Valparaiso University drops the Crusader mascot. My daughter approves.

When I was a Lilly Fellow in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University we attended almost every Valparaiso Crusader home basketball game during the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons. As a faculty member, we got free admission and the ARC (Athletics Recreation Center)–the Valpo arena–was a five minute walk from the house we were renting. The games became a community event for the postdocs in the program. We all sat together with our young kids and enjoyed some Division I college basketball. This was a couple years after “The Shot.”

One night as we entered the ARC and navigated the crowded arena to our seats, we lost our daughter. Ally was three years old. I thought Joy was holding her hand and Joy thought I was holding her hand. Needless to say, we panicked. The ARC only holds about 5000-6000 fans, but when you lose your kid in a crowd, 5000-6000 feels like a million.

We couldn’t find Ally anywhere. My fellow postdocs and their spouses joined us in our search.

Finally, I asked the security guard if I could walk on the floor at court level to look around. Sensing my concern, he smiled and asked me if I was the father of a little girl with blond curly hair. He pointed to the floor. The Valpo team was warming up. The music was blaring. And there was Ally, running around the court with the Valpo crusader mascot as the fans cheered them on from their seats.

Whew!

At some point during my two years at Valparaiso I watched an honors student debate on the subject of whether the university should retire its nickname and mascot. It was either 2000 or 2001. If I remember correctly, the debate was triggered by the fact that evangelical Wheaton College had just changed its name from “Crusaders” to “Thunder.” I can’t remember who won that debate, but the university did not change its nickname or its mascot as a result of the student arguments.

That was almost twenty years ago. Times have changed. Here is the Chicago Tribune:

Valparaiso University’s controversial Crusader mascot is on the way out, with the decision on a new mascot expected to come from the university’s incoming president with input from the campus community.

“This is the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reason,” said Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott, who announced the decision Thursday in a video message to the campus community and alumni along with Kaitlyn Steinhiser, president of the student body.

While the Crusader has been the university’s mascot since a switch from the Germanic calvary soldier the uhlan in 1942 because of the rise of Nazi Germany, those involved with the effort to remove the Crusader said that discussion began decades ago but didn’t gain cohesion until this summer, after protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and growing awareness of racial injustice that followed, as well as the use of Crusader imagery during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Irwin-Knott put together a task force to examine the matter, which sent out a survey to students, alumni, faculty and staff for feedback on the Crusader. In all, 7,700 respondents took part in that survey and more than 80% of them identified “Valpo” as the university’s dominant brand, compared to 2.5%, who selected the Crusader.

Read the rest here.

I think Ally would support Valparaiso’s decision. 🙂

Song of the Day

For all those who have sent their kids off to college for the first time in the midst of this pandemic. Replace “friend” with “son” or “daughter.”

Into the traffic changing
A good friend I have had
Today, today he’s leaving
Makes me sad

My friend is starting over
There is a trembling
Today, today he’s trembling
Through the trees

If you see him there on your street
Will you smile or shake his hand
Today, today
The brotherhood of man

Katie Ledecky: Springsteen Fan

Katie-Ledecky

I was thrilled to learn that Katie Ledecky is a Bruce Springsteen fan!  See her interview with Bob Costas here.  I am hoping that the Boss will invite her to one of his upcoming stadium tours!

Ledecky told Costas that her father first introduced her to Springsteen when she was six-years-old.  They would play the Boss on their drives to and from swimming practices.  As some of you know, I have a daughter, Allyson, who is a year younger than Ledecky.  She is a volleyball player and we have spent a lot of time over the years on long car drives to volleyball practices and tournaments cranking the music of Bruce Springsteen and singing together at the top of our lungs. When our throat got sore I would stop the CD and explain to her the meaning of the songs we just heard.  I have no idea if anything I said during these mini-lectures actually sunk in, but I definitely think these experiences taught her patience! 🙂

My daughter is about to leave home. Her first college volleyball preseason starts in a few days, and classes begin at the end of the month.  So I must admit that I got a bit emotional when I heard about the way Ledecky bonded with her father through the music of Springsteen.  I loved the look on her father’s face when the camera panned to the Ledecky family standing off stage. I could relate.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to more father-daughter bonding on some of the long car rides from Harrisburg, PA to Grand Rapids, MI.

