Monday, January 23, 2012

How Far Can We Take Political Correctness...Before It Becomes Stupidity?

I first have to thank a friend for sending me the article about this particular post.  He knew I'd go on a rant because, well....we really seem to be approaching 'The Line'.  "What line?" you ask.  The line that has common sense, civility and decency on one side....and sheer unadulterated, laughable stupidity on the other.  I'm sorry but we have truly lost our collective minds.  See?  I'm ranting already and you don't even know what it's about yet.  I'm saving that for the 'Big Reveal'.  It's too incredibly priceless not to.  When I read the article, though, I started thinking about this thing we call Political Correctness...and I think it's time for it to go.  True, we'll still need a modicum of civility and common sense which, as we all know, seems to be in short supply for many.  Still, we can try without having to be so concerned we're going to hurt someone's feelings.  When I began to ponder all this, I realized that this thing we've created is actually causing more issues than it helped resolve.  Let's put it into perspective - when I was a kid, we'd spend our days outdoors playing games, one of which has been renamed for our youth.  So that they might be politically-correct, there are kids that run outside to play, "Native Americans and The Frontiersman that Stole Their Land."  We called it, "Cowboys and Indians."  Whoa, what a huge no-no that is, huh?

I remember when much of this began.  Suddenly, we had to say that people were African-Americans because "black," was considered offensive.  To whom?  Jesse Jackson?  Al Sharpton?  I'm sorry, fellas, but I'm not trying to be disrespectful...and I will tell you why I am okay with using the term, "Black."  I always felt this way, however it truly hit home and made an impression when, in the Richmond-Times Dispatch, a black man wrote a letter to the editor.  He stated in his letter that he was a US Marine and had fought for his country.  He was born here and will die here.  He went back four generations in his family and could not find one person that came from Africa.  He refused to be called and African-American because he was, and is, American.  Kudos, brother - I salute you!  You see, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are always screaming, to anyone that will listen, of the grave injustices done to their ancestors.  I get it.  Hell, we ALL get it.  Trouble is, I didn't own any slaves nor do I know of anyone that did.  I thought it extremely ironic, too, that these are more men that are inspired to cause a fight rather than fix the problem.  Oh, they will portray themselves as the latter but I know differently.  You see, I had the opportunity to meet Jesse Jackson once.  While living in Richmond, Doug Wilder was recently elected the first black Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  As the participants and guests began to arrive at the State Capitol, I was on the grounds in downtown Richmond.  I looked up and ol' Reverend Jackson was about three feet away.  There were few people in the vicinity and I stuck my hand out instinctively.  I even said, "Rev. Jackson, how do you do?"  Yeah, that's a whole other 'southern thing'...but I digress.  Anyway, the man ignored me.  Not entirely true - he looked at me and brushed my hand away, saying nothing.  I lost no respect for him that day but, rather, allowed this to confirm my suspicions.  If you want us to be "PC," you'd better know it's a two-way street.  Many of us Irish-Americans are tired of strolling it in one direction.

Again, I digress, though.  I am missing the part of the story that involves stupidity.  Yep, he knew I'd rant...and here I am getting WAY off track.  My fault - please excuse the mess.  Anyway, here's the one I was telling you about initially.  The one that shows we have gone far too far....and we're becoming blithering idiots.  Hang on - you're not going to believe this one.  You see, it seems that, in Draper,UT, Corner Canyon High School will be opening in 2013.  It's a new school and they are preparing for their first classes.  In this state, Brigham Young University (BYU) plays a big part.  They are the collegiate powerhouse that enjoys a huge fan base of those that follow the Mormon faith, as BYU is a Mormon school.  Well......seriously, I cannot believe I am even going to share the fact that this issue arose......the high school needed to plan everything, including its mascot.  BYU Cougars gave them their inspiration...and the school board allowed the students to vote on what they wanted.  By an overwhelming majority, the students chose "Cougars," over "Chargers, Diamondbacks, Falcons, Raptors, Bears," and a few others.  A nice thing the school board did allowing student participation in the process, I feel, right?  Yeah, they WON'T let them use the name.  Nope.  Can't be the Draper Canyon Cougars.  Want to know why?  Because (and I quote), "Board members deemed it might be seen as offensive to middle-aged women."  Please read that again...and let it sink in.  These kids cannot be called the Cougars because we are too concerned that (according to Webster's dictionary #2 definition - a slang term), "A middle-aged woman seeking a relationship with a younger man," might get offended.  I....I's.....I can't.....well, but......ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  SERIOUSLY?  ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

