After 108 straight losses, some people would feel sorry for
themselves and do the easy thing and just chuck it all. Walter
K. Gordon is definitely one of those people. Rutgers-Camden, a
Division III school in Camden, N.J., lost its NCAA-record 108th
straight men's basketball game on Feb. 17, and last week Gordon,
the school's provost, killed the school's basketball program.
"There are times in life situations when you should give up," he
And do you know what we say? Finally!
What have we been busting our brains for? It's so simple! We can
all heave a big sigh and let the old belt out two notches and
call in sick tomorrow. Gordon is right. What has effort and
persistence ever done for anybody anyway?
This is the beginning of something huge. Suddenly, quitting is
O.K. The pressure is off. College coaches can start hollering,
"Now, go out there and give me 10 percent!" Grizzled NFL coaches
can start slamming their fists on meeting-room podiums and
saying, "Winning isn't everything! It's one of many choices
available to all of us!" Avis: Why Try Harder?
So what if every single player and coach on the Rutgers-Camden
team did not want to kill the program? So what if they all
wanted to come back next year to see if they could make a
miracle happen? So what if two of the last five defeats came in
overtime, including number 108, a 79-76 heartbreaker to
Montclair State? "Everyone in the school is against the
provost's decision," said junior guard Doug Dreby. "It's like
saying, 'If we don't succeed or win, then give up.'" Exactly!
See how quickly kids learn?
Here, finally, is Gordon, someone who stands up for every kid
who never wanted to stay after practice and take extra
grounders, every slacker looking for a reason to sleep through
his eight o'clock class, every Jenny Craig flunkout who can't
resist Ben & Jerry's. Gordon is brave enough to slouch back in
his sectional and say what people should have been saying for
years: Winners never quit, but quitters get home in time to
Can't you see how much easier life will be now? The Buffalo
Bills can pack it in; 8-8 will be just fine from now on. Let the
other fools beat on ceaselessly against the current. The Bills
will be home for Christmas! Hey, Chicago Cubs, the heat is off!
Charlie Brown, you never have to try to kick the football again
as long as you live! Susan Lucci, tell those voters to stick it
where the world doesn't turn!
Let it go, people! Dayton, New Mexico State, Vanderbilt, Xavier,
you guys have never won a single NCAA Division I championship in
any team or individual sport. Give it the old college quit!
Rafael Belliard, you don't have a home run in your last 1,663 at
bats. Why even take a full swing? Bolivia, you have never won
any kind of medal in eight summer and five winter Olympics. Pull
the plug! You're one of the world's leading growers of coca and
you need medals?
O.K., so there are a few isolated examples of people who started
out like Rutgers-Camden and wound up doing all right. Joe
Montana was the seventh-string quarterback at Notre Dame.
Northwestern went 47 years between Rose Bowls. Michael Jordan
got cut from his high school basketball team. So what? This is
the 1990s. You spilled hot coffee on yourself? Sue McDonald's.
You flunked algebra? Sue your parents. People make fun of your
basketball team at cocktail parties? Eliminate it.
Do you realize that if Knute Rockne had known Gordon Give-up, he
might've been a much more pleasant guy to be around? "We're
gonna go, go, go, go! We're gonna fight, fight, fight fight!
We're gonna go get some decaf and maybe play a little hearts!"
Sure, there are people who say that Gordon just took away a
chance at the kind of glory few people ever experience, the
chance at a glory that would have surged through that team, that
school, that city when victory finally came. Some people say
that if he had any vision and courage at all, he would have
billed his school as America's Underdog, found five
decent-enough players with the talent to win one game and made
the country love him. But these people aren't provosts. These
people aren't even amateurvosts. What do they know?
L.A. Clippers, Jack Lemmon, Wile E. Coyote, give it up! Dale
Earnhardt, you've tried 18 times to win the Daytona 500. Take
off the third week in February from now on! Bobby Wadkins,
you've been on the PGA Tour for 21 years and never won. Pull a
Gordon, find yourself a nice range job somewhere and relax!
Folks, listen up: Just Do It is out. Just Forget It is in.
And thank you, provost Gordon, for your inspiration. Here's
hoping that someday you'll be trying to persuade your grandchild
to give long division one more shot, when the kid breaks his
pencil, puts on the headphones and says, "Pops, there are times
in life situations when you should give up."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of bubble-blowing basketball player leaning on mountain that has trophy at its peak]