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Chuck Landon: Crash can still serve to inspire our Herd

Nov. 15, 2012 @ 12:28 AM

Loss is often an ambiguous word.

It's commonly used as a synonym for defeat.

As such, I've employed that connotation more times than anyone expected during this Marshall football season. The same is true for the Herd's disappointed and, at times, disgusted fans.

All of us have talked about losses much more than we'd like.

But it occurred to me on Wednesday -- of all days -- that there's a very significant difference between "loss" and "defeat."

What happened 42 years ago on Nov. 14, 1970, was loss. When Southern Airways flight 932 crashed into a muddy Wayne County hillside killing all 75 passengers aboard, including most members of Marshall's football program, that was loss.

And when everyone gathered for the annual memorial service Wednesday at Marshall's Memorial Student Center to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy with the symbolic turning off of the fountain, that was loss.

It wasn't defeat.

Far, far from it.

Marshall's rise from that loss to unparalleled heights despite the most trying, most traumatic, most heart-breaking circumstances in collegiate football history is about triumph.

And not just on the football field.

It is a victory for the indomitable spirit of mankind.

That's why loss shouldn't be confused with defeat.

Loss is the hollow feeling many of us endure every Nov. 14. Defeat is not scoring enough points to win.

One is about life.

One is about a game.

They bear no resemblance to each other and certainly don't merit similar significance. Yet, shouldn't one impact the other for all Marshall University football players?

I believe so.

The premise that the players on the 1970 Marshall team lost their very lives while trying to build a successful program should serve as the quintessential inspiration to all Herd football teams.

That monumental loss should make defeat unacceptable.

Are you listening, 2012 Herd?

Sure, the young men on Marshall's current team have difficulty relating to a tragedy that occurred 42 years ago. And that's a shame. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Maybe Marshall athletic officials should make it a point each preseason to show the team the documentary "Marshall University: Ashes to Glory," to give the players a real feel for what happened.

Forget showing the "We Are Marshall" movie that is more fiction than fact. Let the players see the actual newsreel footage from a documentary.

And, perhaps, the team should be taken to the crash site overlook in Wayne County annually, so the players could see exactly where it actually happened. That would help make it real, too.

A yearly visit to Spring Hill Cemetery to view the granite cenotaph where the unidentified remains of six players who died in the crash are entombed is another meaningful idea.

All I know is this past loss should have more impact on current defeats than it obviously does. How could any player admit "we came out flat" after a defeat if he truly realized the loss that had come before?

That has happened at least twice this season.

That's two too many.

How could any player not be emotionally ready to play in this program of all football programs? How could they not realize the privilege they've been given? How could any player not leave it all on the field when the 1970 team left their lives on a hillside after playing their hearts out that very day?

It's not about remembering the tragedy.

It's about never forgetting the loss.

That is the biggest defeat of all.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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