The Tulsa Roughnecks Never Left Me Hanging!

Skelly Stadium, home of the Tulsa Roughnecks from 1977-84

Everyone has watched the video, by now, of the boy left hanging, trying to encourage his favorite team, the Miami heat for a good, but failing effort.  This is not the first time a loyal fan has been snubbed by the team he supports. Makes you wonder what sports stars are thinking today? Are they under some delusion that we pay to worship them, instead of to see a game? But let me take you back to a simpler time and place where things were different between a major league sports team and the city that loved and supported it.

In the late 70s and early 80s there was a major league soccer team, the Tulsa Roughnecks, that played and practiced in Skelly Stadium, on the Tulsa University campus, just a few blocks from my house.  Many summer mornings would find my neighbor friends and I walking down to the stadium, into the field, and kick the ball around with each other and even a major league soccer player or two, before their workout-practice began at 10:30am. Once practiced started, we would sit on the field and watch. Once over, we would visit with the players who were always glad to talk to us. They knew us by name. On Mondays the whole team would meet at a Tulsa restaurant, where everyone was welcome to have lunch with them.

The Tulsa Roughnecks were Tulsa. The city loved them. Once they lost a playoff series out of town, and were surprised to find hundreds of fans at the airport to greet and congratulate them for their effort, when they returned on a red-eye flight. I remember one player on the news, almost teary eyed, exclaiming with amazement that he had never seen such support after a loss! In 1983 the Roughnecks won the championship. The league was struggling and the team almost financially collapsed, but KRMG radio station held a telethon, and in one day the money  poured in to keep the team going. The people of Tulsa loved its team, and the team loved Tulsa.

Scenes like this were common after a game. Even after a loss the players did not just run off the field after a game. They showed appreciation. (Thank you Tulsaroughnecks.com for this image.)

Later I moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, and went to get tickets to a Rangers baseball game. At the stadium ticket booth, in the morning, long before game time,  I asked to use the pay phone about a yard behind the ticket booth. I was told I could not do that because it was across a yellow line. Really? In Tulsa I could walk onto the field and talk with the players, but in Texas I could not step across a line to use a phone? Made me think how special my years in Tulsa, as a Roughnecks fan was. Then I realized, no, it was not special. Yes I took it for granted, how friendly, personable and humble the players were, but you know what? It should be taken for granted! That’s right! I don’t care if you are the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys or Miami Heat, every player, every team should be friendly, personable and humble. Yes, if a city is going to stand behind its team and support it, it should be taken for granted that the team owes something more to the community than to just let the  city pay to worship them.

The Tulsa Roughnecks were not the only major league soccer team to show some class. I remember being at a game where Tulsa was playing Giorgio Chinaglia and the New York Cosmos. Chinaglia was the Babe Ruth of Major league American Soccer and the Cosmos were the Yankees of soccer. In the middle of the game, Tommy Ord, of the Roughnecks got a painful leg cramp and was lying on the ground. With no time outs in soccer play continued, and the Cosmos took the ball and attacked the Tulsa goal. Instead of charging down the field with his team, Chinaglia went over to Tommy Ord, lying on the ground in pain, and helped Ord exercise his leg to relieve the cramp! When was the last time you saw something like that in sports?

You can easily find pictures on the Internet and videos of Babe Ruth with children, especially in hospitals. Ruth was not perfect, but he understood he was part of a community, and not an idol for people to worship.  We ask what has happened to players today to give them the big head, and think they owe nothing to the community except to let people worship them. Wrong question. Where did the community go wrong to give the sports stars the idea that we wanted to worship them instead of see a game?

I still have in my possession, a copy of an article, I wrote to the Fort Worth Star Telegram shortly after the 1994-95 Major league baseball strike. Shortly after the strike I called the Texas Rangers ticket office. I was greeted by a recording saying, “baseball is back.” I wrote to the Star-Telegram asking where did baseball go? I knew the Texas Rangers were on strike, but was still quite certain I had still seen baseball on college fields, little league fields and even sand lots. Was major league baseball so arrogant as to believe they were baseball? And that if they were on strike that baseball ceased to exist?

