Tuesday, December 09, 2014
My Name is Earl
In class, we talk about boundaries and how our parents set them for us so we know when we are in danger. Sometimes, people like teachers and coaches help set those lines for us. This entry, from November 10, 2005, is about one of those coaches in my life. My brother, Dave, sent me the obituary today for Earl Dallas, who made a big difference in my life and whose story I tell below.
Almost every day in my Bible classes, we have a grade, whether a quiz, memory verse, or test. Along with the normal material, I include a bonus question. If a student answers correctly, they receive the equivalent of one extra right answer. Usually, the topic is the tie I am wearing. (I have roughly 120 ties. I put on a different one each day, whether or not it matches the rest of my clothes.) Sometimes, it is something from my past like the nickname of my college basketball team (Panthers) or the position in baseball that has hit the most home runs in Major League history (1st base). Yesterday, I wrote these six words on the board:
Austin Beaumont Dallas Houston Laredo Lubbock
I asked what these proper nouns had in common and all knew they were Texas cities; some caught the fact that the list was alphabetized. But that was not the question. The question was, what was the last name of my junior varsity basketball coach at York High School in Nebraska? It's always a random guess but about 1/6th of the students correctly chose Dallas, as in Earl Dallas. Have you ever had someone do you a tremendous favor but you didn't know it at the time? That's what Coach Dallas did for me.
I was a sophomore and full of myself. I can tell you exactly where we were standing before practice one afternoon in the York City Auditorium when I commented on the sunglasses Coach Dallas was wearing. It went something along the lines of "Mr. Hollywood!", spoken in a disrespectful tone of voice. Coach Dallas very quickly let me know there would be dire consequences for any similar outbursts and if memory serves me correctly, added "You're too good of a kid to act like a jerk!" You have to realize, I thought the world of Coach Dallas. He had been an All-State roundballer in New Mexico and I had watched him play for York College. On top of that, he was a terrific coach AND my drivers' education teacher, vital when trying to get a license. I had no doubt my well-being was in jeopardy if I ever was stupid enough to mouth off again. I was being a jerk and we both knew it. He could have let it slide- I've seen alot of that over the years. Teachers and coaches often let stuff pass rather than make a big deal of it. Coach Dallas made a big deal of it because it was a big deal. He did it because he cared rather than taking the easy way out, ignoring the behavior. I know I stumbled after that incident but it stuck. By making a fifteen year old boy accountable, he helped shape me into a better man.
If you follow sports, you are aware of Terrell Owens. His repeated run-ins with the Philadelphia Eagles' players and coaches have led to his suspension and deactivation for the rest of the season. The Owens story has overshadowed the rest of the NFL- the most talented receiver being given the boot by his employers while the team has a chance to compete for the Super Bowl. T.O. has qualities to be admired- he plays hurt and is a fearless competitor. But, he has alienated himself from teammates just as he did in San Francisco, his previous stop. Part of me pities him. He says stuff and then tries, not convincingly, to take it back. Talented people get away with more than average people; it starts early. There may be a point of no return for childishness; we have many celebrities in the US who act like two year olds. The Lord gave me great parents but I had the potential to be a jerk. I believe God puts others in our way to help steer us back to the correct course when we wander, a social and spiritual OnStar system. That's what Coach Dallas was for me- that's what many coaches were for me. For lots of youngsters, coaches/teachers give direction to supplement parental guidance, sometimes in place of it when parents are absent. As I've gotten older, I've realized this: every adult who ever had a positive influence on my life was hard on me. They demanded excellence in the classroom and on the court/field. They never let me slide when I acted like a fool. There are fewer and fewer men and women willing to take that role. The scriptures speak constantly about the importance of training young people and disciplining them for their own benefit. Society will continue to suffer if we continue to tolerate abhorrent behavior from the next generation. Like I said, I feel sorry for Terrell. I had a Coach Dallas. Maybe he didn't.
Applicable quote of the day:
"One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Steve Hawley at 7:49 PM