When Bad is Good


I took the photo above almost 30 years ago.  In fact, it will be exactly 30 years this October 19.

I was junior at the University of Oklahoma that year. I was getting a lot of work from the Associated Press as a photo stringer from my good friend and mentor David Longstreath.

On this fateful day however, I was working for the Miami Herald. I was hired to help their staff shooter, Pete Cross, to process, print and transmit his pix back to the paper.  Fortunately, I was able to shoot some of the high profile game before before retiring to the darkroom.


The top black and white photo shows the very moment where Troy Aikman, the starting Sooner QB, broke his ankle and was out for the season. While this moment was painful most certainly for Aikman, and of course, at the moment, for all Sooner fans, and for me as I watched it unfold through the 300 f2.8 lens I was using to shoot at that time, it actually turned out to have very favorable long term outcomes for all involved.

Since Aikman was knocked out of the game due to injury, Coach Switzer put in Jamelle Holieway to fill in. Holieway was a true freshman and took over midway through the 2nd quarter. The Sooners ended up losing the game 27-14. While the disappointment of that loss was devastating in the moment, looking back, it was a tremendous blessing. (You can read more about that game by clicking HERE.)

In my opinion, AIkman was not the right fit for Oklahoma football. However, his replacement, Holieway, was a perfect fit. Holieway led the Sooners, along with their crushing defense led by Brian Bosworth, to an 11-1 season that concluding with a fantastic 25-10 victory over Penn State in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. He ran the most amazing triple option threat I have ever seen.

Bosworth stirring up the pot before the Miami game as legendary coach Barry Switzer looks on in the background.
Bosworth stirring up the pot before the Miami game as legendary coach Barry Switzer looks on in the background.


Aikman sat out the rest of the season, was able to claim a part of Oklahoma’s 1985 National Championship title, but most significantly, made the decision to transfer to UCLA for the following season. There was no way after Holieway led the Sooners the way he did as a freshman that Aikman was going to have a spot as a starter the next year.  He was better served going to UCLA where his amazing throwing arm could be showcased. He did just that and ended up the Dallas Cowboys and led them to 3 Super Bowl Championships and even received the MVP in Super Bowl 27.

While on October 19, 1985, seeing Aikman go down in pain seemed, at the moment, as the end of world, it proves a point that I have spoken about previously on my blog. You may be in a moment or a season of pain, but you also have a choice as to what you are going to do with it. Breaking your ankle is bad.  However, the result for all involved turned out to be very, very good.


P.S. When the Sooners returned back to Norman, OK after winning the National Championship, they held a rally at the football stadium.  I carried this picture of Aikman and walked up to him to have him sign it. His first response was, “Why would I want to sign that?” I told him it was a powerful moment in the season.  He looked me in the eyes, gave a faint smirk, then grabbed my Sharpee pen and signed it for me.

2 thoughts on “When Bad is Good

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