Dignity Again.

The passing of Sidney Poitier is being covered, rightfully, in such detail and so well elsewhere that I would only be dragging the remembrances down with my own respect.  Here is the NY Times obituary, a good place to start.  

 

Mr. Sidney Poitier. A true example of what happens when one applies dignity to the real world.

I heard a story this weekend too about dignity that I wanted to share.  If you haven’t read one of my 800 rants, I think dignity is the cornerstone of Ivy as a style, as a lifestyle.   When asked about how to start dressing Ivy, I have said this:

Start with the application of dignity everywhere.  Use dignity in the way you treat yourself, your own presentation.  Choose to assert yourself without dominance.  Choose to inhale that all men are created equal.  Choose to respect each for their own talents.  Work hard every day at whatever you are doing, and treat other’s work the same way you do your own.  One cannot value thought without dignity, one cannot be a good husband/wife/partner without dignity, one certainly cannot be a good parent without dignity.  Whenever in doubt about conflict, dignity is the answer.  Think and behave in this manner, and then put on whatever reflects that.  You will be dressing Ivy.

This is Coach Kris Hogan.

Coach Kris Hogan wearing pleats because no one is perfect.

 

Hogan is no longer the football coach at Grapevine Faith High School in Texas.  He resigned, but that was after winning the state championship.  And that was after seven previous appearances.  Grapevine is a private school in Texas, yes religious but that is not the point.  What Hogan is most known for is the way he brought dignity to a game with Gainesville State School, which is anything but religious.

Here is Grapevine:

And here is Gainesville:


 

Wikipedia describes Gainesville as “a juvenile correctional facility of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department in unincorporated Cooke County, Texas.”   Gainesville has a football program, as does Grapevine, and that the only place on the Venn diagram where there is intersection.

In December of 2008, Grapevine was set to host Gainesville for a football game.  The outcome was predetermined.  Cheerleaders, nutrition, elite facilities, a professional coaching staff of educators, these are undeniable advantages, and one cannot roll into that on a yellow prison bus with guards and cinderblock walls back home and expect to win anything.  Not only the game of football but the game of life had been played out before the coin toss.

HOGAN IS IVY though, even with the pleats.

Prior to the game, Hogan sent out an email, asking half the parents and crowd to sit on the Gainesville side, and to cheer for them.  He sent out a list of the players names, so that the fans and parents would know who they were cheering for, and Hogan asked that they cheer by name.  He divided the cheerleaders, too.   And sent half over to the Gainesville sideline.  When Gainesville got there, the shock was Richter Scale.

From Hogan’s now famous email:

“Here’s the message I want you to send: You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth.”

I don’t know what it felt like to roll in on cracked green vinyl bus seats with an old metal thermos as your water bottle and see this,  to see people finally on your side, for something.  But we can ask Alex, courtesy of ESPN:

“I thought maybe they were confused,” said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). “They started yelling ‘DEE-fense!’ when their team had the ball. I said, ‘What? Why they cheerin’ for us?'”

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman who wound up doing more than three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!”

The game didn’t end the way it would have in the movie, but Gainesville did score two touchdowns.  Afterwards, again thanks to ESPN:

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that’s when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. “We had no idea what the kid was going to say,” remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah (Gainesville team captain) said this: “Lord, I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank You, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”

Life doesn’t work in such a way that this one game, this one feeling of support and dignity changed boys’ lives forever.  I don’t have specifics but I know what it takes to turn things around, and it is done by chipping away at mythology and by slow, small bites.  Overnight conversions never last.   Which is why dignity must be applied and practiced  consistently.

I do know this, though.  Poitier and Hogan dressed with dignity, with respect for themselves and with a message to the problems they were/are solving.  When one thinks about why Hogan wears a tie to games, or why Poitier wore Ivy in his personal life, one gets here:  it isn’t enough to know dignity, you have to show dignity.  That’s how dignity gets echoes instead of being played off stage.

JB

33 Comments on "Dignity Again."

  1. John:

    I read Ivy Style every day.

    This is your best article so far, not only because it describes a wonderful act of compassion, but it ties in with the Ivy Style ethic. Hopefully, your character is expressed outwardly by how you choose to dress.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jim

    PS: The only part to which I take exception is the pleats comment. I am an unapologetic fan of pleats. 😉

    • Thank you so much. Ok, so I was in a thrift store the other day, and I found a pair of J Peterman (I know I know) pleated pants with this kind of doohickey thing were you don’t need a belt. And in all of 2.2 seconds I bought them. I throw myself on the mercy. JB

  2. Matthew MacLeod | January 10, 2022 at 11:01 am | Reply

    This is so well said I have nothing to add other than to say thank you. Keep it up.

  3. Thank you for this.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  4. I’m not crying … you’re crying … damn allergies …

  5. Is screaming at the ref “Ivy”? Kind of undermines your sermon on dignity, don’t ya think?

    Perhaps you have missed the point. – JB

  6. This is a fantastic post and an inspiring read about someone who went out of his way to lift others up. It’s something we could all learn from, and as others have already commented, I’ve nothing to add but a thanks!