Fea ladies

The Fea ladies enjoying a Springsteen concert at Hershey, PA in 2014

And now for a full confession.  I went to bed last night just before the Costas interview with Ledecky.  As I climbed under the covers I got some texts from Allyson, who was at a friend’s house. Here was part of our exchange:

Ally: Dad, OMG, ARE YOU HEARING THIS?

Ally: DAD ARE YOU HEARING THIS

Me: No, I’m getting in bed

Ally: SHE LOVES SPRINGSTEEN

Me: Who?

Ally: KATIE LEDECKY

Ally: SHE LOVES SPRINGSTEEN

Me: Awesome

Ally: HER DAD PLAYS IT IN THE CAR FOR HER ON THE WAY TO EVERY PRACTICE AND RACE!

Ally: SINCE SHE WAS SIX YEARS OLD!

Me: Wow!

Ally: THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT “GLORY DAYS”

Ally: HER FAMILY LOVES THE BOSS!

Me: It’s a sign of YOUR future Olympic glory!

Ally:  And she’s also 6’2

Me: Yup–there you go.

Ally: Hahahahahahahahahaha!

OK–with the emotional father-daughter stuff out of the way I will now write the rest of this post as a serious Springsteen aficionado.

If you watch the end of the interview, Costas says that Springsteen’s song “Glory Days” should now be on the top of Ledecky’s playlist.  Obviously, Costas has never listened to the lyrics of “Glory Days.”  It is a song about a guy who was a good high school baseball player but never really made it.  Now he sits around as “time slips away” sharing his “boring stories” of Glory Days.

Hardly the song that Ledecky wants on her playlist right now.  Somehow I also doubt that it is a song she will relate to thirty years from now.  “Time” will definitely “slip away,” but the stories she tells her kids, her grandchildren, and the people she meets in bars will hardly be “boring.”

 To put it differently, I doubt Katie Ledecky will become another Uncle Rico:

A Sportswriter Takes His Daughter to See “Hamilton”

00126-hamilton

This is a great piece by sportswriter Joe Posnanski about taking his 14-year old daughter to see Hamilton on Broadway.

I read this piece as a father of a 14-year old (actually, she turned 15 a couple of weeks ago) and as someone who is excited about the way this play is getting kids her age excited about history.

Here is a taste:

So, while it’s fresh in my mind now, I cannot imagine forgetting any detail of sitting with Elizabeth while we watched Hamilton. But I will forget. I will forget the details of this difficult but hopeful year. I will forget the size of eyes as she stared at the stage and tried to memorize it. I will forget because the years pile on, and memories cloud as they bump into each other, and I barely remember where I was yesterday.

But she will remember. That’s the thing. She will remember every detail. She will remember it the way I remember what it was like inside Cleveland Municipal Stadium with those stupid steel beams blocking every view of the field and the wind howling off of the Lake and the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke. She will remember every little thing about that theater, about that stage, about Lin’s voice, about my jacket being around her shoulders, about Burr’s unplanned little laugh when watching King George dance, about that night.

Joe-Posnanski2

Joe Posnanski

 

As we walked out into New York, the echo of the show still ringing, she held on to me tight, and she stumbled because she was still inside the dream. She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek.

“Are you going to start crying again?” I asked her.

“No,” she said, but she did, just a little, and she clung to me tighter, and I leaned down and sang in her ear:

‘They’ll tell the story of tonight.”

She smiled and wiped away her tear. “They’ll tell the story of tonight,” she sang back.

Read the entire piece here.

