Miscellany

Weekly Conversation | Crushing the Bye Week Again

A rite of passage.

Travis: So I finished digging the hole at about 3:30 on Saturday and have been trying to decorate it real nice. I took the three candelabras from my closet and put them in there and also have a nice rug to tie the hole together. Looks like we’ll be broadcasting from here for the rest of the year.

These are the times of a season that I hate the most. You have a group on one side that wants to burn everything down and fire the coach. Then you have the group on the other side that thinks everything is fine but feels the need to bring in all the failures of the past to justify the current struggles. I saw one tweet on Sunday comparing Kingsbury’s loss to the Saints to Tech’s loss to Kansas and I just can’t reconcile that. I think it’s ok to be upset about losing to Kansas (and not blame Kingsbury for it) and it’s also ok to not completely panic and think the sky is falling.

We were at a Halloween party on Saturday night so literally the only play I watched live was the blocked punt and subsequent fumble pitch that set Kansas up for the game winning kick. But I know from my extensive research later that night on Twitter that Wells seemed to play it too safe again and not take a chance on 4th and 1 late in the 4th quarter. I mentioned it a few weeks ago and still firmly believe that if Wells hopes to have success in this league he’s gonna have to alter his approach and take a few more chances during games. I assume you are even more measured than I am at this point but am I missing anything?

Seth: Yes. It is all too prescient, right? It’s the thing that we can literally see happening and when Wells didn’t go for it on 2 different 4th and 1 opportunities (the first one Texas Tech was in the red zone and settled for a field goal) I knew that Texas Tech wasn’t going to win. I didn’t actually know, but thought that Kansas would play a lot more footloose and fancy-free and they’d take chances because they have nothing to lose. Just put it all out there.

And yes, the football fanbase is so tired of this, it’s turning people away, and rightfully so. It’s frustrating, it’s infuriating at times. Other programs seem to be able to do “this” and Texas Tech cannot do “this” right now. Doing anything other that staying the course and hoping that Hocutt has made the right choice is the only option. Firing anyone right now doesn’t solve anything. I sort of remember the Pat Knight –> Billy Gillespie –> Chris Walker –> Tubby Smith –> Chris Beard timeline and think how long Texas Tech basketball was in the dumps and that’s a situation where a roster can be made over in two years. From about 2010 until Tubby was hired and here for a few years, maybe 2015, there was almost zero respectability for the program. You just can’t make over a football roster in two years, it’s probably three years minimum to truly turn it over (if that’s what needs to happen).

I have been saving this topic for the bye week because it’s something that I really wanted your opinion on and it is one where I think it’s a really interesting conversation. I had read an article a few weeks ago about how today’s “rite of passage” for men is quite different or maybe non-existent for boys today. So it got me thinking about my own rite of passage and then as a dad, is there a “thing” or an event where a boy becomes a man. I think the idea is that in other cultures, a boy would go out, kill some sort of animal, or there would be some ritual, and coming out of the mist was now a man. Thinking back to my youth, there was never that moment in time for me. My dad wasn’t a big hunter, he’d go on occasion, like once every five years. The only thing that I can think of for me personally is that my dad dragged me to work (sometimes literally) every day during the summer to go work on the turfgrass farm. Myself and my older brother worked out at the farm from about the 4th grade until law school. And “worked” is a bit of a misnomer because no one is really working in the 4th grade, but eventually over time I actually became a hard worker. It wasn’t an event, but a series of summers where I was no longer being dragged, but voluntarily going because that is what was expected and I became very good at my job as an hourly employee and I really enjoyed the work outside. I still miss it today if I’m being honest with myself. And with working, my dad always paid me, I had a checking account at a very young age and if I wanted something, I was expected to buy it. I remember buying my own clothes and I definitely remember having to save up to buy a new bike. I wanted a Mongoose, but couldn’t afford it and so I got the next level down, maybe a Diamondback? The idea was that maybe this was a rite of passage too, this idea of personal finance and individual responsibility and if you want something, you actually have to do something to earn it.

To string this out a bit, I’d love to know if you went through a rite of passage as a boy and then once I’ve got that answer, I’ll circle back about what that rite of passage could be today and then get your thoughts as well.

Travis: That’s such a great question and I took a few hours to think about it. I think we have a similar path in that I was never a hunter and never went hunting with my dad. My brother and his friends did but that was never my thing. So, like you, I think my rite of passage was in learning the value of work. My parents divorced when I was in 6th grade and we didn’t have a lot of money. In junior high and high school we’d work in the fields for the A&M Extension Agency but never for very long (a few weeks at a time maybe). We got paid minimum wage which was then three or four dollars I think so we never made much money. But other than that I wasn’t very active. I was big into sports and driving around the county roads listening to Iron Maiden with my friends. I never really worked too hard and wasn’t terribly motivated to do so. When I graduated high school I got a job in the summer working for a construction company and started to really learn about hard work. Start work at 8, 15 minute break at 10:00, 30 minute lunch at noon, 15 minute break at 3 and clock out at 5. Very regimented and disciplined and exhausting. I also worked for a janitorial company at night cleaning office buildings. When I started at Tech I got a job delivering beauty supplies to all of the salons around town every afternoon.

In my first summer after my freshman year in college I got a call from my old high school basketball coach who was working for a fireworks company south of town. He told me they needed help mowing. So the next morning I showed up and mowed around the warehouses. The morning after that I started clearing out the 6 foot weeds that crowded the chain link fence surrounding the property. When I finished that I started painting signs and stands. After about a week I asked my coach what else they needed. He said he didn’t know but to just keep showing up. Soon after that they let me start working in the warehouse, unloading containers from China and stacking thousands of cases of fireworks every day.

