There are lines you don’t cross. Then there are lines beyond those lines that you think would never get crossed. This letter just sailed past all of those lines. College football is an emotionally-charged, wide-open sport. Head coaches are lightning rods for all manners of criticisms, and that’s the way it should be in most cases. But in no situation is it ever appropriate to involve a coach’s family. And calling the coach the ugliest, most divisive racial slur in the common lexicon in a letter addressed to the home where his wife and family live is beyond cowardly and despicable. It’s beyond any words that rational people can conjure up. It’s a desperate gasp of dying breath from a frail, weak-willed and meaningless person about to be engulfed by a world that has passed them by. It’s a maddening lack of any hint of creativity (There are reasons, readers, for criticizing Kevin Sumlin; myriad reasons, endless actual football reasons that could fill reams of this cheap stationery. But skin color doesn’t figure into it). It’s the weak-chinned bully’s last resort before he huffs his (or her) chest one last time and backs away from the playground, completely ignored by the rest of the kids who have tired of their endless and hollow bloviating. It’s the last word from someone who is too much of a coward to follow up and say anything else. It is the act of a small person, with a small mind, written in the scrawl of a small child, and it should be given as much weight.
It doesn’t much matter who did this or where they went to college. This is decency on a human level, not a school affiliation level, that has been violated. No one will ever step forward and take responsibility, because weaklings with persecution complexes never do that. It’s out there, it will hang around for a few news cycles, then slowly lose significance as more things happen this season. It shouldn’t, but that’s the way it works. The rest of us will go on about our routines and normal lives, but Mrs. Sumlin won’t. She’ll be frantically scouring her mail so that her kids don’t open a letter saying vile things about their father. Things out of the darkest and most disgraceful periods of our nation’s history. That’s not okay, no matter how disappointing his team plays or what he says to the media.
The action is done. The reaction doesn’t need to happen, at least not in the way instinct leads us. Anger is a powerful motivator, but fighting hate with anger is difficult to channel into a constructive outcome. Here’s what you can do instead: if you live in College Station, you already say Howdy to everyone on campus. Now say it off-campus for a few days. At the store, out grabbing dinner, a smile and a “Howdy” to the staff, the people you pass on the street, wherever. If you live anywhere else, channel that anger into friendliness as your surroundings dictate. We can’t prove that Aggies are above this by ranting on social media, but we can make a decent case for the majority of us if we’re nice to people out there in the waking world. Make eye contact, smile, say hello, help someone when they drop their belongings, whatever it is. Pass on that goodwill, because a thousand acts of kindness might begin to make up for one act of craven cruelty. The author of this letter thrives on meanness. Do the opposite. If nothing else, it’s healthier and you’ll feel better.
It may not be much, but it won’t hurt anyone to strive for something we should strive for anyway. Kevin Sumlin has shown in times past that he really wants to stay at Texas A&M and build something good. I doubt he still feels that way after this, and he’s got every right to want to leave. But it shouldn’t be on these terms.