The cat-and-mouse game between the sexes provides a dark side to Chapter 26 of "The Leather Man." In a stronger marriage, the chapter would consist of a congenial chat between a defensive coordinator and his wife about the potential of the Wranglers' impressive linebacking corps. But, in the context of the Steinbrecher marriage, Gloria's half of the exchange unfolds as a layered cake, with her superficial comments nuanced to mask the undertones of her growing attraction to Brock Banning.
By mid-June Gloria has to acknowledge that she's been thinking about the middle linebacker, whom she met in late March while bar-hopping with Sandy Wilson, the wife of offensive-backfield coach Jerry Wilson ("The Pike"). In a soliloquy she wonders what Banning has been doing during the Southern California summer:
Soaking up beach culture and hanging around with a lot of women in bikinis. But how could I even be thinking about that? It's his life, and he's the right age to enjoy it. A moment later she was amazed at the depth of the envy the thought evoked in her.When the players begin returning to Idaho's Magic Valley six weeks later to start training camp, Gloria makes a half-hearted effort to get Banning out of her mind. That dissolves into an even stronger craving to see more of him, and Sandy provides the method by reminding her many wives of coaches watch practice sessions before and during the season, most to show support for their husbands.
Gloria takes the misdirection game a dangerous step further the week before Canyon State's opener by initiating a conversation about the linebackers. Her opening gambit is to ask Ben about David Talty's hand ("Pain"), followed by another question about Danny Malahewa, the other outside linebacker, whom she refers to as "the Hawaiian kid." Then, having circled the issue, she inquires about Banning. Ben replies:
"He's an animal, and that makes him the right man to play in the middle. You remember him from last year?"
"He's caught the attention of everyone at bridge. He reminds them of Burt Reynolds, only scarier. The girls all want to see him in action."
"What kind of action is the bridge club into?"
"Well, I think the point of reference is football. You men forget some women would like to see Canyon State improve too."By then Ben is uneasy about where Gloria is going with her new-found interest in his work. But, in the excitement of the fresh start each new season brings, he puts his concerns aside to concentrate on his work.