Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Observe the rite of passage

When I was 15, I walked into my very first high school pep rally. Along with my friends, I found my way to the section designated for freshmen and sat down, eager to take it all in. As part of the ritual, the cheerleaders asked each group of classmen what the “Trojan battle cry” was, and we were expected to answer with “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!” When our time came to spell victory, booing ensued and the seniors held up diapers in our direction. My friends all looked around in disgust, muttering how rude and disrespectful the upperclassmen were being. I simply smiled and enjoyed the tradition I had become a part of. After all, I wouldn’t be a freshman for long. Exactly four years later, you can bet I booed the incoming freshman as hard as anyone else when they gave their battle cry. (And, as a side note, I also spelled victory ‘S-E-N-I-O-R-S,’ as so many before me had.)

I tell this story to show that rites of passage are important to getting all you can from your experience, event, group or job, and, maybe more importantly, to gain the respect of those around you. Rookie receiver Dez Bryant should learn this lesson.

Bryant recently signed with the Dallas Cowboys, and in the first few practices, he refused to carry veteran Roy Williams’ pads, as Cowboy tradition dictates. As a form of mild hazing, veterans have the rookies carry their pads to the locker room after practice. At first, Bryant refused to participate, saying instead that he was drafted to play football, not to carry pads.

What good ole Dez did is he showed the Dallas Cowboys program that he doesn’t respect its customs, and he’s showing his players that he’s too good to participate in their rite of passage. Each Dallas Cowboy great -- and the non-greats for that matter -- carried other players’ pads as a rookie. Suck it up and participate. Not only can it enrich your experience, but it promotes team building, both by showing respect to your elders and banning together as rookies in misery.

And honestly, is carrying pads really going to hinder your football playing capabilities?

Of course, now Bryant is coming out and saying that he didn’t know it was tradition and that, of course he would participate. Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that no one told him and that he didn’t notice all the other rookies carrying veterans pads. I can’t believe it was news to him when the story broke that Bryant was a party pooper. I guess this was not only a lesson for Bryant in humility, but also a lesson in dealing with the media while in the pros. Who said learning ends when you get out of college?

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