Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Realignment Blues: What is a College Conference?

I grew up a Big 8 guy. The Missouri--Kansas Game was holy day at our house. I never did recover from when we moved across State Line Street into Kansas and suddenly I was supposed to root for the hated Jayhawks, but I knew my loyalties even if my younger siblings rooted for Kansas. This time of year I knew which bowl to follow because the Big 8 went to the Orange bowl. Not any more. Now I am watching the umpteenth bowl I don't care about and Missouri joined something called the Big 12 and now is on its way to The SEC.

The truth is my Big 8 was a figment of my imagination and misplaced loyalty. It morphed into something called the Big 12 then the Big 12 with only 10 members and it goes on. My old rivalry game no longer exists. College Conferences, in the great DeToqueville tradition, are voluntary associations that can mutate, grow, shrink or even cease to exist. They are voluntary associations created by colleges and their Presidents and Boards for their own purposes.

A college conference resembles the original Articles of Confederation with little revenue, members who can leave at will and no central identity to transcend college identity.Whatever purpose they have, it depends upon self interest and not abiding loyalty or heritage.

(And what is it with this BIG thing. I mean the Big 10, Big 8, Big 12 and even the Big East. I mean only guys could come up with these names!)

The original conferences grew by fits and starts. Many originally had an organic quality of regional proximity and traditional rivalries. In the forties and fifties as scandals sundered college athletes, the Conferences took on the task of regulating competition. It quickly became clear that conferences could not regulate themselves; there was too much conflict of interest when schools that played each other had to stand in judgment over each other. The few good conference commissioners that tried to enforce discipline soon found themselves without jobs.

Many conferences sponsored championships but this did little to enhance them. Most conferences were what organizational theorists would call loosely coupled systems, with little to hold them against centrifugal forces. In a number of cases, conferences signed exclusive agreements with Bowl Games like the Big 8 and Orange Bowl or Pac-10 and Big 10 for the Rose Bowl. There were not many bowls and this gave them cachet and importance.

Two watershed events transformed conferences.

First the NCAA basketball tournament grew in stature, visibility and wealth. The tournament gave preference to conference winners, and independents found themselves left in the cold. Schools scrambled to create conferences just to get access to the tournament and its visibility and revenue. The most successful and artificial of these conferences was the Big East, the first real conference created just for money and NCAA access.

Second,  in 1984 the courts ruled that NCAA could not exercise monopoly control over college football. This meant that TV contracts devolved to schools and conferences. Many schools stuck their own deals, but the networks wanted reliable and consistent offerings. Conferences stepped in and offered an entire package as well as quantity and quality of product. This began the era of fundamental economic inequality in college sports as the SEC and Big 10 garnered contracts and TV status that outstripped everyone else.
The basketball tournament and TV deals drove conferences to emulate the SEC to create a " brand" for their conference that could be as powerful as that for schools. The Big 10 soon followed suit. Very quickly the college landscape evolved into Division 1 major conferences and all the rest. Even in Division 1 many mid major schools did not have the visibility or stature to garner TV contracts.

The BCS did for college football conferences what the NCAA tournament did for college basketball. Without a national championship and with conferences controlling television and bowl deals  access to the mythical national championship or to the big money bowls depended upon being a member of a marque conferences. The rest of the schools were stuck with secondary and backwater bowls and contracts. Many of the secondary bowls cost more to attend than they paid out.

This led to the last seven years of consolidation and pilfering, so much so a micro-industry has grown up just trying to predict and follow it.  All the moves reflect efforts by schools to get access to football TV money. For example, the ACC, a basketball conferences with no real football cache beyond Florida State, stole Boston College and Virginia Tech. This year they dismembered the Big East by grabbing Syracuse. The SEC and Big 12 evolved in similar manners. TCU illustrates this new world order. Desperate to get into a BCS conference for its football team, it joined the Big East. As the Big East disintegrated, it jilted the Big East and joined the reconstituted Big 12. Just look at this map of the new Big East to see the real logic of conferences.

Modern conferences now have a  set of clear purposes.

1)        Maximize the revenue for all the schools to address the costs of college sports.
2)        Maximize television value by capturing top markets or schools with high viewership loyalty.
3)        Maximize TV exposure in football that generates revenue and enhances public visibility.
4)        Maximize the chance to get schools into the NCAA basketball tournament.
5)        Create a strong brand that enhances the reputation of any school in the conference to makes it a destination for schools and networks.
6)        Connect with schools that might share common goals or purposes academically or have geographic affinity.

