For the past few decades, especially over the past 10 years, we have all witnessed what some have described as an ongoing culture war, with folks questioning everything from what we believe, to how we behave, to even how we worship.
Sports has not been spared exclusion from this conflict.
For the past few years, the National Football League has suffered from a diminished fan base, shrinking ad revenue, and the tarnishing of their brand. By suffering, I mean the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Players began dishonoring the flag during the National Anthem, purportedly to protest police violence against minorities. I didn't and don't get the connection between the national flag and abusive law enforcement personnel. Because of the aforementioned behavior, I have not watched an NFL game since 2016 and will not likely do so in the foreseeable future.
Should those players be stopped? No, but they should stop. In any case, it has to be voluntary, as the Bill of Rights grants all Americans the right to express themselves. The players can do what they have been doing, and viewers and fans can stop watching, and stop buying NFL stuff, both of which will eventually reduce the lucrative incomes that NFL players enjoy.
Another facet of things in this great culture war, is the exposing and dealing with abhorrent behavior of some collegiate coaches in the big money sports. Lately even lesser income sports are now coming into the open about bad behavior.
A decade ago, Joe Paterno was one of the most revered coaches in collegiate football. Then it got out that his coaches staff had individuals who were morally bankrupt, causing great harm to lots of innocent children. Paterno's crime was turning a blind eye to the bad behavior and he eventually went down with the morally sinking ship.
Fast forward to this week, and now it is Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, a winner of three national championships, who has been put on administrative leave. Administrative leave usually means "until we can properly fire you."
Is Meyer a monster? No but he has kept in his employ for nearly 10 years, a man, Zach Smith, who had beaten and brutalized his wife when he worked with Meyer at Florida, and then at Ohio State. Evidence has been produced that would seem to prove that Meyer knew of the abuse but chose not to get involved. According to newspaper outlets in Ohio, his reported inaction is legally grounds for immediate termination.
Ohio State is embroiled with gross and inappropriate behavior by other coaches and officials within the Buckeyes athletic department, so Meyer will likely never walk the sidelines again. The instigator of Meyer's trouble, coach Smith, is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Earle Bruce, and was the college coach of Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott. Smith was a good coach as far as Xs and Os, but pretty lousy at being a good human being.
Winning is what everybody likes to do. The years 2000 through 2011, before the Blackhawks became one of the best teams in Arkansas, were not a lot of fun. In contrast, the past six years (2012-2017) have seen Blackhawk football teams average right at 10 victories a year. In the 11 years prior to that, the locals averaged just over three wins a season.
Pea Ridge got better when, the words of former coach Tony Travis predicted, "we had to change our culture."
The culture change was not about winning the score board battle, but the battle inside the helmets of all those players.
As current coach Stephen Neal has often said, "we win when we win in the classroom, when we win at home, when we win in our daily conduct." My coach in my high school years was a former military drill instructor and he was exceedingly tough. But what he was tough on was individual responsibility, and his desire to make every one in his charge a better person, not just a better athlete.
Of course, the travails of coaches Paterno and Meyer are on the extreme side, but right here in Arkansas, we had the spectacle of the Razorbacks' Bobby Petrino leading the Hogs to lots of victories but having zero impact on improving his players' character. His own character deficiencies led to a bunch of poor seasons since his departure.
The Razorbacks now have in their employ a new man, Chad Morris, the recent coach of SMU. An unabashedly Christian man, he has his sights set on many things besides just winning football games. He leads by example and the culture he inculcates I believe will lead to bigger and better things on the Fayetteville campus.
Fortunately for the Pea Ridge community, the coaching staff is made up a lot of really good people with a handle on building the right culture. The spectacle last season of the poor conduct of eventual state champion Arkadelphia's coaching staff was a sharp contrast to our own staff. Losing that game was not fun, but if winning meant being like the opposition, then give me the loss.
Our culture is who we are.
If we conducted our lives and business on the principles that led to the founding of our nation, we would be such a better people.
I'm an avid reader, and I have read so many stories about the collapse of civility, manners and just good grace that plague our cities. However, I cannot accept that our country is destined to crash and burn like so many nations have done over the millennia.
We live in a blessed community in a blessed state. You can tell that by the steady influx of people moving here from all over. While I have mixed feelings about the skyrocketing population, I do think that if all these people are moving here to be a part of culture that we have developed, then it will all work out.
Sports should be the one place where folks can get together, enjoy the time and support our heroes. Turning sports into a political battleground should be out of bounds.
Editor's note: John McGee, an award-winning columnist, sports writer and art teacher at Pea Ridge elementary schools, writes a regular sports column for The Times. He can be contacted through The Times at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sports on 08/08/2018
Print Headline: Culture wars extend into sports