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Irons in the fire: Football, feedlots and fairs

Paul Marchant Published on 24 August 2013

I’m an admitted sports junkie. I’ve sometimes wondered about just where I could have gone in life if I’d used some of my limited brainpower to store important information regarding physics, the arts or molecular biology. Instead, I’ve expended considerable energy memorizing more “useful” data.

To wit:

• Who did Indiana State beat by one point to get into the ’79 Final Four? (Arkansas)
• Jim McMahon’s touchdown passes his junior year? (47)
• Trevor Brazile’s 2012 NFR earnings? ($50,649)
• Oscar Robertson’s career points and assist averages? (25.7 and 9.5)
• Reggie Jackson’s career World Series home runs? (10)

For better or worse, my sons have inherited this genetic defect. Instead of doing their chores, they can spend hours arguing over whether Derrick Rose is as good as LeBron, if Stephen Curry is a better shooter than Ray Allen, or if Tuf Cooper is better than his dad was. (The issue of getting the chores done is a topic for another day.)

As is always the case this time of year, my current sports-related obsession revolves around college football.

Despite all that is going on in August with the county fair, haying and the beginning of a new school year, the first week of the season is never far from my mind.

Besides my required devotion to my alma mater, I have several other allegiances, accompanied by varying levels of commitment and angst.

Generally speaking, though, if a school has a decent ag program, it also has some degree of my fan support. Of course, that often means I’m pulling for the underdog, too.

New Mexico State, Iowa State, Wyoming and Wazzu: I feel your pain. Colorado State: We remember the ’90s with fondness.

Oregon State and Utah State have recently given rise to hope. The resurrection in Manhattan has purple nation on the edge of Big 12 supremacy.

And, although I hate the whole conference realignment nonsense, I hope the Huskers can return to past glory in the Big Ten and that A&M can turn the Tide in the SEC.

Speaking of the Aggies from College Station, while most football programs crave the slightest bit of media attention, it seems that this summer, when it comes to Johnny Football, no news is good news.

Young Mr. Manziel made history at Texas A&M last season when he beat mighty Alabama and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

What’s ensued has been easy pickings for pundits and the talking heads at ESPN and sports radio talk show hosts everywhere.

Johnny Manziel’s every step and misstep have been well documented. Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow to the new pope seems to have an opinion on whether or not the actions, antics and mistakes of this 20-year-old kid are out of line or just normal behavior for … a 20-year-old kid.

It seems to me that the boat Johnny Football finds himself in is a lot like the canoe that we, as farmers and ranchers, are paddling. Whether we like it or not, the career path and lifestyle we’ve chosen brings with it a lot of attention and scrutiny from people outside our realm.

So even though Johnny Manziel may be a 20-year-old kid, he’s also been blessed or cursed with some amazing physical skills that he’s chosen to put to use as quarterback for one of the best college football programs in the country.

The combination of his talent and his choices brings much greater responsibility and accountability than most 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds have to face.

Likewise, for anyone blessed to be involved in animal agriculture, a high level of responsibility always accompanies that blessing.

Whether you’re a third-year 4-H’er showing your steer at the fair, a fifth-generation rancher on your grandpa’s place or CEO of a multimillion-dollar beef processing company, you are being watched by somebody who is critical of but doesn’t necessarily understand your job, your family or your way of life.

That’s why you don’t jab your steer with the showstick when he steps out of line during the showmanship class.

That’s why you don’t rub sand in the eyes of the rank cow you had to rope in the pasture to get her doctored or zap the steer that wouldn’t step into the processing chute 15 times with the hotshot once he finally does get in the chute.

That’s why you don’t dehorn with a hammer or smack the new calf that won’t suck or post profanity on Facebook.

As much as I would like it to be otherwise, we have to eventually answer to someone for every action we take. Sometimes we have to answer to a much larger audience than we’d prefer. Just ask an Aggie fan.  end mark

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