So let's sum this up, shall we?  We can't say black, we have to say African-American.  Florida State shouldn't be called the Seminoles.  Atlanta's baseball team shouldn't be called the Braves.  The 'tomahawk chop' needs to go.  Now, we can't use the term Cougar??  What if it pisses off the cat?  I gotta tell ya', folks, I'm a whole lot more worried about that prospect than some middle-aged woman being upset.  Let me get this straight, too - if we decide to use the term, I don't know....'Tiger' mean a middle-aged man that wants to have a relationship with a younger woman, then Detroit's baseball team is going to have to change?  LSU changes their mascot?  That one works for me...but still, are we really going to go this far?

It's time we change the rules and stop making this a focus.  it always ends up in a court case that costs time and money, yet is nothing more than frivolous.  I have an idea.  How 'bout we just try being nice to others and less offended by the little things.  Sure, it's still going to happen and feelings will be hurt from time to time, but that's what makes an apology so useful.  Just sayin'.  I think it would make a lot more sense than the idiocy we're showing now...don't you?

Until next time................

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Finality of an Era...and We'll Miss You, Joe.....

It finally happened.  A day that many of us thought surely would never arrive...has come.  What can be said that has not been written and reported at this point?  Joe Paterno, former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, has died at the age of 85.  A college football coach died today.  I still, personally, find it hard to say, "former," before the title of head coach.  Yes, he was summarily dismissed from his position after 46 years as head coach and 61 years overall.  The Board of Trustees saw an opening several months ago - one they had been waiting for that they assumed would never come - and took the opportunity to finally, once and for all, force Paterno and Penn State into the 21st century.  After a particularly dismal 4-7 season in 2004, they called for him to step down.  This was, by most accounts, going to be the proverbial 'straw' that would break the hold on the head coaching job and finally get Coach Paterno to step down.  He met with the Athletic Director...and refused.  Joe told him he would retire when he was ready...and not before.  His answer to those critics?  The team took the field in 2005 under his command and proceeded to rack up 11 wins to only one loss.  Those critics?  Yes...a long, pronounced silence.  That was until 2011 and a former defensive coordinator gave the administration said opportunity.  I find it sad, as many of us do, that more had been written and reported about Joe Paterno during the scandal than the perpetrator of the crimes.  Rather than crucify the man who allegedly performed those heinous acts, we publicly humiliated and dispensed with a man that had given more than anyone to the university.  I cannot discuss THAT again - I've already let my feelings be known months ago.

What has made a lasting impression, though, on many is that this man put in more years at one job...than many people can imagine.  61 years?  46 as head coach?  THAT is why we have seen the end of an era today.  Gone are the days, especially in college athletics, of someone holding a job for that duration.  That 4-7 season the Nittany Lions suffered through back in 2004 would have cost many lesser coaches their job.  As it is widely known, I am one of the Crimson Tide faithful here in Alabama.  We have a coach now that we would love to keep for, well, as long as he wants to stay.  Why?  Because he is winning.  In a time when money is tied to the winning percentage, the school needs wins...and will pay handsomely for them.  From 1992 through 2006, Alabama went through a slew of coaches...because they didn't win routinely.  For almost half a century, Joe Paterno helped make Penn State football his lasting legacy.  He taught 'Success with Honor' - a credo that had come under fire recently - though I say he always was, and will be, honorable in both word and action.

Seen here with his players, they became his staunchest supporters.  He molded them into men...and not just on the football field.  The loyalty and pride of a Penn State graduate is infectious and fierce.  While this is true with many schools, the Penn State faithful do so knowing that their beloved program and coach were never the focus of, nor were there any sanctions by, the NCAA.  Joe made academics important, too, and had one of the highest graduation rates for his players consistently.  The program was built around his leadership...and today, that leader was silenced with a finality we all understand, yet find hard to accept.