Notice the original purposes are now last, and no one even worries about using the conferences as a tool to regulate competition.

It's not pretty, actually it is pretty ugly. But the Presidents and Boards face continuous budget deficits and hemorrhaging losses from sports especially football. They will pursue anything to increase the attractiveness of games to TV or get more teams into the tournament.

For most fans their loyalties lay with schools and this is a good thing. Keep them there. As the TCU saga illustrates, conferences may be brands but not objects of loyalty.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Strange World of College Football Christmas

“The worst Christmases were when I was home with the family. I was grumpy and they were sad. We all wished I was getting ready for a bowl.” So an old and wise football assistant coach introduced me to the strange world of College Football Christmas. A linebacker told me two years ago, “yeah, I’m going home to be with the family, I hate it!”  He mused about how he’d have to watch all his friends on TV at various bowls around the country.

I saw the best statement yesterday in the Seattle Times when the Husky’s young coach Steve Sarkesian said, “I tell them don’t ever give me anything for Christmas…They already gave me the best gift that I could have. That’s waking up in a hotel on Christmas Day at a bowl game and then going to practice.”

Waking up in a hotel is the best gift he could have!

Now that summarizes the wackiness and joy of college football bowl season. I know all the arguments for a national championship, but still love the fact that 70 teams of kids get to celebrate with each other and enjoy a visit to a city and one last game all before a new semester starts.

But think about this world. This is a time those of us who celebrate Christmas see to gather with family and friends and celebrate, exchange gifts. We are grateful for the gift of love and redemption in the world that expresses itself in our love for each other.  Now college football players and coaches suffer when they sit around the table with family, friends and presents. They suffer the loss of not playing, not being with each other and the knowledge that their season failed.

For the players their closest friends and companions are each other. They share four or five years of sacrifice, pain, competition, joy, suffering, failure and accomplishment with each other. Their most lasting memories will be of each other, not of the victories and loses. They are all young adults and can live time away from family if they are with their second family.

Coaches experience this as a celebration of their work and effort. They see this as vindication for their efforts and commemoration and festivity for the hard work of their “kids.” The coaches live in each others lives and wounds during the season and for them, spending this time away from family and sanity is hard but satisfying.

Really the deepest losses for this strange way to celebrate Christmas are for the young coaches whose spouses and young children spend the Christmas season with tree, family but without dad. This is a deeper sadness at the core of all coaches, male and female, who spend such consuming lives recruiting, worrying, planning and coaching their teams, away from their family. As one coach told me, “sometimes I think I am a better parent to my players than my children.”

But this Christmas on the road, Steve Sarkesian and the Huskies and 60 other teams will wake in hotel rooms on Christmas morning happy and satisfied. They will practice on Christmas day, work hard and eat hearty with the people they have spent the year with, with their friends and team members. For those of us who have gone to their banquets and know that these young athletes express with tears their “love” for each other, then maybe this is the best way to spend Christmas. To be with, play with, and work with those you love and respect.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why Athletes Can't Afford Loyalty

I watch Bruce Jenner on the Kardashian reality show with appalled sadness. Bruce Jenner once stood as the greatest athlete in the world winning the 1976 Olympic Decathlon. Shaggy haired with an ah shucks attitudes, he stood as an American hero. Now he haunts the  haunts the outskirts of the Kardashian family circus with a face wrecked by too many bad plastic surgeries, a shadow of fading glory. I remember seeing Mickey Mantle selling autographs at a casino. I read of the fate, genetic and otherwise, of the great East German Olympians many cast off by their society just like some of the recent Chinese Olympic champions who live on streets.

Every athlete lives one injury from oblivion. The brilliant Brandon Roy just retired from the Portland Trailblazers, no longer able to play on knees that betrayed him at the age of 27. The Indianapolis Colts and their fans are cold bloodily thinking of passing on their greatest quarterback Peyton Manning because of an injury. Athletes cannot rely upon the loyalty of fans and owners. It took one second in a meaningless late season game to rupture Adrian Peterson's ACL and MCL. In one second his seven year 100 million dollar contract with the Vikings could be compromised even if he recovers since so much of his skill depends upon his explosiveness, one of the consistent casualties of ACL injuries. 

