Let's take time out from the distressing state of modern football for this melancholy portrait of Bob Suffridge by the great Paul Hemphill:

The evening began with an expedition to the friendly neighborhood liquor store four blocks away, where a purchase of four quarts of sticky-sweet Wild Irish Rose red wine was negotiated with a reedy gray-haired man behind the cash register. When the man saw who was shuffling through the front door his jaw tightened and he glanced nervously around, as if checking to be sure everything was nailed down.

"When you start drinking that stuff, Bob?" he asked.

"Since the last time I woke up and didn't know what month it was," said Robert Lee Suffridge, inspiring a doleful exchange about his drinking exploits. It was concluded that cheap wine at least puts you to sleep before you have a chance to do something crazy. Paying for the $1.39-a-quart bottles he trudged back out the door into the dry late-afternoon July heat and nursed the bleached twelve-year-old Mercury back to his apartment.

It is an old folks' home, actually, a pair of matching six-story towers on the outskirts of Knoxville, Tennessee. At fifty-five he isn't ready for an old folks' home yet, but a brother who works for the state arranged for him to move in. Most of the other residents are well past the age of sixty-five, and to the older ladies like Bertha Colquitt, who lives in the apartment next to his and lets him use her telephone, he is their mischievous son. More than once they have had to call an ambulance for him when he was either drunk or having heart pains, but they don't seem to mind. "Honey, if I was about ten years younger you'd have to watch your step around me," he will say to one of them, setting off embarrassed giggles. God knows where he found four portable charcoal grills, but he keeps them in the dayroom downstairs and throws wiener roasts from time to time. He grows his own tomatoes beside his building, in a fiberglass crate filled with loam and human excrement taken from a buddy's septic tank.

From The Library of America's anthology of great football writing.

[Photo Credit: Fountain City History]