Old Bearskin

Notre Dame football has had a long and successful history, but it stood the tallest when Knute Rockne was the head coach. From 1918 to 1930, the team’s winning percentage was .881. They lost only twelve games during those thirteen years and won six national championships. And the unprecedented success would no doubt have continued had Rockne not been killed in a plane crash on March 31, 1931. He was just 43 years old.

During Rockne’s tenure at Notre Dame, a football column regularly appeared in the school newspaper. The column’s writer would say incredibly mean, nasty, insulting things about the team as a whole, and he would pointedly criticize individual players. But the writer always remained anonymous by merely signing his name as “Old Bearskin.”

What was most shocking about the column was that the writer seemed to have inside information concerning the team. He knew which players were lazy, which ones were ladies’ men, and which ones kept scrapbooks to read their own press clippings. As you might expect, every player on the team hated “Old Bearskin.” When a player would come to practice and complain about something that had been written, Coach Rockne would sympathize and say that no one should write such things. Then he would say to the team, “Boys, let’s get out there and show ‘Old Bearskin’ that the things he writes aren’t true.”

It was only after Rockne’s death that “Old Bearskin” was revealed to be none other than Rockne himself. His purpose in writing the column was to keep his players humble and hungry as opposed to egotistical and content to rest on their laurels. Obviously, Rockne understood the pitfalls of pride and went to the extreme of writing the column to keep his players from succumbing to those pitfalls.

I trust this illustration will help us all understand why God sometimes allows us or even causes us to experience humbling setbacks and defeats. We don’t like such experiences any more than Knute Rockne’s players liked that newspaper column, but how can we argue that we don’t, at times, need these experiences? Actually, God either allowing or causing these experiences is nothing less than an act of love on His part. You see, He understands Proverbs 16:18 far better than we do, and that’s why He faithfully does His part to keep us from becoming a victim of its warning:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (N.K.J.V.)

This entry was posted in Adversity, Balance, Character, Criticism, God's Love, Humility, Pride, Problems, Prosperity, Sports, Trials and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Old Bearskin

  1. Myron says:

    There are people who do not believe God causes His children setbacks or defeats. I contend that is not correct. You cannot read the Old Testament without seeing that He does in fact cause (not allow) hardships and trials to get us back on the right path. Growing up when I disobeyed my father, I was punished, and sometimes it was in the form of some pretty hard work! Two things happened: I learned obedience is the always the best choice, and hard work won’t kill you! 🙂 Along with that, whenever the church doors were open, we went through them.
    How much more does our Heavenly Father know the things we need…

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