Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Pedestal is a Prison

Gloria Steinem once said "Don't put me up on a pedestal.  A pedestal is a prison, like any other small space."  When we idolize someone or some entity or some thing we confine it.  When we, say, idolize a football team, we put that entity up on a pedestal and when they break out of that prison in our mind's eye, the only place to go is down.

For years I have been an avid fan of the University of Texas Longhorn football program.  When we moved back to Texas in 1986 one of the first things I did was purchase season tickets to the Longhorn football games.  We have attended nearly every home game for 26 years and have had a huge tailgate set-up for over 15 years, celebrating with friends and family over BBQ and margaritas on the "40 Acres" on game day.  We have been members of the Longhorn Foundation, a student/athlete support group since its inception.  I follow the team in the news and hang on every word written about them.  As a younger man, my week would be made or shattered by either a win or loss, respectively. It does not affect me quite that much anymore, but I do hate to see them lose.

The Texas Longhorns have had a marvelously successful athletic program over the years; excelling in all sports from football to golf, swimming to track, baseball to basketball, volleyball to gymnastics with both men and women's teams.  The coaches of these teams are legends in their own time; Darrell Royal, Abe Lemons, Augie Gurrido, Rick Barnes, Jody Conradt, Cliff Gufstafson and Mack Brown, just to name a few.  The Longhorn football team, in particular, is one of the most respected and successful college programs of all time.  It has been ranked in the Top 25 in the country, with few exceptions, every year since I can remember.  It is the second winningest program in college football history behind only the Michigan Wolverines.  It is one of the most financially successful teams in the nation and proceeds from its program fund practically every other sport at the University.  In 2012 the Texas Longhorn Football Program was acknowledged as the most valuable program in the nation, estimated at $ 805 million dollars!  That is more than many NFL teams.

In addition to competitive and financial success, the Texas Longhorn football program has achieved a high level of integrity over the years.  It has never been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA for any infractions, let alone banned like Ohio State or Penn State.  And it graduates a relatively high percentage of its players in an era when the NFL can snap up the top talent after their sophomore year.

So, is it any wonder that hundreds of thousands of loyal fans routinely put UT football up on a pedestal?  Ah, but then, when you escape the pedestal....the fall can be great.

Texas plays Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl tonight.  On Thursday night, two of the Texas players violated curfew and were embroiled in an incident which shocked the Longhorn nation.  Accused of rape, Case McCoy, quarterback and brother of NFL quarterback and Longhorn great, Colt McCoy, and linebacker Jordan Hicks, have been suspended from the team and sent home.  At this writing, no arrests have been made or charges filed.  The alleged rape was made by a 21-year old woman who reported she invited the boys back to her hotel room after an evening of drinking and claims she was violated by one while the other boy watched.

Currently, the detail of this sordid story are sketchy, but Mack Brown took swift action in suspending the players involved pending a complete investigation, even though not having his back-up quarterback and star linebacker for this important bowl game will hurt the team.  The action is exactly what a good coach, a coach with integrity, would do even though a loss tonight and a verification of his players alleged wrong-doing will probably cost him his job.

It is a sad moment in UT history, whichever way it ends up, and one more reason why it is not wise to put anyone, any entity or any thing up on a pedestal.


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