you understand.

Brian Bosworth, already anointed as the nation's top linebacker when he was presented the Butkus Award after his sophomore season last year, is now being talked up for the Heisman Trophy. That's a longshot, but it gives you an idea of his repute in college football circles.

Coach Barry Switzer, himself a one-time linebacker and an eerie look-alike for the Boz--but with a normal head of hair--calls Bosworth "the best that's ever played the game."

He's got it all, the size, the speed and, most of all, the reckless abandon that would indicate psychotic behavior anywhere but on the football field. If it's not scary enough to look at the Boz, just listen to him for a while:

"In the middle of a play, I go crazy and don't realize what I'm doing. I'll snap back to reality and I realize, 'Hey, I just ripped that boy's helmet off,' or, 'I'm over here twisting this guy's knee.' "

His oft-printed resolve this season: "I'd like to improve on running plays. I want to see if I can hurt some more people. To me, I don't think I'm out there hurting enough people. I should hurt a lot more people than I do. I'd like to hurt someone on every play."

The Boz is somewhat slyly into self-promotion. He's passive enough about it, but he seems content, even happy, with the myths that are springing up about him.

On this particular day, he is begrudgingly sitting down with a reporter over a piece of cooked meat, presumably glaring hatefully at the reporter, although the black sunglasses hide the presumed malevolence.

It's a grim interview and the reporter is careful not to make any sudden movement that could be mistaken for the snap of a football, so as not to trigger some kind of flashback and doom himself. "Uh, about your dog . . . " the reporter ventures, unsure where this will take them.

The Boz has to smile, appreciating the anecdote that establishes, beyond doubt, his savage sensibility. "Ah, Raider," he says. Now we're getting somewhere.

"Is, uh, Raider, is he really scared of you, like they say?"

"It's a she. . . . Well, she is getting better, although whenever I go to touch her she crawls into a corner. That's pretty weird for a Doberman, they tell me."

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