Every athlete will lose their career physically before they are ready emotionally. Too many athletes do not have a backup plan, a degree or altnernative career. When most of us are just launching their careers in late twenties, most athletes are obsolete. With the average pro career 3-5 years, most professional players end on the scrap heap by 27.

Every athlete knows thiseven the ones living in denial.

Athletes also know how utterly fickle and ruthless fans can be. Just go to a basketball game, any level, and watch fans wave and yell and scream for a team or athlete. But the fans mood will shift almost instantaneously. Fans shower down praise,  love and ecstasy, but in a second will boo, scorn or curse the same athlete in the same game. Athletes know that fan loyalty cannot be relied upon; fans want blood and victory, but will settle for blood if they cannot get victory.

Experienced athletes know who we fans are and rightly do not trust us. Just watch the kvetching about Bernie Williams or now Derek Jeter on the downside of magnificent careers with the Yankees. In my hometown fans are turning on Ichiro on the downside of glorious career. Fans do not give unconditional love; it is tightly conditioned. Yet we scream and moan and accuse athletes of being greedy when they leave us.

Albert Pujols just accepted a 250 million dollar ten year contract from the Los Angele Angels, rather than accept a 19 million dollar per year contract with St. Louis for fewer years.  More than a few fans and commentators have excoriated him for not staying with St. Louis his only team. They argue that he grew up in the Cardinals system and should stay with them out of loyalty.  But Pujols helped St. Louis win two world series in five years. His mentor and manager who helped him grow into the star, Tony Russo just retired. What did Pujolis owe the fans? Nothing. He was willing to take a small discount but 5 million per year difference, 20 percent of the St. Louis offer over ten years added up, a lot.  Over the life of the contract it would be worth 50 million dollars or 5 percent of a billion!
We and the St. Louis fans should be glad for him and celebrate his commitment and achievements for the team and the city.

Players cannot and should not trust fans. We forget too easily and remember too long. Fans claim to have loyalty, but the reality is that we do not and turn quickly and viscously upon our heroes. As fans we will forget the journeymen and haunt the retired stars who did not have a safety net at conventions or memorabilia gatherings. The players exist only as amber dipped memories of the fans. We cast off athletes like we cast off almost everyone else. They have no safety net and fans have very short memories. They know the pain of "once I was somebody."

Every professional athlete should be trying to maximize their income. We should not be surprised when they do this. We should not begrudge them seeking to maximize their gain with their very limited economic window of opportunity. We should also realize they understand fans better than we understand ourselves. Our momentary adulation and quicksilver attitude shifts cannot feed their kids or build their homes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sports Ethics: Have Fun!

Several weeks ago the University of Washington football team struggled with a three game losing streak. A season that commenced with great promise teetered on the verge of collapse. The players held a players only meeting, a rare and important event for any team. After the meeting, several players announced that the team had reached a remarkable conclusion. The players needed to “have more fun.”

I believe this is a vital insight into how players should carry themselves in sport competition. Remember that in English we are quite honest about sports; we “play” sports. Many modern sports emerged not from practice for warfare but exciting and challenging activities that pushed the athletes and provided deep satisfaction in accomplishment and winning. You can see this with your pets playing or better yet when you coach or watch kids’ games, before the AAU and Select coaches get to them.

I remember coaching T-Ball for my six-year old kids. We’d set the ball on the T and someone would whack it with her bat and the ball would skitter towards second base.  Seven kids would run to the ball laughing and shouting. Of course no one remained on first to catch the ball. We had to remind the hitter to run to first base, and the kids would flutter around second jostling for the ball. Someone would emerge from the six-year old scrum with the ball, but of course she had no one to throw it to at first. All the parents laughed, and as coach I swallowed my irritation and could only smile as all the practice we had gone through disappeared in the thrill of actual play. Now that was fun! That is sport. The joy, thrill and enjoyment of moving, learning, acting together grounds the fun of sport.

I don’t think the football team meant fun as in funny where people tell jokes or do hilarious and silly things that make us laugh. Laughter is an aspect of fun, but it narrows the concept to a particular aspect of fun. In the origins of the word this refers to fun as a form of hoax or silliness but the other fun suggests looseness and enjoyment.

