Monday, October 1, 2007

Progressive Social Commentary on Winning & Losing; Part I


"The Heart of Texas" [where there's only two kinds of players.....them that categorize players into two kinds of players and them that don't].

"Fans of Texas high-school football, as those of us who were strangers to the ways of Pigskin Planet learned last season from the NBC small-town drama "Friday Night Lights," live in the hope that their team will 'go to state'..." -- Nancy Franklin; The New Yorker

The New Yorker Magazine highlights Texas high school football in this review by Nancy Franklin about the Odessa Permian Panthers brought weekly to NBC television in this, its second season.

But woe unto us in Pecos, Texas. The local scuttlebutt is that several Pecos Eagles are planning to drag-up this week due to a season that seems to stagger along from loss to loss under a coach in whom they have lost all confidence. We will keep you posted from our "insider sources" who choose at this time to remain anonymous.

NOW FOR A LITTLE NAME DROPPING: Meanwhile, my former teammate at Port Neches-Groves High School, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Wade Phillips [at that time we were coached by his father, Bum Phillips of Houston Oiler fame] continues to roll, collecting his forth victory in a row with no losses.

Now, having dropped a couple of significant names into this column out of the blue, in addition to the fact that I played my losing college ball at Rice University, which at the time was in the never-to-be-forgotten Southwest Conference, entitles me, I believe, to give a little advice to today's players. Although your coaches could never convince themselves of this truth due to the fact that their jobs are dependent upon their win-loss records, remember: "It's not whether you win or loose that counts, it's whether you can hook-up with the other guys' girlfriends after the game while they are getting drunk and celebrating, then have the whole school talking about it Monday morning."

I feel relatively certain that Wade would tell you the same thing.....well, something close to that anyway. I might add, it's also about enjoying a GAME called football that unfortunately is no longer a game for many "professionals" -- I'm speaking of coaches of course. If you find that your coach is taking the game far too seriously and has begun to abuse you emotionally -- as my college coaches did during our own historic losing season -- kick the coaches ass off the team and YOU stay put. That is, if you really love the game.

Of course, I didn't take my own advice at the time because I felt powerless -- even at age 20 -- to convince anyone that a socially constructed sports institution -- completely a figment of collective imagination -- was being given far too much faux-warrior status for it's actual social value (fun & games), especially since players were not learning to create and re-create their lives through sportsmanship. Rather, we were taught that through cut-throat competitiveness "winners" are everything and "losers" are worth-less.

Even at the end of the game, when we all held hands and said The Lord's Prayer, the "losers" quietly took their places among the whores and lepers and quickly came to the understanding that they could never expect a visit from Quarterback Jesus Bobble-Head after the main switch was thrown by the janitor on those Friday Night Lights.

By the way, the janitor was obviously a loser himself because he wasn't a Southern Baptist, didn't wear a tie to work and sometimes wore socks that didn't match.

The message we got at that time -- a time of Happy Days and phony Fonzie Machismo -- was that, as athletes, we should be ashamed to lose despite all of the socially appropriate encouragement we were given with a wink and a nod, "That's alright, guys, we'll get 'em next year." And, "Keep your heads up"....well, at least bobbing like the Quarterback Jesus on the team chaplain's dashboard.

I accompanied one of my college teammates to the University psychiatrist's office one gloomy winter day after our 0-9-1 season (we even had to forfeit the tie due to an ineligible player who slipped in during the University of Washington game in Seattle). Thurston, let's call him because we are talking about Rice University after all, reported to the doctor that he felt depressed. She stated, "Depression usually implies a loss. Do you feel you have lost something?" Thurston replied, "Ummmhummmm. Ten &%$#@ games!"

Thurston H. Walker Linebacker III, was taking it waaaay too seriously, folks. Coach didn't last long either. The one I had so much trouble with (I never was any good at being cursed and called names, even by adult "role models") committed suicide years later. Yup, waaaay too seriously.

Now Thurston is a coach at a San Antonio high school, but since he is a "winner," he can feel good about himself and his team no matter that Jesus never played football and would have loved him and his players just the same, even if they were "losers".....that is, as long as they were fans of "God's Team"...and didn't hold hands in the huddle.

[Above] Bullwinkle and Rocky celebrate a win with their teammates at Wutzamatta U. While they are out celebrating with "Butt-Weizer" and weed, driving recklessly through neighborhoods buzzing, yelling and honking at girls.....you guessed it.....the "losers" are home being consoled sweetly and tenderly.

-will


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