Watching Clint Eastwood talk to an empty chair made me wonder if he ever played football. We'll be hearing jokes like that now.
This wave of troubling news for football might be seen as vindication for all those males who passed. That ingrained inferiority complex can be wiped away. Our life choices will be better supported now.
I remember when I was in seventh grade, starting that adolescent journey, the science teacher on the first day of class asked who the football players were. They rose from their chairs. The message was clear: They were special.
Boys with the attributes of running faster and "hitting harder" were special. The best football players were born with these traits.
My only sampling of football was in the neighborhood, informally. I'd get into a three-point stance and absolutely fear what would happen next. I attach one word to those experiences: pain. So I wasn't one of those boys who stood up on the first day of science class.
Those boys subjected their bodies to lots of punishment. They sweated through August workouts. There seems so little (if any) inherent value in this, it must be hard to discuss.
"Boys play football because it's always been that way." Maybe that's what it all devolves to.
"Football builds character" is a general statement - I'd say it's a throwaway statement - that can't really be supported. Really it's a sport that glorifies the offensive backs and receivers while everyone else grunts. The "chubby" and unglamorous boys are asked at a young age to "block." The idea is for the sleek and fast "popular" boys to run and gain yardage.
The linemen and linebackers in high school football don't get much attention in the media.
Actually I bestowed more than the usual amount of attention to those guys when I was in the local print media. I'd meet with coach Jerry Witt at his residence every Saturday morning over steaming coffee. You might say it was a "roving residence." First his family lived by East Side Park, then in west Morris and finally out by the dam. I had to make sure I was fully awake in the morning so I knew where to go.
You could argue we spent too much time discussing each week's game - that my coverage got too lengthy and involved. But I'm glad so many normally unsung players got their due in print. The Brian Williams era in the local print media is over. We no longer have two issues a week.
Fans who want to see coverage in the print media really have to rely on the Willmar newspaper. At least the coverage appears the next day in the Willmar paper. There's no point waiting for the Morris paper which appears eight days later.
The Willmar paper can be very erratic in how it reports facts. The very fact the coverage appears the next day means it will have a certain sausage-making quality about it.
The Willmar paper's biggest excuse for the mistakes it makes is that it relies on "home team coaches" calling in. These coaches have to try to represent both teams. Sometimes I'm sure they do just fine. At its worst, this system can reveal real disasters. You might have a coach who has just lost a close, heartbreaking game, in a mood for kicking over chairs when he comes into the locker room. Oh, I've seen this sort of thing.
And this is the guy we're relying on to call in the precious MACA Tiger football information? This might have been what happened after last year's Morris-Paynesville football game.
Of course, I'm befuddled why coaches feel they even need to keep working with newspapers. This is the year 2012. Coaches can feel empowered to build PR interests by seeing their programs get comprehensive attention online. There's no reason why a high school team can't be represented just as well online as a small college team like UMM.
You guys need to be just as aware of promotional needs as any adviser or teacher in a school program. It seems especially vital now with the sport of football taking slings and arrows. We have seen the eruption of attention given the physical and mental consequences of football. We have seen the behavior problems.
Most recently we've had this monumentally embarrassing situation with Mankato State football. The coach there has been accused of the worst crime possible, except that on closer analysis, it seems much different and cloudy. But I can't help thinking: "Leave it to a football coach to get in this kind of trouble."
Why would I think that?
For years in my media role I covered the annual "Cougar follies." I would guess it doesn't exist anymore. If it does I'd say it's somewhat risky. "Cougars" is our UMM sports nickname. It's one of those "safe" cat nicknames, which I have come to call "default" nicknames. They seem safe as opposed to "Fighting Sioux" or "Injuns" or whatever.
"Cougars" might actually not be 100 percent safe because the word has come to denote a certain type of middle age woman. The name was actually rejected by a new high school out west not long ago, for that reason.
Anyway, our "Cougar" football players used to assemble every pre-season for a "performance" so absolutely irreverent, it would defy description. I remember when then-Chancellor Jack Imholte told me: "The less people know about that the better." There was a premise that women are objects. I remember a simulated ejaculation.
The language was so blunt it was numbing. I suppose we were supposed to write off this Neanderthal mentality as consistent with football. We were supposed to see it "in context." Football players were entitled members of the human species who could be "in your face" with all kinds of disgusting talk. No one would dare knock the chip off their shoulder.
Except that today, society isn't nearly as willing to exercise that kind of deference. Misogyny can't be written off. We are taking a closer and more objective look at what football does to players' bodies and minds.
Was that Mankato coach locked into that uninhibited and irreverent mindset of the type I'd associate with "Cougar follies?"
We're much less inclined to "write off" the silliness and self-destruction of college "game day" behavior, where alcohol and horseplay can reign. This was the backdrop for the infamous UMM "goalpost incident."
College presidents grit their teeth and wish all of that would just go away. The St. Cloud State president might be the pacesetter, so determined he has actually cancelled Homecoming. We don't laugh about this stuff anymore.
Higher education is totally serious business as we see global competition accelerate. We mustn't be complacent and let "boys be boys" anymore. We are seeing steps in the right direction. The Mankato State coach was certainly given no benefit of the doubt. The mantle he wore as football VIP didn't matter, and I say "amen" to that.
I hope all the seventh grade science students are treated equally.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org