"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fan mail from some flounder? It's a delight

Occasionally I get a certain type of email that really warms my heart. Someone, somewhere uses search to discover a past blog post I've written. Earlier this week I heard from a fellow who had been costumed for a "Midnight Madness" event at the UMM P.E. Center back in 1993.
"Midnight Madness" was the official start of men's basketball practice. It was a good promotional opportunity for the program. Then-coach Perry Ford never missed a good promo. The costumes really enhanced the affair. At one point coach Ford called forward a young man dressed as Elvis - the "late" Elvis. Thus we saw the white jump suit. It was very authentic-appearing.
"Elvis" got the microphone for a couple minutes and I was quite amused. Imagine, Elvis paying a visit for UMM basketball! The voice came across with the kind of bravado we'd expect from Elvis. Two or three years ago, I wrote a blog post reflecting on the Perry Ford era of UMM men's basketball. I would call this "the good old days" of UMM sports because we played opponents who were known quantities. We played schools in the State University system. Everybody knows what Moorhead State is. I'm not so sure about Pillsbury Baptist et. al.
In my post I reminisced about that long-ago Midnight Madness gathering. I remember photographing a student dressed as a gremlin with his arm around the shoulder of Chuck Grussing of UMM campus security. This was in the days when campus security people were more personable and relaxed, capable of sharing in a good time and not being all-business. In the community, it was the days when we didn't have to fear being pulled over by police for no seatbelt. Seatbelt was a secondary offense for a long time. Seatbelt laws could never have gotten through the various state legislatures as a primary offense.
Even when cops got more aggressive, I figured they still wouldn't pull over an elderly couple on their way to church Sunday morning. Today the cops will stop at nothing. I'm inclined to believe Bill Maher when he says "high school losers become police officers."
My blog post reminisced about the young man dressed as Elvis. I guess that touched my funny bone. The fellow who wore that costume found my blog post. He emailed me with appreciation, which brought a smile for me. He found his wife-to-be at UMM, he informed me. He had superlatives to describe his UMM experience.
The headline for today's blog post reads "Fan mail from some flounder?" That's from the old "Bullwinkle" cartoon, remember? Heh, heh.
The good old days of UMM sports, as I describe it, was not 100 percent good. Fans were not always courteous to the visiting student-athletes. Sometimes the chest-thumping about UMM's suggested superiority as an academic institution came forward in a putdown, Neanderthal sort of way, and I felt embarrassed. Sometimes I think Jack Imholte encouraged that notion of inherent superiority that UMM students ought to feel about themselves. I certainly don't think he discouraged it.
I personally felt there were times when UMM, specifically its security department, could have done more to tamp down the less-than courteous behavior of UMM's student sports fans. I remember hearing reports from credible sources once, about a young man from this part of the state who had been a UMM recruit but allegedly had some academic obstacles, who chose another school in our conference, then came here to play basketball and was abused with horrible heckling about his "lack of intelligence." There should have been some intervention. Is it so important for UMM to win, that you have to do this sort of thing? Is it sport or is it some sort of tribal ritual?
Although I don't attend UMM sports today - the price of pizza got too high (LOL) - I strongly think this problem has faded away. One reason is the competitive level of our opponents. Should you really thump your chest about beating Pillsbury Baptist? But there's probably more to it than that. UMM administration has probably recognized the need to promote a higher level of civility. I suspect that a fundamental cultural change has come about.
As for future cultural changes, we may have to start anticipating the elimination of UMM's football program, just as football overall is going to start evaporating across the USA. Put sentiment aside - this simply has to occur.
Changes like this can be slow to happen. The facts have all come out and been displayed for the public: the facts about football's unacceptable risk of permanent health damage. Many of us have trouble grasping the inevitable logical consequences of this. Our sons must find new activities to replace football - shouldn't be hard at all. In theory it isn't, anyway. But we come up against the legacy lure of football in our culture.
Abandon football? Many of us would say it's just too drastic. But it isn't. Change is rolling along. Think back to the times when it was perfectly acceptable to drive drunk. Oh yes it was. I was present for some Shriners conventions (as a musician) back in the day. Ray Stevens put out an album called "Shriners Convention." The Shriners probably still have those conventions. But I suspect they are much more businesslike and orderly.
In the old days, a cop might peer into the window of your vehicle and say "are you sure you're in good enough shape to get home?" Wow, a sea change has happened since. And BTW, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is no longer run by mothers, it's run by lawyers! Mothers will have something to say about football. Women have a natural instinct of wanting to preserve life.
The rolling effects of change are coming for the sport of football. It's just a matter of how long it will take. Football will wilt to the point where it's associated with the southeastern U.S., primarily, with players coming from a dysfunctional family background. They will be cannon fodder for our entertainment, until football finally reaches the mere fringes.
BTW the name of the "Elvis" person is Curt Rees!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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