The fishbowl that is college football has its glamour of great finishes, relentless passion and the purest form of loyalty.
It also has its dark side.
We witnessed that recently after Auburn upset Alabama, 34-28, in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30. Alabama missed a 57-yard field that Auburn’s Chris Davis returned 109 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play.
Former Carroll star Cade Foster didn’t attempt that field goal. Teammate Adam Griffith did. However, Foster had a rough afternoon. He missed field goal attempts of 44 and 33 and had his second 44-yard effort blocked. The latter two occurred in the fourth quarter.
When the game ended and Alabama’s dreams of bidding for a third consecutive national title went with it, Foster landed in the cross hairs of rabid Crimson Tide fans. Social media outlets – Twitter and Facebook – lit up with hate-filled messages, including death threats toward him.
Frustrations spilled over to the point where rationale was completely ignored and knee-jerk reactions became the vogue.
Foster had to shut down his Twitter account for a time.
Carroll coach Hal Wasson spoke with Foster the day after that game (Dec. 1) to offer his support and give him an ear to listen to.
“People like that just don’t get it,” Wasson said. “It’s sad when people will do those types of things because of a football game.”
Alabama loves its football. Nick Saban has built an empire. But with it comes a sector of people who become consumed with entitlement and irrational behavior. I can’t imagine the anxiety, fear and loneliness that Foster felt as he was senselessly attacked.
Everybody has a bad day. It just so happened that Foster’s came on national television with one of the most visible teams in all of athletics.
What gets lost in this messy episode is that Foster really has enjoyed an excellent season. Prior to the Auburn game, he converted 11 of 12 field goal attempts and was 4 of 5 on attempts between 40-49 yards. Foster also didn’t miss an extra point.
Now, he’s 11 of 15. But if I told you your kicker was going to have that kind of season, everybody in the room would nod their heads yes without giving it a second thought. Plus, Foster bounced back from a tough junior season when he was only 4-of-9 on field goal attempts.
The good that came out of this is how the Alabama football team immediate rallied to Foster’s defense, including Heisman finalist quarterback A.J. McCarron. McCarron questioned those fans and their loyalty to the program.
No doubt you also saw the note former president George W. Bush sent to Foster. It read: “Dear Cade (#43), Life has its setbacks. I know! However, you will be a stronger human with time. I wish you all the best. Sincerely, another 43. George Bush.”
As unspeakable as the first 48-72 hours were after the Iron Bowl, the lesson we should all absorb is a quote from President Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Foster, a senior, will close out his college career on Jan. 2 in the AllState Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, when Alabama faces Oklahoma.