Did you catch the International Bowl today? I know, it wasn't one of the biggies, but in one way it was the most significant bowl of the season. Toronto in January isn't really a draw. But the story here isn't national championships or the draw of a warm locale.
You see, in 1958 the University of Buffalo football team (8-1) got a bid to play in the Tangerine Bowl. The only problem was that the Tangerine Bowl was in Orlando, in the south. And in 1958, the height of Jim Crow days, blacks couldn't play in that area. And UB had some black players. The bowl invitation was extended. The only catch was that the invitation was only open to the white players on the team. So what should the university do?
The coaches put the dilemma to the team. The vote came back unanimous. They were a team. If one member wasn't welcome, the team wasn't welcome. They declined the bid. That was the last bowl bid they got. For fifty years.
Until this year, when UB got a bowl bid to play against the University of Connecticut. UB was finally able to send their 1958 team to the bowl game. And they did. All surviving members of the 1958 UB football team attended the International Bowl, at UB's expense. Seeing those old men in the stands did my heart good. Not one of them regretted their decision.
They say that sports builds character. I've often thought that was just a saying, meant to justify obscene amounts of money spent on sports at the high school and college levels. But when I look at the 1958 University of Buffalo football team, I think they had more character than most of US at that time.
Today UConn beat UB in the International Bowl. But I don't think it much mattered. The University of Buffalo proved they were winners fifty years ago. And they could have taught the rest of us a few lessons, if we'd been of a mind to listen.