Friday, December 23, 2011

Choosing a Good Name

A breath of fresh air has wafted over the college football landscape. Oh, it's not the first time, but it is extremely rare. Matt Barkley has announced that he will stay in school. He's not the first (others come to mind like Peyton, Matt, Tim, Jake, Andrew) and probably won't be the last. But, again, he demonstrates that rarest of qualities in sports of any kind. Some call it loyalty, and that it is. However, a better understanding would be the long lost virtue of keeping one's word. In an age when "me-first, last & always" reigns supreme it is refreshing to see someone live by the proverb: "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches."

What an oddity. In an age that is rampant across the board with a lack of this quality, Barkley's decision almost boggles the mind. The most damning issue in all of this is what we so easily overlook and constantly deny to ourselves that, given the same opportunity in our own life's work or situation, almost none of us would have made the same decision that Matt did. We would all, for the most part, take the money or fame and run. Just like the coaches, teams, players and, yes, fans at all levels of sport.

Let's scan the sports horizon and be reminded how rare this is.

Coaches: Long ago we lost the notion that coaches are loyal to their schools. They recruit players with the idea, but as soon as the bigger better program comes along, forget contracts, forget giving one's word. Bye bye! Remember, all those grieving, angry fans would do the same thing in their own jobs.

Administrators (and influential supporters): Certainly no better. Let a coach go from a winning record to a losing one and forget contracts, forget giving one's word. So long!

Players: Who could expect players to do little else when the example they have from those above them is so obvious. They learn these things at an early age. Families with star players show no loyalty to hometowns and schools, changing schools and towns with impunity (or abandoning them altogether for club teams where there is even less loyalty), some having played in four different locations in a four-year high school career. Why should anyone expect that kid to stay in college for the agreed upon time?

Fans: Here you say is where real loyalty lies. Stick with my team through thick and thin we cry. Well that may be true for a small contingent of fans but for the most part, fans are just as disloyal as coaches, administrators and players. Or haven't you noticed the empty seats when a team doesn't win often enough. Or the empty seats in the second half when the team that does win is suddenly losing badly.

Owners & Player Reps: While we're at it, let's at least point out the hypocrisy and mockery of the professional sports bargaining charade. Both sides long ago lost the respect of sensible people. From both sides of the table the other is demeaned in every way and then when it's all over there is supposed to be team unity? What a joke! And while I'm at it, I'm so weary of hearing the caveat: "It's a business." So? Why does that justify doing everything in one's power to renege on one's word and make the other side look bad. I know plenty of business people, employers and employees, who honor their word and do their jobs faithfully and diligently.

From the first day Matt Barkley walked on the USC campus he has been a role model for young people everywhere. A fine young man who handles himself with maturity and modesty. Though I might not have made the same decision he made (I would hope so but I'm fallible too), I admire him for his. Whatever one says about Matt Barkley in the future for now one thing is clear — he is a man of his word. What a rare commodity in today's sports world.

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