What would Jim Valvano tell us to do at a time like this? Laugh, think and cry. Every day.
Here’s how it went for me last week...
This made me laugh
I was on the phone with American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco last Thursday when he said: “We had a call with the entire 10 FBS conferences, the P6... I say P6 (chuckle)... Now is not the time for my propaganda.”
We both laughed at that. Aresco has been branding the AAC as the sixth so-called power conference for several years, and selling me on that notion since 2017.
Nothing wrong with a moment of self-deprecating humor, even in the midst of a pandemic.
And this made me laugh
Bob Bowlsby broached the topic of the OU-Texas football game during his appearance on SiriusXM Big 12 Radio last Thursday, warning: “When you think about a petri dish for spreading infection, can you think of one that’s better than the State Fair of Texas? I mean, people are jammed in there and they’re enthusiastic. It’s about a perfect place to transmit any kind of an infection.
“How does that happen? In this new normal, how do we have one of the great sporting events in the entire United States? How do you have that at the Cotton Bowl when you’ve got to walk through 300,000 people gathered in the outer reaches?”
That didn’t make me laugh, but Gabe Ikard’s deadpanned response did.
“Bob,” the former OU center and SiriusXM Big 12 co-host said, “you just made a little piece of me die inside.”
This made me think
It’s enough to wonder when or even if the 2020 college football season might start without focusing on one game. I suggest we zero in on September before contemplating anything scheduled for October. But yeah, it is OU-Texas. And Bowlsby does have a point - it is a mass of humanity. You can’t take two steps down the fair’s midway without being breathed on. Sweat and spit on in some cases. So let’s bring in OU athletic director Joe Castiglione for a response, as prompted by Toby Rowland last Friday morning on Norman’s SportsTalk 1400 The Ref. “I believe it could still be played in the Cotton Bowl,” Castiglione told Rowland, KREF morning show host. “Whether that means the State Fair is going on at the same time, we don’t have control of that. Does that mean we would be able to fill the stands with as many people as we normally do? I can’t say that right now. We’re modeling everything, including something that would resemble a seating arrangement with social distancing.” Sharp follow-up by Rowland: Would a one-year on-campus or alternative site be considered?
“First preference, we’d continue to have the game in Dallas, most notably at the Cotton Bowl,” Castiglione said. “That’s a tradition, 90 years. I don’t see that changing. Plus we have a contract to have the game there through 2025.
“Now, if the situation were such that we couldn’t have the game there and we had to move it somewhere else? I think all options are on the table.” The discussion took me back to my first year on the OU beat at the Norman Transcript. Texas Week arrived, and with it came my introduction to E.Z. Million, the Norman eccentric who made it his life mission to move OU-Texas out of Dallas and onto the two campuses. E.Z. emailed me a 5,000-word manifesto. I didn’t know quite how to respond, so I didn’t. That was a mistake. He showed up at the Transcript sports department with the manifesto printed out, handed it over and decided to stick around most of the afternoon to make sure I understood his talking points. Which was lovely, since I had already put in 60 hours that week and had another 15-20 to go.
Ol’ E.Z. What a character.
Good. Now I’m laughing again.
This made me cry
The Stillwater News Press story detailing how some people couldn’t make it 24 hours under a city mandate to wear masks in businesses without refusing to do so, and threatening employees in those businesses in the process. Mayor Will Joyce changed the mandate to a recommendation, but not before city manager Norman McNickle included this in a statement: “It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.”
That summed up what became a national indignity when the story reached national news outlets over the weekend.
So did this tweet from Oklahoma State associate AD Larry Reece, the Voice of Boone Pickens Stadium/Gallagher-Iba Arena and one of the most respected and beloved folks connected to Stillwater and OSU: “Embarrassing to read about threats to business owners and workers. We are better than this... If you won’t be careful for yourself then please do it for your family and for others!”