Whatever happened to "tough game, we'll get 'em next time?"
I know, sounds naïve. We are, after all, talking about college sports – that billion-dollar industry that rakes in the $$$ for universities and private companies, and attracts high-rolling jock sniffers like Nevin Shapiro, the University of Miami booster-turned-convict.
But let's just for one minute reduce this to the simplest terms. Let's pretend this is just a game and that the kid being blamed for the loss happens to be your kid. You hear them booing your son and you sit a little straighter, knowing that you've raised him to be tough, to tune it out, to use the vitriol to come out stronger and smarter next time. You deflect the rude comments. You even try to ignore the flabby father sitting with his two young sons, foam flying from his mouth as he urges the other team to take your son home and sodomize him. But as your son hunches over on his way off the field after a 28-24 loss, it's hard to ignore the devastation on his face.
Rodney Harris and Shebra Pollock Harris, on behalf of all true UM fans, I apologize. You have suffered unfairly.
As parents, even if you're not into cruising Internet message boards and sports blogs, there's no doubt you've read some of the insults hurled at your son, UM quarterback Jacory Harris. And even though he downplayed it, there was no missing last year's news that UM fans were sending racist messages to his Twitter account.
By all accounts, you've raised an outstanding young man. I'm not talking about the part where he led Northwestern High to a 30-0 record, two state championships and a No. 1 national ranking by USA Today. Or the part where he was named Florida's Mr. Football after passing for 49 touchdown passes. I'm talking about the kid who chose to stay at UM his freshman year, even though his coach wouldn't start him, because playing for the 'Canes in his hometown was a childhood dream and he didn't want to be a quitter.
When your son was a sophomore, my husband was invited to be a guest speaker in a UM communications class, where he showed photos he had taken in Haiti. While some students in the back row snoozed through the lecture, my husband said your son was attentive. He asked questions and even approached my husband afterward to learn more. Months later, when your son happened to pass us walking in Coconut Grove, he stopped and shook my husband's hand and thanked him for coming to the class. He was polite, respectful, a true gentleman.
I know being a nice guy doesn't count when you're near the goal line on the fourth down, but I do know that your son played his heart out this past weekend. The stats bear that out. But that didn't stop the jeers, the lewd gestures and the name calling. Even the Kansas coach felt impelled to step in afterward and call your son "a great quarterback."
No, Mr. and Mrs. Harris, if there's anything wrong with the University of Miami these days, it's not your son, it's the fans.