Let’s not lie to ourselves, it’s been a tough year.
Things that we’ve so often taken for granted were snatched from us in a blink of an eye, including sports. All of the sickness, all the political megalomania, all of the racial tensions and violence seldom seen in over half a century has severely wounded our country and my home state of Mississippi.
For months, I questioned when and even if sports were coming back. I questioned my own career, my future plans, and even my calling in life. I prayed for God’s guidance and mercy on my soul and for those who’s livelihood has been wrecked by God’s own will.
As time went on, I began to reflect on my own time as an athlete, as a hurdler for Oxford High School’s track & field team from 2014-2017. I recalled how disadvantaged I was in almost every meet I competed in. I was never the fastest, strongest or athletic. But I never quit. I learned, I poured my heart into every race, and stayed the course for a decent track career, helping my team win four state championships in four years. It was my coach, Chris Bush, who taught me to overcome all the odds.
Thanks to coaches like Bush and administrators all around this great state, we’re not throwing in the towel and we’re playing football this fall.
It may not be the most important thing in our lives, sure. However, to say that football in this state is non-essential is absolutely ludicrous.
While this state has constantly been divided for whatever reason, it has been football that held us all together, regardless of color, party, region, or social status. It has allowed us to all heal after tragedy and the common struggles of life. It has allowed us to escape harsh realities for one night. It has paved a way for young boys to become men and to be able to provide for their families and be the very best they can possibly be. It has long been a tool to pay for education as well for some of these kids.
All in all, it has been the one of the greatest teachers for our young men in this state. Billy Graham said it best, that a coach can have more of a positive influence in one year that anyone can in a lifetime. A lot of these coaches are a father, mother, doctor, and preacher all in one. This game has taught people to stand your ground when times are tough. This game has taught people that the more work you put in, the more you’ll succeed. This game has taught people to respect your fellow man, including your teammates and coaches. This game has taught us a lot about the art of competition, in order to get the very best out of all of us.
No virus in the world should be able to take this kind of opportunity away from these kids and these communities, even with wrinkles being added to ensure the safety and well being for all. As a state, we’ve risen to every challenge thrown at us, why stop now? It is our job to take care of one another, from the top down. However, it is also our job to support each other, including our youth. It would be a disservice to deny these kids at least a chance at this opportunity.
Whatever happens, happens. Whenever I think about this, I also think about what Chris Cutcliffe tells me in just about every interview: “Control what you can control.”
We have endured a lot up to this point. Now, it is time to lay it all on the line while being smart with our own actions. To the fans, players, coaches and everyone else around this state: Enjoy this season. Watch and play every game like it’s your last. Be safe and have fun.