That mowing job later turned into a full-time job for me and I finished my degree at Tech by going to school at night (I was out on my own and needed a full-time wage to get by). It was hard, dirty work. Every year we’d start working seven days a week in early May through the end of July. We’d start at 6am and would work until 8 or 9 at night filling orders, loading and unloading trucks, and moving hundreds of thousands of cases of fireworks all over Texas and New Mexico. The longest shift I ever worked was from 6am on a Thursday until 8pm Friday night. I think we added it up one time and out of 168 total hours in a week we worked 142, or something crazy like that. It was such a grueling job, but I learned how to work. I remember vividly one morning after the 4th of July when we were having to gather all the unsold fireworks from the hundreds of locations across the state, sorting and inventorying it all that it hit me. It wasn’t a job, it was just what I had to do. That’s always stuck with me and for the most part I approach my career that way—it’s not a job, it’s what I do. I think that’s helped me transform from an pretty aimless, poor kid, into a fairly successful husband, father and commercial banker. 95% of everything is just showing up. And like you, I sometimes worry how I’m going to be able to pass that wisdom/advice onto my sons.

Seth: I’m so glad you liked this idea because I’ve been saving it for a while.

That’s an awesome story so in a lot of ways, we’re sort of cut from the same cloth in that hard work is really the one thing that I feel like defines me is my hard work. I will forever be grateful that this happened to me. And now, here I sit and I try to figure out how I can instill that with the boys. I have an office job and there’s really not going to be an opportunity for them the same way that I had my opportunity. With Youssouf with his soccer and now basketball, all of the extra we do for him, I feel like I can really emphasize that idea of hard work because I simply won’t let him slip. And he does work hard. He’s been playing against 10, 11, and 12 year-old kids all summer and there were a bunch of older players on his team that left to go to another team. He either had to step-up or shrink and he did not shrink. He’s excelled now that those older players left and he’s been able to spread his wings. With Fitsum, it’s different. He’s not interested in sports, even a little bit. But I have started running with him. I told him that I’m not going to let him off the hook, so if I have to run with him after school for a couple of miles, then yeah, we’re doing it. And it’s nothing big, but he has to participate in something and can’t just be there. Other than that, I’m just not sure what there is to do because I’m not going to force him to play a sport, but he can run (and he can run, he’s got the perfect long-distance body). I’ve told him we’re running a 5k in December and we’ve got a calendar where we’re training for it.

The other day, Fitsum and I were standing outside leaving some place and we were outside of the car and he said that he hopes that he can be a good dad like me some day. It was so sweet and just out of the blue for me. We were probably talking about Legos prior to that. I immediately saw this as an opportunity to tell him that him becoming a good father is something he’s starting now. This is when you learn to be a good dad, my job is to be good to him, be fair, but firm, make him work hard, be kind to others, and always considerate of those that have less. There’s a million little things that add up to being a good person, and I think he understood that how he becomes the person he wants to be starts now. And maybe this rite of passage isn’t going to be this singular event. I don’t know that they’ll have to work the way that I worked, but instilling in them those things that they see me do every day will be where things eventually click for them.

Travis: Those are things I think about a lot—how best to provide positive examples for them that they will hopefully adopt as they get older. Cade is extremely kind-hearted and I don’t ever want him to lose that. He’s ten years-old now and is pretty decent at basketball, even though he’s built more like a left tackle. He can handle the ball well for a “big man,” so when he gets a rebound he’ll bring it up the court and more often than not he’ll pass it ahead or dish it in the lane instead of taking the shot, and I want to always encourage him to play that way. Always make the right play. We’ve been watching AAU ball now for several years and believe me, that’s not the way most of these kids are trained to think. And yes, it will probably keep him from being on anyone’s “radar,” but that’s not the point of it. We want both of our boys to be confident, self-sufficient young men but also to be kind and generous.

And I hope this isn’t coming across as some sort of preachy, “look at my great kids,” sort of post because I don’t mean it be at all. It’s just as a dad, these are the types of things that I think about quite regularly. What kind of kids am I raising and how well will they adapt to the world in which they live once they’re grown? And I guess the biggest concern is how I will instill in them the value of hard work. I used to take them to watch their sister practice as often as I could because I wanted them to see the work she put in to be as good as she was (and is) but I worry that it doesn’t translate. I can’t get either of them to work half as hard as she does on the court. I’m hoping there will be some seminal moment where it hits them, much as it did for me in a fireworks warehouse, but as a father that’s something I worry about.

So we’ve gone on about this for quite a while now. I guess we can wrap it up this week with Halloween plans and can dig into the details next week. My boys aren’t 100% certain what they want to dress as for Halloween so we’re going in this year kind of blind. It will be interesting to see what we come up with on the fly.

Seth: I don’t think that you’re coming off as preachy at all because I think the reality is that we’re all sort of struggling to figure out how to raise our kids and the fact that there is no blueprint makes it all the better and hopefully we’re better for having had this conversation because I hope the comments enlighten us too. I’d also add that teaching hard work is important, but I think the other aspect is teaching kids the idea how be cultivate relationships. I think as we sort of progress in this social media world, being able to make real personal connections with people, whether that is online (like we’ve never met before, but I consider you one of my best friends and we’ve had more deep discussions about things than most of my other friends) or in real life.

The town where I stay shut down one of the main roads where a lot of the older houses are and the kids will go crazy in what I hope is a safe environment. It’s supposed to be quite cold, which is a departure from the past few years. Most of the parents just walk along with their kids and I’ll have a nice cup of coffee. And Fitsum wanted to be a mad scientist and Youssouf wanted to be the Flash and they look absolutely terrific. Keep up posted on your kids and your Halloween plans.

Travis: Stay safe out there and let’s all have a nice, field goal free weekend.

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