Surrendering to Mediocrity

Call me a disgruntled worker—I’m OK with it. The unhappiness with my workplace hasn’t come about because I thought I was screwed over, or because I’m just plain old and nothing makes me happy any longer—neither is true, except that I am just plain old.

I’m disgruntled because I’ve finally grown tired of our institution’s determined march toward mediocrity. This includes a willingness to do nothing, or at least do nothing that has any imagination, nothing that is bold, nothing that is earth-shaking or nothing that even smacks of daring. And I’ll lay this banner of mediocrity and ineptitude almost entirely on our Board of Trustees and their milque-toast leadership.

Of course, what I’m specifically talking about is changing the name to Yellowstone College. As most folk know on campus (and beyond to some extent), I am the broken record that keeps on reminding people of the need for a name change whenever there is talk of how to promote the college and get it more exposure. I’ve sat through several meetings where such discussions come up, and everything under the sun is discussed at length except a name change.

Northwest College—a school in northwest Wyoming about 70 miles from the border of Yellowstone National Park (that’s the mandatory tagline that goes with our name so people know where the hell we are)—is a place where we love to tout how different we are from other junior colleges, yet when it comes down to planning (or lack of) we tend to defer to what everyone else is doing. We talk about being unique, but the only thing truly unique about Northwest College is its location—something we’ve never had any control over to begin with. If Northwest College were in Paducah, Iowa, it would be just another, average community college with some obscure, innocuous, generic, and sadly forgettable name. But, instead we are located at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park with an obscure, innocuous, generic, and sadly forgettable name.

To my knowledge, the talk of a name change—from Northwest College to Yellowstone College—became serious in October of 2018 (four years ago) when former college president Stefani Hicswa sent me a brief email that simply and only said, “I heard a rumor you are promoting Yellowstone College. Tell me more…”

From that time on, the idea of a name change has been seriously kicked around, but mostly just kicked down the road for another time. Four years have passed and no decision has been made—to change the name or not change the name. As an old friend of mine once said, “They don’t know whether to shit or steal third.”

The name-change continues to be a no-brainer and yet the Board of Trustees continues to treat it like a complex problem—overthinking it and giving way to much consideration to the “old guard” who prefers mediocrity and the status quo of pounding a square peg into a round hole.

Over coffee a friend pointed out to me that placing all the blame on the Board of Trustees might not be warranted in saying, “A leader can not be successful without the support of a bold board, an open-minded community, a faculty willing to do things differently & students hungry to consume the product.” He went on to say that our failure to react is not unique to our local community either, that as a society we need to redefine today’s successes in saying, “We cannot re-create our past successes we need to create new ones based on the realities of today & tomorrow.”

Meanwhile the school’s enrollment is flat and remains way below its numbers from say, fifteen years ago. A couple resident halls remain closed and the faculty numbers and programs of study are significantly less. Further, the competition for prospective students in the future grows more intense.

After 31 years, I’m over it and it’s time to move on if I can. Again, call me a disgruntled worker. That said, NWC has paid me fairly and I have tried to rise up to my net worth. We are square, period. And when the time comes for me to go, no goodbye party, social, gathering, etc. is needed—nor wanted. I’ll leave as quietly as I arrived, insuring I don’t disturb this sleepy community of mediocrity.

Clichés, Hysteria, Ridicule… and Football

Recently, I wrote the following to the Powell Tribune regarding their lack of coverage (as I see it) in some of the outlying communities.

Dear Editor:
If the Powell Tribune can run a front page story about the monastery’s green light in Meeteetse, why can’t we get a little coverage on the same community’s athletics—even if it’s only the scores?

On a related note, the Tribune had a photographer covering the homecoming parade in Cowley for Rocky Mountain High School and not a word (or image) that the game played that evening was the first home game at their new field. What a missed opportunity that was. I wonder how many of your readers would rather have learned about the new venue and game outcome in Cowley as opposed to the ridiculously overworked piece on the various 3A playoff scenarios—all for a 4-3 football team that will likely be one-and-done in whatever playoffs setting that finds them.
—Morgan Tyree

The 4-3 football team I referenced above was our own local Powell High School football team. In the next issue of the Tribune, the following letter was printed from Powell High School’s head football coach Jim Stringer.

Life’s Lessons (the headline given to the letter)

Dear Editor:
My grandfather was a wise man, and he taught me many great lessons in life. Don’t get me wrong, Grandpa wasn’t a well-educated man in the image of great intellectual philosophers, problem solving rocket scientists or small college assistant professors of graphics arts/printing, however, he knew people and he knew dignity and he knew how to use one to treat the other.

As I learned the value of honest hard work living on my grandparent’s farm during the summer months of my elementary years, Grandpa also taught me important lessons in respect, appropriate social behavior and interpersonal communications. Many of the lessons continue to transcend time as sage clichés recognized and understood by most, such as: “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

Or… “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.”

