Football Flashback to An Earlier Era

This season a remarkable decision took place on the next–to–last play of the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State football game. This intra–state championship matchup dates back to 1904, but this matchup was particularly important. Oklahoma was ranked #9 and OSU just behind at #10. The game winner would not only have bragging rights, the victor would also be the Big 12 champion.

perine-kneeMy alma mater OU got off to a ragged start. The defense was exceptionally porous and the usually reliable running game stalled. Then in the second quarter Heisman Trophy candidate receiver Dede Westrook was knocked unconscious after being hit while making a catch.

OU dropped seven points behind, but managed to tie 17 – 17 to end the half. In the third quarter, just as prospects were looking up for the Sooners, RB Samaje Perine limped off the field and into the locker room.

Perine is the Sooners’ hammer. He’s a punishing straight–ahead runner who brings back memories of Steve Owens. Without him the load would go to Joe Mixon, who so far was having an off day. It looked like a long afternoon ahead.

Then without ceremony Perine quietly returns. Viewers, like the OSU defense, learned he was back when he got the ball. On a rainy, slick day OU wanted to keep the ball on the ground and use up the clock. Perine got the ball play after play after play. OSU had eight players stacked on the line and they knew who was going to get the ball, yet he kept going.

On the last drive of the game he carried the ball 11 times and it looked toward the end like some OSU players had their fill of tackling Perine. They began making what Deon Saunders called “business decisions.”

Then it happened. On what became the last time he would touch the ball, Perine broke through line and had a clear path to the goal line. Nothing short of Divine Intervention could have prevented a touchdown, yet just before he crossed the goal line, Perine stopped, took a knee and ended the play.

The announcers didn’t make much of it at the time, as OU ran out the clock, but the significance struck me immediately.

It was an extraordinary act of sportsmanship. Maybe viewers who have never played a contact sport miss these nuances, but those of us who have appreciate a player who has some reverence for the way a game should be played.

In rivalry grudge matches, particularly when one of your star players has been knocked out of the game, it’s natural for teams to want to punish their opponent and the scoreboard is the natural place to do it.

Perine didn’t. When asked about the play after the game he explained, “I mean, what’s the point of scoring? We’re already up by two touchdowns. There’s only a few seconds left, so there’s no need to run up the score. I just did what I thought was the right thing to do.”

Coach Bob Stoops explained that taking a knee was all Perine’s idea, “God bless him. “What a class, character guy. It’s character. That’s him. Rather than padding his stats, just take a knee. No sense in running it up on somebody.”

This is typical of Perine. He plays like the coach is Vince Lombardi. Earlier in the game Perine crashed head–on into an OSU defender on the goal line and swept by him for the score. Instead of treating teammates, TV cameras and opposing players to 20 seconds of interpretive dance, Perine handed the ball to the nearest official and walked back to the huddle.

Like Lombardi said, he acts like he’s been in the end zone before.

While he’s got the ball Perine is all business and all contact, but even in this heated rivalry game he helped OSU players to their feet more than once. After the game he sits in the back of the interview room and lets other teammates bask in the spotlight.

The knee and what it signified might be Perine’s last regular season carry for Oklahoma. Perine is a junior. An average performance in the Sugar Bowl will put him ahead of Owens and probably ahead of Billy Sims, giving him the all–time Sooner rushing record. He’s eligible for the NFL draft and as my son says a running back’s body can only take so many hits, to Perine may as well be rich when he’s bruised.

If he leaves, I’ll miss watching him, but what a way to finish.

Thirty–seven carries, the most by one running back in the last 27 years, 239 yards, one touchdown for the record books and one he decided to donate to sportsmanship.

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The Only Good ‘Redskin’ Is a Deleted ‘Redskin’

Does this man know leftists consider him a bigot?

Does this man know leftists consider him a bigot?

The Thought Police at the Washington Post are on the warpath once again over the Washington Redskins nickname. In spite of the fact it would cost owner Daniel Snyder heap–big wampum to change the name, they say it is bad medicine and it has to go. They are also angry about calling people who sell their own tickets “scalpers,” but that’s for another time.