I believe the football team meant, “we need to play loose; we need to play with abandon and experience the ferocious joy that lead them into the sport to begin with.” To have fun empowers athletes to commit and act upon their trained experience and fully perform without holding back, second-guessing or hesitating. Having fun reinforces and supports all the habits of mind and body that players develop. Neurologically when a person is unconsciously engrossed in an activity that engages and satisfies them, their brain lights up in a very different way than when they are worried or hesitating or thinking about what they are supposed to do.

The counterpoint would be the reminder that so many coaches and players will tell you that the NFL means the “No Fun League,” just ask Bill Belichick.

When a player is NOT having fun; they are playing tight. The tightness degrades cognate and physical efficiency and subverts trained habits. They may be thinking too hard about what they are doing; this act of thinking slows them down and complicates reactions. These nanosecond gaps give a competitor a significant advantage in challenging that player. An athlete might be trying to remember the correct response or the options that they have. Either way, it wastes time and reaction giving opponents significant advantages. Worse, when a player plays tight and worries and think it undercuts speed and confuses pattern recognition.

Often the thinking revolves around judging and assessing oneself. The slightest mistake or the concern over making a mistake leads to hesitation or misguided attempts to change on the fly undercutting efficiency of response even more.
Another variation will be when a player is constantly looking over their shoulder to the coach. They feel judged and evaluated, which they are, but they become so fixated upon what the coach might be thinking that they sacrifice their own training and reactions and lose speed and performance efficiency. Even when they may be learning to internalize a coach’s schemes or learn better ways to perform, this transition takes time, hurts performance and slows them down.

When a player is not having fun; they play worried. They hesitate; a hitch develops in their swing or throw or hit. Too much second-guessing spins out into tinkering in the middle of a game and what might become a singular failure turns into a self-reinforced slump. This attitude gets contagious as others pick it up or adjust because they cannot trust the slumping player, then they get out of sync or they have to think because the pattern training falters because the other play is not performing.

Psychologists speak of the moments of flow when a person literally lives the skill. They lose track of time but their mind, body, and emotions converge upon execution of what they are doing. This moment exists for all of us in any endeavor. When an athlete enters “a zone,” we mean they are experiencing flow.

Achieving flow and high performance especially under conditions of stress and competitive counters is allied with having fun. Fun links high performance, neurological efficiency and speed and efficiency of pattern recognition and action. Fun buttresses playing loose, trusting preparation and training and the satisfaction that derives from a job well done.

When the Seattle Marines turned around their awful 2012 season, Kyle Seager their young third baseman talked about a basic truth of performance, "We're loose....any time you're not stressing and not tight, you are going to play the best you can." 

The Washington players were right; having fun matters to perform well and reach your highest potential.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Late Autumn: Leaves and Coaches Fall

That time of year again. The leaves are falling and so are NCAA Division 1 coaches—24 and counting. This will exceed last year’s Division 1 windfall.

Along with the firing comes the hiring and the birth of new hope, the higher outlandish salaries and the retreads and often the hiring again of deeply flawed or wounded saviors for programs.

The world of athletic directors and college coaches remains very small and incestuous. Everyone knows each other, has worked or will work for each other. They all keep tabs, and most athletic directors keep a short A List of possible replacements if their coach implodes.

The lists often overlap, but the pool covers five areas:

1)          Established high achieving coaches who are moveable from a comparable school.
2)         An upcoming coach who has proven his worth at an FCS or lower tier conference and is ready to move up like Urban Meyer earning his moves from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida.
3)         A hot coach like Brian Kelly at Cincinnati last year or this year’s Kevin Sumlin at Houston.
4)         A senior coordinator either at atop flight college program or a professional program like Charlie Weiss before he went to Notre Dame or now to Kansas.
5)         Someone on the sidelines for a variety of reasons, perhaps fired or disgraced like Mike Leach at Texas Tech, massive violations and probation like Rich Rodriquez at Michigan or someone who has voluntarily taken time off like Urban Meyer

The most recent hirings and firings reveal nothing good for college sports.

