I am reading the book 'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight'. There is a paragraph in this book which starts with the following sentence:

It didn't help that, when I wasn't a foot soldier in Hayes's Army, I was still serving in the Reserves. (A seven year commitment.)

I want to know what is he referring to by the phrase "it didn't help that".
What is the correct meaning of "it didn't help that"?
Moreover, what does "a foot soldier" as the person (Hayes) is an accountant in the book.

  • "It didn't help that I was still serving in the Reserves." The clause between commas is "parenthetical". – Hot Licks Apr 11 at 17:42
  • @HotLicks For what it did not help was the confusion. I think the answer by konniptions is right in that context. Phil knight is referring to the alcohol ingestion. That answer has 2 downvotes.But i dont think there is anything wrong in that answer. – Sudhir Sharma Apr 12 at 6:44
  • Konniptions "answer" does not answer your question. – Hot Licks Apr 12 at 11:55

I have not read the book which you are referring to, so perhaps some context which is relevant is missed to me. In general English, however, the phrase "It did not help that X" is usually used to express than an already negative event is further amplified by X. For example

The elevator in my apartment was broken. It did not help that my limp had only gotten worse.

Here, the narrator expresses their frustration that the elevator is broken implying that they must use the stairs - this is the negative event. The negative event is further amplified by the fact the narrator has a limp, making it even less convenient for them to use the stairs; hence, "it did not help that my limp had gotten worse."


It didn't help that, when I wasn't a foot soldier in Hayes's Army, I was still serving in the Reserves.

The comma-separated phrase "when ... Army" is a "parenthetical phrase" -- it adds information which, while perhaps necessary for comprehension, is not needed to have a "correct" sentence.

So analyze "It didn't help that I was still serving in the Reserves". "It didn't help" is the syntactic "meat" of the sentence, and "that ... Reserves" is a conjunctive clause (may be called other things, depending on your religion) that identifies what "It" means.

So "It" is the subject "did not help" is the verb, and "I was still serving in the Reserves" tells us what "It" means.

"Reserves", especially when capitalized, would be taken to mean "US Army Reserves", people who work "normal" jobs but who can be "called up" on short notice to serve in the military. They generally must attend training sessions at regular intervals, somewhat disrupting their "normal" lives.

It's difficult to say with any certainty but I would interpret "Hayes's Army" to mean that "Hayes" is a business manager who expects military-like obedience and subservience from his underlings. "Foot soldier" implies that our narrator was in the lower ranks of Hayes's organization.


Perhaps Phil Knight is referring to the amount of alcohol he is ingesting, and it not being a particularly good thing that he is drinking so much at that time in his life. After talking about drinking a lot with Hayes everyday after work (because Hayes insisted all the junior accountants join him), Knight also mentions "marching double-time to the bar the moment we were dismissed" from duty on Tuesday nights. He has a line a little further down: "Between the Reserves and Hayes, I wasn't sure my liver was going to see 1966."

When Knight talks about being a foot soldier in Hayes's army, he is noting the fact that he (Knight) is a junior accountant. As a junior accountant Knight does important work, however he has no authority. Hayes has the authority, thus it is Hayes's army. Knight is a foot soldier - he has to do what Hayes tells him (e.g., going to the bar to drink after work).

I hope this helps.

  • Thank you sir, it cleared my doubts. There is one more sentence "Thus,many nights,I'd voluntarily,even eagerly,enter some Portland dive and match Hayes round for round,shot for shot. What is dive in this sentence. – Sudhir Sharma Apr 11 at 6:56
  • A dive is a cheap bar (place that sells alcoholic beverages). – Xanne Apr 11 at 7:29
  • From where can i get the meaning of such words.. i also googled it many times but was unable to find the meaning – Sudhir Sharma Apr 11 at 10:37
  • I searched "It did not help" using the search engine DuckDuckGo (which comes with Firefox); first search result was It did not help that | WordReference Forums. But when you're looking for single words such as "dive", an ordinary dictionary should help: I looked up "dive" in the Cambridge Free English Dictionary, scrolled down to "dive noun (PLACE)" and it gives the definition "dive noun (PLACE)" as "informal a restaurant, hotel, bar, or place for entertainment ..." – TrevorD Apr 11 at 19:05

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