I know we don’t know each other, but I wanted you to know you have at least one more person in your corner during what I know has been an unpleasant week for you. It’s clear that you have many supporters and that your coach, team and family are firmly behind you, but I didn’t think it would hurt to hear from someone outside of your inner circle.
I listened to the broadcast of the game Friday night as I prepared to go on our statewide high school football scoreboard show. As I heard my friend Matt Jones broadcast the final moments, my heart immediately sank. I knew you were about to be thrust into the spotlight with a great deal of criticism and harsh comments.
Unfortunately, I was right as the play went viral. It was predictable, but what pushed me to write you was the ESPN segment with Randy Moss. I was appalled that a national television network would demean and ridicule a high school student-athlete. That was totally uncalled for, and I am very sorry you had to be subjected to that. Coverage of the game and aftermath is one thing, throwing you under the bus and insulting your intelligence is another.
It’s also very ironic that someone with the track record of Moss is making light of others’ mistakes. I have a feeling he wouldn’t be very keen on seeing his mistakes or his kids’ ridiculed and scrutinized.
Appreciate you coach! https://t.co/RcdSuysyrZ— CaseyDick (@CdickC) November 17, 2020
As you turn the page, I want you to remember three things.
1. Perspective – High school football isn’t the end of the world. I know football is important to you, but in the grand scheme of things, the relevance of this game is way down the pecking order for most observers. We are in the middle of a pandemic, Arkansans are dying every day – there is a lot going on in this world. Losing a game, even in that fashion, there are a lot of things that could happen to you that are way worse. Your health is intact and your career is not over. The sun came up the day after the game and time will move on and so will you.
2. Own it – There is no need to dwell on this, and it will begin to fade away, but it may come up again. You can handle that with dignity and class even though others do not. My friend Clint Stoerner also made a late-game mistake against Tennessee in 1998 that cost the Hogs a big win over Tennessee and maybe a national championship. There isn’t a day that someone doesn’t bring this up to him. I have actually seen this in action. I am sure there are times this mistake still keeps Clint up at night, but he decided a long time ago that there was nothing he could do about it, and that it probably wouldn’t go away. He tries to laugh it off and is also comforted by the fact that Arkansas beat Tennessee the next season and went on to play in the NFL. He is among the all-time great quarterbacks in Razorback history.
An even more relatable example for you is former Arkansas second baseman Carson Shaddy, who played for your FHS baseball team before walking on at Arkansas.
Shaddy is still ripped by Arkansas fans for not catching a foul ball that would have clinched a College Worlds Series title. It was, and still is, unfair to blame Carson. Like I told him in print then, there are a lot of plays in a game. One play doesn’t make or break a game. Anyone who has played or coached sports understands that. Carson has dealt with the disappointment and criticism well, and like Clint, he knows his place in Arkansas sports history is cemented after becoming an All-SEC performer after barely making the team.
I took my eye off the clock. However, criticizing me off of one play does not define me as a Quarterback. I am much better than that! I love my team and my coaches! Thanks for having my back. #familY #PurpleReign @CdickC @RandyMoss https://t.co/Nfvl7wXYaE— BladenFike (@BladenFike) November 17, 2020
3. Use it as motivation – Like Clint, you have another year to shut the critics up. Work hard in the offseason to ensure that next season you will help the Bulldogs to great success. Prepare to lead your squad as far in next year’s playoffs as possible and make it your goal to seek redemption so that this time next year the story is how Bladen Fike and the Bulldogs rebounded from adversity to put Class 7A on notice.
My wish for you is that if this has bothered you, you return to enjoying life as a normal teenager – hanging with your friends (with social distancing and masks), planning for the holiday season with your family and gearing up for baseball season. I also know you will make sure to keep your grades a priority as you are a 4.0 student. Too bad, Moss didn’t mention that. Your future is bright regardless of what happens on the field.
Good luck, and I look forward to discussing your accolades on the radio next football season.