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Berry Tramel

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How OU did NOT fail Joe Mixon

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 29, 2014 at 12:10 pm •  Published: July 29, 2014

 

One of the best parts of my job, no, the best part of my job is the people I meet. Colleagues. Readers. Fans. Heck, even a few of the subjects I write about.

And some of the people I meet are rather sharp. Sharp enough to take over my platform from time to time. Whether it’s NBA labor agreement expert Jon Hamm, or former OU walkon Sam Muzny, or retired military man and OKC reflectionist Greg Davis, sometimes I’m better off stepping aside and letting them talk.

Yesterday, I posted Brent Clark’s essay on how OU failed Joe Mixon. I thought it was really interesting and it made people think. You can read that blog here.

Today, I received an opposite view from another friend, Ed Frost, a retired Russian language professor who grew up in Hobart, went to OU and spent many years on the faculty at Alabama. Ed has retired to Norman, and he occasionally sends along really interesting takes on a variety of subjects. I’ve shared them in the past. Ed wrote about arriving in Norman as an uncertain 18-year-old. I thought it was good enough to share and maybe shed a light on what college students go through.

“Just read your blog that included what Brent Clark had to say about Joe Mixon, and while Clark’s points are interesting, I disagree with the idea that OU is responsible. Short of Coach Schmidt going out with Mixon to celebrate his birthday, I can’t see much more that could have been done.

“You’re right that college is partly about growing up.  Heck, most freshmen probably want to go home at first, but most get through it.  Most of them want to pack their bags and leave.  It’s tough at first, until they feel like they are fitting in and getting the hang of it.  I remember when my parents dumped me at my freshman dorm.  I felt pretty empty as I watched the car drive off.  And I didn’t have someone like Jerry Schmidt or Port Robertson to face.  I had been coming to OU games for years and was familiar with Norman.  But still, there was that empty feeling when the car drove away.  Here I was, a small-town kid at the Big State U, and suddenly I was out of my comfort zone.

“I felt the same, only much more so, when I got off an army bus at boot camp and found sergeants waking me at 4 a. m. and yelling at me.  But I got through it. More than one athlete has told me he wondered, ‘What the heck am I doing here?’ I felt very small when I landed at the University of Illinois for grad school.  It was a very large university, and I didn’t know a soul.  But there I was, and over the next few years that campus became home to me, and I met my wife there.  Loved the whole deal — but I had to get used to it.

“Mixon apparently needed to be more mature.  That’s unfortunate, but it’s not OU’s fault.  OU took the chance that he would mature and live up to his promise.  Maybe he will, though it looks, at this early point, doubtful.  Switzer likes to say kids think they’re ‘bullet-proof.’ It’s a good description.  I have a retired FBI friend in Alabama, a 30-year veteran of the Bureau.  He’s a huge Tide fan and used to address the squad at the beginning of the season — stay away from drugs, etc.  Unfortunately, many don’t listen.  You can tell kids not to run in the house, but they’re going to run in the house.  Until they get hurt doing it or get disciplined for doing it.  Maturation is a painful process, but it’s a two-way street, and I believe OU equipped Mixon adequately.  Mixon may have to learn the hard way.”

Again, just like Brent Clark’s essay, nothing but interesting. And these guys have inspired me. We’re still waiting on information — Will Mixon be charged? What will he be charged with? — and the careful members of the media aren’t in a rush to write or say much, because there’s too much we don’t know. But the topics of athletes and violence, students and drinking, coaches and the pressure to win, they’re all relevant and deep. So I think I’ll keep writing about it, even as we wonder what will happen in the case of Joe Mixon.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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