Monday, October 3, 2011

Is writer's view based on guilt or personal pain?

      Author’s Note: I was recently asked a question by someone who has read the memoir November Ever After. The question: Having quit the team the year before the crash, is the perspective you present in your book rooted in guilt or personal pain? For me, there is no “cut-to-the-chase” answer. So, I readily acknowledge that this question did give me cause to pause. This is how I see it.

The author from back in the day.

       As strange as this may sound to some people, I have never had guilt feelings about not being on that plane in 1970. I made a clean break from football when I left the team at the end of my sophomore season in 1969. Once I walked away, there was no second-guessing on my part, no regrets about me no longer being a college jock. I never had any thoughts about putting the pads on again.
      I was not a member of the team in 1970, and that was by choice. There was no spring practice for me in the spring of ’70, and I wasn’t around when pre-season drills started in August of that year. I truly enjoyed my life as a “regular” student.  It never bothered me that I quit football, a game I had played since the time of my single-digit birthdays.  
       When you’re a college athlete in a team sport like football or basketball, there’s a unique kinship that exists among the players. Through all the team meetings, wind sprints, tackling drills, scrimmages, games, team meals and study halls, you become part of something that transcends what you desire to accomplish as an individual.
       This unique bond is further fortified because your teammates are the people you spend most of your time with – on and off the field. As a former teammate, there still was a deep connection, but I no longer shared in that kinship, and that was OK.
       To some degree, November Ever After was written from a perspective of personal pain, but there’s more to it than that. For me, it has a lot to do with sorting through inner feelings and getting some closure.
       Writing this memoir has helped, but for now, getting closure is still an unfinished process. As I write more blog entries and conduct more media interviews, I find myself reflecting a lot more on my college past than I ever have.
       Do I ever wonder why I wasn’t on that plane over 40 years ago?
       Rarely, if ever.
       But this is what I do know.
       It’s by God’s grace that I’m still on this earth. And who’s to say? It’s quite possible that one of the reasons my life was spared was to write the memoir November Ever After. If you knew more about the story behind my book, perhaps you’ll agree. But that’s another topic for another time.


  1. Gyasmine George/Female Field GuideMonday, October 03, 2011

    Thank you Mr. Greenlee!

  2. William "Bill" DodsonMonday, October 03, 2011

    I posed the question for the uninitiated reader who who was not acquainted with you but would question why you wrote the book. Or may have felt the memoir was biased by your own personal experience and not necessarily others at Marshall at that time. I do feel that you have a unique perspective as a former player and close friend of many of the fallen players. I think that your memoir is a voice for what many of us at MU experienced and as you noted 'did not talk about' for a very long time. It is cathartic to reflect on this time of my life with a mature view of life and its ironies. I too find the well of memory flooding my heart as I read what my friends Janice and Debbie experienced on a far deeper personal level than many of us. Not to think I could identify with the parents and children of the victims as well. It is my hope that the book brings healing and comfort while cloture is perhaps an illusive dream for such a devastating experience for us all. You have brought to life many of the individual lives we now memorialize in a sincere and refreshing way. I hope others are free to share some of those reflections of their friends as well. I know Nate Ruffin and I had an unspeakable bond through our adult life and sought to represent Marshall cognizant of the fact that those who had fallen were alive within our hearts and minds at any mention of Marshall. Go Herd!