COLUMN: Finding Some Truth In The College Sports Mission Statement
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 00:10
There are some things I’ve never learned.
I know, for instance, exactly how I would react if I were one yard away from my school’s single-game rushing record, but had to watch a freshman take three of my carriers. I know that at some time during this hypothetical accumulation of 263 yards and five touchdowns, I would’ve asked someone a question about records and statistics and legacies and myself in relation to those things. With absolute certainty, I know that this is something I would’ve done without feeling an ounce of guilt.
If someone were to ask me how I felt about this afterward—finishing a yard short of history during a win against a below-average team—I would inevitably sound like a fool. If microphones and cameras and reporters were involved, I’d sound like even more of a fool.
“Yeah, winning was cool I guess. I wish I could’ve had another chance at the record, though. That’s going to stick with me for a while.”
That’s about the most polite form of athlete-speak I would be able to muster in such a situation, and I’d be proud of forming a response that mature.
There are some things I’ve never learned, and a hyper-selfless version of teamwork is one of these things. In a formal, well thought out, “I’m doing this because I should be doing it” kind of way, I can imagine scenarios in which I’d willingly put something larger ahead of myself.
For Andre Williams, and for a lot of athletes at Boston College, hyper-selfless teamwork is a learned trait that over time has become almost instinctual. Late in the fourth quarter of BC football’s 48-27 win over Army on Saturday, Williams was taken out of the game. He was one yard short of Montel Harris’ record for yards in a game, and a freshman, Myles Willis, was taking his carries.
Willis ran twice for nine yards, setting up a third-and-short. Rather than put his head down and fight for the needed yard, Willis and his quick, flashy feet scanned the field for a homerun. As he scanned, he was brought down for no gain. Back on the sideline, Williams jumped in the air slightly, his hands flying in what looked like mini-frustration.
Did he know? Was he aware that his team was about to punt away his chance at history? Had an understandable flash of emotion just occurred?
Not at all. Williams said after the game he didn’t know about the record. He was bummed for Willis. Williams has taken Willis and fellow freshman back Tyler Rouse under his wing, and he wants what is best for them, just like he wants what is best for his team.
It’s not that he doesn’t have goals, because he does. He wants to get to 1,000 yards this season. I’m sure he wants that single-game record too. Those things just don’t matter to him that much compared to winning as a team, and he’s learned how to take second-place in the records books in stride.
“If we can do it again, that means I have seven more opportunities to go get the record,” Williams said.
One thing I’ve always rolled my eyes at is the beaten to death notion that college athletics exists as a supplement to learning which classrooms can’t provide. For as long as I’ve followed college sports, it has existed for one thing, and that’s to make money for the people—mainly white men—up top. Williams showed on Saturday that there might actually be some validity to the former, even if the latter is still true in a lot of ways.
Sure, it’s easy for Williams to say these things with a winning record on the best day of his college career, but he and a lot of his teammates maintained this attitude throughout extreme lows last season. Alex Amidon’s hyper-selfless sense of teamwork could border on pissed off levels if enough reporters asked him about his records after a loss. He didn’t care because athletics has taught him how not to care.
It’s not just the football players. Across the board, it’s consistently difficult to get most BC athletes to talk about their individual success. It’s almost always easier to get the perspective of a teammate, because another thing taught in college athletics is how to encourage those close to you.
For all of the crap surrounding college sports, and yes, there’s an awful, unavoidable, amount of it, here is an example of something good. The mission statement isn’t crap. I learned that on Saturday, and most of the athletes here have a significant head start on a lot of things I still need to learn.