A Little Bell Ringing for November Football
November 15, 2013
It is, by many measures, the most delicious season. The general populace—both serious diners and others in the amateur ranks–dream of Thanksgiving dinners. They waken salivating, comforted by assurances that within hours—or certainly days—aromas wafting from ovens are announcement enough that turkeys and other holiday fare will soon be served.
For the sports-minded, the November scene is likewise heralded, and for the hardcore fan, it is might near as sacred. It is the “put up or shut up” time for contenders, and “wait’ll next year” cries for pretenders.
And it is a month—like all the rest, really—when our minds must make room for unexpected news, sports or otherwise. Much of it makes us weep, or at the very least, shake our heads in disbelief.
Who could have dreamed, pray tell, that “bullying,” a topic painted vividly in bold type and big headlines—would rear its angry noggin in professional football locker rooms?
NFL brass will try to extinguish this ugly fire as quickly as Red Adair took on oil rig blow-outs. Some of ‘em mutter that their plates are full. They really don’t have time to handle media hordes clamoring for more details about locker room shenanigans AND football head injuries.
The late Abe Lemons–colorful collegiate basketball coach for almost a half-century known as much for his gentle humor as he was for coaching–would have had a field day coining one- liners. Some of ‘em apply to sports; all of ‘em can help us keep life in perspective.
The NFL brouhaha reminds us that Lemons had the rare ability to keep life well-ordered. Those who knew him best say World War II experiences helped him greatly in the arrangement of his priorities. The jagged edges of war helped him remember that games are indeed just games. We could hope that something short of war would serve the same purposes today.
Lemons opined one day that if he were allowed to add two staff positions, he probably wouldn’t add more coaches. He figured better hires would be a hair-dresser and a psychologist.
What would he suggest today? Maybe tattoo artist, jeweler or interpreter? The philosophical mentor’s comments are worth researching. He compared coaching and medicine, saying that when a coach finishes last in the league race, he’s called “an idiot.” And when a guy finishes last in medical school, he’s called “doctor.”
Baylor University faithful are still pinching themselves, just to make sure football fortunes introduced by Coach Art Briles are real.
Even the most ardent are in various shock stages that the Bears are now 8-0, and one of four undefeated major college teams in the country. One fan bragged—of all things—of gratefulness for Daylight Savings Time. “It gave us an additional hour to brag,” he joked.
Earlier this month, my 101-year-old Uncle Mort provided a sage comment about Baylor football. “For at least a century, the Bears have been much involved in ‘bell-ringing’ on the football field. What the Bears are trying to get used to now is being the clapper.”
Coaches remind fans to get over games completed, won or lost, and to “press on” to the next game on the schedule.
Baylor fans won’t soon forget the Bears’ dominance of Oklahoma. One crowed that the sun still came up in the Sooner State the next day, but it was an hour late. And the wind did a mild sweep across the plain, but missed its cue, arriving BEFORE the rain.
The groan of one disappointed OU fan is worth repeating: “I was so disgusted that when it was obvious on TV that things were only going to get worse in the second half, I changed channels to watch Billy Graham.”
Through it all, thousands of people—far in excess of the number of seats in old Baylor Stadium—will one day tell their grandchildren stories about the game. “I was there,” they’ll claim.
In lean years up the way, they’ll boast about how good things were “when Art Briles was here.”
That’s what they said about another coaching legend, Grant Teaff. He, like Briles, proved that Baylor University can sometimes be the clapper in gridiron bell-ringing.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational When the Porch Light’s On.