|AVID CUTCLIFFE HAD coached Ole Miss to a 10-3 season in 2003 and a Cotton Bowl victory on Jan. 2, 2004. Eleven months later, he was fired after a 4-7 season.|
In 2003, Mike Shula took over an Alabama program crippled by probation and led the Crimson Tide to a 10-2 season in 2005 and a Cotton Bowl victory on Jan. 2, 2006. Eleven months later -- just a couple of weeks ago -- he was fired after a 6-6 season.
These are just two stark examples of people being impatient, near-sighted and forgetful. Neither man deserved his fate, and the vague, elusive reasoning behind the firings only confirms that.
It only goes to show that winning, and absolutely nothing else, matters in college football (and most other sports). Let's be honest here and admit that truth. All you athletics directors and school presidents just find the courage to say that no matter how impeccable a coach's integrity, no matter what he did for you even last season, you will fire him in a second if your puppet masters, the boosters, sour on him.
Humans increasingly have this obsession with getting winning results and getting them now. Fans fire off on the message boards -- at coaches and players -- at the first sign of decline. Even success is sometimes regarded with doubt, with the critics focusing on what will ultimately be a team's downfall.
I can give you two more examples from my neck of the woods. Last year, two area high school basketball coaches were fired despite the tremendous success they'd experienced. One was ousted right after leading his team to a state championship. The other coach -- ironically, the first coach's mentor -- had six state titles under his belt and was building toward another championship when he got run off.
Both cases were even worse than the Cutcliffe and Shula situations, because these high school coaches were still winning ballgames.
Agendas hidden to the public took precedent over what was best for the kids. Simply winning wasn't enough for these parents and administrators -- they wanted complete control of the winning (for the record, neither team has made huge strides since).
The pressure to succeed, immediately and frequently, has become a defining characteristic of our culture. Misguided parents want their kids to achieve great things without letting them taste failure, that greatest of teachers. So kids grow up expecting to succeed at everything right away, and when they don't, they can't handle it, and neither can their superiors.
"Fail" has become a four-letter word (one of the few that still offends modern society), and its value has been largely lost amid the demands for victory. Failure has also been redefined as any shortcoming, no matter the context, no matter the progress being made toward a successful end. There's no time for character-building.
I'm sure this attitude is a big reason why many people don't get God.
If you're keeping score, Christians are losing on most every front.
Babies are still being brutally murdered by "doctors," the speech police are trying to eradicate Christmas from the holiday landscape, and the Constitution is being crumpled up and thrown in the fireplace.
God has promised a new Heaven and a new Earth, and Christ will return someday for His people. Until that actually happens, God's people will be mocked by the world as being delusional. On the other extreme, the end of the world has been predicted many times by those who were tired of waiting on God; they wanted to win now, and they wanted to win their way.
We're always looking for something better, aren't we? That new coach is sure to bring our team a championship, we say, but then we're calling for his head two years later when he hasn't done so. Seeing as how we know more than this coach, we run him out and start the whole vain process over again.
Similarly, we're always looking for a god that will make us a winner, a god that will serve us and meet our needs and take orders from us so that success is guaranteed.
In the end, that kind of approach makes you a loser.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a sports journalist in Tupelo, Mississippi.
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