Atlantic Coast Conference, don’t forget Greensboro’s loyalty

The headline in the August 27 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch stung me:  League weighs move of N.C. HQ. 

Translation— new Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner, Jim Phillips, has authorized a study to determine if Greensboro, North Carolina is worthy to continue as headquarters for the conference.

Since the league’s founding in 1953, Greensboro has been the headquarters. During those 68 years, the original founding universities developed a league that became famous for its college basketball. Eventually, the conference’s tournament became just as prominent with other athletic conferences copying its template.

Much has changed since the founding of the conference. Without question, money has driven the conference to expand. Logical geography hasn’t been a part of inducting new schools into the league. Money, market share, and visibility have even pushed the annual tournament to other cities considered to be more glamorous than Greensboro.

With permission, Commissioner Phillips contracted with two consulting teams to conduct what he calls “a holistic and transparent review” of the conference. A study like this cost lots of pennies, and I wonder if included in the review is an assessment to determine if Commissioner Phillips is of sound mind?

Commissioner Phillips certainly presents himself well in sound bytes and print interviews. But perhaps, adjusting to North Carolina’s summer conspirators of heat, humidity, and dew point, or a sip of some unfiltered high octane moonshine warped his thinking.

I grew up in Burlington. I did not graduate from an ACC school. But, from the first basketball shot I took on the dirt court in my backyard, the league’s teams, players, and coaches never left my heart.

Yes, I agree this is a bold move by the commissioner. It is wise to assess daily operations, assets, and to peer into the future. But, suggesting that Greensboro might not be the best fit for future growth is irresponsible. I guess Bentonville, Arkansas hasn’t been a good fit for Walmart.

Change is always a challenge. No one wants to be pushed out of his/her comfort zone. And while the goal might be to keep these assessments neutral from an emotional stand point, that isn’t possible. Why? People. 

Since 1953, the people of Greensboro have put their hearts and souls into collaboratively constructing with conference leaders a successful league. That history, legacy, hospitality, work ethic,  and support ought to count for something. If these attributes are not taken into fair consideration with the evaluation teams, then their findings will be pointless.

Instead of focusing these assessments on media opportunities, alignment with Fortune companies, corporate sponsorships, branding, and making more money, why not use the studies to help solve challenges the league faces? 

For example, how could the medical schools in the league conduct research to reduce injuries for all athletes? How might athletic directors find ways to reduce the impact of powerful alumni? How could university leaders work to insure that coaches apply integrity and honor in recruiting and developing relationships with student athletes? How can travel costs be reduced?

Perhaps Commissioner Phillips knows of the Wieners Circle, a hotdog stand, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  While their charbroiled hot dogs are delicious, customers also seem to enjoy the sometimes snarky attitude of their employees, and the profane quirkiness of the messages on the restaurant’s marquee.

What does the Wieners Circle have to do with the ACC?

Truthfully, nothing, except for one critical ingredient—people.

Since 1983, despite snarky employees, and a wacky marquee, people keep coming back to the Wieners Circle—why?

 The answer is grounded in their location, a quality product, and management that understands the pulse of the people they serve.

Comparably, Greensboro is an ideal geographic location, the city offers quality support, and without question the city’s intelligent, visionary, and loyal people have sustained the ACC through a wide range of challenges.

In our fast paced, impatient world, loyalty is often overlooked. In this process, Greensboro’s loyalty can’t be overlooked.

Commissioner Phillips, I hope your heart understands loyalty.

If you need any help in grasping loyalty, you might consider consulting with Bass, Campbell, Fife, Lawson, Pyle, and Taylor in Mt. Airy. They know quite a bit about loyalty.

Commissioner Phillips, leaders are supposed to look forward into the future. It is tough, necessary work.

In doing this work, it is also necessary to understand the heart, the pulse of Greensboro. Greensboro’s heart has always been loyal to the ACC.

The real question is whether your heart believes in Greensboro’s loyalty.

Photo supplied by Bill Pike

We are not all. We are “me”.

I call them early summer morning simmering sinner runs. Thanks to a Bermuda high anchored off the coast, the temperature, humidity, and dew point miserably conspire. From these conspirators, by the end of the run, I am soaked in perspiration. I think this is a good way to get the meanness out of my old body.

With these occasional early morning treks, my mind wanders. I don’t know about you, but I have a weariness in my noggin. I think quite a bit about America, and often, I conclude from “sea to shining sea” we are a mess.

If we really think about it, I don’t believe this is new news. Our struggles are well documented. Despite our good intentions, America has been internally wrestling with itself for a long time. 

I am no historian, but I think quite a bit about World War II and how our country responded to the challenges in Europe and the Pacific. Despite our imperfections during that time, what strikes me was our unity, sacrifice, commitment. 

I often ask myself where are those qualities now? Why don’t we want to defeat COVID-19 with the same determination?

Maybe Asbury Pruitt has some insight on those missing qualities. Mr. Pruitt was one of the Tangier Island watermen in Earl Swift’s book, Chesapeake Requiem. Mr. Pruitt perceived that the waves from the Chesapeake Bay were having an impact on the island’s shoreline.

On January 8, 1964, on the western edge of the island, Mr. Pruitt drove an iron pipe into the marshy ground. Next, he measured the distance from the pipe to where the water lapped against the shoreline.

Each year on January 8, Mr. Pruitt returned to the iron pipe and measured the distance to the waterline. For decades, he measured and recorded his findings. During the first seven years of tracking, Mr. Pruitt found an average of twelve feet of shore was eaten away by the bay. 

In 1974, ten years after the start of his research, the Chesapeake eroded away thirty-seven feet of the island. Personally, I believe a similar type of erosion has been wearing on America. Inch by inch, foot by foot, we have been slipping away from our unity, sacrifice, commitment.

Most obvious in this deterioration is the selfish, stubborn emergence of “me.” “Me” appears to thrive in creating incivility, havoc, disunion. That type of thinking erodes us further away from we and all— the good of the cause.

I try to be an optimistic person. 

But, I really struggle to understand why individuals smarter than me will not take the vaccine. I have the same question for medical personnel, police officers, teachers, firefighters—the backbone of our country who refuse to comply. My guess is that “me” has blurred their ability to reason out the facts and find the truth.

With the opening of school upon us, I do not understand the pushback for requiring students and teachers to wear masks. What doesn’t the “me” in our elected public officials and parents understand about the 647,361 Americans (NYTimes 9/4/21) who have died thanks to COVID-19? Does this mean the “me” in them wants to jeopardize the health of more individuals?

Sadly, even within the holy walls of houses of worship, “me” skirmishes occur over masks and vaccines.

I’ll be honest. There is me in me too. I’m imperfect. I can be stubborn and selfish. 

But, with COVID-19, why can’t we be we and all, not “me”? Where might America be now if “me” had been more compliant with masks and vaccines earlier? 

Before departing on my simmering sinner runs, I record the current weather data including visibility. Most mornings, the visibility is ten miles. Some rare mornings, the visibility falls below ten.

During this battle with COVID-19, I think our vision has been undermined. That makes me think about this quote from Helen Keller:  “Better to be blind and see with your heart, than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” 

In responding to COVID-19, the “me” in our current vision is not working. We can’t continue this way.

Asbury Pruitt’s vision and subsequent findings about his cherished island eroding into the Chesapeake were not grounded in “me”. His findings were grounded for the we and all on Tangier.

If we have any chance of defeating COVID-19 like we pushed back our enemies in World War II, we must change the “me” in our hearts to we and all.

A pretty church and our American flag Carpinteria, California 8/8/2018 photo Bill Pike