Tuesday, December 7, 2010

By George

George Marinkov, Methacton High School's iconic football coach and Russian History teacher for almost forty years, was honored at a dinner November 23 during which he and several other area sports luminaries were inducted into the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame. (http://www.mcchof.com/mcchof_banquet.html) Several tables of past players and current colleagues (and SEVEN tables of officials!) were present amongst the 500+ attendees to support "Coach" and celebrate this occasion.

I decided to attend the dinner on behalf of my deceased husband Wesley, who played for George from 1978-1980 and enjoyed every minute of Warrior football, George style. He wouldn't have missed this dinner and seeing Coach again for the world. It was a wonderful event and I had the opportunity to connect with some students and players from 'my' era as well as meet ones who came afterward - all of whom were absolutely wonderful, stellar people.

Also, I had Mr. Marinkov for Russian History in my senior year and his no-nonsense, call-it-as-you-see-it style quickly made him my favorite teacher. You always knew where you stood with George - good, bad or ugly. It's a style I've tried to emulate ever since. No muss, no fuss, no BS.

When it was Marinkov's turn to speak, his remarks and delivery were classic George - minus the ever-present cigar - and it was obvious he was the favorite and most animated speaker of the evening. He brought down the house with his funny recollections of particular players and opposing coaches, relayed in his typical blunt, machine-gun, take-no-prisoners style. For a guy with, shall we say, small stature, he has such a huge presence and personality...you always knew he meant business, and you sure didn't want to mess with him. Most of all, he knew how to lead without being forceful. He knew how to make you want to follow him.  He's one of the reasons my family has continued to attend Methacton football games regularly, even to this day.

(above, he was speaking about how he doesn't 'do' technology like cellphones, and how, even though he isn't sure he deserves this honor, he'll take it anyway...!)

Perhaps his greatest trait, though, is that he can also poke fun at himself. During his remarks, I and others were literally wiping tears of laughter away. Alluding to the perception that his players got away with murder, George quipped,"Of course, the football players all got A's in my class. If you got a C, you had to have been a real jerk". The reality was, George made his class so interesting, so riveting, you couldn't help but do well.

Marinkov was replaced as football coach (rather unceremoniously, some believe), in 2007 when the school administration decided to go in another direction with a new football coach. It was a decision that was very devisive among the players, students and parents, generating a 'bring back George' movement. That experiment has been abandoned and as of this season, Coach is now back on the sidelines as an advisor to his successor, Paul Lepre, a former student. Somehow, to me, anyway, much is right in the Universe again.

Ironically, my son has had Coach as a substitute for a class here and there at the high school, and he, too, adores him and appreciates his style.

I ran into Mr. Marinkov at the high school one day a couple months ago when I was dropping off my son's working papers. He happened to come into the office while I was there. He walked over to me, knowing we knew each other somehow, but he couldn't recall my name (hey, it's only been 30 years!). We reconnected, and I told him how good it was to see him back on the gridiron, how much my husband had loved playing for him, and we talked about how well the team had been doing this year. He said "that's because the guys are being treated like the young men that they are".  Typical George...giving away the credit to the new head coach. However, football-wise, to me, things at Methacton look a lot like they did in 1980. And that's a good thing.

Any guy who can make a dry subject like Russian History interesting and the most looked-forward-to class of the day, AND coach winning teams, is a special person in my book. And I have to think that Coach could not have imagined he'd have made as big an impact on people off the field as on. Congratulations again, George. It's been our pleasure.

See more comments from George here: