Monday, July 08, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Misplaced priorities revealed

Leader sports editor

(This sports column from Sept. 12, 2012,  won first place at the Arkansas Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest banquet last Saturday.)

The Arkansas Razorback fan base is divided since the eighth-ranked Hogs lost 34-31 to hapless Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. Fans’ expectations for this season were as high as any in a few decades, and the loss to a team that’s not had a winning season since 1994 has dashed those expectations.

Now it seems that about half the fan base wants to rehire Bobby Petrino and fire athletic director Jeff Long for firing Petrino in the first place. And those fans are wrong.

Some try to revise history and minimize the egregious offenses Petrino committed. Others just have their priorities out of line and believe winning at football is the most important thing to consider.

They don’t care that he cheated on his wife, hired his mistress for a job she wasn’t qualified for, wrecked his motorcycle with her aboard, lied to his boss (Long), allowed Long to send out a press release he knew was false and finally called his own press conference and lied to the media and fans about the whole incident. And let’s not forget he paid the woman he was sleeping with $20,000. There’s a word for that which won’t be used here, but it pertains to an old saying about an even older profession.

And he hired this woman for a job in the football department. For the fans whose priority No. 1 is Razorback football, that fact alone should tell you that Razorback football was no longer Petrino’s top priority, but even that misses the point here.

The point is that fans who want Petrino back have misprioritized the important things in life.

Some fans just want him back because he won games and that’s all that matters.

Some will try to argue that his success brought millions of dollars to the program. But that’s a tenuous rationalization. Even if it’s true, money is not the most important thing here either. It rarely is in truth, it’s just treated that way because our priorities are out of line.

Fans who are against rehiring Petrino are often called self righteous, or morality peddlers or Bible thumpers. One was even told to keep his morality to himself and at his worship services.

The late writer David Foster Wallace once made this profound observation.

“Here’s something that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there’s no such thing as not worshiping. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for  choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – is that pretty much anything else will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.”

One might also add, worship sports or competition and winning, you’ll die every time you lose and sacrifice some truly important things like family, integrity, honesty and courage for something that’s not really that important, like winning at football.

Don’t want to feel eaten alive every time the Hogs fail? Put them in their proper place in life’s priorities.