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Pyle: Big difference between strong and mean

First Published Jan 31 2014 05:16 pm • Last Updated Jan 31 2014 05:16 pm

The knock on Zane Beadles, Tribune sportswriter Kurt Kragthorpe wrote the other day, was that he wasn’t mean enough to play football.

Having suffered through a few months of sharing living quarters with a high school lineman who was told by his coach he needed to get really angry to play well — but who never really managed more than a thoroughly annoying cranky — I am familiar with the concept.

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But Beadles was a big part of the University of Utah’s highly successful program a decade ago and is now a member of the offensive line that has carried Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to this weekend’s Super Bowl.

So. Is Beadles mean enough after all? Or were the people who said a good football player has to be mean just wrong?

Maybe it is different for the mostly unsung offensive linemen who, despite their title, are actually in the protection business. They strain, sweat and bleed in the cause of keeping their quarterback standing tall, healthy and able to do his job in the face of all those truly mean people who are trying to knock him down and take away his ball.

Maybe Beadles, and a lot of other men whose job it is to create protective pockets for the guy who gets all the glory and the really big bucks, isn’t mean enough for some other positions on the football field. Or for some other pursuits.

I have no clue as to Beadles’ own political, cultural or religious views. But I bet I know a few things that even the toughest offensive linemen are not mean enough to do:

• They would not take the lunches away from 40 Uintah Elementary School children because, after they went through the cafeteria line at their school, the computer said they were overdrawn on their lunchroom accounts.

This in a state where far too few eligible children receive school lunches or breakfasts. School officials have been profusely apologizing for the last several days, as they should. But such cruelty to innocent children, whose trust in their own school has been shattered, is hard to grasp.

• They would never rally 1,000 people in the Utah Capitol Rotunda in support of the state’s vile, and increasingly regretted, Amendment 3.

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The voter-approved part of the state constitution that bans same-sex marriage is hanging on by a legal and, more importantly, cultural thread. There is evidence that its primary backer, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is in damage control mode and trying to ease its followers into coming to terms with the fact that, the more people try to argue that marriage equality has a down side for anyone, the more we all realize that they got nothing.

• They would not keep telling the good people of Utah that the federal Affordable Care Act is a socialist plot to take away their freedom, as House Speaker Becky Lockhart, state Sen. Stuart Adams and, in much more measured tones, Gov. Gary Herbert do.

Buying and selling health insurance is about as capitalist as it gets, even with the admittedly cumbersome rules that are only necessary because President Obama didn’t have the muscle to do the right thing, eliminate the blood-sucking middlemen and open Medicare to everyone. And the only freedom people stand to lose is the freedom to be carried to bankruptcy by hospital bills that no truly civilized nation allows.

• They would not persist in denying the extension of unemployment benefits, cutting food stamps, rejecting the need for universal preschool programs or belittling women’s need for reliable contraception, based on the bogus reasons that we can’t afford it and that helping people makes them weak.

Sometimes people think you are being cruel when you are being reasonably firm. Sometimes you think you are being nice when you are really being a sucker.

But, more times, we should follow the example of those mostly anonymous down linemen, who aren’t mean at all. Just incredibly strong.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, has always been too lazy to play football. Or, he hopes, to be mean to anyone.


Twitter: @debatestate

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