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National Post - Canada
By Dave Feschuk
Pollard made the move from jock to rock
Sporting Q&A: Guided By Voices front man was once a sports prodigy
Bob Pollard is perhaps the greatest athlete in rock 'n' roll history. It is
a dubious distinction, to be sure, but the forty-something front man of
Guided By Voices, the underground favourites from Dayton, Ohio, was once a
golden-armed prodigy. He pitched a no-hitter in a U.S. college game; he
could toss a football 70 yards. And while he does not often play sports any
more -- unless you count his gymnastic stage show and a tour rider that
furnishes his five-man band with five cases of Budweiser at every stop -- he
still talks a fine game. In the lead-up to his coming tour, which lands in
London, Ont., Toronto and Ottawa next week, Pollard (BP) talked with the
National Post's Dave Feschuk about squandered jockdom.
NP I hear you were a high school baseball hero.
BP Yeah, I threw about 95 miles an hour. I was invited to these camps with
the Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds. I threw a fastball every
pitch. I would just blow people away ... And I think if I hadn't injured my
arm, I think I had potential for something to happen. But I'm kind of glad
it didn't, because now I'm doing what I really like to do. Being in a rock
band is better than being on a baseball team.
NP Was there a tension between your love of the game and your fascination
BP I liked sports and I liked music and I did both. But my dad thought by
being interested in music and spending too much money on records, it was
taking away from my attention to athletics. My dad was kind of like that; he
didn't want us to have girlfriends, he thought girls ruined athletes -- and
actually, he was kind of right.
NP Sounds like your dad was a bit of an Earl Woods.
BP He thought I had a golden arm. That was his thing. He'd milk it down
after games, and he'd say, "You've got a golden arm. You've got to take care
of it." All this kind of s---. It was his ambition, and anything that got in
the way got him kind of upset. But it was him that got me into music. When I
was 12, he joined the Columbia record club, where you get 12 albums for a
penny. And he let me choose the albums.
NP After you pitched that no-hitter at Wright State, your alma mater in
Dayton, how did your career end.
BP Actually, I got voted off the team. Yeah, my senior year, with maybe two
or three weeks left in the season, I was 6-1 and the team was, like, 17-27.
And the coach got the seniors together and they voted me off the team
because my attitude was really bad.
NP Not long after, you became an elementary school teacher and a football
coach. How'd that go?
BP That's the most fun thing in sports, is to be a head coach in football.
To be able to call the plays and design the offence, that's a lot of fun.
Football is supposedly the most complicated game in the world, as far as
options, it's supposed to be more complicated than bridge. Even peewee
football, when I coached my son in sixth grade, we had 150 plays. I would
number the plays on a card. I had 75 plays, and if we called it "opposite"
the play would go the other way. It worked pretty well. We averaged, like,
36 points a game.
NP I understand your new CD, Isolation Drills, takes its title from a
BP When I was the assistant coach of a high school team, me and Pete Jamison
[who later became the band's manager] designed a whole series of drills
called isolation drills, which our head coach rejected, because he thought
we were stoned when we did it. He knew it. He said, "Were you guys stoned
when you came up with this?" And we said, "Yes. But a lot of good things are
thought up when you're stoned." So he never used the drills, but I still
think they were good drills.