By Stan Silliman
BURN THIS COLUMN… IN EFFIGY
We’re taking another trip to Soapboxville, Highhorsetown, Rantsburg.
It’s time to stop burning sports figures… in EFFIGY! Leave that tradition to the political malcontents, prancing protesters, dictator haters and guys in need of warmth.
In the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa, Oklahoma they begin their highschool football season each year by hanging “George” from the gallows and then burning him at the stake. When they can’t burn him, they drown him, pelt him with water balloons, beat him with sticks and stomp the straw out of him. Said to be a gleeful event. Hate to be in Sapulpa when they are in a bad mood.
The only problem is nobody knows who “George” is or why he deserves this honor. Not a Sapulpan around can tell you why this tradition started (in the 1960s) or why “George” is hated so much. This is a town that manufactures a lot of glass and you’d think someone in this town could see through all this, could reflect on why this is wrong, or why this George has to endure such pane.
In the sports world, the practice has gotten out of hand. Effigy burnings target underserved people – like Sapulpa’s George. When Bobby Knight was fired at Indiana, Knight supporters marched to the home of University President Myles Brand and burned an effigy of student Kent Harvey, who’s chief crime was saying “Hey, what’s up, Knight?” Did Harvey deserve that? Maybe, if he had injured Knight’s chair throwing arm but not anymore than Coach Dean Smith deserved his burning by North Carolina fans back in the 60s – twice. There’s now a basketball palace in Chapel Hill called the Smith Center. It’s maybe the finest gym in the country and yet impatient fans burned Dean’s effigy because he lost a few games. I’m betting Dean counts his lucky stars he doesn’t live in Sapulpa.
Sometimes, if you’re Anthony Davis - you get burned in effigy for doing good things. The good things the USC player Davis did were scoring touchdowns on Notre Dame. Every which way, rushing, kickoff returns, pass reception, eleven in total on Notre Dame. To most football fans, that’s a very good thing and yet, petty little envious leprechauns that they are, the Irish students burned him in effigy and taped pictures all over their sidewalks so folks could river dance on his face.
So, in some cases, like if you’re an evil dictator or a losing basketball coach, you get burned for doing bad things. Other times, if you’re a student bumping into a high-strung mouth breather, wrong place at the wrong time, you also get burned. And if you’re an exceptionally gifted athlete but playing against a team whose fans think all victories are pre-ordained in their favor, you can also get burned. Perhaps, Bob Dylan can reconstruct a song about effigy burning.
They’ll burn ya when you’re trying not to lose
They’ll burn ya when it’s not what you would choose
They’ll burn ya when you’re bumping into Knight
They’ll burn ya when ya know it isn’t right
They’ll burn ya when ya run right thru the Irish
But I would not feel so all that spurned
Everybody must get burned
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