Cannons - Strangers (Audio)
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Of course, what he likes hasn't mattered for a long time now. For the past half century, he has existed mostly through the eyes of others, the narrative of his life in their control. They stare, they whisper, they point. They wonder what to make of his hard exterior, or the gruff responses he gives to strangers, or the fact that he has spent much of the past two decades in virtual seclusion. For years, the few people he allowed to come close were left with more questions than answers. Does he know who he is Does he know what he means Are his days filled with regret Strangers yearn to know him, yet he seems unknowable, to the men who played with him, maybe even to himself. He gave me more time than he's ever given a writer before, and for every moment I thought I understood him, there were two more that made me sure I didn't know what he thought about anything. His own college coach says he didn't really like the younger, more arrogant version of this old man inching down the hill.
Cannon is eating in a Baton Rouge sports bar, just feet from where his Heisman Trophy is on display, when The Punt Return comes on television. He watches, amused, as patrons stop eating and cheer each broken tackle as if seeing it for the first time, never realizing the man who actually broke those tackles is just a table away. He can protest all he wants, but there no way anymore to deny the truth he didn't understand 50 years ago in that restaurant out on Airline Highway: There are two of him. Mostly, they are strangers, but the man and the icon have a responsibility to each other. The icon can't stay safely at Angola forever; he needs to take baby steps back into the world. The two Billy Cannons, it seems, are beginning to understand each other at long last. 59ce067264