What if Payton had Thanksgiving dinner at Westphal’s house?

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Friday, November 24, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

I learned from unreliable sources that the Gary Payton and Paul Westphal families had Thanksgiving dinner together.

One unreliable source told another unreliable source, who then told me, that Payton and Westphal thought it would be a good time to try to patch up their differences. So Payton, his wife and three children went to the Westphal home about 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon.

Here’s how the afternoon went, according to unreliable source No. 1.

The doorbell rings at the Westphal home.

Ding-dong.

Westphal flings open the door only to find Payton and his family retreating down the sidewalk.

“Gary, where’re you going?” he asks.

“Home,” Payton replies curtly.

“Home?” Westphal says in an incredulous voice. “You just got here.”

“You invite me and my family over for dinner and don’t show us no respect.”

“Gary, I no more than get the door open than you’re walking back to your car,” Westphal sputters.

“Coach, it started long before that,” Payton says, a defiant look spreading across his face. “I ring the doorbell and stand there between the ‘ding’ and the ‘dong’ and nobody answers it. That’s a total lack of respect.”

“Gary, don’t be ridiculous,” Westphal says with a smile.

“Nope,” Payton says, “we’re goin’ to Denny’s.”

Just then Westphal’s wife comes out, puts her arm around Payton’s wife and the two, along with Payton’s three kids, disappear into the house, chattering away as if nothing has happened.

Payton lowers his head, stands there pouting.

“Come on, Gary,” Westphal implores in a soothing voice. “Let’s be friends.”

“Oh, OK,” Payton says, and starts slowly toward the door.

Once inside, the two men adjourn to the rec room.

Westphal asks Payton if he wants something to drink.

“What do y’all have?” Payton asks.

Westphal reels off a list of items, like a waiter in a high-class restaurant.

“You don’t have Diet Pepsi?” Payton harrumphs.

“Nooooo … ” Westphal says cautiously.

“Coach,” Payton snaps, “it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That’s all I want. Is that asking too much?”

“Gary, you’re right,” Westphal says, slipping into his overcoat and starting for the door.

“Where y’all goin?’ ” Payton asks.

“To the store to get you some Diet Pepsi,” Westphal says.

“You don’t need to do that,” Payton says.

“I insist,” Westphal says.

“You’d do that for me?” Payton asks. “You’d make a special trip to the store just to get me some Diet Pepsi?”

“Anything your heart desires, Gary.”

“Wow,” Payton says. “You do like me.”

“Gary, I love you like a son.”

“I can’t be your son,” Payton says. “I’ve already got a father.”

“I wasn’t implying that you don’t have a father,” Westphal says.

“But you said … “

“I know what I said,” Westphal sighs. “Forget it, Gary. Forget what I said.”

“What? Y’all don’t want to be my father no more? You think you’re too good to be my father? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Gary, will you stop being so cantankerous,” Westphal pleads.

“There you go, insulting me again,” Payton replies.

Exasperated, Westphal goes over, leans his head against the fireplace and mutters quietly to himself.

“Paul, Gary, dinner,” a female voice chirps from the kitchen.

The families go into the dining room and take their places around the table.

“Boy, am I hungry,” Westphal says, eyeing the feast before him. “I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast.”

“What’d ya have?” Payton asks.

“Bacon and eggs … “

“All that grease ain’t good for y’all,” Payton says in an admonishing tone. “You ought to eat cereal and fruit.”

Just then Payton belches. Not missing a beat, he continues to eat.

“Uh, Gary,” Westphal says, leaning his head in Payton’s direction.

“What?”

“I didn’t hear an ‘excuse me,’ ” the coach says.

“Y’all ain’t gonna hear one, either,” Payton replies.

“Well, in that case, I’m going to have to ask you to go in the other room and finish your dinner,” Westphal says.

“I’m not moving,” Payton says, crossing his arms and pugnaciously sticking his chin out.

Sensing that Payton is adamant, Westphal lays down his napkin and starts to get up.

“Where y’all goin’?” Payton asks.

“If you won’t leave, we will. Come,” he says, gesturing to his family and the rest of the Paytons. “We’ll finish our dinner in the kitchen.”

“Wait,” Payton says. “I was wrong. I apologize.”

Westphal smiles broadly.

“Gary, you’re a prince,” he says, getting up and giving him a big hug.

“Uh, coach.”

“Yeah, Gary?”

“I’m really thirsty for a Diet … .”

Before Payton can finish his thought, Westphal is into his overcoat, through the door and backing out of the driveway.

Payton smiles, sits down in a chair in front of the fireplace, puts his feet up on the coffee table.

“Ah,” he says, “life is good.”

Closing his eyes, he quickly falls asleep.

Unreliable sources tell me that Payton didn’t drink any Diet Pepsi.

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