By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Many years ago I worked for another newspaper covering teams that did not begin with the names North and South. I had the privilege of covering one of the best football players I have seen at the high school level.
This player was strong, fast, and nearly impossible to tackle unless you brought some of your friends with you. He led his team into the playoffs where they had enough talent to make it to the state championship game. In the game that ended their playoff run, he came unhinged in a way I have not seen until Dez Bryant had a meltdown Sunday for the Dallas Cowboys. The incident included throwing a helmet and verbally attacking a teammate.
This high school player was wrong, just a Bryant was wrong. It doesn’t make it any more right if they just wanted to win so badly their competitive spirit boiled over. An excuse is an excuse no matter what kind of pretty paper you wrap it in.
Anytime a player reaches that level of fury he is bringing nothing but chaos to his team. The talk on the sideline for a lot of critical minutes was murmuring about what had just happened, just as there was for Dallas. There was no unity on a team at a time that every play could be the difference in winning or losing. For Dallas, there were bad decisions on clock management and poor coverage by the defensive backs after this incident. Who is to say they were not distracted by Bryant?
There are a lot of times tempers flare in a football game. You can’t get hit all night long and not get a little sideways. But you still have to focus and you can’t take focus away from other players. That is the definition of selfish.
North Laurel is enjoying one of their best football seasons and when it ends it could very well be their best. One of the biggest changes you notice from the teams Chris Larkey first coached to the ones he coaches now is the discipline.
His first teams had a lot more Dez Bryants, players that did not display discipline as a unit. You had some players that wanted to hit late, or pull a facemask. It was a big part of the task Larkey took on to take this attitude out of the equation so he could field a true team.
Where Larkey has succeeded, Dallas owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett have failed. Everyone has circled the wagons in defense of their young, talented receiver. That is fine on the public side. On the private side, he needs to be disciplined and given a no tolerance policy for these outbursts. If it happens again, trade him the next day. It will hurt when you see him have a huge game playing for another team. It will hurt less when you see that team fold late in a game because his emotions are more important than a team’s goals.