The Note Bob Stoops’ Brother Should Have Sent, but Didn’t Dare*

Helmet-to-helmet hits

Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops (Photo courtesy of OU)

Dear Bob,
I love you like a brother, man. In fact we are brothers, aren’t we? That’s why it pains me to write this note. I’m proud of you, Bob. You do our Stoops family name proud. Your Oklahoma Sooners are No. 1 and we’re not, dammit.

Just kidding, bro, but I harbor no ill will for your 23-13 win over my boys at Florida State this past Saturday. You did it with pounding defense, the kind Dad taught us in his 30 years at Cardinal Moody High back in dear old Youngstown, Ohio (round on the ends and high in the middle!). Dad was all about the D. You’re all about the D. Heck, after growing up sharing a bedroom with you as an older brother, I had to be all about the D. Same with Mike. You two were terrors and taught me a lot. I was proud to bear the bruises of brotherhood. I’m proud to be the Seminoles’ defensive coordinator. I’m proud to be a Stoops.

That’s why it pains me to say this, Bob. My team would have taken the lead in the first half if Kenny Shaw could have held onto that ball. Heck, at this point I’m glad he can hold onto anything. Your boys Javon Harris and Tom Wort rammed their helmets into Shaw’s helmet and soon Kenny was looking like roadkill shaking on his back there in the end zone with his paws curled toward the heavens. He was back on the sidelines by the third quarter, thank the Lord above.

They penalized y’all for that one, but it kept us out of the end zone. All’s fair in the game, right? Like I said, you won. But not fair and square. Not this game, Bob. That was a cheap shot. It was dangerous. My head was full of images of having to tell the Shaw family why their son would never walk again. How he’d be like that kid from the first season of the Friday Night Lights TV show in the wheelchair. Or worse.

First I figured it was a fluke. You and I and Mike were all safeties for Hayden Fry’s Iowa Hawkeyes, for gosh sake. Get it? Safety first, brother. Coach Fry gave all of us the No. 41 and our coaching starts, and I bet he’d notice the same thing I saw: Your boys were aiming with their helmets all night long. Sometimes the zebras tagged you for it. Other times not. And you and I know who guides the Sooner defense. You do, Bob.

In my head I see you and Mike locked in a wrestling match in the pews of St. Dominic Catholic Church back in Youngstown. You were tough brothers. You taught me a lot. But dad wouldn’t approve this time, Bob. Tough is one thing. Malicious is another.

Maybe I’m just being girly sensitive. Heck even crazy old announcer Brent Musburger made no big deal about it. No one but me seems to have noticed. We all loved the former opening of Monday Night Football with shots of helmets cracking together. Now the NFL gives fines and suspends players for those moves.

But here’s the thing. Ever hear of Frostburg State? No, I didn’t make that one up. It’s a little school in Maryland where a month or so ago Derek Sheely had one of those helmet-to-helmet collisions. Sheely is dead. Traumatic brain injury, they called it. The players are wearing armbands. His parents donated the kid’s organs. They went ahead and awarded him a diploma. Might as well have signed it from the School of Hard Knocks. His Dad called it an accident. But is it an accident when we tell our boys to hit like that? I’m just saying.

I know it’s not just at OU. Marquise Goodwin, the track star turned baler over at the University of Texas played defender and popped a helmet into UCLA’s Andrew Abbott last week, too. Abbott’s brain is probably still sloshing around in his skull. They call it a concussion. Here’s betting he goes unpunished by Coach Mack Brown, but that’s not good enough for you, bro.

I’m not a wuss, Bob. Stoops men stand proud and take risks. But not with these kids’ lives. Man up, brother. Man up. You should be suspending players for those kinds of hits, not turning a blind eye. Got it? Oh, and I owe you a steak next time I see you. A bet’s a bet, and your boys won. But there’s always next time.

In the fight.

Your brother,
Mark

* Because the guy whose name is on this blog post made it up. That writer, incidentally, thinks we should all quickly learn the rules to the Brent Musburger drinking game, pardner.

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bob stoops, mark stoops

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