Things like that take me back to a time, when I was young and naïve, and took it for granted that all sports heroes were friendly, personable and humble, just like my Tulsa Roughnecks.

A couple of years ago, I ran across an article about Alex Skotarek, a long time Roughneck player, coach and GM. I found his number and called him up to see if he remembered me, and my friends watching him practice. He remembered us and our names. We reminisced for a few minutes about those special days in Tulsa with the Roughnecks. After a few minutes, I politely told him I would let him go.  He thanked me for calling and told me to call back anytime.

I wish the young fan at the Miami Heat game could have had the same experience growing up with major league sports that I had.

Go Roughnecks!  (Thank you Tulsaroughnecks.com for this image.)

The Fruit of The Spirit, Lesson 10

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson on self-control reminds me of a very humbling lesson I learned on the golf course last December. A lesson I should have already learned. I have preached several times on how we are own worse enemy. For example you have David, who the giant Goliath couldn’t hurt. King Saul with all of his power and men could not harm David. Even when the enemy was in his own home, Absalom could not hurt David. If you look at the life of David the only person who really hurt David was David. His lack of self control when he saw a woman bathing is the only thing that hurt him. If David could have conquered and controlled self he would have had a flawless administration.

Last December my friend Ron treated me to a game of golf. Amazingly I got my best score ever-an 86! This was playing from the middle tees with one mulligan per nine holes. I was so proud of myself. I thought I had arrived.

A couple weeks later my friend Wes, from New Port Richey treated me to a game out near where he lived. We were part of a foursome. I could not wait to show them how well I could play now. On the first hole I drove the ball down the middle of the fairway. I was sure I was on my way to another great game. In the middle of the fairway I grabbed my fairway wood and was ready to knock it up on the green on my second shot. I swung and got nothing but dirt! I swung again and nothing but dirt! Come on William! It’s not a 90 mph fastball. It’s just sitting there for crying out loud! My three partners who had heard me bragging about my 86 the week before were patiently waiting. I swung again and topped the ball and it skipped about five yards. I was beyond frustrated and embarrassed! Now I have read in golf instruction articles to never get frustrated. Too late! I have also read not to worry about your score. The only thing you need to think about is your next shot. Well I was already thinking about the fact that on the first fairway my game was already ruined! In order to match my score the week before every shot was critical and I had already ruined my chances. I swung again. I topped it again and it went about two feet! That does it! Right there in front of three gentlemen I threw my golf club in the air in frustration! Problem was it did not stay in the air. It came down and hit a tree and shattered!

Now I was not only a lousy golfer I was a lousy Christian! I was a lousy everything! Now I was more embarrassed about my behavior than my golf game! I have gone golfing with a lot of men who played worse than I did but were much better sports about it. I was appalled at myself.

Now I had to finish the other 17 holes without a fairway wood since mine was now shattered. Served me right. My score by the end of the day was a couple strokes over 100! Here is the thing though. At the end of the day I finished in second place behind the leader by only one stroke! I could have won! Why did I lose? Because I lost my self control which caused me to lose a very important golf club. No one beat me. I beat myself by losing my self-control.

The three gentlemen (of which I was not) shook my hand and congratulated me on my game. I did not deserve any congratulations. I was not in their league, not because of my score but because they were gentlemen and I was an idiot! I was dejected that day not because of my score but because of my attitude. I resolved that day to never lose my self-control like that again. I have resolved that by the end of the game if I have won nothing else, that I have won the victory over self. I will be a gentleman and a sportsman by the end of the day if nothing else. The men I play with may forget my score but they will always remember my attitude.

My friend Ron, has been my golf mentor. He has taught me how not only to play, but how to play like a gentleman. He has also taught me more than that. He has taught me how to be gentleman off the golf course as well as on the course. At the end of the day I know I have spent the day with a good man no matter how his golf game was that day. My goal in golf is to by the grace of God, play with skill, passion but most of all sportsmanship. The only thing I fear on the golf course is not losing the game but losing my self-control. Fact is, after we shake hands and walk off the 18th hole no one will remember my score, but they will remember my attitude. I can’t always control my golf score, but I can control my attitude.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.