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THE IDLE AMERICAN: An imperfect world

Dr. Newbury

This would be a terrible time for the meek to inherit the earth.

However, it would be a sobering time to acknowledge that TV revenue to major university football programs has greatly changed views on what intercollegiate athletics are supposed to be.

It would be great if our nation were swept by a burning desire to claim the oft-quoted line penned by the late Grantland Rice a full century ago.

Dubbed “the dean of American sportswriters,” Rice isn’t mentioned much these days. His words once viewed as immortal, but generally, are disregarded these days. You probably remember the poem. If you don’t–or if you need a poetic refresher–his words were these:

“For when the One great scorer comes, to mark against your name, He writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.”

This admonition has too often been “kicked to the curb,” by coaches of teams winning by 60, 70 and even 80 points.

Said coaches contend that they have but little choice, what with point spreads viewed as big factors in national rankings.

If this is true, this is a terrible price to pay for rankings, remembrances of which–high or low–are fleeting. For emphasis, I’ll add that such rationale is faulty, deserving of a response of “horsefeathers!”

I am grateful for the wisdom imparted by my late superintendent, O. B. Chambers, a World War II veteran who returned to resume his career as superintendent of then “smallish” Early Public Schools, near Brownwood. 

 He also taught algebra and was “judge and jury” on campus, where, by the way, he lived in a small residence thereon.

I was a third-grader upon his return from military service, and he was immediately a larger-than-life influence. He consoled me as I wrestled with high school algebra, advising, “Don’t try to change it, try to understand it.”

In retrospect, his contention is at the root of my views on keeping sports in perspective.

We had no band at the time, but upon winning home games, we students followed cheerleaders and drummers in “shirt-tail parades” through the streets of Brownwood upon games’ end.

“You must maintain silence when you pass the funeral homes,” he advised tersely, and we knew he meant what he said. At such points, only our shoes’ contact with pavement broke the silence. Just as important was his advice concerning athletic contests. “Win modestly and lose graciously,” he insisted.

His values buoyed me during a 40-year career in higher education. During my presidencies, coaches knew I’d take a dim view of scores suggesting that our opponents were ground into the turf. (I know–as often as not–we were on the losing end, and rarely were there reasons to call coaches on the carpet for lopsided wins.)

For too many coaches for far too long, it has been forgotten that important lessons are learned from both wins and losses.

And everyone needs to apply this important truth as soon as possible.

Recently, a collegiate D-III team in Texas rang up almost 100 points on a greatly outmanned opponent.

Some fans bragged that their kicker had set a school record for extra points. Duh!

Such lopsided scores recorded year after year suggest a critical need to re-visit the athletic conference’s core values. One near the top of the list indicates the importance of absolute commitment to the maintenance of level playing fields.

Coaches can’t be expected to voluntarily commit to aiming for 100% fairness. Most want “the edge” over opponents whenever possible. 

Some institutional presidents choose to maintain wide-eyed innocence when their athletic programs come under fire.

When they don’t, governing boards should intervene. If they don’t, they are likely to eventually be dragged into the ugliness of investigations, charges, and counter-charges. It is this simple: Everyone wins when integrity is maintained. When it is not, everyone loses.

 

Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” roundabout. Comments or inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: www.speakerdoc.com. Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.