ERROL CASTENS: Fans, leaders alike need balanced priorities

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

It’s amazing how very emphatic we get about things that, in any realistic perspective, are trivial.
Right now, Ole Miss fans across the region, highly displeased with the football team’s record, are calling for Athletic Director Pete Boone’s resignation.
I won’t address whether Boone deserves to keep his job except to say that (1) football may be the most important measuring stick for an AD, but it’s not the only one; and (2) no person of faith or goodwill should ever express his thoughts on the issue in the vulgar, vile and even violent terms that some are using.
Some fans are also calling for the resignation of Chancellor Dan Jones. Many dislike Jones for the same reason they do Boone – embarrassments on the football field and the loss of Colonel Reb. Far more than with Boone, though, those who grade Jones by the gridiron, rather than the other 99.44 percent of the university’s mission, have severely misplaced priorities.
Going back to my opening sentence, both sides in the ongoing Colonel Reb controversy are due some criticism.
I understand and sympathize with the discomfort of some over what they saw as a plantation owner caricature, but there is no constitutional protection against being uncomfortable. Jones and his predecessor, Robert Khayat – men that I personally like and admire – should have left Colonel Reb alone and reminded the politically correct crowd that a mascot is not a menace.
On the other hand, Colonel Reb supporters have spent countless time and treasure contesting the issue. I understand and sympathize with their contention that the majority of fans want Colonel Reb back, but I wonder how much the same effort could have benefited the world on more lasting and far-reaching issues.
“They” say that football, in the South, is a religion. As a kid in the Archie era, I was baptized in red-and-blue, took communion in a stadium cup and lived and died with Ole Miss football. If the Rebels lost, I wasn’t fit to live with until the next Wednesday, and caring so much about football made it a religion indeed.
Football’s ultimate worth is not in producing W’s and L’s but in producing community spirit and young men of good character. If it fails at those, something more than the name on the athletic director’s door needs changing.
Contact Errol Castens, the Daily Journal’s Oxford Bureau reporter at errol.castens@journalinc.com.