Wednesday, March 11, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between the Wind and the Plains

Sooners are not racists.  
They're not bigots.
They are people who respect each other 
And care about each other.
-President David Boren,
University of Oklahoma

I loved college.  I loved pretty much everything about the University of Colorado.  For every rule, however, there is an exception.  For me, that exception was the Greek System.  

I neither pledged nor ever attempted to pledge a fraternity.  I am the youngest sibling in a family of six, two of whom are older brothers.  Having been launched into life on this planet with a full complement of brothers, I saw no need to add to my collection.  The decision to not "Go Greek" is one that I did not regret when I made it more than a quarter-century ago.  It is one that to this day I do not regret.  It is a decision that has not - not even one time - adversely affected my love of Animal House.  Not only that, it did not keep me from seeing Otis Day and the Knights when they played a show on campus at the Balch Fieldhouse in the Spring of '88.   Robert Cray, of course, had long since left the band.

Among the fraternities that comprised the CU-Boulder Greek System (although none of the houses had any official affiliation with the University itself) was Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  One of the more popular jokes on campus - or at least one of the jokes that I never tired of telling - was that one could not spell the word "ASSHOLE" without the letters "S, A & E".   Full disclosure dictates however me inserting this caveat to counterbalance that generalization:  Two gentlemen with whom I was friends while at CU and for whom I had/still have a great deal of respect were members of SAE.  I would submit that each stands as proof of the exception proving the rule.  

Earlier this week, an utterly vile piece of video, for which you shall not find a link here, surfaced on-line.  It was video shot on a bus trip to something called a Founders' Day Dance.  The young men on the bus were members of the SAE Chapter at the University of Oklahoma.  Their companions?  The young ladies representing the University of Oklahoma Chapter of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.   The collegians - including the one unknowing star of the piece - chanted a little ditty whose lyrics properly - in my estimation at least - resulted in a brutally succinct demonstration of the principle of "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction".  

It would be wrong however for the actions of these few imbeciles to stand for the University of Oklahoma.  It seems to me as if the heart of the Sooners is better reflected in the response of their students, including their student-athletes (and yes I saw the video of one of the members of the football team, an African-American player, letting loose with his own profanity-laced tirade at the SAE house but I am significantly more tolerant of spontaneous outrage than I am of organized bigotry), and the adults in charge of the institution.  At or about the same time as forty-seven current members of the United States Senate were writing a letter so despicable that Joe Biden was able to seize the moral high ground, a former member of that body was saying this instead, "I have a message for those who have misused their freedom of speech in this way.  My message to them is:  You're disgraceful.  You have violated every principle that this university stands for."  

Kudos to President Boren for acting decisively.  I applaud him for doing what needed to be done to protect all of the students at the University of Oklahoma for whom he is ultimately responsible.  I applaud Bob Stoops, Head Coach of the OU Football Team, as well.  Bob Stoops has a well-deserved reputation for doing the right thing for the right reasons.  On Monday, his Sooners spent one of the days that the NCAA allots for Spring Practice doing something he, his staff and his players recognized as being far more important than, well, than practice.  

They went for a walk and in doing so proved, yet again, just how much louder actions are than words.

Coach Bob Stoops (Front Row - Center) and the
OU Sooner Football Team - 03/09/15

The great Theodore Roosevelt once observed that the fundamental difference between a leader and a boss is this:  The leader leads, the boss drives.   Roosevelt's lesson has been reinforced these past few days - on a number of different levels - in and around Norman, Oklahoma.  Damn hard lesson for some to have had to learn.  Here is to hoping they took it to heart. 


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