In case last week’s article dedicated to football wasn’t enough, this week’s is about football as well. Wisconsin football. Badgers football.
Hey, as one alma mater team, Waunakee Warriors, starts their season tonight, and the other, Wisconsin Badgers, next week, who can really blame me?
Specifically, I want to praise Chryst. (I can’t help the Christ/Chryst puns, so bear with me.)
I’ve only met Badgers new head coach, Paul Chryst, once so I’m not the most qualified to speak on his behalf but we are tangentially connected in many ways, by many people.
This past spring, Chryst invited ALL former players to attend a practice. It’s important to note that he invited ALL former players, not just the ones on championship teams but players from the teams that struggled as well, teams he was a part of. Those guys played their hearts out for the Badgers and didn’t get recognized for their sacrifice and efforts. But, Chryst made us all feel whether we were an 18 year old current player or an 80 year old former player–yes, there was an 80 year old former player in attendance–that we were all connected as Badgers football players. We are part of something special and bigger than one team or one era.
After the practice, Chryst instructed the players to take a knee. Chryst then asked EVERY former player there, over 100 of us, to introduce himself. One would not make such a request unless one was genuinely interested.
At first, it seemed tedious but became surprisingly emotional to hear from men of all walks of life, of different ages and race and body types, all talk about their time as a UW football player and how much it meant to their life to be a part of the program. And Chryst wanted them and his current team to know that they weren’t forgotten. Once a Badger, always a Badger–Chryst is trying to make those words mean something.
Chryst took a knee and listened and chuckled at the jokes. Some were former players he’d watched as a kid, some played for his dad, some played with him and some for him and some he’d never met before until this day.
The consistently-painted picture of him is this: Coach Chryst is a great guy, a great offensive mind, and a great fit to lead the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
My former coach and current athletic director, Barry Alvarez, knows this and has made his best choice for a head coach. Born in Madison while his father, George coached for the Badgers, Paul went on to play for the Badgers and coach for the Badgers as an assistant, and now, the head coach. If the blood of Chryst doesn’t run Cardinal red, no one’s does
While former coaches griped then split–Bielema (low assistant coaches’ salaries) and Andersen (the school’s high academic standards)–Chryst doesn’t even seem to know how to gripe. Gratitude and humility emanate from him.
He has that Midwestern humble approach to life. He will not wow you with sizzling quotes like his counterparts in the Big Ten–Jim Harbaugh. Urban Meyer, James Franklin–but players who hear past the chutzpah, know, in Chryst, they follow a dependable, capable leader who they can count on and is not going anywhere else.
In our current era of sports and social media, outlandish cockiness and attention-seeking “swag” is praised. It takes up the majority of college football coverage.
Egotistical, sociopathic braggarts dominate the news cycle and lazy, desperate sports media stations and websites eat it up. These media outlets plaster their images and names and quotes all over the internet and airwaves. It’s entertainment and brings eyeballs. I get it. But I don’t like it. This sensationalistic focus pollutes what college football should be about, student athlete’s encountering and overcoming challenges on the field and off it.
As Badgers fans we have to understand that our teams just don’t get favorable press…because we’re frankly, just not flashy. We’re a little boring to the rest of college football nation. But, that’s okay, smart Badgers fans know, this is how we operate. We should prefer that we’re underestimated so. Don’t worry if we don’t get the credit or coverage we deserve over other teams.
One of many examples, Wisconsin beat (the favored) Auburn in the Outback bowl game played just seven months ago yet USA Today’s preseason poll has Auburn ranked #3 and Wisconsin ranked #24. But, no matter, Chryst and crew will not gripe, they’ll just go to work…and care not where they stand online but between the lines, the only place where it matters.
We Badgers fans just need to remember that. We’re going to watch college football done right, so support the team with all your might.
Badgers fans are lucky to have the respite of Coach Chryst’s grounded reign of our football team.
But, don’t be fooled by his kindness, Chryst is a fierce competitor who has had terrific success. When he ran the offense for the Badgers as the offensive coordinator from 2005-2011, UW’s record was 70-32 including five 10-win seasons. He developed current pro quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Scott Tolzien who throw around praise for him like “he’ll win a national title or two” “he is a person of action and sincerity and great teacher of the game.
But all my praise and advocation from former UW stars and players won’t add up to one win. Chryst’s teams will have to win a lot to keep his job in the ultra competitive landscape of college football.
Actions speak louder than words. The good news for Badgers fans is that Coach Chryst already epitomizes this.
In Chryst, anything is possible.