First, these new hires and their salaries confirm all the cynics that all the new revenue in college sports will be spent on coaches and facilities, not on student athletes. Bill Moos, the aggressive Athletic Director of Washington State University, could be speaking for any athletic director in the country after he spent 2.5 million for Mike Leach to coach his Cougars, “the revenue stream created by the new television contract and equal revenue sharing among conference members has enabled Washington State to invest in facilities, salaries and infrastructure.” Of course Leach’s salary is only the tip of what will be a 4+ million dollar iceberg with all his staff.

Did you see any mention of student support services or academic support services or health or counseling for student athletes there? Neither did anyone else. This is the new norm and the money will not find its way to student athlete welfare issues unless Presidents and Provosts force the issue. (Seattle Times, December 8, 2011  C4)

Second, two years and out! This year confirms one of the worst movements in college coaching: giving less and less time to turn around a program. Realistically it takes five years to turn around a college football program. Normally coaches inherit depleted talent and low morale. It gets worse because many recruits see the firing coming and shy away from the school. Despite this, boosters and fans have high expectations for quick turn around amped up by the high salaries.

A new coach usually takes the job in late December, by then most of the top recruits have committed. He has to run around just to hold on to the committed who are often not really fitted for his system. A new coach only gets a true class of his own student athletes in his second year. Most of them redshirt, so a coach does not field a team made up largely of their own players fitted for their system until year three, and only in year four do the recruits blossom into upper class leaders.

This year two coaches, Turner Gill at Kansas and Larry Porter at Memphis, were fired at the end of two years! Unless serious personnel issues are involved as in the sacking of troubled Mike Locksley at New Mexico.

This two-year trend sets an awful precedent. Two years proves nothing and magnifies the already absurd pressures to win fast and quick. The two-year threat just pushes more decent coaches to borderline practices or cheating or to look the other way when they discover rule violations by their players.
Third, the deeply flawed return. The rehiring of coaches such as Mike Leach at Washington State or Rich Rodriquez at Arizona reflects that small world of athletic directors. It also reveals the real bottom line--WINS.

I remember talking to an athletic director I highly regard and asked him why he had just hired a scandal-plagued coach. The AD cited a number—the total WINS the coach had amassed along with his scandals.

Rich Rodriquez wins, but he wins badly. He does not graduate his students; he downgrades academics and discourages his athletes from being students. He mismanages his coaches, ignores his compliance folks and blames his problems upon everyone but himself. He won at West Virginia without any oversight but at Michigan he failed at the most central duty of a coach, taking responsibility for oneself and one’s team. The athletic Director at Arizona is a smart and fine administrator, so I am really surprised to see Rodriquez back, unless we consider WINS.

The hiring of Mike Leach at Washington State makes its own sense. College coaching can breed some real weird guys whose great skill lies in winning games; Leach ranks right up there. He graduates his kids, but it is not clear he cares about them. He coaches a fun and interesting game but his “unique and quirky” style could not survive in the glare of endless publicity in a big city. Pullman makes sense for him as a second chance, but if the allegations of how he treated his concussed player are anywhere near true; he should not be coaching. WINS are the only reason he is. Someone better be watching WSU’s back.

The most interesting and challenging return is Urban Meyer going to Ohio State one year after retiring from Florida for reasons of mental, spiritual and physical health. He brings one of the quickest and most interesting minds back to the game. I honestly think he needs another year away and would have stayed in the booth if any school but Ohio State or Notre Dame had not come calling.

Meyer is relentless, demanding and a ruthless perfectionist who can demean and drive his coaches batty, but who always respected his players, even if he often let them get out of control off field. But he lost it the last two years. Too much intensity, too much perfectionism and an utter inability to remember why he was coaching, to develop kids, not just   WIN.  But he saw what he was becoming and knew enough to leave.

I think it is too early, but OSU got a great coach. They will need to watch him in a very different way. I also admire Meyer for his public honesty about the bouts of depression and perfectionism and the cost to his life and family that he permitted us all to see. The life of the modern American coach is brutal and ruthless, and his life reminded us of that.

Fourth, it has been a hard year for black coaches with three losing jobs already, and two of them after only two years. The NCAA and conferences claim to push schools to look seriously at minority coaches, but unless they impose an NFL Rooney rule, we will continue to see immense lag in minority hiring.

Not all the leaves have fallen and the new buds are not yet with us. But this year like last highlights how colleges lose their credibility and integrity in the game of coaches and the game of wins.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sport Ethics: "I've Got Your Back."

“I got your back.”

