Tag Archives: sports

Ohio State Didn’t Run Up The Score And Other Thoughts on the First Ever College Football National Championship Playoff

I had no idea there are so many people that can’t stand Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer. Multiple Meyer critics vented their ire on Facebook, claiming he ran up the score last night as the Buckeyes scored a touchdown that increased their margin of victory as time was about to run out. Final score: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20.

True, when Ohio State scored that final touchdown with 28 seconds left to play, there was virtually no way Oregon could come back to win or tie the game; there just wasn’t enough time. A kneel down would have been safe and Meyer would have avoided his critics. But I don’t see it that way. I can’t read Meyers’ mind, but here are a few points for the critics to consider:

1. Ohio State came into this game viewed by many, including this writer, as not deserving of making the playoff bracket. Many of us felt that the Buckeyes’ leapfrog of TCU was unjustified. If there was any shred of that disappointment remaining, the exclamation point touchdown at the end of the game should have erased that.

2. Ezekiel Elliott is a beast. Watching him run reminded me of watching Earl Campbell some 30-plus years ago. He ran with power. He was dominant. Every fan clad in crimson wanted to see him bust through the line one more time. So did I.

3. Cardale Jones, the Buckeyes’ third string QB, played like a starter – which makes sense because now he is. Or, at least, he was for the final three games of the season. He will likely be back on the bench next year as the two ahead of him heal from their injuries and are ready to play next season. Why not let him play this thing out? In any event, the Buckeyes’ depth at the QB position is impressive and should make for an interesting offseason.

3. Not only can Ohio State put the recent internal adversity behind them for good, they are a young team. Most of their starters will return next season. I believe that final touchdown was more about next season than this game. In allowing his team to finish the game playing at full throttle, Coach Meyer set the table for next year. I think that was a great coaching move. That’s why Meyer is a winner.

4. The critics I’ve heard are not Duck fans. I perused the media this morning seeking commentary on Meyer running up the score. I didn’t find any. I think the Duck fans get it. The sports media gets it. Critics will be critics, I suppose.

I still think TCU should have had the number four spot in the playoff bracket. Would they have prevailed? We’ll never know. But what we do know is Ohio State beat a very good Alabama team and stifled the most prolific offense in college football to win their way to a national championship. It was fun and exciting to watch. After all, what would the BCS have given us this year? Most likely Alabama vs Florida State. Yawn.

Ohio State played a heckuva game and beat a solid football team. And, no, they didn’t run up the score. Congratulations, Buckeye Nation!

I Didn’t Get A Trophy

We were terrible! One winter, as a young boy in the suburbs of Minneapolis, I played on a peewee hockey team. I use the term “played” lightly, for I was by far the worst player on the team. I wasn’t a strong skater; when the team skated north with the puck, I was still headed south. When we lined up for a face-off, the referee often had to direct me to the proper position for my forward position. I loved the game, but didn’t really understand it. We were the Red Wings of the Coon Rapids municipal hockey league, and we were terrible. We won one game – the last game of the season.

Today, as I watch the winter Olympic games from Sochi, Russia I am impressed with the skill and athleticism on display in each of the winter sports. You know what impresses me the most? It’s the desire to win, and the effort put forth in order to achieve a place on the medal podium. The last skier in the final run knows the time to beat, and she does what she has to do to beat it. The aerialist on the half-pipe knows the score he has to surpass, and he adds a difficult maneuver in order to surpass it. The figure skaters know their position in the standings, and add the flair and precision to their performance to achieve their goal. It’s competition. Competition breeds excellence. If you doubt that, tune in for one evening and see how competition breeds motivation and, in turn, motivation breeds improvement and success.

When my son was four, we enrolled him in T-ball. We parents standing along the base paths could identify rather quickly the kids who “got” the game and those who didn’t. Some were bored, drawing intricate designs in the infield dirt as their team was playing defense. I was rather surprised to learn at our first game that no score is kept. “Everyone’s a winner,” the coaches proclaimed proudly. Even my four year-old son was puzzled when he’d ask me after a game, “did we win, Dad?” I secretly kept score and shared the results with him. We weren’t supposed to do that, but I did it anyway. If they lost, I’d tell him where they could improve next time and if they won I’d tell him how a good winner celebrates his achievement. Because they didn’t keep score, because there were no winners or losers, the T-ball league missed the opportunity to teach our kids a valuable life lesson. Sure enough, at the end of the season everyone got a trophy. While the kids were taught the rudiments of baseball, they learned nothing about competition – what it means to work as a team to achieve a goal.

