Wednesday, January 9, 2013

College is a place of learning

Let's say you're a young man, just graduating from an Alabama or Georgia high school, and you've been a standout member of your football team as a linebacker.

Now let's say you get a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama, a school legendary in football circles, the team which just the other night won its second consecutive national championship (15th total).

Now let's say you travel with the team to Miami for the big game, the Bowl Championship Series game we just talked about.  Do you follow the team rules, and get to be there for the game, and maybe even get in for a play or two, as the game was a rout from the opening kickoff?

Or do you break curfew and get sent home by coach Nick Saban?

Anderson and Lee
Dillon Lee, out of Buford, GA, and Ryan Anderson, the pride of Daphne AL, are the young men we're talking about.  Over the weekend as the Crimson Tide prepared for the game, these two broke curfew rules and were sent back to Tuscaloosa for their foolish behavior.

When you think about it, the coach had no other choice.  Discipline must be maintained in an endeavor that requires dozens of people working together for a common goal, and free-thinkers are best advised to follow an individual sport.

Plus, Saban only had to follow a precedent set by the great coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who is still regarded as a diety across the South.   Bryant's quarterback in the early 60's was Joe Namath, a great college player who became a great pro as well.  Before his final game against Miami and the Sugar Bowl game in his junior year, Joe stepped out to a local diner one evening and sipped some beer.  The team rule was firm: no alcohol was to be consumed during the season. The coach found out, and there was nothing else to do but suspend his star for the rest of the season.  To do otherwise - to give the star a break while purporting to have a system of rules for all the team - would have been wrong.

We have no public reaction shared as yet from Messrs. Lee and Anderson.  But in 1963, Joe Namath stood up like a man.  His public statement was, "I broke a training rule."  He accepted the punishment, and the lesson that came with it.

Namath and Bryant
And to this day he credits Coach Bryant with teaching him a valuable lesson. Let's hope that ten years from now, as young Lee and Anderson have moved on to fame and fortune as NFL stars, they credit Coach Saban with punishing them at a crucial time, and in a way that taught them a valuable lesson.

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