Friday, November 20, 2009

The Reshuffling of the Buffaloes

Last night with the Alma mater on ESPN against Oklahoma State and up eleven in the second half, I went to sleep. Unbeknownst to me, I was a contagion. Ralphie's road warriors went from 11 up in the third quarter to 3 down at the final whistle. For this group of kids and the adults who coach them, snatching defeat out of victory's jaws has become a most unfortunate and acquired skill.

Four years ago, long after then-coach Barnett had become a bit of an eyesore to the University (Google "Katie Hnida" or "Colorado recruiting scandal") but only shortly after his teams had started to not get it done on the field, CU fired him. It hired a man generally regarded as one of the bright young minds in college football to replace him. And when Dan Hawkins brought his family with him and migrated down to Boulder from the blue fields of Boise Idaho there was much rejoicing along the Front Range of Colorado.

Today there is not any rejoicing along the Front Range when the subject is CU football. Last night, the Hawk's team did something that his teams have done two out of every three times they have taken the field over the past four seasons: they lost. Hawkins has coached forty-eight games as the Buffs' head coach and has only won sixteen of them. If he batted in the #3 hole in the Yankees order, a .333 average would be laudable - assuring base runners aplenty for Kate Hudson's main man to drive in. He of course does not hold that job. And, of course, in his present position the laws of Meatloaf do not apply.

And of course in the big-time business that is intercollegiate athletics, there are those who are CU fans, CU alums and CU boosters ($$$$) who not only no longer want Hawkins coaching in Boulder, but are not shy about saying so. Here in the first decade of this century, it has become vogue to attack those with whom we are disappointed - including men and women who earn a living coaching intercollegiate athletics by attacking not only their achievements or lack thereof but them and their families. Most of the truly valorous attack through the last bastion of the courageous: the Internet message board where the bravado that anonymity provides masks the cowardice of many.

Hawkins has become a popular target on-line with a number of sites having been created for the sole purpose of demanding his head on a platter (http://firedanhawk.blogspot.com/ is among them). There is even a Facebook group devoted to his demise. Does he deserve to lose his job for the abject failure to produce results on the field? In my opinion, yes. In this - his fourth year - he has not produced a single winning season. Here in Aught-Nine they are three and eight with a ninth loss almost assuredly staring them in the face next Friday morning when Nebraska comes to Boulder for the season finale. But does he deserve to be castrated publicly on the way out the door and have his family thrown into the mix as well (remember that his son is a CU student and the #2 quarterback on the football team)? No.

Somewhere along the line in this country the train jumped the track. We lost the ability to discern the difference between legitimate criticism and personal attack. Maybe it was at the moment we decided that we needed 8000 outlets at which to get news and information 24 hours a day - only to discover after we had secured the satellite space that no one would tune in at 1:58 a.m. for the crop report unless we jazzed it up a bit. Invective replaced intellect in certain circles and the latter has shown little ability to regain its bargaining position. Suddenly, simple issue-based disagreement is not enough any more. We need to be willing to scream out what we feel and if you should have the audacity to disagree with me, then to scream even louder and even longer.

I anticipate that at some point between this very morning in Boulder and next Friday morning in Boulder the man who hired Hawkins four years ago will announce to a room of media types that he has fired him. And I anticipate that cheers of "Good riddance" will rise up throughout Boulder and on Internet message boards all over the country. Lost in the noise shall be the fact that while Hawkins has failed in this job, he has not done so due to lack of effort or lack of caring about the University or his team. He has simply failed. It happens. Good people perform less than ideally every day. Contrary to popular belief, it does not make them the Devil incarnate. It makes them human.

And it makes us a little less so when we unsnap our skull caps and between our ears reveal the gap left by where that part of our brain has been removed. Good people fail. Learn to understand it and accept it. There is a remedy for the problem, one that the University will likely explore without further delay. And then this guy will have become the 'old guy' and the new guy will become "the Man", embraced by all and loved by the masses.....

.....and the wheels on the bus shall keep on going round and round, round and round.

-AK

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