Hog football coach Bret Bielema could use a common-sense filter when it comes to publicly shaming his players — well, one of them, anyway.
Of course I’m speaking of the manner in which he kicked red-shirt junior Cole Hedlund beneath the team bus following Hedlund’s misses from 20 and 23 yards in that ugly (best forgettable) home loss to TCU.
Truth is, that terrible excuse for an SEC-caliber football performance (with the nation watching and many recruits in attendance) was shared by all the players who blocked, passed, ran, caught and tackled ineffectively. The breakdown on virtually every level was a shock to the state and the fans who had much higher expectations following typical preseason hype about how improved the 2017 team might be.
The TCU debacle felt instead like a continuation of those stunning and avoidable losses to Missouri and Virginia Tech at the end of last season, as if nothing of substance truly has changed.
When our team twice punched inside TCU’s 5-yard line but had neither the grit, smarts nor manpower to force the ball in for scores that could have eventually won the game (but unwisely opted for field-goal attempts instead), it became evident this team’s problems run much deeper and disappointing than young Mr. Hedlund’s errors.
I’m sure the once nationally top-ranked high school kicker still isn’t sleeping well. After all, place kicking is what Hedlund has eaten and breathed for years. And he appeared to be much improved over a mediocre last season.
For him to have inexplicably suffered the yips from gimme range had to have been a tremendous emotional blow. Try to imagine how he felt facing the teammates his misses let down, not to mention the fans. Try to imagine what comes next for this fine young man.
If Bielema properly decided as the head coach to admonish Hedlund for such costly breakdowns, that certainly should have come in private, heartfelt conversation, not in the news columns in which the coach was quoted in part: “The two missed field goals were just embarrassing. We’ll go for it every time, or we have to find a new kicker. I’m done with this.”
Bielema also said, “What you see in practice is what you believe is going to happen. We have a kicker that was over 95 percent all the way through fall camp and the first two weeks of the season, and then to go out and miss two kicks. Especially the second one. … It’s basically a PAT, and it was perfect protection and perfect snap. It’s inexcusable. So we’ve got to find the other option in that regard because we’re not going to go down that path again. So that we’ll move forward.”
While Hedlund’s performance contributed to the loss, the coaches and Hedlund’s teammates need a long look in the locker-room mirror to observe what fans can clearly see. The other team was better coached, faster, tougher, more adept and smarter than the Hogs that day. Now Texas A&M, armed with some revealing game film, and an entire season await. Gulp.
Wisdom in comics
My former philosopher professor at the University of Central Arkansas in 1969 did more than any other mentor to teach me to think critically. The friendly, plainspoken Patrick Murray, who later would exchange his sport coat for an Episcopal priest’s clergy collar, was particularly attuned to layers of wisdom found in the Sunday comics.
I’ve particularly become a fan of Sherman’s Lagoon on Sundays. It’s the continuing saga of Sherman the Great White shark and his pearl-adorned wife, along with their assorted undersea friends.
Author and illustrator Jim Toomey had a relevant dandy the other day, considering how Internet technology has permeated every aspect of life today.
The first panel has Sherman setting up his new automatic coffee maker with his wife patiently holding a cup. He explains to her that the first thing they must do to get the machine operating is set up a user name and password. Her: “Huh?”
“Then we need to connect it to the Internet and update the software,” he says. Her: “Okay.”
“Now it wants permission to access our location,” Sherman continues. Her: “Sure.”
“It wants to send us notifications.” Her: “Whatever.”
“Should we let it have access to our database of contacts?” he asks, still studying the machine. Her: “Why not? It’s just a coffee maker.”
“Now it wants to take our picture and post it on Facebook.” Her: “Fine. Can it fill this cup with coffee?”
Sherman: “Working on that.”
I find this humorous because the message has become so close to the truth in the electronic and eavesdropping society we’ve created where privacy is shoved aside.
That’s a glaring oversight if there’s ever been one. I’m talking about the pregame events during the football clash the other night between Parkview and Benton high schools.
It was Parkview’s first home game this season at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, and the color guard had taken the field. But amid the confusion before the game, someone forgot to play our national anthem.
Oops. Refs visited with the coaches and the color guard finally had to clear the field so the game could begin. Fans in the stands took to social media shortly after the twilight’s last gleaming that Friday to ask what the heck’s going on.
An apologetic Parkview Principal Randy Rutherford was quoted in a news account about the apparent mistake. “To say this was embarrassing for our school is an understatement. Being in a new venue did present us some new challenges, but I assure you these will addressed.”
It was a bad time for this, considering all the flap over some NFL players refusing to stand for our anthem in protest of, well, something other than the exorbitant salaries they earn for playing a game and the fame they attain because of the unique freedoms they enjoy. But that’s an entirely different column, isn’t it?
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.