It's hard not to draw comparisons between Joe, Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden, and Eddie Robinson.  These men gave their all to their players and schools with fiercely loyalty and passion.  They were all, in my opinion, men of class and character.  Perhaps that's why they were always among the winningest coaches in the college game.  We watched Bear Bryant, as he retired, tell folks that, "I'd probably croak in a week if I ever quit coaching."  His love for his players, his school and the game was that great.  Bryant died just 37 days after announcing his retirement.  I often said, as did many friends and PSU faithful, that we thought the same thing might happen to Joe.  He was forced into retirement on 11/9/2011.  Less than three months later, we've lost Joe, too.  In interviews on ESPN today, several people made comments with the same general theme - they believe Joe died of a broken heart.  I think so, too.  He left a loving wife, Miss Sue, 5 children, and 17 grandchildren.  They were there until the end...and never broke his heart.  It was, sadly, the loss of the thing he loved most - working with his players, the schools, the supporters.  Those were the things that sustained him daily, along with his personal family, and he simply missed the loss too much.

We went to Penn State earlier this season.  We got to see the final Alabama-Penn State game that Joe would ever coach.  It would be his final loss.  After that game, his team proceeded to run off a string of seven more wins before Joe was told he would no longer be the head coach.  I'm glad we went.  It will be something I will be able to tell my kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren about in the years to come.  It will be important enough for me to tell them because I still believe Joe epitomized, "Success With Honor."  He was a man of class and character...and regardless of what has been said in the past three months, should be remembered as one of the best ever.  He finishes with more wins than any coach in college football history - 409.  He coached more games than anyone, with the exception of Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Look it up - it's a big deal.  He tied Stagg's record....and had the Board of Trustees had any soul, they would have allowed him to coach against Nebraska for the record.

It was asked today, of a former player, what Penn State lost this morning.  "They lost their heart."  For a man that gave his life to the institution...and to anyone that was a fan, or even a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we know that to be true.  RIP Coach Paterno.  Say hello to the Bear...and the two of you start preparations for when the rest of us join you.  That'll be a game we'll want to see again.

Until next time...................

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Was, After All, Their Destiny.....

It's been forever, I know.  Over a month since I've written for someone to read.  Maybe it was too often then.  Some too controversial.  Too.....I don't know...lacking, perhaps.  Tonight, though, I'm sensing some of you almost expected to see this again.  More than me simply reliving last night's Crimson Tide victory over LSU, this is more of the 'why' we expected this...or thought it was destined to happen.

Many, if not all, of you remember back a little more than eight months ago when THE tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa.  Living here, watching it head our direction, seeing the reports as it tore through downtown Tuscaloosa was more than we could believe.  Unimaginably, it headed for Bryant-Denny Stadium...and missed.  What it did not miss, though, were the thousands of lives in and around the University of Alabama campus.  Most notably, as we've all come to know, was the first confirmed fatality for a Crimson Tide student, Ashley Harrison, the girlfriend of Tide long snapper, Carson Tinker.  According to Tinker's later report, he and Ashley, along with one of his roommates were in their apartment when the storm headed toward them.  They huddled together, he and Ashley, until the incredible winds literally ripped the 22-year old woman from his arms.  The storm threw them all from the apartment - Tinker landed in a field about 50 yards away, while Ashley was found about 100 yards away.  The storm decimated much of Tuscaloosa.  60 miles away, here in Birmingham, we watched as debris rained down as readily as the raindrops themselves.  You looked toward the sky and watched pieces of trees, mobile homes, family dwellings come floating toward the ground.  It was, as I mentioned those months ago, unnatural.  Ashley was killed that day...and Carson Tinker was indelibly touched with loss.

