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Coach Rowe in Hawaii
Coach Rowe in Hawaii, prior to his death on January 12, 2008, at age 96.
       (Ed. Note: The following piece by Bruce Evans appeared in the Edmonds Tribune Review, where he moonlighted as a columnist in 1966. Fringies, you may recall, were precursors to the hippies, hanging out in Seattles University District.)

by Bruce Evans

A whimsical visitor at an Edmonds basketball game elbowed his neighbor and pointed across the court to the timekeeper at the official scorers table.

       Who is that? he asked. That man with his shoes off. Is he a fringie?

       Seated there, his shoes indeed off, his feet crossed, big floppy sweat socks climbing high up his legs, was Rich Rowe, Edmonds coach and teacher who, though no fringie, generally goes his own way.

       That way leads, in winter, to the basketball games where for years the coach has squinted out through his wire-rimmed eyeglasses with his fingers resting lightly on the buttons of the clock-scoreboard to blow the horn to signal the time. He gets paid modestly for this work, but that is irrelevant: the coach is there because he simply loves a good game. Splitting an Almond Joy with the little jackknife he always carries, he hands a visitor half and then leans forward to munch and watch and work that clock. You cant enjoy a ball game without a goodie, he says.

       Sometimes he comments to his neighbors as the game takes shape. The essence of his talk is that sports are an absolute good that brings out whatever is pure in men and boys, and an unending source of pleasure and humor.

       It is fitting that he is the timekeeper, for a timekeeper is a man who gives order and direction, and the coach has been giving order and direction several hours a day to Edmonds boys since World War II. Older Edmonds residents can remember how in the 40s and 50s the coach took rag-tag bunches of big country boys grown strong from outdoor work or horsing around, not from indoor weight-lifting, and loosely channeled their power in a single-wing formation. Those teams were not fancy, but they were orderly and to the point, and they won. Hundreds of boys were proud of the team and wanted to play for the coach.

       Times have changed. The big country boys are now big city boys, probably stronger and better than ever before. The coach has changed his way some, too. He has abandoned the crude power of the single-wing for the subtler power of the T-formation and its variations. But he still keeps it as simple and orderly and to-the-point as he can. Run Right-Buck, he used to say in the days of the single wing, and if it works, run it again. And if it works again, run it again. He still calls lazy or wrong-headed players fatheads, and when he uses the word it carries a moral connotation. football Some players think that the coachs definition of fathead is far too broad, but the coach holds tight to his principles. You fathead, he used to shout, you fathead, and he would drive his shoulder into a six-footers belly and lift him into the air. There. Thats how you tackle. You need a haircut, too. And the boy would come down. The coach would straighten his baseball cap, which had gotten twisted in the demonstration, the only sign of exertion on his part. The next day, the players head would be shaved, and it would stay shaved until the season ended.

       Although times have changed, the coach will be around for several more years. Hes committed to coaching, to making order out of the big and small, smart and dumb, otherwise aimless boys who report for glory each year. Some time ago he was pressured by school officials to become an administrator, but the work tired and bored and depressed him. He wanted to make order in another way. A man is fortunate indeed when he has work that he likes, the coach said when he stepped away from the job of vice-principal at Edmonds.

       And a mans community is fortunate indeed when he does that work so well.

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