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”

Coming to a Halt

2 April 2003

Yesterday was an eventful day in Powell history. The first combat casualty of the war with Iraq was laid to rest here in this small town of just under 6,000 residents. Of all the places to claim the first loss of life in the war, Powell’s name came to the top—what a lottery to win. Although the Lieutenant did not grow up here, his parents have been residents for several years and thus, Powell ended up in the nation’s headlines.

The funeral for 2nd Lt. Therrel Shane Childress was held in the college gymnasium with an estimated 1,200 in attendance. The town turned out like he was truly one of their own. The funeral was short and simple. Following the services, Lt. Childress’ remains were taken to Crown Hill Cemetery on the outskirts of town for burial including full military honours. I did not attend the burial due to an afternoon class commitment.

That evening after night class, I jumped on my bicycle and headed home while thinking of the Lieutenant. Every time someone is laid to rest that I know (or at least know beyond the news), I always find myself thinking about them on that first evening following their burial. A stark and blunt epiphany finds me, “This will be the first night of an eternity that he will spend in the cold, dark ground.” The idea or thought comes to me as if that person were still alive or aware of their surroundings. As if they were sentenced to an eternity of camping out in the same place and being totally self-supporting. Even in death, Lt. Childress’ body was cared for and watched over up until last night. Resources were consumed. I was told by one reporter at the funeral that a lone marine stands guard over another marine’s body twenty-four, seven until he is finally laid to rest.

And so yesterday afternoon, all the inertia related to this fine soldier came to a final and definite halt. While the dynamics of the world beyond his tomb continue to move about and change, nothing will change within that tiny, confined space of a coffin that is now the only world of what remains of Lt. Childress. And nothing is needed from beyond that tomb for the remainder of the soldier’s journey wherever it may lead—not even the basics of food, warmth or companionship. Barring the catastrophic destruction of the earth, relocation of the cemetery or some future law that will abolish and call for the destruction of cemeteries, what remains of Lt. Childress can and will always be found in the same place here in (of all places) Powell, Wyoming—you can count on it.