A recent Kansas City Star feature on Bill Snyder's returning to coach football at Kansas State opens with a scene of a house in St. Joseph. The house was chosen because it contains an apartment where Marionetta Snyder, a frail but determined single mother, raised the boy who would one day rescue the K-State program.
"It's where a mother once took her son when it turned out the world was not an easy place to live," Bill Reiter writes in the December 14 story. "It's where the son learned from his mother what it means to be a man."
After listing of some of Snyder's achievements in Manhattan, Reiter purports to tell an untold story about the coach: "What we don't know about Snyder begins in this house." Reiter goes on to establish that Synder's famous work ethic comes from his not wanting to his disappoint his beloved mother.
"What we're about to learn is new..." Reiter writes at the close of his introduction. But that statement is not entirely true. A 1998 profile of Snyder in Sports Illustrated began outside the very same St. Joe apartment.
SI writer Tim Layden came to Manhattan to document KSU's rise from doormat to possible national champion. The Wildcats were undefeated at time the story appeared. (The 1998 team's title hopes eventually died with an overtime loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship Game.)
Layden drew a revealing portrait of Snyder. He described his habit of eating one meal a day and the instance when the coach saw a hypnotist in an effort to function on less sleep. A Big Ten guy who spent 1998 in Iowa and Ohio, I remember reading the detail that Snyder hoarded shoes that Nike had stopped making.
I re-read the Layden story about a year ago. So as much as I enjoyed Reiter's piece (the stuff about Snyder struggling to teach high-school Spanish, especially), I couldn't shake the feeling I had read parts of it before.
This morning, looking to confirm a piece of information in my next column, I went searching for the SI piece. And once again, I was taken back to St. Joe. Layden's piece begins: "Mother and son lived alone in a tiny three-room apartment at Fifth and Robidoux in the northwest Missouri city of St. Joseph." The story goes on to say that Snyder slept in a Murphy bed in the living room.
And as Reiter would do 10 years later, Layden ascribed Snyder's work ethic to love of mom.
"She taught me that what the Lord gives you is time," Snyder told the magazine, "and 24 hours a day is all you get." -- David Martin