What fired up the grievance machine this time was a gripefest on sports nicknames at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. One of the panel participants gave a summary of the ‘anti–Redskins’ argument when he challenged the paleface Washington owner to visit the National Congress of American Indians’ next meeting and start calling the attendees “redskins” and see if they consider it an honor.

That would be equivalent to visiting the nearest university Women’s Studies department during a performance of the Vagina Monologues and making a case for the positive contributions of heterosexual men.

Just because one is surrounded by screaming fanatics does not mean you deserve to be burned at the stake. (Note to Jesuits in the reading audience, I mean no offense with this analogy.)

Frankly it sounds to me like the staff of both institutions have been sampling the firewater. The Red Man has already had his revenge. Indians introduced white eyes to tobacco and that golden leaf is adding to the death toll as I type. The largely imaginary “smallpox blankets” were not even a rounding error compared to Big Tobacco’s body count.

The WaPost cites Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Washington-based Morning Star Institute as a strong supporter of sporting censorship. (Rule of Thumb: beware of experts who use all their names.) She says there are some 900 troublesome nicknames and mascots across the country, down from a peak of more than 3,000.

Harjo is proud of the fact that among the first mascots flayed was ‘Little Red,’ who used to perform at University of Oklahoma games.

I remember ‘Little Red.’ We attended OU at the same time. He was a genuine Kiowa who volunteered to be part of the athletic program. People cheered him during games. Students appreciated the work he put into his authentic costume and his footwork. Plus he didn’t leave a mess in the end zone like the Sooner Schooner. All these accolades were too much for professional Native American outrage intensifiers so they worked to have him fired.

I’m surprised Harjo let the school off so easy, merely stopping with the banishment of ‘Little Red.’ ‘Sooners’ itself is a nickname rife with bigotry. It’s a negative reference to cheaters during the land rush that crossed the border early and is no doubt a slap in the face to illegal border–crossers everywhere.

While we’re at it, how about Notre Dame’s ‘Fighting Irish?’ Doesn’t that imply the Shannons might have a drinking problem? What’s more, nicknames are just the tip of the iceberg for those “who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports.” Are they casting their gimlet eye on tomahawks, feathers, loincloths, arrows, and buffalo? Where does it end? Must 7/11 stop selling jerky?

But fair is fair. Why do ‘First Americans’ get to hog (no offense to Jews & Moslems) all the outrage? What about all those pagans wearing crosses around their necks? Or Germans and Hispanics wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day? And don’t get me started on honkies that give soul shakes.

What’s more, the Redskins aren’t the only sports enterprise with a ‘hurtful’ name. What about the Cleveland Browns? Isn’t that offensive to Hispanics and people suffering from melanoma? How would you like someone to make fun of your freckles?

Among the worst of the commercial enterprises is the Jolly Green Giant: A continual poke in the eye to tall people and committed environmentalists.

The person I feel sorry for is ‘Skins general manager Bruce Allen. This slang term controversy is déjà vu all over again for the Allen family. First the WaPost goes and lights up his brother for saying “macca” in a campaign appearance, now they are after him and his team for a name that’s been around for decades. Allen no doubt thanks his lucky stars that he’s never used the word “niggardly” in conversation.

Even the ‘conservative’ Washington Times is clinging to this bandwagon. One of their sports columnists asks, “When was the last time you used “redskin” in non-sports discussion? If the word really, truly honored, we’d have a National Museum of the Redskin…” Whoops, Faulty Analogy Alert! Formal names don’t usually incorporate nicknames, this is why the Marine Heritage Museum is not called the Jarhead Heritage Museum.

Frankly, I feel sorry for the agitators. How pathetic does life have to be to support a belief that the nickname of a professional football team is damaging to one’s psyche?

Personally, I don’t harbor any particular affection for the Redskins as you can read here. But I do hope they stand firm in the face of hysteria.

Otherwise I’m afraid my team is in imminent danger, because it will only be a matter of time before vegans come after the ‘Packers.’