The notion that “everyone’s a winner” is well intended, but it misses an important life lesson. In sports and in business, even in life itself, competition breeds excellence while the absence of competition breeds mediocrity. Think about it: if there was no podium, if every slalom skier received the same Certificate of Participation, would the athletes put themselves out there on that final run as they do today? Would they give it all they’ve got and then some, or would they instead complete the final run in a defensive manner, just to keep from falling?

Competition breeds success. Competition teaches valuable life lessons. Avoiding competition to preserve self-esteem can actually damage self-esteem later in life for the individual who has never been taught to compete. I’ve seen it – many people enter the workforce expecting to be handed a paycheck just for showing up, and looking at the boss as if she is from Mars when asked to do just a little bit more. After a short time on the job, the promotion is expected and they’re shocked when it’s given to someone else. They’ve not been taught to compete; they’ve not been taught to give their all. Don’t misunderstand me – competition is not a nasty thing, nor does it have to be mean-spirited. While teaching competition, we must also teach fair play, sportsmanship, and consideration. The competitor who masters those skills will find himself at the top of the podium and, later, at the helm of a successful career.

I didn’t get a trophy for playing peewee hockey. We were the worst team in the league; we didn’t earn a trophy. I did, however, learn some valuable lessons that I carry with me today. I learned what it means to be on a team that is striving for constant improvement. By watching my teammates, I learned to skate backwards, even able to change direction on the fly! I learned that those around me have something to offer and I can learn from them, just as I can learn from my coaches. And, when all that hard work paid off and we finally achieved that elusive victory, I learned what the joy of success feels like. I try to carry those lessons into my workplace each and every day.

As a society, let us not shun competition; let us teach it properly. If we embrace healthy competition, even at a very young age, our kids will learn where they are talented and where they are not. They will discover their skills, their likes, and their dislikes. They will learn to work with others to achieve a common goal and enjoy the success of having achieved it. If we embrace healthy competition in all phases of life, our kids and we will be more productive adults and our society will be better positioned for long-term prosperity and success.

My Vow of Supreme Hatred – Finally Rescinded

I remember December 28, 1975 as if it was yesterday. I was 14 years old, and my Minnesota Vikings were playing the Dallas Cowboys. Dubbed “America’s Team” by the national media, we Vikings fans harbored a deep resentment of the Cowboys. We, like many football fans around the country, believed that the Cowboys received favorable treatment by the NFL referees (not to mention the seemingly endless love fest rained upon the Cowboys by TV’s press box pundits). Many of us could support our position by citing several examples of questionable calls that went the Cowboys’ way back in the day. But I digress.

drew pearson hail mary photoThe game was on the line as the Cowboys were driving to score a potentially game winning touchdown. Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach dropped back and launched a pass towards the end zone. Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson and Minnesota defender Nate Wright were poised to battle for the ball when Pearson pushed Wright out of the way and snagged the pass. Touchdown! Or was it? It seemed obvious to those of us watching the game from our Twin Cities living rooms that Pearson had committed offensive pass interference as he pushed the defender out of his way to position himself to catch the ball. As obvious as it seemed, however, the referee thrust his arms vertically into the air, signaling the Cowboys winning touchdown. The press box pundits heaped mountains of praise on Staubach, Pearson, Coach Landry, and America’s Team. I had had it. At that moment, I swore a Vow of Supreme Hatred against the Dallas Cowboys. From that day forward, my favorite team was “whoever is playing the Cowboys”, followed by the Minnesota Vikings and, later, the Houston Oilers.

LuvYaBlueFor years afterward, I faithfully rooted against the Cowboys. I rued their successes and celebrated their failures. Upon moving from Minnesota to Houston in 1977 I readily adopted my new home team with their incredibly cool cast of players and enthusiastically supportive fans. My first car proudly sported the “Luv Ya Blue” bumper sticker of that era, even long after that era had passed. The fact that many native Houstonians seemed to hate the Cowboys as deeply as I did further solidified my resolve to forever keep my Vow. When Bud Adams moved the Oilers to Nashville, my interest in NFL football was immediately diminished. To add insult to injury, the Cowboys were televised weekly in the Houston market. While it was fun to root against the Cowboys, I missed having a home team behind which I could throw my support.