 

What I Learned This Weekend

It has nothing to do with Martin Luther King Day, the inauguration of Barack Obama, the Harbaugh brothers, or virtually anything else of national significance that happened this weekend.  I spent the entire weekend driving back and forth from Mechanicsburg to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to watch my ninth-grade daughter play in a club volleyball tournament.

So here is what I learned (or relearned):

1.  The intensity in which one roots for one of his own children in a sporting event far exceeds the intensity in which one roots for his favorite professional or college sports team.

2.  It is possible for a parent to be more upset about a loss than the daughter who actually played the game.

3. I really like watching girls volleyball.

4.  It is possible to jam hundreds of people into the hallway of a small recreation center without breaking the fire code.

Allyson Fea in action

5. It is possible to get extremely excited about a girl’s volleyball game being played to decide 31st place in a tournament of 37 teams.

6. Volleyball referees may be the most anal-retentive people on the face of the planet.

7.  It is probably not a good idea to debut your team’s new victory dance in front of the parents of the team that you just beat.

8.  If your daughter’s team is eliminated from the tournament at 2:30pm, it is likely that they will need to hang around until 4:30pm because they have been scheduled to help with score keeping and refereeing duties.  There are no exceptions to this rule, as I learned from a disgruntled parent from Long Island who wanted to leave quickly in order to beat New York City traffic.

9.  If the sign on the gym door says “NO FOOD OR DRINK ON THE COURTS” a parent will inevitably spill his Diet Coke on the gym floor as he juggles a bag full of McDonald’s burgers and fries for his family who are on the courts watching a match.

10. The team that has five players over six feet tall has a good chance of winning any U-15 volleyball tournament.

Christian Smith Defends a Sociologist Whose Data Finds Fault With Same-Sex Relationships

According to Christian Smith, a professor of sociology and the director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame, Mark Regnerus is being savaged by his fellow sociologists because he has published research that challenges progressive orthodoxy on the question of same-sex parenting.

In an article in Social Science Research, Regnerus, an associate professor at the University of Texas, argued that adult children of parents who had same-sex romantic relationships, including same-sex couples as parents, have more emotional and social problems than do adult children of heterosexual parents with intact marriages.  Social Science Research is a peer-reviewed academic journal and its editor has stood by the piece.

Regnerus’s research has caused a major uproar in the sociology community.  He has even been attacked by members of his own department.  According to Smith, Regnerus’s article is offensive to the guardians of the liberal, progressive ethos of his discipline.  Smith writes:

The temptation to use academe to advance a political agenda is too often indulged in sociology, especially by activist faculty in certain fields, like marriage, family, sex, and gender. The crucial line between broadening education and indoctrinating propaganda can grow very thin, sometimes nonexistent. Research programs that advance narrow agendas compatible with particular ideologies are privileged. Survey textbooks in some fields routinely frame their arguments in a way that validates any form of intimate relationship as a family, when the larger social discussion of what a family is and should be is still continuing and worth having. Reviewers for peer-reviewed journals identify “problems” with papers whose findings do not comport with their own beliefs. Job candidates and faculty up for tenure whose political and social views are not “correct” are sometimes weeded out through a subtle (or obvious), ideologically governed process of evaluation, which is publicly justified on more-legitimate grounds—”scholarly weaknesses” or “not fitting in well” with the department.

To be sure, there are many sociologists—progressives and otherwise—who are good people, scholars, and teachers. But the influence of progressive orthodoxy in sociology is evident in decisions made by graduate students, junior faculty, and even senior faculty about what, why, and how to research, publish, and teach. One cannot be too friendly to religion, for example, such as researching the positive social contributions of missionary work overseas or failing to criticize evangelicals and fundamentalists. The result is predictable: Play it politically safe, avoid controversial questions, publish the right conclusions.

I am not a sociologist so I do not want to rush to judgment against the practitioners of the discipline.  But I do respect the work of Christian Smith and I am inclined to believe that what he has to say about the Regnerus case is correct.  If it is, this is a real shame–both for the discipline of sociology and for academia in general.