A special homecoming
It is often said, “You can never go home again.”
That saying evolved from the 1998 philosophical novel by Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It deals with the struggles of a young man who has written a book based on the people in his hometown. After writing the book, he returns to find that many are outraged by the exposed truths they read. Craig Littlepage returned home – to Montgomery County – last week. He found nothing but warmth, respect and recognition from a community that houses immense pride for the national accomplishments of one of its favorite sons. He proved Thomas Wolfe, the author, to be wrong.
Littlepage, the Cheltenham High product who went on to become a star player at the University of Pennsylvania, has had a long career as a basketball coach and now athletic director at the University of Virginia. For his accomplishments on the national stage he received the Lifetime Achievement Award before nearly 400 people at the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame banquet last week. It was a resplendent night of tribute at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell.
But the moment that continues to ring in the mind after all of the Hall of Fame inductions, Honor Roll honorees, Courage Award and moments of tribute were the words of Littlepage … in an eloquently delivered acceptance speech.
As an athletic director at one of the most prestigious universities in America, he is an integral part of the college education scene. Yet he underscored the great separation between what he does and what is done by the members of academia, who live in an ivory tower world.
There is no hiding the fact that today’s college education scene is one with many troubles. Annual costs of $50,000, $60,000 and more are commonplace. Young people graduate with huge burdens of debt … and little hope of finding a job that will recoup the financial losses any time in the near future. A biased faculty provides indoctrination, rather than education. An unrealistic atmosphere breeds discord and discontent, rather than unity and inspiration.
Yet Littlepage found – and underscored – a silver lining in the cloud.
He pointed the spotlight squarely on college athletics. Yes, problems exist there also … but he pointed to the basic good in the foundation of athletic competition.
“I am very fortunate to live in the world of college athletics,” said Littlepage, in the midst of his well-regarded speech. “There is no segment of this country where you can find so many people, from such diverse backgrounds, who work so well toward a common goal.
“It is a reflection of the very principles on which this country
was created,” he continued.
“It is a lesson that can be learned by all.”
Certainly it is a lesson that can be learned by the rest of higher education.
On the college field, on the court, on the grid … there is no concern for political correctness. There are no trophies for participation. There are no concerns about feelings or sensitivities. No safe places. It is dog-eatdog. Survival of the fittest. It is a proper reflection of the REAL world … not the philosophical, touchy-feely world of those who live in isolated, protected, unnatural environments.
It was the highlight of Littlepage’s “return home again.” It was a lesson in real life experiences.
Although Littlepage’s experience last week was the polar opposite of the main character in Wolfe’s book, there is still a poignant lesson that can be learned from the author.
In the book, Wolfe wrote, “The essence of belief is doubt, the essence of reality is questioning. The essence of Time is Flow, not Fix. The essence of faith is the knowledge that all flows and that everything must change. The growing man is Man Alive, and his “philosophy” must grow, must flow, with him … the man too fixed today, unfixed tomorrow - and his body of beliefs is nothing but a series of fixations.”
Littlepage grew – through a life of winning and losing experiences – into the man he is today. The man who was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. And then he imparted a very meaningful message on those who came to honor him.
It was an honor welldeserved.