The Word “FOUR” has a deep meaning for me and the hundreds of young men who played football at Baldwin-Wallace College in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
“FOUR” was our word for courage and perseverance. To illustrate “FOUR’s” true meaning, I want to share a letter I wrote a few years back. Below is the letter I sent to Athletic Director and former BW football head coach Snell, to encourage our team before the 2020 season…
The Meaning of “FOUR”
It has been over 40 years since I stood on the sideline, stared at the scoreboard, and watched the clock countdown to “0.” The scoreboard read: BW-24 Wittenberg-10. We were the 1978 NCAA Division III football National Champions. While that moment in time is etched in my mind, it is not for the reasons you might think. Sure, being a National Champion was great and I will always remember the vibrating sound of Queen’s song “We are the Champions” blasting in our locker room after the game. However, what really made an impact on my life, looking back through the years was the day-to-day experience of being a member of the team. The values I learned as a Baldwin Wallace College Yellow Jacket have served me well these 40+ years and I want to share two personal stories that I hope will serve to encourage the 2020 team. I call it “The meaning of FOUR.”
Anyone attending a BW football game in the 1970’s would have seen our players on the sideline holding up four fingers overhead and heard a tremendous chant of FOUR!...FOUR!...FOUR!...FOUR! as the final quarter of the game started. While this chant may occur more frequently today at college games, it was a novel gesture during my time playing ball. I can only remember our team doing this chant, no other team did.
To the fans, “FOUR” may have only signaled the final quarter. To the initiated Yellow Jacket players and coaches, it had a deeper meaning: “Never give up…Never let down.” If we were behind in a game “FOUR” encouraged us to “Press On” and keep fighting. “FOUR” signaled to the other team that “the Jackets were coming after you.” If on the other hand we were leading in the score, “Four” encouraged each of us to not let up. Our opponents knew this too.
You see, “FOUR” was an everyday thing for us. When we were tired during a practice, a glance at a teammate holding up four fingers gave us the strength to continue. When we needed motivation, “FOUR” would remind each of us about our commitment to strive on and never give up. A shout of “FOUR” always seemed to be heard during practice. Indeed, as I drive by the stadium today, I hear an echo of “FOUR” resounding still from Finnie Stadium.
Two “FOUR” stories illustrate its true meaning. First, twenty-six years ago, (as of the time I wrote this letter),when I was 36 years old, I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. After 11 hours of emergency brain surgery, I was lying in a hospital bed, comatose. The doctors told my wife, “if I recovered, there would be a prolonged period of rehab and they were not sure how much brain function I would have. When I awoke, days later, my first thought was “FOUR” I was unable to speak it, but, held up four fingers to Maggie, my wife. She told me later, she knew everything would be OK once she saw the “FOUR” sign. Today I am 63 years old and the lesson of “FOUR” still gives me strength to face all that life can throw at me. Have courage and strength to never give up.
A story shared with me by former football coach Bob Fisher, serves to strengthen my belief in the power of “FOUR.” Coach Fisher went to visit our former Head Coach Lee Tressel as he was fighting a losing battle with cancer. They talked about life and the Yellow Jackets. In obvious pain, Coach Tressel turned to his long-time friend and said, “You know Bob, if it wasn’t for “FOUR,” I would have given up a long time ago.” “FOUR” gave Coach Tressel the strength to never give up, to strive on, enduring all the pain. Coach Tressel would eventually lose his battle with cancer, but he never lost the spirit of “FOUR.”
Life is full of hurdles to overcome. Today, as I write, the COVID Pandemic and its effect on our lives, is one such hurdle. I am sure that there are plenty of mixed feelings about the upcoming football season. You have worked hard, made sacrifices. I am sure the emotions are running high, especially for the seniors. You just want to play. I want to encourage you that the values you have learned being part of the Yellow Jacket football family will stay with you long after your playing days are over. Stay strong, keep working hard, you are a Yellow Jacket, “FOUR.”