In these bitterly divided, I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I times where both sides cordially agree everybody is either a moron or an idiot or a Little Rocket Man, let me tell you about a sign.
It is front and center in the meeting room of the big Rocket men — the Toledo football team — and it is the darndest thing.
It does not implore the Rockets to give 110 percent or preach pain is temporary, pride is forever, or any of that age-old schlock.
No, it is a reminder to the big, bad reigning champions of the Mid-American Conference to kill ... with kindness.
Each day, the players see this message, labeled the Rocket Code of Conduct:
■ I can always be heard saying please PLEASE when asking for something;
■ When given something, I will always say THANK YOU;
■ Likewise, when someone says THANK YOU, I will say YOU’RE WELCOME;
■ To politely interrupt, I will say EXCUSE ME;
■ I can always be heard saying YES SIR, NO SIR, or YES MA’AM, NO MA’AM to my parents, instructors, coaches, advisors, managers, trainers, etc;
■ Phrases such as: GOOD MORNING, BE SAFE, HOW ARE YOU and HAVE A GREAT DAY are all part of who I am; and
■ I AM THE RESPECTFUL ROCKET!
Now, why are we writing about an old sign? Why not?
With America at each other’s throats, it struck me as a refreshing affirmation of the little things that mean a lot, and unlike anything I’ve seen before in a college football building.
We focus so much on wins and losses because, let’s be real, that is what matters here. It does not require $10 million — as Toledo spent on football last year — to build the respectful Rocket. If coach Jason Candle was not a winner, he would be fired tomorrow.
But you can win the right way, and from my experience, the hometown program has a basic decency worth recognizing.
Success takes many forms, big and small. It is winning the MAC, acing the Bio midterm, and keeping out of trouble. It also is simply being a good person. It is holding open the door. It is giving up your seat on a crowded bus. It is being civil and gracious.
This is not to be Pollyanna, because heaven knows Toledo’s players are not perfect citizens. None of us are. But they do strive to be human, the sign reminding every day of their careers to make the extra effort — to perform, as senior receiver Cody Thompson said, “the little random acts of kindness that can go a long way.”
“Those are things that take no talent,” Candle said. “Making sure you’re respectful, being really humble, and having humility. There are so many people in the world who can’t do what they love to do every single day and we do. That’s a really cool thing, and we would be crazy if we took advantage of that and weren’t really grateful for the opportunity.”
It is a simple message, but a worthwhile one.
Soon enough, we’ll all be back slinging arrows at the Rockets, filled with praise and poison. But just the same, Toledo can be proud of its football team.
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