The day dawned like most others on the depression-era farm, but soon, the sky blackened, a precursor to a mighty storm. When weather became ominous, the farmer hurried from the dell to meet his wife and chillun’ at the cellar door.
When the family of eight settled safely in the earthen haven, raindrops spanked the heavy steel door as it slammed shut. Laughter abounded when the kids noticed that the farmer’s wife still had her carving knife in hand. She alibied, muttering about her aborted efforts to “de-tail” a trio of visually-impaired mice.
Lightning streaked across the sky, thunder roared like a thousand chariots on cobblestones, rain arrived in sheets and roaring winds pawed at angry clouds, as if begging to assume tornado formations. If this wasn’t the mother of all storms, it was mighty near the top of the list.
The kids were scared enough to re-dedicate their lives if there’d been a parson handy. At age 16, the oldest of them, already feeling he had more knowledge than he’d ever need, heard his dad in throat-clearing mode. He knew that the kids were about to get their clocks wound by one of their dad’s “teaching moments.”
Sure enough, old dad, survivor of 50-plus years of a tilt-a-whirl life, never “cottoned” to waste of such moments. A grammar school graduate, he claimed that learnin’ from the “school of hard knocks” regularly “saved his bacon.” A philosopher without knowing it, he’d never rubbed up close to the word, save the times he perused the “P’s” in the dictionary.
His wife hung on his words, as did the younger kids. “We ain’t never seen rainin,’ blowin,’ lightnin’ and thunderin’ like today,” he observed. “But the elements are reminders — orchestrated by God — to heads of governments, leaders of giant corporations and the most famous in all walks of life — who is REALLY Chairman of the Board.
I thought of this account when post-Super Bowl XLV news centered mostly on “non-game” topics.
The old farmer continued. “Kids, I don’t want y’all whinin’ about what’s already happened. It’s done gone by. Instead, take lessons today that will help you face whatever lies ahead up yonder.” (Such is still applicable, even to the National Football League.)
For his third point, he hearkened back 28 centuries, when the prophet Isaiah advised kings on matters of getting along. Isaiah 1:18 in the Good Book, admonishes: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.”
Today, we take liberties with a 14th century poem that’s been trifled with a lot. The proverbial piece, “For the Want of a Nail,” is modified for NFL honchos now in buck-stops-here stances, albeit hunkered down with white flags flopping after SB-XLV foul-ups.
“For the want of a rail, the seats were lost. For the want of seats, 400 fans were lost. For the want of the fans, a record was lost. For the want of a record, an image was lost — all for the want of a rail.”
Suggesting a “loss of image” is a bit harsh. It can be regained. But Guinness may note that the most expensive tickets in sports history will be those 400 purchased in good faith by fans who didn’t know the aisles were “rail-less” at game time. No matter the cost of restitution to the deposed fans in real dollars, a much greater “hit” smashes straight to the gut of the league’s integrity, ethics and commitment to fan safety.
I salute the hard-working host committee. Members spent tens of thousands of hours getting ready for this event. Generally, they did well.
Giddy eastern press, some eager for the event to fail, decried what were mostly Acts of God. (Describing driving conditions, one wag said that the only predictable “rolling” during his visit was confined to electrical black-outs.)
Oh, there were heroes. How about the City of Arlington officials who refused to certify unsafe seats? It takes courage to say “no” to royalty in charge of our country’s most dazzling sports extravaganza.
Late Mayor Tom Vandergriff, the man singularly most responsible for bringing major league sports to the Metroplex, often pointed to Arlington as the “hyphen for Dallas-Fort Worth.” With the officials’ decision, Tom’s city stands tall. Surely he is leaning on a rainbow, proud of good and faithful servants. He’d pray with us for better days, fairer skies and good people reasoning together.
For the NFL, the current storm will pass. May the leaders buck up, ready for a long, mountainous climb toward reclaiming respectability. Along the way, they might also seek ways to return the football game itself to the center ring.