This promise has a profound role in American sports culture and in competitive athletics. The words are deceptively simple but involve a powerful promise that binds individuals together.

Take the words at face value. A person’s back may be their most vulnerable part. Our eyes cannot see behind us, and our ears point forward. The back defines a blind sport where athletes or people can be blind-sided. Notice also protecting another person’s back also assumes not just the vulnerability of the back but that another person or team is out to get a person.

We pledge, “I’ve got your back,” to people who have a vulnerable side and are exposed to competitors out to get them. This pledge binds two people and depends upon trust that the person will in fact be there to protect and that they have the skill and will to do so. Making that pledge takes on a moral responsibility to be there and to be good at what they do.

“I’ve got your back,” anchors the success of a team. It cements trust, loyalty and often competence on the team. On any good team including athletic teams, individuals have defined roles and responsibilities. The roles take tremendous focus, effort and skill. At high performance an athlete narrows their range of vision and effort. To perform at the highest level an athlete must trust that those around them will do their jobs so they can perform theirs. 

Relying upon and trusting the reliability and skill of those working with you permits individuals to commit wholeheartedly to a task. People can take risks and give all their focused energy when they trust others with them have their back.

More significantly when an individual commits and focuses, he or she narrows focus and creates blind sports while zeroing in. Taking this risk and achieving intense concentration depends upon a player not worry about their exposure. They trust their teammates to cover them as in, “I’ve got you covered.” This trust and reliability enable everyone to give their best with unguarded commitment.

For instance in football a linebacker depends heavily upon cornerbacks so that linebackers can read and commit. Fellow linemen on defense depend absolutely upon other linemen to fill a gap so they can stand in their own. In soccer the freedom and initiative of midfielders and forwards to attack depends upon having their backs covered by the defenders to prevent breakaways. I could go on but the point is clear.

Sometimes it is even more real. In contact sports, covering a back involves physically protecting a player’s health. For a quarterback the left offensive tackle protects their blind side. The tackle literally has their back and if they fail the quarterback can be blown up. In basketball weak side help literally covers the back of players who must commit on defense and leave lanes exposed. Another aspect of covering a back includes backing someone up when they make a mistake and covering for them to support the team.

This need to protect and cover explains the central role of constant communication in sports to alert, warn and anticipate. This communication maximizes the safety and the performance of each member of the team. These warnings and protection are the essence of having someone’s back.

Sometimes having a back seems to require retaliation. If an opponent intentionally hurts teammates, players will take it on their own to pay back. Retaliation seems to restore the moral balance of the failure to “have your back,” and deters future actions. When a pitcher risks getting fined or thrown out of a game to hit someone when the other team has hit their player, they “got the back” of their teammates.

“I’ve got your back,” becomes a norm for a team culture. It thrives in a culture engaged in competition and combat with opponents. The promise cements the trust and reliance that empower teammates to focus with abandon on their task and take risks knowing loyal team members protect them.

“I’ve got your back” supports high performance. It deepens the loyalty and self-protection that teammates have for each other. It joins bonds that hold under stress. If a teammate is seen as unreliable and cannot be trusted to protect one’s back, the individual will be ostracized and isolated. The promise defines a moral glue and code.

 “I’ve got your back,” can also lead to moral blindness. It is very hard to rat out a teammate who has protected you. It is very hard to betray someone you have trusted with your own safety or performance. It is very hard to give up someone who has done wrong if they defended you when you were in danger or being outmatched.

This bond of loyalty can be misplaced if it leads teammates to hide malfeasance. Yet one aspect of having a back involves covering for mistakes and being covered in return. The loyalty and bond of having survived competition or combat can lead teammates to simply refuse to believe or see when a person commits a wrong.

Several times I have participated in investigations of wrongful actions involving athletes on a team. The incident does not matter, what matters is how time and time again, no team members would identify what happened. Even if it involved an assault at a party, no one saw it. No one remembered it. Fellow teammates had each other’s backs not just in the performance on the field and together off the field, but the loyalty and bonding carried over to protect the malfeasance.

The simple promise “I’ve got your back,” can mean everything. It embodies loyalty, commitment, and shared membership in a common enterprise. The promise expresses integrity. It can lead people to sacrifice for others and to master their positions and help others do theirs. But, like all human practice, it can close up people and cover up wrong as well as enable the good.