He Tries Hard

by William E. Stafford

                                        Department of English
                                        October, Any Year

I. M. Musselman, Head Coach
Memorial Gymnasium
Any College, U. S. A.

Dear Coach Musselman:

     Keeping in mind our discussions of your football men who are
having troubles in English, I have decided to ask you, in turn, for

     We feel that Paul Spindles, one of our most promising
scholars, has a chance for a Rhodes Scholarship, which would be a
great thing for him and for our college. Paul has the academic
record for this award, but we find that the aspirant is also
required to have other excellences, and ideally, should have a good
record in athletics. Paul is a weakling. He tries hard, but he has
troubles in athletics.

     We propose that you give some special consideration to Paul
as a varsity player, putting him, if possible, in the backfield of
the football team. In this way we can show a better college record
to the committee deciding on the Rhodes Scholarships. We realize
that Paul will be a problem on the field, but--as you have often
said--cooperation between our department and yours is a highly
desirable thing; we do expect Paul to try hard, of course. During
intervals of study we shall coach him as much as we can. His work
in English Club and on the debate team will force him to miss many
practices, but we intend to see that he carries an old football
around to bounce (or whatever one does with a football) during
intervals in his work. We expect Paul to show entire good will in
his work for you, and though he will not be able to begin football
practice until late in the season, he will finish the season with
good attendance.

                                        Sincerely yours,

                                        Benjamin Plotinus, Chairman
                                        Department of English

This classic spoof has been widely circulated, sometimes under the title "Turn About is Fair Play", often without credit to the author. Prof. Stafford, an English Professor at Lewis and Clark College said, in a 1979 letter to me, "I am pleased to find that masterpiece of mine homogenized into folklore."

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