When the NFL announced that Houston had been awarded an expansion franchise, Houston’s football fans were fired up and ready to support their new team. I was ready, too and rushed out to purchase my first Houston Texans t-shirt to show my support. I still have that shirt.

imagesIn September 2001 I moved my family to Roanoke, Virginia. Quickly upon arriving in Roanoke, I learned that local NFL fans supported the Washington Redskins. I have no idea why I couldn’t bring myself to embrace the Redskins, but I couldn’t. Cowboys games, however, were televised every week. I continued to root against them in accordance with my Vow, but it began to feel a bit stale. Then came the big announcement: the expansion Houston Texans’ first regular season opponent in their brand new stadium would be none other than America’s Team: the Dallas Cowboys. I was ready. It was a Sunday night game, September 8, 2002. I moved my TV to my screened back porch and chilled a six-pack of Shiner Bock. It was a perfect night for football in Roanoke, and an even better night in Houston. Thanks largely to my enthusiastic screaming from my perch in the Roanoke Valley (and much to the chagrin of my closest neighbors) the Houston Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 19 to 10. Not only did I celebrate the Texans’ win, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning as the pundits lamented America’s Team’s defeat at the hands of this lowly expansion franchise.

The high wore off quickly, and after that game, I rarely watched NFL football. I didn’t like the Redskins. The Texans were almost never televised in Roanoke. The Vow had grown cumbersome. I got tired of rooting “against”. I wanted to root “for”.

In August 2008 I moved my family to Cowboys Country: the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. We were excited to return to Texas, and I looked forward to renewing my support of the Texans from our home in Keller. My passion for the Vow was rekindled as I enjoyed haranguing my coworkers with what I dubbed the Cowboys “eternal mediocrity” of the modern era. I found a favorite radio sports talk show and enjoyed listening to the perpetual criticism heaped upon America’s Team by local sports pundits and fans. I celebrated each Romo interception and every miscue by owner and general manager Jerry Jones. Local friends and coworkers couldn’t understand why I refused to embrace the home team. I explained my Vow and the reason behind it; they told me Pearson’s catch was a good catch, and even if it wasn’t, I just needed to get over it. I tried; I really did. I tried rooting for the Cowboys, but it was work and I often found myself defaulting back to their opponent. Despite my desire to make a change, the Vow had taken on a life of its own. It owned me, and I didn’t like that.

Finally, a friend of mine made an offer I couldn’t refuse: four club level tickets to the final game of the 2013 season in which the Cowboys would play the Philadelphia Eagles to determine which team would go to the playoffs and which would stay home. This was my chance to free myself from the chokehold of the Vow. I would buy a Cowboys shirt. I would go to the game. I would cheer on the Cowboys until my voice was shot. It was now or never.

My family and me cheering for the Cowboys - 12.29.2013

My family and me cheering for the Cowboys – 12.29.2013

Upon walking into AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2013 the atmosphere was electric. Our seats were in section 139, row 20, seats 3 through 6. A small white towel adorned with the Cowboys’ Star was draped over the back of each seat. The stadium rocked as the Cowboys were introduced. It was an exciting game. My family and I yelled until we could yell no more; I rooted harder for the Cowboys that night than I have rooted for a football team in many, many years. The outcome was not what we wanted – the Eagles defeated the Cowboys 24-22 after intercepting a Kyle Orton pass to end what could have been the Cowboys winning drive.

As the Eagles fans seated among us celebrated their good fortune, I was crushed. Although my voice was shot, a cry of despair erupted from my innermost being as I grasped my head with both hands in the universal sign of shock and disappointment. “Nooooooo!” I felt as if the wind had been knocked out of me. I felt the agony of defeat. I felt….great. I felt free – free from the chains of the Vow in which I had wrapped myself all these years. My burden was cast as I shared my disappointment with thousands of other Cowboys fans who had given their all in support of their team.

I can’t help but marvel at the irony. This Vow of Supreme Hatred taken at such a young age had become a burden. That burden was shed in a game that the Vow would have loved; a game in which “whoever was playing the Cowboys” did just what the Vow wanted them to do. The Cowboys season is over. Perhaps they’ll take just a bit of comfort in knowing they’ve won a new fan – one who looks forward to cheering them on in 2014.

Go Cowboys!

Credits:

Thanks to espn.com for specific dates and scores cited within this essay.

Drew Pearson catch photo from http://www.drewpearson88.com

Luv Ya Blue bumper sticker from http://www.allanstanglin.com

Houston Texans Logo from http://www.houstontexans.com

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