You have all heard the tired, old cliché, “Nice guys always finish last.” In fact, the saying has been repeated so many times, it has almost become an article of faith.
But is it true?
As a long-time West Virginia football fan, I am troubled by the number of Mountaineer fans who, five games into this young season, have already given up on Coach Bill Stewart. It shames me to admit that some of them have even called for the man to be fired.
There are a number of Mountaineer fans who believe that Stewart is much too nice to be a successful head coach. Stewart’s kindness is often misinterpreted as weakness, an inability to instill toughness and discipline into his players.
No doubt these same fans also believe that a man of strong faith cannot win games in the violent world of college football. Most disturbing of all, some have even stooped so low as to ridicule Stewart’s faith and question his intelligence, as if foul language and rude personal behavior were the prerequisites of a winning program.
I recently had the privilege to hear a radio interview with former Alabama Coach Gene Stallings. Prior to hearing this show, I did not know all that much about the personal life of this fine and gentle man. Certainly I was familiar with his football victories and his great coaching reputation. However, I knew very little about the man himself.
“The Junction Boys” were a collection of student athletes who played for the legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at Texas A&M and were immortalized in a book and film by the same name. As one of the members of this team, nobody could legitimately question the toughness of Eugene Clifton Stallings, Jr.—nor should they!
During this radio broadcast, they replayed an earlier interview the former coach had given in regards to his son, John Mark Stallings, who was born with Down syndrome.
Then in the live portion of the show, they talked to the coach about this beloved son, “Johnny,” who passed away on August 2nd of this year due to congenital heart failure. With an obviously broken heart, this tough football coach shared his love for his late son and the deep and abiding faith that carried Gene and his wife through their painful ordeal.
I know a little bit about the grief the coach endured with the loss of a child. Please trust me when I tell you it isn’t a situation for the weak of heart and often requires a measure of faith to survive.
But survive he did!
By the way, did you know that Coach Gene Stallings, this “nice guy” from the violent world of college football who lost five games his first season at Alabama, enjoyed an undefeated season and won the National Championship in 1992?
As we can learn from the life and career of Coach Stallings, nice guys don’t always finish last. Will West Virginia Coach Bill Stewart also enjoy the same level of success that Stallings experienced in college football? Only time will tell. But he certainly deserves substantially more than five games to make any determination about his skills as a head coach.
For his sake and for the sake of Mountaineer football, I certainly hope Bill Stewart succeeds, if for no other reason to forever bury this ridiculous notion that nice guys always finish last!
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