Charlie Strong’s Drummer

His receivers would be so open so often in the flat, 18 yards downfield, no defenders ever within a lunge, we’d exclaim, “How does he get those guys so open time after time?”

Like Bobby Petrino, that’s the Charlie Strong we want.

With a lead of less than a score, a BCS playoff spot on the line, the clock still five minutes from expiring, and the ball backed up in the other team’s red zone, we want that man’s man drive. Three yards off left tackle. A trap to the right for three more. Smash mouth first downs until the gun sounds, the Cards still yards from the end zone, the defenders gasping for air, victory in hand.

Like The Schnell, that’s the Charlie Strong we want.

Then, in his post game presser, he’d wax Schnellenbergian, say how his offensive line had “persevered into the upper echelons of fortitude.”

On his Monday weekly meet and greet with the press, he’d sit down with his own BBQ on bun and, glib as John L., shoot the shit for an hour with Crawford and Cowgill and the latest new guy at the Courier.

That’s the Charlie Strong we want.

On the radio call-in, out in the community, he’d be a showman like Corso.

That’s the Charlie Strong we want.

Instead what we see, what we hear, is what we get.

Three years into his tenure, Charlie Strong remains a mystery. He dances to his own drummer. (It is said, unlike everybody else with stature in his profession, he doesn’t employ an agent.)

The question is who’s the drummer?

Certainly not Billy Cobham who is all over his kit with four way independence. Or Buddy Rich, who commanded the spotlight. Or, even Ringo Starr, unassuming but perfect for the geniuses creating around him.

Cedric Burnside perhaps. Born of the rural south, with its indignities masked by the primordial rhythms of the Delta. A beat so strong, so focused straight ahead, so intent on avoiding distraction, it could dig a trench ten feet deep before the 4:43 of his grandfather’s “It’s Bad You Know” finished.

Charlie Strong’s from Batesville, population 10,250, in northeastern Arkansas. The Ozarks. Read: The rural south.

Here’s what I know of his upbringing, gleaned from the 90 seconds of one on one I have been able to steal during his tenure here. Baseball was his first love. He gave it up, because he had to work in summers at his uncle’s gas station to help make ends meet at home.

That’s all I can tell you. Plus this. He learned he needed to work hard if he wanted to succeed.

The rest is observation.

Charlie Strong’s a wary man. Confidant of his abilities, he was passed over for years when jobs came up.

Because of the color of his skin? Because of the color of his wife’s skin? Because his grammar would make a school marm squirm? Because other candidates were more qualified?

Whatever. It happened. He learned that hard work is often not enough.

He’s now proven his mettle, three years in on the Belknap Campus. From no bowls the years before he came to one named for a second-rate chain eatery his first season, one named for a department store chain the second, and now the real deal. Sugar Bowl. New Orleans. New Year’s.

So the suitors have come a callin’, as they never did before. Or so it is said.

Charlie Strong won’t say.

Charlie Strong won’t say what we want to hear him say, “I’m grateful for my opportunity here at Louisville. I am L1C4.”

What Charlie Strong does say is cryptic. He’d rather not say anything. But we push. We want to know. We need to know.

So Charlie Strong, devoid of PR savvy, talks in circles. Starts. Stops. Parries. Mumbles. Retracts.

Charlie Strong’s drummer has lost the beat.

– Seedy K

5 Comments

  1. Wildcat
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Absolutely terrific piece of writing. One of your best ever. As good as anything that I have read anywhere this year.

  2. Birdie King
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    LachNuts said on his show last night that UL has offered Charlie PR and media relations training several times and he turned them down. It’s showing.

  3. Leo
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Great article, and right to the point!

    I think Charlie is caught between a Cardinal in the hand, and a Volunteer in the bush.

  4. mark
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Another wonderful, poetic piece, Sir. I join the chorus above, and sing the praises of your wonderful writing. Thank you.

  5. doug
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Great piece, Seedy! You got to the essence of Charlie Strong.
    Passionate, desiring to be honest and finding it difficult due to the complexity of the situation, unsophisticated, small town, loyal to players and conflicted with leaving them, loves the SEC, doesn’t understand tradition building is a process, loves Jurich,…
    Tough decision, Charlie. Hope you stay.

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