  7. Thomas M. Conroy | January 10, 2022 at 12:14 pm | Reply

    Wow! Just an incredible post. Thank you!

  8. I am angry with myself for not knowing this story. There is a lot of Texas — bad and good — going on here.

    Gainesville is a horrible place and the scene of the worst kind of abuses by those in charge. At the same time, there are boys in there who are sociopaths headed toward lives spent mostly behind bars. It’s ugly from all angles. Before reading this, I would have told you it was impossible to field a football team from there.

    I write the above to give you an idea of the selflessness of Coach Hogan, the students and the fans. The rest of Texas averts its eyes to avoid the truth of this place, yet Coach Hogan did more than call on people to look. He told them to do something to help. And they did.

  9. Awesome story but more than that a lesson.

    Hogan was an example of what my late father would say: he is doing the Lord’s work.

    Sidney Poitier was always one of my favorite actors. Never was I disappointed by any of his movies I saw him in.

    Both gentlemen are true gentleman and great role models.

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. Much appreciated this post, Mr Burton. I watched In the Heat of the Night more than 20 years ago, and I recall that dignity as in your above example was the red thread of that movie. I remember the attitude of the film was as much down to the ground as coach Hogan.

  11. Football coaches stopped wearing neckties years ago. I’m not saying it is necessary or even recommended for football coaches to dress Ivy on the field. There is a time and a place for everything. Just noting there was a definite change in the NFL culture. Anyone know exactly when that occured? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Reeves
    Somewhere mid 80s?

    • As I understand it, coaches are required now to wear only NFL licensed clothes, which do not have to include sleeves. – JB

  12. This is great stuff, JB. Really enjoying the thinking and writing. Like many here, I’m a daily reader since the early days. I keep coming back for stuff like this.

    I’ll also jump on the pleat-wagon. All things in moderation.

  13. Well done.

    You never know — what turns a life around. The invitation to rise and proceed to Damascus is uttered every day. You have to pay attention — and listen for it.

  14. NaturalShoulder | January 10, 2022 at 9:12 pm | Reply

    I was not familiar with the story but glad you shared it. I went to my nephew’s high school football game a few years ago and arrived late. When I looked the the other team’s bench and stands I thought something was amiss as they only appeared to have 5 or so players on the bench and virtually no one in the stands. The opponent was Gainesville and my sister-in-law informed me about the nature of the school. My nephew’s school was similar to Faith Christian but not nearly as good and the game was never in doubt. I do remember the Gainesville kids played hard and when I walked by their bus on the way out I noticed the bars inside the bus. Most of my nephews teammates were likely going out to eat and play Xbox and the Gainesville kids were going to have about an hour bus ride locked behind bars. Hopefully some of those kids were able to turn around their lives. Coach Hogan is a class act.

  15. That photo at the top hardly shows dignity. Quite the contrary.
    Why not change it?

    Of course it shows dignity. The pursuit of excellence. Self advocacy. Passion. – JB

  16. Thank you for your magnificent writing!
    Wonderful connection between dignity and dressing. One can look the part but until one behaves it (not just acts but lives and breathes it) then it is pointless, a mere sham.
    Beautiful story about Coach Hogan that is well worth repeating and sharing because it provides an example worth emulating.
    The passing of Mr. Poitier is indeed sad. He lived in such a way that his fame did not mar his dignity.

  17. Another example of the sort of dignity JB has referenced:

    Julian Bond, R.I.P.

    http://www.beacon.org/Julian-Bonds-Time-to-Teach-P1614.aspx

    Few were “more Ivy” (philosophically, and, it should be added, literally {sartorially} than Julian Bond).

  18. Thanks, JB. Reading this was the perfect start to my workday.

  19. Gary S. Glazer | January 11, 2022 at 8:47 am | Reply

    Magnificent story-this has been and continues to be a marvelous site. Thank you for bringing some much needed inspiration to a world that sorely needs it.

  20. Really, really enjoyed this. Thank you!

  21. I think I am beginning a Pleat Movement here!

    I quote from Byron Tully’s “Old Money Style”, a great book which was previously reviewed on this site:

    [Pants] construction details: zip front, usually. Plain front is preferable. Pleats are acceptable. (page 68)

    Touche’ …..

  22. J.B.,
    Allow me to disagree.
    It shows a man who has lost all self-control and is bellowing like a beast.
    There’s a great difference between passion and this.

  23. Dignity and football?
    Surely you jest.

    Actually, this was one of the serious ones 🙂 – JB

  24. Criag Fulton, JB
    Competitive spirit, teamwork, sportsmanship, drive, ambition, etc. American football is still somewhat of a masculine sport.

  25. James,
    Plain front is easier to press. Pleats are much more comfortable for those with reasonably well exercized hip flexors. As far as pleats go, double forward pleats are preferred. One day I will try plain front as a second pair again, but that’s definitely going to require M2M. Funny thing, there’s a fellow at the office who’s in incredibly good shape. he was required to wear a suit for some middle management function a couple of weeks ago. He was in a shiny, blue skinny-suit. Not a good look.

  26. Impressive.

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