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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Losing Football Coach Goes Out a Winner

Al Groh lost his job as head football coach at the University of Virginia over the weekend. But he won fans here at Legal Schnauzer.

During a press conference after a season-ending 42-13 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, Groh recited a poem called "The Guy in the Glass." It's a poem about being able to live with yourself, about striving to do the right things, regardless of outcomes. And it certainly resonates with us, given our efforts to shine light on legal and political corruption in Alabama and beyond.

"The Guy in the Glass" might not be considered great poetry. But for a football coach to recite any poem that doesn't begin with "Here I sit all broken hearted . . . " well, that's pretty impressive. And it was Groh's classy answer to critics who wanted him gone, even though he was the second winningest football coach in school history.

I interviewed Al Groh one time in the 1980s, when I worked as a sportswriter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and his Wake Forest University team played at Auburn University. I was impressed with him then; I'm even more impressed with him now.

"The Guy in the Glass" was written in 1934 by Dale Wimbrow. The author often is cited as "Anonymous," and the title often is incorrectly stated as "The Man in the Glass" or "The Man in the Mirror." Wimbrow's children have established a Web site to shine light on the poem and honor their father's memory.

Why does the poem hit home with us? Two reasons, I think.

Looking within, I did a lot of checking with "the guy in the glass" in the weeks leading up to the decision to start this blog. My wife and I had witnessed blatant corruption in Alabama state courts, and we strongly suspected that we were not the only victims of such criminal activity.

Not long after starting the blog, I began to research the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. I quickly realized that, indeed, we were not alone as victims of a broken justice system. And the corruption went way beyond Alabama state courts, deep into our federal-court system and probably to the George W. Bush White House.

I knew we might pay a price for daring to start a blog and tell the truth about crooked judges, lawyers, and politicians. But we ultimately decided--and it was very much a joint decision by Mrs. Schnauzer and me--that we could not live with the guy and gal in the glass if we sat back and did nothing.

Have we paid a price? Oh yes, a steep one. We both have been cheated out of our jobs. My unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) undoubtedly was connected to my blog. My wife's unlawful termination, at Infinity Property and Casualty Corporation, probably was driven mainly by a lawsuit we've filed against unethical debt collectors. But I've written about that issue, too, so the blog likely played some role in her work situation.

Looking externally, I've often wondered, "How do corrupt judges, lawyers, and politicians live with themselves? How do the people responsible for putting innocent people in prison live with themselves? How do the people who cheated my wife and me out of our jobs live with themselves?"

To put it in Wimbrow's words, what do these people see when they look at "The Guy (or Gal) in the Glass"? They should see a pretty ugly image. But here is perhaps the bigger question: Does a person without a conscience even bother to look in the glass?

Here is the full version of "The Guy in the Glass." Thanks to Al Groh for bringing it to our attention. And props to Groh for essentially telling his critics at the University of Virginia, in a subtle way: "Up yours."

The Guy in the Glass

by Dale Wimbrow, (c) 1934

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,

And the world makes you King for a day,

Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,

Who judgement upon you must pass.

The feller whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,

For he's with you clear up to the end,

And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test

If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,

And think you're a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

If you've cheated the guy in the glass.

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