As Clemson University continues to climb the ranks of college football status, the passing of Ray Finkle brings forth a deep lesson on moral obligation.
Finkle, a 1940s star quarterback and a lifelong Tiger basketball player, courageously shared with us his firsthand account of public perception and its impact on his life. A few days after Dr. Finkle passed away in 2014, Finkle’s granddaughter Marian released a statement: “The crushing reality was that, without the maturity of mature adults, a boy’s life and personality are forever changed. To them, unlearning the system and experiencing these very uncomfortable feelings were a natural consequence of trying to mature into a man.”
This quote is my first meditation on my Mississippi Daily Mississippian op-ed today, in which I am one of the 200 panelists included in creating an opening dialogue about college students’ moral responsibility.
This poem takes a cue from Finkle’s legacy and lessons, which are reflected on the graduation and recognition wall at Clemson. The sentiment on the wall is that this wall means “it’s college but it’s still Clemson.”
Finkle also refers to “the darkest side of college football.” He believes that:
Parents cry. They lie. They say the plainest things. They intend and mean it.
And there is a lot of lying around. It’s a tough world. And things are true. And there are the seedier things of life. And the game. And the money. And the championships.
And if you are a man, you remember those things but you don’t let them go.
When the team learns to realize that this house has needed a little work. How you break the tradition of college football. And how you sleep with your locker in the dark. How your problems won’t help the players. So you get paid. And you go to the sidelines. And maybe you go to the suites. And your teacher does a good job. And maybe you catch the other team playing. I got gold hair in the photo. I made too much money. It’s not worth it. We went to the West Coast. It wasn’t like it was supposed to be. And the heroes are the ones who go back. And we talk about the teams and the money all the time. It is what it is. But they say it’s a privilege. A beautiful privilege. A dream for the rest of your life. But what do you do if you don’t believe in it? It isn’t easy to know the difference. We’re Clemson Tigers, we’re my teammates, we were on that team. I was there with them. This is beautiful. But some guys took drugs. They were all great guys. But we didn’t take drugs. There was something else going on. It’s hard to deal with this sometimes. I think everyone goes through this sometimes. But that’s what makes it so beautiful. It won’t happen again. As long as you’re in college, you have the chance to make mistakes. When they come, it’s like the second coming of the ’60s. Everything is better. But don’t be like them. It makes everything worse.
It all comes back to those who make the most impactful moral decisions in their lives. Once they make the decisions and share them with us, they are reminded that if they don’t, then they go down the path of being “friends of players” and more!
The article is left open-ended, and this passage is heartwarming:
They all want to be like Finkle. It takes a lot of guts. And in a lot of ways, it makes it all worth it. But it also shows you that you know that as a man you do have the power to make those decisions. But you’re a man, you’ve got to do it, too.
God bless our humble educators. God bless Dr. Finkle. Dr. Finkle mentored millions of people throughout the world to make their daily decisions. Dr. Finkle taught us to take pride in who we are. Dr. Finkle taught us that there is hope in the power of your strength.