And one of my personal favorites… “It is better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Now, my grandfather knew that the latter was not always possible, so he would sometimes follow it up with the age-old classic, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

While this concept seems to be less and less popular in today’s society of reality TV drama, social entitlement and malicious free speech, it would be nice if an educated fool could ponder the impact of his words on many innocent young men of our community. Mr. Tyree, I have no knowledge of personal wrong doing or atrocities committed on you by members of the Powell High School football program so the motivation behind your deliberate and unprovoked attacks over the years completely baffle me.

Maybe it is because of another lesson I learned from my dear departed grandfather, “Misery loves company.” Mr. Tyree, you must be one of the most miserable individuals around to feel the need to ridicule young men for wanting to be a part of something wholesome and greater than themselves. Professionally, I find it reprehensible that another educator would deliberately and publicly insult the community’s youth and seek to demean their efforts and goals. It is unspeakable and inexcusable, and as a father of a young football player and proud member of our school community, I find your remarks tawdry and offensive.

Considering the number of young men and families you have malevolently insulted within our community, I only hope they will be able to subscribe to another of Grandpa’s wise old sayings, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” —Alexander Pope
Sincerely,
Jim Stringer
Powell, Wyo.

Here’s my response to the esteemed coach.

Dear Editor,
“It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”
—Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in the movie Tombstone.

After reciting a litany of worn-out sayings that he subscribes to such as, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” Powell head football coach, Jim Stringer then turns around and in the same breath, refers to me as an “educated fool,” and “one of the most miserable individuals around.”

Golly Coach, that doesn’t seem like a very nice thing to say. What’s that your grandpa said again?

And all that for simply saying your football team is 4-3 and “will likely be one-and-done in whatever playoffs setting that finds them.” I actually thought my criticism leveled toward the Tribune was more severe.

I strongly disagree that my brief comment about the local football team was an attack on the community’s youth or families. I am not one to pull punches, and had I intended to insult, it would not have required a long-winded, sanctimonious analysis by Stringer to point it out.

Stringer’s use of the word “ridicule” jumped out at me beyond his “lessons with Grandpa” that he learned long ago. I looked up the word “ridicule” right after reading Stringer’s letter because (as an “educated fool”) I wanted to be sure I really knew and understood its meaning—especially since I was being accused of it.

Ridicule: the subjection of someone or something to mockery and derision. Since when was referring to a team by its win and loss record and predicting they will only last one game in the playoffs a form of mocking… how is it derisive/harsh? How is it so unreasonable as it is realistic? How does a football coach allow such a minor-league quip from a wimpy, 50-year-old rile him?

The truth be told, after spewing such hysterical drivel, I only wish to ridicule Stringer for coming up with such a poor and exaggerated interpretation of anything I’ve actually said about the Powell football program. Might his response be an illustration of the overly-sensitive climate that has gripped our country in the past decade, thus spurring the “Sanity Rally” this past week in Washington, D.C.? Of all the comical signs that were toted around, one in particular seems appropriate for Stringer to heed: “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”

Ironically, I can’t help but think that our model-of-toughness in Coach Stringer is rather thin skinned—and worse, suggests that his players (i.e., “innocent young men”) are the same. My guess here is that his football players who read my comments have easily recovered from the “ridicule” without counseling. Surely the trash talk they hear from their opponents on the other side of the ball during any given contest will render my words fairly inert in comparison. If not, perhaps football isn’t their game.

From my perspective, Coach Stringer blew a perfect opportunity in the handling of an unintelligent remark from an armchair quarterback (that would be me). Rather than responding with a personal attack on the commentator, Stringer could simply have addressed his team sometime before the big playoff game with, “OK boys, let’s show that lamebrain Morgan Tyree how stupid he is when it comes to Powell football!”

And had they actually won their first-round playoff game, perhaps a sharp rebuke could have followed in the next edition of the Tribune from the team captain that said, “Powell 28, Riverton 14. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Morgan Tyree.” Rather, the seasoned head football coach responded like a spoiled little girl who was knocked down in a mud puddle.

I admit to being blunt and not having the most tact, but in a world full of Pollyannas (i.e., see Stringer’s worn-out and trite clichés), the last thing I want to be is another person who sugar-coats mediocrity in all of its forms—football included.

Perhaps my upbringing in Northeast Ohio (the cradle of professional football by the way) explains my crude perspective on football (or sports)—so, again, my apologies. Fans of the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State Buckeyes or the Massillon Tigers have never hesitated to praise or take jabs at their favorite team.

Be assured, the Powell football team or its coaching staff have never brought “personal wrong doing or atrocities” upon me as Stringer ponders. However, given that the coach considers comments I’ve made over the years related to the Powell football team as “deliberate and unprovoked attacks,” that could explain his attacks on my character.

Nevertheless, I am only a critic and the last I heard, that was permissible, even if considered “tasteless” or not popular. I do not speak as an educator (again, something pointed out by Coach Stringer) when it comes to football as I am not an authority—merely a fan of the game… with an opinion. Therefore, I seek no forgiveness in expressing such opinions as Stringer has subtly suggested. Nor does he need to seek forgiveness from me for the personal comments he’s directed at my character. It’s all good.

Lastly… I like Lovell’s chances.

—Morgan Tyree Touted keeper of “vitriolic negativity”