Casting Out Devils

Speaking Conservative Truth to Evil-Doers

Of Sports Teams, Winning, & Self-Esteem

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Number One Foam Finger

My alma mater lost again Saturday.  Gone are the days, of late, when Texas A&M’s football team boasted the Wrecking Crew and an enviable home field record, were competitive with the likes of UT and OU, beat Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Florida, and Nebraska, and were perpetual Top 20 and bowl game participants.

Those were heady days when I attended.  The legendary Emory Bellard, creator of the Wishbone, was still coach in 1976.  A&M was the fastest-growing major university in the country.  I was there in Kyle Field in 1979 when A&M dashed UT’s Sugar Bowl hopes by beating them 13-7 on defense.  In my day, A&M had “Big George” Woodard (Earl Campbell’s closest rival), Curtis Dickey, bare-footed kicker Tony Franklin, and future Denver Broncos quarterback and Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak.  I was with them in spirit when they beat the teams of 4 out of 5 Heisman trophy winners in as many years.  In the ’80s and ’90s, A&M was a contender.

Winning is great.  Winning feels good.  To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, “Winning works.”

Today, I continue to back the Aggies because we have ties.  We have a history.  More than that, Aggieland is a brotherhood, a state of mind, an ideal.  “Stand united,” the song says.  It is “the Aggie Dream.”  I remain “twelfth man on the team.”

With many people, however, this is not so.  They want to back a consistent winner.   In Texas, everybody chooses sides between A&M and UT.  No matter what college one has attended, if any, everyone has an opinion, a clear favorite.  One is great, the other is awful.

In many cases, the choice is ideological.  UT has a long reputation as the big, wealthy, elite state school, the state’s representative before the nation and the world, premier in all things, first class, liberal darlings.  A&M, on the other hand, once a relatively tiny, spartan, all-male military college, a little schoolhouse on the prairie, remains a place for farmers, rednecks, hicks — yikes!  Conservatives!   They remain the perpetual butt of converted Polish jokes.   Everybody knows Aggies are dumb — why else would people tell jokes if it were not true?  (Alinsky’s Rule no. 5:   “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”)

I suppose the Alabama/Auburn and Michigan/Michigan State rivalries are similar.  Do they have Auburn jokes?  Spartan jokes?

But in many cases, people just want to pick a winner.  A loser, they will drop like a hot potato.  I first noticed this as an elementary schoolkid in the mid-1960s.  The Green Bay Packers were the hot pro team, so even boys in Texas wanted to emulate them.  Then around 1966 the Dallas Cowboys started to win, and every Southeast Texas boy (except me) became a Dallas fan, overlooking the local Oilers.  (FYI:  I became an Oiler fan when they were 0-13.  Twice.  Just one good sack by big Elvin Bethea, and I was happy.)

Even then, I found it odd that some people would pick some faraway team, with which they had no association at all, to root for.  Maybe in some cases a certain team exhibits outstanding attributes, has an outstanding ethic, or shares some higher purpose or affinity with which faraway fans identify.  I suppose it is natural for Catholics to root for Notre Dame, or Mormons for BYU; and I did my own share of cheering for the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980, the “Miracle on Ice,” as it were, even though I neither knew nor cared anything about hockey, per se.

Aside from such considerations, however, some people have just got to win, will not settle for anything less, and in the words of that famous Gen. George S. Patton speech, “will not tolerate a loser.”  As Ty Cobb, that great humanitarian, once said, “Don’t you know?  I have to be first.”  They say that dancer Gene Kelly, as nice as he seemed onscreen, could be incredibly cutthroat when it came to any game.  A sport as innocuous as backyard volleyball soon became an unpleasant episode as he badgered his teammates for every fault.

It must have to do with self-esteem.  Self-esteem taken to an extreme is nothing short of ego.  As described by experts, self-esteem is on a sliding scale comparable to the pH scale used in chemistry:  the middle of the scale is neutral; moving to either extreme becomes either increasingly acidic or basic, either of which is increasingly caustic.  Similarly, to have too little self-esteem is to have low “ego strength,” as when one is painfully shy or dreads even getting up in the morning, unable to face the world; whereas too much self-esteem makes one prideful, egotistical, narcissistic.  A balance is necessary to be “well-adjusted.”

Ironically, the experts also say that it is low self-esteem that makes one act egotistically, even megalomaniacally.  (This is where the sliding scale analogy breaks down:  the scale seems to fold over onto itself like a hairpin.)  The person of low self-esteem tries to feed that self-esteem via the ego.  He compensates for low ego by acting out egotistically.  Thus the bully tries to lift himself up by putting other people down, as does the gossip, and the backstabber.  Others seek self-esteem through achievement, fame, adulation, wealth, possessions — things by which they demonstrate their value as people, and even superiority.

Ego often manifests itself as perfectionism.  I once had a roommate who was a self-professed perfectionist.  Nothing but the best was good enough:  the best clothing, the best music, etc.  Anything that was not the best was dirt.  Observing this roommate helped me recognize perfectionist tendencies in myself, a recognition with which I try to inoculate myself from time to time.

What all this boils down to is that some sports fans, lacking sufficient self-esteem, are likely seeking a vicarious experience of winning by associating themselves with a winning sports team, even if they have to reach across the country to find one.  Everybody loves a winner.  It is the bandwagon effect.  What is popular is easy to join, in fact beneficial.  Thus, due to recent success of the UT Longhorns, living as I presently do near Austin/San Antonio, I have long suffered under a deluge of those ugly burnt-orange t-shirts and those proud little steer head shapes, often sported by people who have never entered a UT classroom, much less stepped onto the field of Darrell Royal Memorial Stadium.  Why suffer the reproach of losers when you can hand-pick a winner, join the crowd?  More power to class athletes like Colt McCoy, mind you, but winning by association is winning without effort, without merit, without risk.

Winning is great, and I look forward to the Aggies being near the top once again; but the bandwagon phenomenon is neither healthy, manly, nor noble.  There is no tolerance in it, no rooting for the underdog, no honoring the lost cause or going down in noble defeat — rather, a loathing for that which is deemed not good enough for you because it is not the best, which might be good enough for others but not for you, a putting-down of lesser persons and lesser things, the attitude of a boor and a bully.  It is a narcissism that mature adults should chalk up to adolescence and willfully outgrow.

We grown-ups ought to seek self-esteem in higher values and higher causes than just winning some sports event.  As in Alcoholics Anonymous one is encouraged to acknowledge a higher power, we must find a higher purpose to work toward.  I am not talking about feel-good causes to which narcissistic Liberals are wont, to show that they are better people, but causes of true and lasting importance, which are greater than oneself and one’s own ego.  We might argue about which causes these are, but let us agree that they exist.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Without love, benevolence becomes egotism.”  He also famously said, “If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

I doubt that he was talking about sports.

© 2010 Paul A. Hughes


Written by biblequestion

October 19, 2010 at 2:27 AM

Posted in Society, Sports

Tagged with , , , ,

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