The town began the rebuilding process as I've come to know southerners simply do.  They do not stand around asking, "Why us, why here?" but, rather, they pick up the pieces and rebuild almost as if it is an expected part of the life process.  They just survive...and come back stronger.  It is, honestly, something very cool to see.  This town, you have to understand, lays claim (at that point) to 13 National Titles in college football.  Hell, everyone knows that, right?  Okay, in the poll-era they are only recognized with 9 Championships, however the system that dates back to the beginning of college football itself recognizes the number "13".  Needless to say, life here revolves around this school and its teams.  The legendary Bear Bryant, with 6 Championships to his credit, saw to that.  The town began looked to this team, the 2011 Crimson Tide, to provide some sense of belief that life could actually return to 'normal'.  They had their chance and spoke of, "If we can...," knowing it would help heal the wounds.  The season began with the Tide ranked #2 behind Oklahoma...and they knew they could.  Those hopes remained...until November 5, 2011.  That day.  The game between LSU, ranked #1, and Alabama, ranked #2, was billed as 'The Game of The Century.'  Okay, so the century is only 11 years old.  Fair enough.  A little over-hyped?  Perhaps.  A great game when all was said and done?  Very much so, especially if you are a purist and love defensive battles.  It was a 6-6 tie at the end of regulation and Bama had missed 4 field goals.  In overtime, they missed another...and LSU would not be denied.  What no one realized, though, was that it was meant to happen.  It HAD to happen.  Was SUPPOSED to happen.  I only realized that toward the end of last evening's game.

Alabama had lost to the #1 team in the nation.  Surely, they could not fall that far in the polls.  They didn't. They dropped to #3.  Along the way, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oklahoma, and a few others had a chance to leap over Alabama and reach the summit - a #2 ranking - for a chance to play LSU in the Championship.  LSU continued to win...and looked incredible doing they marched toward a perfect season.  Alabama continued to win, too, as their defense maintained the #1 ranking in ALL major categories.  They were outstanding and had held the LSU offense to three field goals in their loss....but it was a loss.  Those other teams?  Yes, they marched toward the end of the season, too.....and all proceeded to lose a game.  The highest-ranking challenger to Alabama would end up being Oklahoma State who had posted an unexpected loss to an unranked Iowa State.  Today, they are still talking about why THEY deserved to be in the Game rather than Alabama.  Moot point, though.  With a very flawed BCS system, they are simply charged with placing the top two teams in the country into the Championship Game.  They got it right.  For a few weeks, we've heard the question, "If LSU wins it all, will they be considered one of the best teams EVER in college football?"  If they had spanked Alabama, then yes.  If they had SCORED on Alabama, then maybe.  They didn't.

We've heard all the reasons Alabama should not have been in this game.  They are in the same division of the same conference as LSU.  They did NOT go to the conference championship.  LSU played Georgia for the SEC Championship.  It would be a rematch...and they aren't supposed to happen.  Then we understand that, nowhere in the rules does it state that you must win your conference to go to the Championship game.  Whew.  What?  Just the two best teams?  Good - I'm thinking LSU and Alabama...right?  Again, the system is flawed.  Don't hate the teams, hate the system.  We didn't "work the system," we played within it.  Went out and....well, won.  Like I said, this was meant to happen.  SUPPOSED to, even...because, at the end of the evening, Alabama had come into New Orleans ranked #2 with the #1 defense.  LSU had the #2 defense.  it promised to be another slugfest...that never materialized.  LSU was held to 92 total yards, 5 first downs, and only got past the 50-yard line one time.  The defense was dominant, while LSU could not contain the Nick Saban-designed game plan.  it was, if you're a Bama fan, something of beauty and domination.  This team handled business at hand with incredible determination, skill, and focus.  The kicker, he of, "I can't believe I missed another," fame earlier in the year, banged 5 through the posts last night.  It was a lopsided 21-0 drubbing that was the first ever shutout in the BCS era.  Again, for a Crimson Tide fan, it was remarkable.

As I said initially, though, this was a thing of destiny.  If you don't believe it, remember this - Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State.  Stanford lost to Oregon (on cue) and Baylor knocked off Oklahoma (when needed) so Alabama could retain the #2 ranking much to the chagrin of many.  I know it sucks...but those are the rules.  Hey, all they had to do was...not lose!  Destiny.  As everyone watched, the final point to this 'Destiny' theory was driven home - today, 1/10/12, would have been Ashley Harrison's 23rd birthday.  Carson Tinker, along with Ashley's parents and friends, lost a beautiful young lady that day.  I refuse to believe that, in ANY small way, last night wasn't touched by destiny....or fate.  Ask Carson if he believes....

Congratulations to the 2012 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.  Last night was something every Crimson Tide fan needed...and appreciated.

Until next time.............