Moor or Less: Of awkward conversations, sweet tattoos and ‘Punt, John, punt’

The guy had to wait in the Chick-fil-A parking lot here in Tucson while my wife and I cut in front of his car. I happened to look down at his front license plate and saw that he was from Illinois.

Or so I thought.

I caught his stare and pointed at my Chicago Cub hat on my noggin. I think he thought that I was giving him a “Think!” gesture.

Bill Moor

He rolled down his window and kind of in an annoyed tone said, “What?”

“Cubs or White Sox?” I asked.

“What are you talking about?” he replied.

“Well, I see you’re from Illinois and wondered what baseball team you support,” I said, a little uncomfortable now.

“Neither,” he said. “I’m from Oregon. This is a rental.”

My wife giggled. He shrugged. I just stood there a little dumbfounded before I said, “Well, enjoy your Chick-fil-A.”

He shook his head, “I’m just cutting through here to get to In-N-Out Burger.”

I figured it was time for me to quit talking.


Our waitress, Celine, who was an 11 on my 10-point scale, had a thin, delicate tattoo — almost like a necklace — that ran a little above her … her … her cleavage.

I tried not to stare — too much.

But finally, my credo of “I can ask anybody anything because I’m a journalist” came to the forefront. My wife knew it was going to happen. She even gave me a stare when Celine came back with our table of four’s drinks.

It came out anyway. “What does your tattoo say, Celine?” I asked before my wife could kick me.

She smiled sweetly and said, “‘You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.’ I sing it to my two children at night.”

What’s really funny is that my mom used to sing that same song to my brother, sister and me when we were little and then to her grandkids and great-grandkids. I know it well.

The song was originally performed by Jimmie Davis in 1940 before he would become governor of Louisiana. Only his opponents kept it from becoming the state song. Some of the people who later covered the song were the Pine Ridge Boys, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.

I could have shared all this with Celine but instead only said, “Cool.”

It really was.

I did later ask her if she could sing like the other Celine — Celine Dion. “If I could, I wouldn’t be working here,” she smiled.

She was nice enough not to add, “And having to wait on dorks like you.”


When you are wintering almost 2,000 miles away from home, you sometimes miss significant news — both happy and sad.

Some sad news that I eventually learned about was that John Isenbarger passed away at the age of 76 earlier this month. For all of you older I.U. fans, you know him as one of the key members of the Hoosiers’ Cardiac Kids — the 1967 football team that won so many games in the final moments and finished the regular season 9-1. They eventually lost to the O.J. Simpson-led USC team in the Rose Bowl. It’s still the only time that I.U. played in Pasadena.

A three-sport star at Muncie Central, Isenbarger was recruited by Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp for basketball and placed fourth in the state in the pole vault. But he wanted to play quarterback for Coach John Pont at I.U.

 That didn’t happen. Classmate Harry Gonso beat him out and Isenbarger was switched to tailback, where he was an instant success and a two-time All-American. He, Gonso, and wide receiver Jade Butcher supplied the excitement on offense while a veteran defense kept the Hoosiers in every game.

Isenbarger was also the punter and was excellent at faking a kick and running for the first down. But on his own, he decided to try one against Michigan and fumbled — and it looked like it had cost I.U. the game. Pont put him on the bench but Gonso persuaded the coach to reinsert Isenbarger, who eventually scored the winning touchdown.

After the game, Isenbarger’s mom sent him a telegram: “Punt, John, punt.” That ended up being a headline in Sports Illustrated.

Isenbarger, who played four years with the 49ers after college, was a campus hero, a handsome heartthrob and a really nice guy. One of my high school buddies lived in a four-man fraternity suite with Isenbarger. My buddy spent a good portion of his time answering the phone when coeds would call to talk to Isenbarger.

John Isenbarger. BMOC. HIs name still makes me smile.

Contact Bill at [email protected]