From Round to Square (and back)

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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Exilic Response (2)—Burning Diploma

Click here for the introduction to Round and Square's series of posts on "Exilic Response."
[a] Response RF
So the athletic director fires you after ten solid seasons, a conference coach of the year award (2010), and an overall 74-50 record. The university is convinced that it needs a different coach to take the "next steps" to success in the competitive world of NCAA Division I college football. You hold your emotions in check through a difficult news conference and then lead your team to a 51-20 victory in its bowl game—your last game. You are now a former coach at your alma mater, and must process a range of emotions from connection to your institution to, well, exile. How do you think about that, and what do you do now?

You burn your diploma.

That's right, you set fire to the most tangible connection you have to the institution that brought you into the coaching world. It is your alma mater in miniature, with echoes of thumping pigskin and perused textbooks imprinted as ready-for-framing memorabilia.

Now it is torched sheepskin. Gone.

[b] Inflamed memory RF
That, at least, is what Coach Ralph Friedgen did, and it has everything to do with the pattern that I call exilic response. He was exiled and he responded.

The patterns play out in countless ways, as I note in the introduction to this series. Revenge can take on many shades and layers of meaning, and some are quite personal. I am especially intrigued by the role that burning plays in many exilic responses. This is not mere chance, as many writers have already noted.

There is something about the burning of an object that separates it from mere "tossing aside," as one might do by taking it off the wall and putting it in a drawer. On the other hand, it is not as extreme (and this seems to be entirely the point) as more involved and even ridiculous "punishments" that might be given to objects representing a severed connection. I am thinking of, for example, a hunting knife holding the diploma on the wall rather than, say, a tack. It would be a bit more dramatic (with attendant worrisome signals) than the exilic responder probably wants.

It is almost as though burning the diploma says it all, with a dash of ashen ritual residue for good measure.

So, the particular "contingency" is that the fired football coach burned his diploma. The "theoretical" intrigue goes much further, though. What is the role of destruction (particularly burning) in things that remind people of lost opportunity. Why destroy stuff in order to sever ties? Keep thinking about it (and about "enemy" matter in its place—in this case rival Georgia Tech's flag), and we'll have more exilic response posts soon.

1 comment:

  1. I am going to graduate with a diploma in business and I wish to advance to more than a diploma. But I’m confused with the differences between: postgraduate diploma, graduate diploma and bachelor’s degree.